Saturday, June 07, 2014

Time

"The thing that strikes me in this whole class is that you think about time very differently than anyone I've ever known."--- Student in a class for writers.  From memory, not an exact quote.

Humans don't think about what we think about.  And even more rarely think about how we think.  I was told long ago that breathing and walking were two things that everyone does but few do well because they breathe and walk without thinking about it.  Unconscious skills don't get developed.  I think I can add communication to that list and a bunch of other things.

And now time.

It's not special-- I think everyone who does emergency work thinks about time this way.  So I didn't know it was rare.

Apparently, most people envisage time, if they think of it at all, as this medium in which things happen. We live our lives in time.  We move through time.  They think of time (or fail to think of it) the way fish think or fail to think about water.

For fighters, time is a resource, an extremely limited resource.  Everything takes time, and time spent doing one thing (prepping equipment) cannot be spent doing something else (developing a tactical plan).

Time can be given, taken or stolen.  It can be wasted.  The scary man reaches under his jacket and you think he might be drawing a weapon but you want to be sure...  You've given him time.  And wasted your own.  And put a cognitive mechanism in place ('I want to be sure' which means 'I want to be consciously sure') that guarantees you will use data inefficiently and waste more time at each step.

If I press, the threat has to make a decision, usually a hasty one.  If I don't press, the threat will use his time-- to observe or plan or move or...--and how he uses that time will tell me who he is.

You can make people think that time exists when it does not.  We frequently used a fake count down before a cell extraction.

The ability to understand and use discretionary time is the hallmark difference between a pro and a rookie. If there is time to think and plan and communicate, the pro does so, the rookie rushes. The pro spends the time wisely. When there is no longer time to think, when the door bangs open or something shiny flashes at your belly, the pro doesn't waste time thinking, he or she moves...and often the rookie tries to think or plan or get some detail of information, trying to spend time he doesn't have.

Infighters process time and space at another level. Close is fast. Time is distance and at that range you have damn little of either. In addition, anything you do potentially changes everything. A slight pressure with your knee can change the vector of an incoming strike and the location of the threat's head, for instance.

This is the part I'm struggling to describe. In a close brawl or doing infighting randori at a decent level of skill, time ceases to be linear. Something that objectively, on video, would be a sequence of action is all one thing. It feels like it happens in chunks. A lot of it is simultaneous, you can pop the knee while clotheslining the jawline, but the things that led there and the things that follow and anything the threat does or fails to do... those all seem part of a whole that teleported into existence as a complete object.

Sorry for the tortured metaphors. This is really hard to describe. And it gets worse, because the threat isn't part of the equation. Not at the time level. When it's go, you're both on it. And if you have to see what the threat does in order to decide what you will do, you're behind the curve and will never catch up, not at this range. He has his chunk of time and will do things with it. You have your chunk of time and will do things with it. But cognitively, for infighters, those chunks don't intersect.

There's also a common assumption about time. It's subconscious, but it really changes the affordances. When people fight, it's a form of communication. Basically a conversation with fists and boots. Many good fighters are taken out in an assault because they subconsciously follow the conversation pattern-- Fighter A does something and fighter B reacts and fighter A reacts... and in this pattern there are tiny pauses (a bad fighter waits for the pauses, a good fighter creates them) that signal whose turn it is.

This subconscious assumption of shared time isn't true. Reliably you can take someone out-- take 'em down, spin them prone and cuff them quickly and safely if you do it fast and decisively. Not because you're that good or the technique is that good. If you act without the expected pauses, people working under the shared time illusion are subconsciously waiting for you to signal their turn to respond. Reading this, that sounds esoteric and intellectual, but it's the best description I have of the difference between the force incidents that turned into fights and the ones (some of which were objectively more dangerous-- weapons, etc.) which just ended in a heartbeat.

But that shared time is illusion. We don't have time in a fight. I have time and you have time. If you are waiting for a pause, you aren't using your time and become meat. And your ability or choice to use your time and how you will use it can and should (maybe) be completely independent of what I do with my time. Unless, of course, you are manipulating my time.

Not sure I can really explain this. Grapplers have a completely different understanding of moving a body than strikers, and it's so subconscious it is really hard to explain simple things, like "make your hands sticky" to people who don't know the feel. It's kind of the same way with infighting and time.

13 comments:

Maija said...

Every relative position in space has limited options as to where is 'next'. If you have already kinesthetically predicted what these are (from experience/seeing/knowledge of affordances) you will always be ahead, and thus have infinite time.
You can also change the flow of time from them to you (if you are 'losing') by using an affordance they don't have a.k.a doing something they didn't see coming.
Or something like that ... :-)

Anonymous said...

