Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hit My Buttons

I have a love-hate relationship with teaching. I love teaching, or I'd make my living another way. Watching people grow stronger is one of the coolest things to watch, right up there with desert sunsets and ocean storms. And feeling even a tiny bit of responsibility for that growth is a huge ego stroke. No denying that. And teaching is one of those professions where you can really watch the ripples of what you've done spreading in the world.

As a wise friend likes to point out, we are all teachers.

But I hate being a teacher.

The teacher/student relationship is incredibly toxic for self-defense. And it is incredibly limited and limiting for any real growth or deep internal work.

Toxic for self-defense. The core skill of SD, beyond hitting and hurting, even beyond awareness, is the ability to stand up for yourself. The skills to see what is going on and make a decision are vital, but in the end, you have to be able to act on that decision. If you can't act, your understanding and situational awareness skills will only serve to make you a smarter, more aware victim. This decision to act is not made in a vacuum. There will be another personality there, the threat, and he or she also wants this to end a certain way. And the threat will use power-- physical, personal, voice, authority, threats...-- to make you do what he wants, not what you want.

And so spending six hours a week with an authority figure, doing what he wants in training, may be the exact opposite of the internal training a student needs.

It can be even worse in martial arts. If you pick the right art and the right school the kid who was always picked last for kickball can convince himself he's not just an athlete but a martial athlete. You can convince yourself that you are a great fighter or a "warrior" without ever experiencing real pain or fear. And the person without the social skills to get a date, if he sticks it out long enough, can be called "master" and demand that his students kneel.  You can see why this is a petri dish for certain predatory personality types. And even if the instructor isn't a predator, the system itself is ripe for abuse.

Limited and limiting. Most of our concepts of learning came from our experiences in schools, naturally. We all spent twelve or more years running through what was essentially a factory. Time scripted. Tasks designated. Every assignment judged. There have always been a few extraordinary teachers, but generally any creativity snuffed on sight. Can't speak for everyone, but I've never been sent to the principal's office or had my parents called for doing bad work... but I have for pulling out an encyclopedia and proving the teacher wrong. I never saw stupidity or ineffectiveness punished in the place I was sent to learn. The only sin was disobedience.

And that shared experience is the idea of teaching and learning that we all too often take to other training.

You can't become proficient at chaos by rote. You need to play. To mix it up, to make mistakes. You need to play with people so much better that they remind you there are levels of skill alien to you, and play with people of passion with no skill because they'll surprise you, too. But chaos is scary for some. As soul-crushing as I think our educational system is designed to be, it created a comfort zone and people try to recreate that comfort zone in the dojo. Complete with an imaginary imbalance of power, as if the students were first graders and the teacher the only adult.

You can't learn the stuff you need to know from that dynamic. It's too limited. And it is also limiting, because once you accept an authority figure as a font of knowledge you lose the habit of thinking for yourself (assuming you had that habit to begin with.) NO ONE has all the answers. There are no experts in this field. And even if someone knew everything there was to know about violence, that person still wouldn't know you, not the way that you do. And you are a big part of any situation.

A training environment where all acceptable answers come from a source outside yourself limits some of your greatest survival advantages: Your creativity and your adaptability.

Given all this...ahem... if you sent me an e-mail recently asking me to be your guru and I went a little ballistic, this is why. It's one of my buttons.

16 comments:

Tiff said...

Don't know what direction you might take the content, but this particular title would work well for another manuscript.

Just sayin'.

Matt H said...

Can we call you Daddy?

Anonymous said...

"As soul-crushing as I think our educational system is designed to be..."

It wasn't designed to be soul-crushing; it wasn't "designed" at all. It's the result of the slow accretion of policies intended to maximize convenience for teachers and administrators and minimize costs. This might also be true of some schools of martials arts.

Anonymous said...

Just like politicians, those who seek out the status of "master" are those whom you least want to have that role.

I never had much use for coaches who demanded respect. Never had a problem with those who — through their example — commanded it.

Re: education. My experience of what's going on in our local schools indicates that things are getting much better. At least in some places.

Jim Cornelius
www.frontierpartisans.com

TWW said...

"Don't know what direction you might take the content, but this particular title would work well for another manuscript."" was said earlier and I agree.

Rolan Storm said...

