Saturday, December 08, 2007

Supporting Illusion

We all do it. We have spent our entire lives creating a detailed mythic story of who we are. Nothing in this story is by chance. We never say, I got married because i was lonely and desperate and just happened to run into someone more lonely and desperate. Never. A good love is "fate". A bad relationship is a conspiracy of villainy or insanity.

We never stumble into a career because we desperately needed a job and this one of the thirty applications came through and it was good enough and besides I'm lazy and change is hard. Oh, no. If you love your career, your whole life has been leading up to it and you cherry-pick from your memory all the experiences that make that seem true. If it is a job you don't like it is either a stepping stone or, more likely, a cast of characters whose soul purpose on this earth is to enchain and challenge your inherent nobility and goodness.

People love drama and they create drama in their lives. They tell this story of who they are. Never underestimate the power of that story. People who won't lift a finger to save their own lives from imminent violence will fight and die so that people don't think bad things about them. People who are careful not to step on bugs have killed over rumors spread about them. It certain cultures, someone can be a coward, but don't you dare call him one. In jail I have heard inmates on the phone screaming at their mother: "Bitch you put some money on my books or swear to god I'll slash your face!", Men who would try to shank another inmate who insulted the same woman.

The biggest threat to this story are those inconvenient little things called facts. When someone's story is threatened by facts, watch the scramble. Facts can be denied, and often are. They can be labeled with 'opinion' or the "equivalent sources" fallacy (My favorite example: "It's unfair to claim that your experience is in some way more valid than my training." A martial artist at a seminar years ago.)

Watch the scramble. People will marshall resources and allies, redefine words, reject their own personal experience all to protect this story, this dream.

Same with supporting it, which is what got me started here. A friend was writing about the friction that MMA gets from the self-appointed "Practical self defense community". After all, MMA is only cross training. Picking the best things you can find from multiple sources. Is that any different than the so-called PSD community? Very valid point (most of my friends are pretty smart. Stupid people make me tired.)

That's not really the point, though... and the issue isn't what MMA is or isn't. The issue is, here and elsewhere, the "True Believer". It doesn't matter- the Gracies, MMA, WWII combatives, Koryu snobs: all have their kool-aide drinkers, the ones who have taken whatever it is as a core tenet of their story and defend it far beyond logic. They believe that this thing is IT, the ANSWER, the SILVER BULLET, because in the story they tell themselves, it is. Never likely to be in a fight for their lives, this piece of the story is tested over and over in fantasy before they go to sleep.

They will go to extreme lengths to defend the story. The Gracies swept the early UFCs (ignore that they wrote the rules, ignore the ruleset of a 'no rules' competition, ignore the difference between a bar fight and a match) so it must be the answer. MMA is the winning set of skills in the Octagon today, it must be the SILVER BULLET. WWII combatives and koryu have a bit in common- they were both used to kill real people in real battles, they must be IT!.

Each of these things are what they are. The Gracies I have played with have had the most superb body mechanics of any grapplers yet. I'll play with them whenever I get the chance (If I can afford it... damn, dudes!). But the mount isn't the worst case scenario, not even in my top ten and wearing gear does make a difference- sorry Rener. MMA guys play hard and with skill and relatively safely. They are always worth the time and you will learn more losing to Joey Lauzon than winning with many other people... but weapons and hard corners and multiple bad guys are part of my world. I am a koryu snob and love the WWII stuff- but both were designed for extremely fit professional soldiers and completely ignored the lower end of the force continuum- not something I can use most of the time.

Do you see it yet? When we speak of violence, we are talking about a very big animal. Almost infinitely complex, ranging from incoming artillery to squad tactics to snipers to assassins to redneck stompings and gang hamstringings and...there are an infinite number of ways to die. Adding patch after patch to all the ways you can imagine dying still leaves holes and can make a solution too unwieldy to apply.

The people who have dealt with violence are pretty consistent in their advice: You won't fit this beast in a box. You won't find a single answer to an infinite question.

"What's the answer, then? What is it? Where's my magic bullet?" the question echoes. There is no answer.


Anonymous said...

If you don't know what you're looking for, you won't be able to find it, but what you stumble aross becomes your current reality.

Steve Perry said...

