Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Outcome

In a comment to the last post, Mike said that "I learned what karate was a few years back...when I was in high school I used karate to dislocate someones arm after which I didn't do martial arts for a few years...I was taught how to use my karate but wasn't given the mental tools to handle the outcome."

Martial artists do a very strange thing when they separate the act from the consequences. They train and train and train to concuss brains, drive fists through ribs, slam people into concrete and tear tendons and simultaneously work very, very hard to do it safely.

Law enforcement trainers do it too. We literally train to blow holes in a human being but every year it seems that training programs are jeopardized over a twisted ankle or a sprained thumb.

This removes the act from the reality of the act. You can do your technique a thousand times and it's fun. This is a hobby. Then on that day you hoped would never happen you do that fun technique in a non-fun place and time... and a human arm dislocates. For me it was collapsing a throat. For another it was shattering a rib cage and nearly fatal. Those are realities. That is what you were practicing to do the whole time. Now the training means and is something different.

(I have an advantage here- I got my reality dose with the throat jab before I started training and went in with a touch more awareness, perhaps)

Consequences are rarely made real in a training setting. Some instructors will talk about, "If you do this, X will happen." or (one of my bullshit favorites) "It's an unavoidable physical reaction- if you do this he must..." But at best those are just words.

When you break a person, it is a human being, a creature of will and thought. Precious. And most people, for all of their bad-assed fantasy, have never broken a person other than accidentally, and some have been traumatized even by that. With this type of outcome is it so hard to understand that many martial artists who have really used it find it hard to go back to class and play? They certainly re-think what they know and maybe this seems to the student like an added depth, but it is not deep. It is a simple understanding that what they are training has real human consequences. So obvious a truth and so lost.

Thinking about it, I've often wondered when shooting changed from something I did for fun to something I disliked but worked very hard at- strangely enough it was right around the time I actually shot someone. Hmmmm.

Outcomes. Blood is slippery. Bone is very white. All bleeding looks bright red and arterial in bright sunshine. Fresh brains smell nice, almost appetizing. When you hit someone and they are sure they are dying, they get a look in the eye that you will remember for a very long time. The body makes a lot of noises when it is breaking- tendon and ligament and small bones and big bones all sound different when they give. Fear sweat smells different than anger sweat.

Tools for dealing with this? Just be mindful of what you are training to do, and maybe it will impact you a little less when it does exactly what it is supposed to do.

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