'Given all this...ahem... if you sent me an e-mail recently asking me to be your guru and I went a little ballistic, this is why. It's one of my buttons.'
:D Guess people want them served everything on silver platter. I think your posts have enough to learn from.

Thing about any activity is the way person perceive, understand and react to environment. You constantly write about doing it without falling into dangerous self-calming illusions or ignorance. Those who really want have plenty to learn from these post.

Josh K. said...

Rory,

Seek Frienemies or as you have put it Honorable Enemies.

Instead of looking for those that will teach us, maybe the focus should be finding those that will challenge us.

You have griped about people not thinking for themselves, how about not learning for themselves.

Nothing says you have to like the people you seek to lean stuff from, or vice versa.

A lot of people are lazy and they just want to be given answers. Or maybe they just don't know how to find their own answers because they have never been expected to look or find them for themselves.

Why are we so tided to our roles we play? Someone must be the student and someone must be the teacher… Really?

Why isn't it two or more people coming together to share acquired knowledge?

Rory, do you hate teaching or dislike those who blindly follow and those who take advantage of them?

You don't like teaching don't do it. Change the focus to challenge those around you to be better and stronger. You can impart what you have learned "Your Answers" with the expectation they will find their own as well.

My2Cents.

Josh K. said...

P.S.

"You don't like teaching don't do it. Change the focus to challenge those around you to be better and stronger. You can impart what you have learned "Your Answers" with the expectation they will find their own as well."

Rory this what I "feel," not actually having taken a seminar, you do anyways.

The European Historical Combat Guild said...

There are lots of things that I don't like about teaching and things I do.
Especially as ones who want to get people to start thinking and finding their own answers.
People, as mentioned often just want to be given, want the guru/master/maestro, want to be better but don't want to do the work or to change, have an inflated opinion of their own ability etc.
I don't see an answer to it, it is just the nature of people and the interaction between those seeking the skills, or at least the idea of them and those who have them, or are perceived to have them...

Scott said...

Well I'm a horrible student myself and that is what I try to teach.
I blogged on this the other day, hope you don't mind me posting it
http://www.northstarmartialarts.com/blog1/2014/5/13/teaching-and-enlightenment.html
That's kind of rude and arrogant of me actually but at least I'm not asking you to be my guru.
The meaning of the word guru in Sanskrit is actually, 'one who shows the way to the light.' So, I suppose it is left for us folks (forced teaming) to show the way to the darkness.
And culturally speaking the symbolic act of touching the guru's feet to say 'my knowledge is so small that just touching the dirt on your feet is enlightening,' that is so shocking to Americans that it usually creates cognitive dissonance, it is practically transgressive.
It is a tough thing trying to sort out between cultures, my Indian Dance teacher wouldn't let us call him guru, but as he got more and more famous in India and got more South Asian students he started to allow some of them to call him that, but he does a ritual with them once a year where he washes their feet.
I've learned a lot in your proximity by trying to push your buttons, so thanks for that.
Although only a sadist would pay for it, one of the most important aspects of 'the teacher' (specking archetypically) is his willingness to tell you to GET LOST.

Eric Gaden said...

Hey Guru...ahhhh, Rory.

You should put up share buttons for G+ and so on. Make it easier on your followers.

RXian said...

This post is very timely. I recently made the transition from a full-time Correctional Officer to a recruit for a Patrol Academy.

Something I've noticed:

As a CO, I'd walk into a room of 45 guys and put them in line with a certain combination of Command Presence, respect, calmness, and a firm but fair attitude. I'd often hold an inmate roster in my support hand simply because I knew there would not be the slightest tremble of the page.

Prior to being a CO, I'd often give presentations to groups of up to 1000 people. Sometimes my "preparation" was a 5-minute heads-up from my boss asking if I'd mind talking about something for 30 minutes or so. Again, not so much as a tremble.

Now that I'm in a paramilitary police academy, I'm in a very rigid student role, and assuming that role has had a noticeable change. I'm having feelings of butterflies in the gut and performance anxiety for the first time in over 8 years.

By assuming the required submissiveness to academy instructors and by assuming the role of the obedient student seeking approval and positive evaluations, I find myself nervous in scenario training.