Well, it's all Maya, isn't it? But you do have to work with the stuff of the illusion, since you are wearing the same cloth. Remember the story of the student, guru, and the rampaging elephant ...

David said...

Maybe there's no answer, but it seems like you're leading up to some orienting generalizations, at least. I mean, just like you have to develop a self before you go beyond it, or learn a system before you break its rules ... If there's no answer, you're still hinting at a direction. :)

Kai Jones said...

Heh. This is one of the times when I genuinely can't relate to what you've written. As fond as I am of agency, I mostly fell into my turning points. I certainly didn't plan the relationship that turned into my first marriage, and I really just lucked into my current job. I had kids because I was bored.

The Moody Minstrel said...

I don't think people want to think of themselves as "everyday". It shatters the illusion of uniqueness.

Kai Jones said...

Hrrm. That reminds me, someone has created a group on Livejournal called 50kv_snowflakes, for videos and news stories about all the "special, individual snowflakes" who argue with cops and get tasered. The comments can be hilarious.

Steve Perry said...

Well, if we are gonna get metaphysical, we are all every day people -- and all unique.

It's not solipsictic to say that parts of my reality are going to be different from yours, because we are different filters. What might pass through mine can get caught in yours, and vice-versa.

When my wife and I read the newspaper, sometimes it seems as if we aren't looking at the same periodical at all. We look at the same page, read different stories, and even when we read the same ones, sometimes have different views on what those said.

Join a book club, and be amazed at what you missed and others caught, or wonder what on Earth they were thinking, because that's not what you got from it at all ...

Rory says that there's no one answer to every problem, and I can readily agree with that. That nifty barehanded fighting stuff doesn't work as well against a twelve-gauge shotgun at twenty feet.

Then again, I'm certain there is more than one path up the mountain; that, sometimes, there are answers, at least partial ones.

I don't have to solve all the problems, just the ones I run into.
And, I don't believe that so what? who cares? why bother? is gonna do the trick ...

Dan Gambiera said...

There's one fundamental question that every engineering project has to ask. "What problem are you trying to solve?" In this case it's "What fight are you trying to win?" Bar fights are different than making arrests. Neither has much to do with rape prevention, a boxing match or small unit tactics in the military.

Tools that are perfect for one might not hold up very well for the others.

Dan Gambiera said...

Just out of idle curiosity...

When you say you're a koryu snob, what tradition do you enjoy? With just a little bit of poking I've found a surprisingly large and enthusiastic community of people who do old Japanese martial arts in the Portland area.

Edwin Voskamp said...

Dan Gambiera said...

There's one fundamental question that every engineering project has to ask. "What problem are you trying to solve?" In this case it's "What fight are you trying to win?"

Actually, before that one comes "Does this problem need to be solved?" and its equivalent "Does this fight need fighting?"

Dan Gambiera said...

Point. I forgot to add "Assuming I want to take this job." ;-)

Steve Perry said...

At the risk of blog-clog, a few points about our personal mythologies ...

I decided what I wanted to be when I grew up when I was fifteen, after impressing Mrs. Brown, my gorgeous English teacher, with a science fiction story.

It took me a while to get there, but that was always the goal, and other jobs were temporary stops along the way. And the truth was, I didn't serious start trying until I was pushing thirty, and have been doing it for almost three decades.

I married the girl I took to the senior prom, and after forty-one years, two children, and five grandchildren, I am always happy to see her come through the door. My best friend.

Whatever the facts might be versus my illusions? They don't bother me much. I am doing what I wanted to do for a living, I love it, and while being rich and famous would be nice, I'm perfectly happy as I am.

I can't imagine you know anybody any happier with their life than I am mine. Of course, like the placebo effect, I could be fooling myself, but, hey, I can live with that ...

Rory said...

Good stuff, guys. Kai, you know how K and I met, why we married and how I stumbled into my career- not much fate...but part of my personal mythology is embracing the chaos, so maybe I'm just ignoring the inevitability ;)

I've been playing with your words "orienting generalizations" for a few days now. It needs to percolate some more.

Dan- welcome. You'll love the book. Most of the first section is comparing all the things that get lumped together as 'violence' and how and why the training methods contradict. I can't remember if I used it in the book or here but I tell people, "Your tournament training will help you with a rape about as well as being raped will help you with your tournaments."