In my brain it works like this...i will collapse the wave function of the infinite to get the future I desire.

Joline said...

You always make my head hurt, but in a good way. Thanks Rory. :)

Ymar Sakar said...

This is why time distortion is nice, when more blood oxygen is pumped to the motor control center and various unnecessary applications like emotion or hearing is turned off.

With time distortion, a second can be better utilized when the full body's senses are committed to computing the variables. Instead of waiting a second to get more information, the needed info is compressed in the first second and the brain is allowed to digest that, at the cost of other human abilities.

Slim934 said...

I immediately thought of the one scene with Quicksilver in the new Xmen movie. If you haven't seen it you should, it plays on this topic of relative time very very well and makes it very visual.

Anonymous said...

"Reliably you can take someone out-- take 'em down, spin them prone and cuff them quickly and safely if you do it fast and decisively. Not because you're that good or the technique is that good. If you act without the expected pauses, people working under the shared time illusion are subconsciously waiting for you to signal their turn to respond. "


and here lies the problem of JTMA. if that can be done, and the uke is the one initiating the encounter, how can nage be so sure that the attack is not to finish, and he needs to respond asap? the majority of koryu kata training ingrains this kind of thing very early on unless it is properly countermanded.

there are almost no techniques disseminated on SAFELY forcing the other's hand. at least, in the wider TMA community.

Lisa said...

I sometimes tell people that my definition of "emergency" is different than most people's definition. When it's really on, only by conscious effort do I keep track of time; otherwise it's about events- some happen faster, some take longer, some happen as a result of others. Some actions have to be done to prepare for other actions that have to happen later, and if you don't make that preparation then when you need the second action to happen, it won't.

The team in my emergency department is like a fighter's hands and feet: things can happen simultaneously if the "brain" is efficient and can organize everyone towards a common goal. Hospitals and critical care teams train all the various parts to be able to operate nearly autonomously, but without a central leader the various parts run out of things to do and stand around when they could be doing other things.

Training these teams can and should happen slowly but has to be challenged by simulation at speed as well; even then, you never really know if it's going to work until it actually happens. Sounds familiar.

Thanks for the interesting thoughts.

Rory said...

Anon, if I'm parsing your second paragraph right, I'm not sure I'd agree. My experience is limited, but our 2-man kata weren't about fighting but mostly about emergency response to assassination attempts. About half were complete take-outs from positions of disadvantage where uke never has the opportunity to follow up or even recover. They had a lot more in common with Operant Conditioning a counter ambush response than anything else.

Anonymous said...

"My experience is limited, but our 2-man kata weren't about fighting but mostly about emergency response to assassination attempts. About half were complete take-outs from positions of disadvantage where uke never has the opportunity to follow up or even recover. They had a lot more in common with Operant Conditioning a counter ambush response than anything else."

Hi Rory, thanks for the reply. BTW, nice blog, gonna read your past entries.

The problem is that most are NOT looking from the uke's side. As you posted in the entry, there are RELIABLE ways to take somebody out. Is the uke using all those factors in his attack?

Most often than not it is a token attack, minus ALL those things that make something successful and nearly uncounterable. Do we need to look for a hardened streetrat in order to experience what a REALLY good ambush/assault is? Someone who doesn't allow us the use of "time" (as per your post).

Now how does he do it? What angles does he take? At what distance from him can I gain a little measure of "time" enough to keep myself alive? If I react a certain way, will I be doomed from his follow-ups?


Not just JMA, the majority of KMA are like this too. Just paying lip service to proper uke-ing.

Jon

Rory said...

Yes, Jon. Uke's role is critical. And trained right, it will be a fast, committed attack (our one tanto kata has uke, as a friend, adjusting your kimono before grabbing it and thrusting to you belly as he pulls you in). But I have seen people in the same system insist that it is uke's job to fail, not tori's job to succeed, and that makes for some very poor practitioners.

The European Historical Combat Guild said...

I think we can point to examples of uncommitted/unrealistic attacks etc. in all systems of training, though some are better at looking and sounding "real". I think the is mind set and attitude rather than purely the training methodologies used.
Garbage in, garbage out, though from some places you get a better class of garbage...

tagryn said...

Some of this is reminiscent of the OODA (Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action) loop theory that John Boyd applied to fighter dogfighting, rather than hand-to-hand, but many of the principles sound the same.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OODA_loop

DRP said...

https://www.cekaja.com/info/situs-nonton-drama-korea/