I've fought meth-heads in intake and never felt nervous or afraid. Did I feel some natural, healthy fear? Sure. But I was generally able to use my adrenaline to my advantage when called for and maintain solid composure.

It's absurd. In violent jail situations in which the consequences might have been grievous bodily harm, I was calm like a bomb. But now, when the stakes are simply being barked at by instructors, I feel nervous and occasionally see slight tremors in my hands from performance anxiety.

I understand the rationale and reason for this structure, and I'll get over it. But it's certainly frustrating, and I'm not the only one in my class having this issue.

Anonymous said...

this, below. for girls and women, (and boys) this is the core, the key: and not just any personality - usually someone known, someone older, respected, known. And early stage 'intrusive' behavior is borderline for purposes of testing
how much defference and compliance the targeted person has been socialized/raised to display.

in my experience 'being willing to dis-obey' someone who expects/demands (social) obedience is the most critical element for SD for girls, boys and women. sadly, seldom/never seen this mentioned in most classes, discussions. thanks Rory. this is important



"There will be another personality there, the threat, and he or she also wants this to end a certain way. And the threat will use power-- physical, personal, voice, authority, threats...-- to make you do what he wants, not what you want.

And so spending six hours a week with an authority figure, doing what he wants in training, may be the exact opposite of the internal training a student needs.

Ymar Sakar said...

"Cause pain before you injure. Injure before you maim. Maim before you kill. And if you must kill, make it a clean kill. Squeeze every drop of life from the opponent. Because life is so precious, it cannot be wasted, even in death."

“Let him cut your skin, and you cut his flesh. Let him cut your flesh, and you cut his bones. Let him cut your bones, and you cut off his life.”

I would rather die having spoken in my manner, than speak in your manner and live. For neither in war nor yet in law ought any man use every way of escaping death. For often in battle there is no doubt that if a man will throw away his arms, and fall on his knees before his pursuers, he may escape death, if a man is willing to say or do anything. The difficulty, my friends, is not in avoiding death, but in avoiding unrighteousness; for that runs deeper than death.

-Socrates before the Athenian death panel



The Ancients had some rather unconventional ideas, at least vis a vis modern life.

'He either fears his fate too much,
Or his desert is small,
Who fears to put it to the touch,
And win or lose it all.'
-Montrose's toast

The Japanese have a heck of a time trying to get their students to think for themselves, given the hierarchical nature of their top down and bottom up society. The US military teaches people to obey orders so that later they can give orders competently. The Japanese have similar ranks for every tier of society. That's why a lot of their teachings are "ambiguous". It tries to get the student to think for themselves, but only ends up confusing Westerners that can't read/hear the original source.

Tim Larkin's group got me thinking about social limitations and how it affected people's options.

In many ways, social control rests upon a human's desire for life, since being exiled to the outside of the herd meant almost inevitable death to predators. So obeying leaders and authorities is hard built into the DNA core on par with long term survival. But the lizard brain or the motor control slash adrenaline side of things, bypasses emotions since emotions and imagination are sometimes a waste of energy when it's time to run from the sabre tooth.


Humans are social animals, so we fear being hated. SO if we can't hate the authority and if we disobey the authority they can exile us to death, then one must transcend obedience to death and transcend the fear of being hated. That's a different skill set compared to physical or warrior virtues.

Ymar Sakar said...

What I've found works quite well to break past the "stop thinking when listening to experts talk" behavior is to assign people tasks or miniature objectives, that can be completed in a number of different ways.

Then it's up to the student to ask the right questions to get the right answers, they will not be given the "solution" to the problem, nor will they be able to copy somebody else's solution to the problem.

After awhile, they start to actually think for themselves, by themselves. They start asking good questions and stop being just automatons following a lecturer in lecture mode.

Kai Jones said...

You can't become proficient at chaos by rote.

Taking this out of the fighting realm, you kinda can. Abused kids do this all the time.

There's a very random card game that I'm really good at, and my gaming group has remarked on the fact that while I'm crap at advance strategy, I will beat the hell out of them at reacting to changing circumstances. I've learned to trust ... I don't want to call it instincts, or my gut, but the low-brain-level experience I have at survival under unpredictable and changing conditions.

Watching you, reading about you trying to figure out how to teach it fascinates me. It's something I struggled with while raising my kids.