The style, BTW is Sosuishitsu-ryu (sometimes called Sosuishi- or Futagami-ryu).

Steve said ..."there is more than one path up the mountain." It's a sentiment I've always felt was slightly off. I think there are many mountains, many elevated perspectives, and many paths that lead to slightly different places. Different personal myths, but also different ways to view each other's.

Steve Perry said...

Okay, so I have to ask:

"(My favorite example: "It's unfair to claim that your experience is in some way more valid than my training." A martial artist at a seminar years ago.)"

By this example, are you then saying that your experience is more valid that that martial artist's training? And if so, that such a statement is a fact?

I'm perfectly willing to accept that this may indeed be the case, maybe more likely than not. But as evidence goes, you saying it doesn't make it a fact ...

Rory said...

Absolutely. In any subject, direct experience will always be more valid than training. To argue otherwise is to say that hearsay has equal weight with direct observation.

Training is always hearsay. Some of it is very good and very accurate hearsay, but it is training for X. It is not X itself.

It's close enough to a tautology that the "equivalency of sources fallacy" is easily recognized.

The entire scientific creationism concept is based on this fallacy, that it is unfair to consider the observations and rigorous scientific testing of biologists and geologists as in some way "more valid" than the received word of a middle eastern tribal deity.

Steve Perry said...

Well, okay, to continue the discussion:

As an LEO, you have to be aware that direct observation has its problems -- it depends on how good the observer is. Recall the classic story of the LEO teaching a class when a "gunman" runs into the room, shoot the teachers, and boogies?

About how the description of the shooter by the students makes him a tall-short-thin-fat-white-black-
bald-bearded guy?

Heard on the tube the other day a question during a promo for a new quiz show: What color are President Bush's eyes? I had stop and think. As many times as I've see the man, and even allowing for his major squint, I should have known, but I never paid much attention.

Back in my PI days, I would have known, but I haven't kept those height-weight-hair-color-eyes skills as sharp as once they were.

(Blue, by the way.)

Hearsay by a trained observer has, from time to time, proved more accurate than direct observation by somebody untrained in how to look.

Too, the quality of experience matters. If I walk into the local pub and pick a fight with the biggest guy in the place and whip him, does that mean my experience is considerbly better than it was yesterday? Wouldn't how adept the big guy was, how sober make a difference?

Is a world-champion IDPA shooter's ability ipso facto less than a panicked LEO who cleared leather once twenty years and missed a perp at fifteen feet? A guy who can pull his piece and drill flies in flight in his sleep is apt to have a better auto-pilot, isn't he?

The statement "all things being equal" is one I use from time to time, but mostly when I do, I qualify it by pointing out that all things rarely are equal ...

Dan Gambiera said...

As I've said before, training with experience beats either by itself. Experience without training may generally beat training without experience, but sometimes it works the other way.

The Aldo Nadi example comes to mind. Nadi had never fought a duel. The other guy had won many. But Nadi's training really was legitimate. And once he settled down he took the other guy apart. To some degree the training he had transferred over to a different sort of fight even if he did sort of twig and probably needed a change of underwear.

Or there's the USDA Extension Service back before it was bought, paid for and gutted. Plenty of young wet-behind-the-ears Extension agents went out and preached the Gospel of crop rotation, improved seeds, animal nutrition, contour plowing and other things to farmers who had been doing it their whole lives. Just like their fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers.

And do you know? More often than not the young guy with a head full of book larnin' was right. He had access to better information and a more thorough understanding of what was going on and how to implement it. When it didn't work out there were ways to get the new information back to the Extension office and the university. Of course, once the farmers were convinced that the innovation was worthwhile they picked it up and mastered it very quickly. After all, they raised crops and stock for a living. The feedback between them and the academics was one of the things that made American agriculture so productive for so long.

Anonymous said...

You already know my thoughts on the topic Rory but I will say that while intensity of an experience in no way justifies its legitimacy, it sure as hell seems that way and that the Elephant is very, very big and the parts of it I've seen were very, very intense.


Rory said...

"Hearsay by a trained observer has, from time to time, proved more accurate than direct observation by somebody untrained in how to look."

