Monday, July 28, 2008

Triune I

I like categorizing things in threes. Don't know why, just have for as long as I can remember. Others do too, so I'm not alone. Reading about something that I toy with writing about (The Triune Theory of Power) it got me thinking- about fighting, about Meditations, about where I am on this journey.

From a post last May:
I'm no expert. I'm a nearly crippled up middle aged man with some skill, some experience and some mean. But I'm consistently successful against people who are bigger, stronger, faster and/or more proficient than me.

That's the three-part issue. There are three things that make a good fighter: Physical ability or conditioning; technical skill; and the whole mental/spiritual component- the attitude.

When I started in MA, I was a farmboy. I was small and didn't think I was very strong, but I was used to chopping wood and milking cows and bucking bales of hay. The thing about ranch work is that you don't stop when you get your reps in or you feel tired, you stop when the work is done. Milking one stupid, stubborn cow I would go to total muscle failure in my hands and forearms again and again and again until she was out of milk. If rain was possible, you loaded hay until it was all in, no matter how many tons or how hot it was- At less than 110 pounds I was loading and stacking about 3 tons of hay an hour (110x55 pound bales an hour) throwing them up into the truck, jumping on the truck as it moved, stacking them, jumping down and throwing more up.

I was what my dad called "wiry". When I started in judo it was a help, but it wasn't enough. My instructors felt that weight classes had severely degraded the skills of judo, so I almost never randori'd with anyone my size, and there wasn't anybody smaller. I needed and developed technical skill to overcome physical disadvantage. You're bigger and stronger than me? Fine, then I'll be better than you! Hah!

So I've always been physical (I consider my own body my favorite toy and best tool, so I play constantly) but I became a technician. I had superbly skilled instructors and they drilled me on skill. They also taught me tactics and strategy, and those are a subset of technical skill for this discussion. Reading an opponent, finding a weakness and exploiting it or reading the flow of an engagement and guiding it so that it stays in your strong areas are skills. Dave Sumner was awesome at it, and it is one of the strengths of true jujutsu- striking, locking, gouging, throwing, grappling or weapons you could hold your own in any and use the one (or more) that your opponent wasn't skilled in. Or apply a technique in a range that most people didn't think was possible or... If you learned to see the problem broadly you could almost always hit it from a perspective that was alien to your opponent. The more you practiced seeing broadly, the harder it was to freeze you with novelty.

So two of three: physicality and skill.

But there is a third. Call it attitude or spirit or heart or whatever. It is powerful (read Sanford Strong's "Strong on Defense" where he describes situations where attitude, specifically a righteous rage, has allowed victims who were completely outmatched- bigger, stronger, armed predators with surprise- and not only survived but prevailed) and it is also vague (look for the posts on heart and where I try to list all the things that can make one freeze). You see its presence in everything from a mother protecting her young to the radar ping of two professionals. And you see it in the absence, when a skilled, athletic fighter is taken down by an untrained addict who was just meaner, more determined, less civilized.

In some people it is just a reaction to fear, to respond with focused violence. In others it is a disregard of fear and a professional need to get the job done. Sometimes it is anger, a beast inside. In other situations it is civilization or a lack of it, the presence or absence of a leash.

This third leg of the triangle is what has fascinated me lately. I've dealt with it, used it and seen it used, had its absence nearly paralyze me and dug for my own to force me to act. As I've worked on it specifically, it has become largely a tool or technique like any other. Making people feel safe and loved to prevent violence or making them feel afraid and uncertain to prevent violence. Attacking (or just affecting, really) spirits rather than bodies.

In the end, though, I don't think it is more important than the other two legs- it is just less trained, less understood. Because the level of conscious skill in it is so low, any gains can have powerful effects on the whole package. Because those effects are rarely understood or even consciously sensed by the opponent, the effect can seem mystical, bigger than it really was.

Then the fourth skill: the grand strategy of channeling conflict into a physical, technical or spiritual arena. Can you dig it?


  1. I am wary of any suggestion that supports the mind/body dichotomy. I haven't found that helpful in the past; more and more I believe my mind, my consciousness, arises as an expression of what's happening physically.

    A mood that I can't rationalize as explained by events (which happens often, as long as I don't seek out problems that don't exist) is easily correlated with physical states: exhaustion or hunger or tension.

    I begin to believe you could train the attitude with some kind of physical training. You can change your emotional responses to things, I know from experience, and you can create an emotional response by stressing the body in whatever way that body associates with that emotional response, so it makes sense that you could figure out a physical training regime that would result in the spiritual attitude under discussion.

    Although there would be individual differences, I suspect a generalizable exercise that might need to be tweaked for the rare individual whose responses (whether because of past experience or natural predilection) differ from the average.

  2. A Reading from the Book of Armaments, Chapter 4, Verses 16 to 20:

    Then did he raise on high the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, saying,
    "Bless this, O Lord, that with it thou mayst blow thine enemies to tiny
    bits, in thy mercy." And the people did rejoice and did feast upon the
    lambs and toads and tree-sloths and fruit-bats and orangutans and
    breakfast cereals ... Now did the Lord say, "First thou pullest the
    Holy Pin. Then thou must count to three. Three shall be the number of
    the counting and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt
    thou not count, neither shalt thou count two, excepting that thou then
    proceedeth to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being
    the number of the counting, be reached, then lobbest thou the Holy Hand
    Grenade in the direction of thine foe, who, being naughty in my sight,
    shall snuff it."

  3. LOL! Ah, Steve, you're a delight.

  4. I'd love to take credit for this one, but it's all Monty Python, from the bit called the Holy Hand Grenade.

  5. The beauty of a triangle to me seems to be that possessing one leg without the other two and it is no longer a triangle :)

    As someone from the other end of the spectrum and so out of shape it is sad, I know that what occurs physically does affect the spirit and spirit affects physicallity; the trained skill can be, in many cases, either mind over body or body over mind. The balance of the individual lies in bringing it all together with spirit.

    Knowing you, I would expect that with as much as you have exercised your mind and body, sharpening them both to respond optimally to threats, that you now concentrate on the spirit and how to integrate the training and response into yourself as a whole.

    Am I making any sense here, or just rambling?

    Take care

    (Of course, according to my children if you get to 3 you get spankings! lol and no, that wasn't a proposition, talk to your wife about your strange habits, not me. *grin*)

  6. Anonymous3:14 AM

    For me the physical conditioning was the hardest par had no past need to do things that I didn't want to when I didn't want to but the mediations and MA has taught me a lot in this area,

  7. Kai (and Sondra)-
    Sondra hit it pretty well and I've written about it before. Brave people are much less brave with low blood sugar. Calm people are much less calm when dehydrated.

    As Sondra pointed out, it works both ways. It's not a true dichotomy- mind and body aren't separate- but you can work the whole from either end. Did I ever tell you how marching to cadence was invented?


  8. I'm curious about the cadence calls. All I remember are the nasty ones and those about Jody we did in ROTC.