Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Training and Selection

There's a trueism in elite teams.  You don't create extraordinary operators in training.  You discover them in selection. Then you polish them in training.

Want to have a stable of extraordinary fighters in any martial art?  Make the training tough.  Make the training so tough that 90% of your people drop out.  The people who stick with it will be tough and strong and endurant and have high pain thresholds.  They will be able to hold with anyone else.  Don't think for a second that it validates your training.  They were selected, not trained.  Your training did exactly jack shit.  If you set the selection bar high enough, you can be an unbelievably crappy trainer and your students can still hold their own.

This is on my mind. Jess had her first muay thau fight months ago now.  I'd heard it'd gone well but didn't get any details until we could sit down and talk during the Boston trip.

Looking at Jess, knowing Jess (and please, Jess, if you read this find the compliment in it.  I am so proud to know you) you wouldn't think of her as a fighter.  Slender, unathletic, health problems.  Not exactly social.  Not the kind of person you think of as a fighter, much less a muay thai fighter.  But she trained, she trained hard with a good coach...and she kicked ass.

Selecting for heart is cool.  But training heart is hard and time consuming.  There are no quick fixes, no program that will make someone brave.  It has to be grown over time and it takes an extraordinary teacher to make that happen.

To do it in sport is incredible.  To grow heart in SD is critical.  Selection in a self-defense school is toxic.  You wind up training only the people who have no need.  Those with a true need for SD, the victim profiles, would never pass a selection-based process.

There are very few who can do it, even fewer who bother.  And almost no one bothers in a competition-based school.  Except for Jeff and people like him.  Jeff is Jess's coach.


Anonymous said...

Not only as a coach, trainer and eternal student, but as a human being, one of the best posts i'll read for a long time.
Thank you Rory, for sharing.


Thomas M said...

Do you plan to write more about your thoughts to training/growing heart? I think this is a very interesting topic.

I don't think it is just selection as in "choose" the students. I think that many hard-training groups may just scare timid people away because their training seems scary. The trainer may not even want to drive people away but if he doesn't carefully integrate timid new people he may still lose them just because of the impressions.

However, I've seen the other way as well: to create an comfortable surrounding where no one ever has to deal with any pressure and nobody gets better who doesn't push himself to compensate for this. Then you may get weak people with confidence without competence. Or even without confidence because they feel on some level that they don't gain the skils to prevail under pressure. I've seen exactly that, together with a trainer who reassured them "no, you could handle an attack" while there was no training against resisting opponents whatsoever. None. Only cooperative drills with instructed steps.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rory,

Have you ever read " A Fighter's Heart" by Sam Sheridan?

It kinda touches on some of this stuff. It is an interesting read, if for nothing else, for one of those dream trips around the world training in fight sports in their countries of origin. Obviously a different context than self defence and it has been a while since I read it (and I read "A Fighter's Mind" - a follow up book by the same author, so maybe I am mixing the two of the up, but I believe it raises some a lot of the same points.


-SMG said...

Thanks for posting this. It is an obvious point, now that it has been pointed out. I attended one of your seminars once, a couple years back, and it changed the way I look at self defense training. It helped me to open my eyes a bit and see that the static defenses that I had been taught, no matter how effective the techniques may have been, didn't really prep me for actual violence. (and I am in no way what so ever trying to discount my instructor, his teachings or abilities) This post has again opened my eyes to something I believe I knew, but didn't know how to put in to words.

Thank You.