Wild guessing has, on occasion, proven more accurate than bad observation... however, the best hearsay possible can only be as good as the direct observation it was based on. It will always be one step removed and thus one step weaker than its source.

When opinions are based only on hearsay, or only on training, you are at the mercy of not only the quality of the original experience, but also the quality of the direct experience and the quality of the transmitter. But at best, what is passed on about X observed by Y can only approach the quality of the initial observation.

The value of teaching, research and systems is that you can get the fruit of the experience of multiple people- diluted, perhaps, but the diluted memories of fifty experienced people will be deeper and broader than my experiences. Provided they are transmitted clearly.

There are a couple of analogies you bring up that are perfect examples, Steve:
"Too, the quality of experience matters. If I walk into the local pub and pick a fight with the biggest guy in the place and whip him, does that mean my experience is considerbly better than it was yesterday? Wouldn't how adept the big guy was, how sober make a difference?"

Experience comes far more often from losing than it does from winning. Drunk guys may teach you that everything you thought you knew about pain-compliance is unreliable. An unadept big guy may teach you that you are completely unprepared to deal with someone who doesn't strike or grapple the way you have been taught to. Your first excited delirium may teach you that what you have been taught about physiological limits and what will kill a human, or that killing always means stopping, are unreliable.

"A guy who can pull his piece and drill flies in flight in his sleep is apt to have a better auto-pilot, isn't he?"

That makes perfect sense, and this is one of the things that theorists glitch on. The simple fact is that as far as anyone can determine in actual shootings, the answer is "no". I have a study on my computer at work that tried to correlate handgun skill with hit ratios in real shootings and found no significant correlation. The guys who can drill flies in their sleep choke just as badly as the guys who can barely qualify.

There are problems with the study, first and foremost that shootings are rare enough that it is hard to get good numbers.

My gut feeling, if it follows the pattern I have seen in unarmed fighting and ConSim, is that there is some number of encounters past which you can control the SSR and do all the amazing things you can do in training and more, but very, very few people ever experience enough shootings to get there. I've hit the zone in ConSim, but that was after scores, maybe hundreds of scenarios playing the bad guy (bad guy gets far more trigger time than the good guys) and some of the best handgun training available.
Dan's Ag extension story is good, but the scientists passing on the information weren't just pulling the ideas out of their asses. They were experimenting and testing, one of the cleanest methods of gathering and transmitting experience.

Thanks, Lawdawg. You wouldn't happen to be a FAM? If so, sorry I've been out of touch. We lost the cell and haven't replaced it yet.

Steve Perry said...

"Experience comes far more often from losing than it does from winning."

That one we can debate, too. Experience comes from, well, the *doing* of a thing. You can learn every bit as much about what works when you win as what doesn't work when you lose.

Been my experience that's how it works in a wide range of activities, mental and physical.

You might not learn exactly the same things, but you certainly can learn something, if you are paying attention.

And we keep coming back to the same crux: If all that training with gun or knife or the manly arts of fisticuffs doesn't make any difference, come the dill, then why bother training at all?

What does it matter if the guy guys can shoot straight at the range if it never translates? Seems pointless.

If you believe it doesn't matter, then you ought not to waste your time, learning or teaching.

And yet, you do both, so I'm left with the notion that you consider what *you* learn/teach to be of value.

How much of a stretch is it to consider that, if that is so, maybe what a martial artist with some real world experience teaches has value as well? Even if it is not the same experience as yours?

I'm curious, because there seems to be a disconnect here I'm missing.

Kai Jones said...

Steve P., it's not binary.

What if some of it helps? What if teaching helps the teacher? What if it helps only one in 100? What if it's still a good thing to do, it just doesn't accomplish the thing you wanted?

Also, standing out here in the cold watching the huffing and puffing, I'm wondering about perception. When you are imagining these fights, these violent occasions, who do you imagine yourself to be? Where are you in the scenario?

Steve Perry said...

I'm just logging in as the Loyal Opposition. When I hear somebody say "My way works, yours doesn't." my little bullshit alarm goes clang-clang! and being a lifelong iconoclast, I need to grab my pin and head for the sacred cow ...

What Rory seems to keep coming back to is that either/or, black/white, my-way-or-the-highway line, and however small my experience is, it runs contrary to that. I get to say so, and if I raise realistic questions, it helps him clarify his own thoughts when he has to address them.

Any comment that can't stand a query is suspect on the face of it. If it worth saying, then it is worth defending, and "Because I say so." is not really proof where I come from ...

And I don't imagine myself in fantasy streetfights -- I'm a professional, I get paid to imagine stuff for other folks.

It is, of course, Rory's blog, to speak his piece. But by putting it out in public, he invites comment, just as any writer does about any public offering.

I've been listening and responding in what I consider a polite manner, and when you get right down to it, for me, Rory hasn't made his case.

Your mileage obviously varies, out there in the cold ...

Kai Jones said...

Steve, I didn't mean to insult you, nor to question your right to comment. But because my concerns are orthogonal to the current discussion, I was curious about your context. I know Rory better than I know you, and I think I know his context, but not yours.

I had a long and loud argument once (online, so only metaphorically loud) with someone who collapsed their position when I managed to show them a way to shift their perspective (and think about the issue from a completely different place). So I wonder what your perspective is, and I asked.

Steve Perry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Perry said...

I don't mind if you get a little snarky -- I fancy I can keep up when snicker shades to snide, and it's all in good fun, no harm, no foul.

I tend to measure my responses as close to in-kind as I can, and I've never been accused of turning the other cheek, so when I perceive a zinger coming across the net, I try to return service with a little top-spin of my own.

But the meat of the discussion is simple: If somebody says,"This is my opinion," that's one thing. If they say, "This is how it is, period." that's a horse of a different color.

From everything I have heard from folks who have some experience in such things, Rory is the bomb, when push comes to shove, and I don't think I've ever indicated anything other than that. I'm not trying to slur his ability to walk the walk.

I am a little less sure that he is talking the talk effectively. I believe generally that a thing may be explained simply if the teller understands it properly, but the medium of words on a screen is, on its best day, a poor one; much is lost in translation. What you could readily understand if you were sitting across a table from somebody, having a beer, taking in body language, facial expression, vocal tone, even pheromones sometimes simply doesn't make in onto the page.

I'm pretty good at this wordsmithery thing, and I still fall short way too often.

It's what we have here, and we have to make do. But I see three things: 1) Either Rory hasn't found the combination to allow me to see it properly, or 3) I'm missing it because of a failure of my perception.

Or 3) I see it just fine -- but disagree.

I suspect it is this last, and we are going to have to agree to disagree, but I keep circling to be sure before I give up ...

Anonymous said...

The question of training becomes not if one trains but how. If you're training to fight to the death, en extremis, then you need to replicate as closely as possible the biochemical, neurological and psychical changes that will occur in training.

Let's put it this way, to use a droll comparison - would, say, cocaine use change how a person fights? If so, how? The same can be said of adrenaline and it's counterparts - they introduce a potent chemical cocktail into the body when released, which dramatically affects performance.

If you HAD to fight for your life under the influence of cocaine, would you want your first exposure to it to be on "test day" or would you like a chance to practice with it first?

And Rory, I am indeed the one and only....;)

Steve Perry said...

Talking here about tachypsychia, classic freeze/fight/flight syndrome, with all the associated adrenaline reactions? About small muscle control going away, hearing shifting, tunnel vision, time-alteration, like that?

Yeah. I know that from a couple directions: Spent some years working in a clinic as a PA, and had it happen a few times when life got scary.

Bearing that in mind, fancy and complex motions are apt to go away when you get there, and that's the generally accepted reason why shooters unload at close range and miss.

And training that works to deal with that, more power to it.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I'm communicating well here.

Let's imagine that it's my job to teach someone how to walk across a 4x8 board. So, I show them how to walk across it and they do and they do it pretty well.

Then, on test day, I tell them they have to walk across the same board they've been practicing with all along but now they have to do it with the board bridging two buildings 200 feet high.

You think this might cause a variation in performance?

It's the same board, same walk, same everything, except now it is infinitely harder due to fear, due to the mind.

If I were the walker I'd want to see how I walked under such conditions as soon as possible prior to my test. There are a number of ways to do so - exhaustion can mimic many of the physical components of adrenaline and the like. Maybe I'd give that a try. But I'd sure not like to give it a whirl for the first time with my life as the prize for winning.

But maybe that's just me.