Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Expert

I got a weird question in Austin: "What's your advice on fighting in roller skates?"

The young lady wanted some advice on a serious question. She handled the security at a roller-rink. She'd been in a number of fights while wearing roller skates, usually with people much larger than herself. What she had learned in martial arts about foot work and power generation and base and other things just didn't apply when your feet were tied to wheels.

We brainstormed some stuff, but I had to say, "Why are you asking me? There's a very real possibility that you are the world's foremost authority on fighting in roller skates. I should be asking you."

It's probably a pretty small world, the roller skating security set. But she had clearly learned things that I couldn't imagine. And this is one of my peeves. Not really. It's not a peeve. It's something I see every day with a little wonder and a little sadness: The human ability to discount personal experience and seek validation. Often validation from someone with paper.

They may have more than paper, these experts. That's the idea behind certifications and stuff, if you see a five-year pin you can assume five-years of experience, but sometimes it doesn't fly so well.

Not the point of this post, the experience of others. The point is discounting your own experience. Sometimes to preserve an illusion. Often to preserve a relationship. Very often to defend identity.

Experience isn't absolute, either. In my analysis a single violent encounter almost always does more harm than several. With one, lucky illusions can be reinforced or, more commonly, things you were certain of can be destroyed. A single violent encounter shows some gaping holes, but gives nothing to fill them. You find out what was wrong, but it often takes more experience and some experimentation to figure out what is right.

You are all expert at something. At what? Where do you look for validation? Why do you look for validation?


Travis said...


Steve Perry said...

I'm a fair writer, good enough to make a living at it. But like your view of fights, there is no certainty that one is always going to do the right thing in the right moment.

If I write a book, I know what I think I said. But if somebody doesn't get that, if there is a failure to communicate, then the question arises: Where lies the fault?

Mine? Theirs? Some combination thereof?

If the fault is mine, then I would correct it in future writings, even if only partially mine. If theirs, probably not much I can do. If I said it clearly and somebody misses it, that's their problem.

Some people aren't going to get it no matter what you say, nor how you say it.

How do I know if it's me or them? Well, if I ask eight people to read my book and tell me what they liked, didn't like, what works and what doesn't, it's not a formal survey, but it serves. If somebody doesn't like a character or a scene, they may or may not be right -- I listen for the bell to ring -- ah, yes, that's right! I missed it! If I don't hear it, one voice isn't going to be enough. My opinion matters more because my name is on the cover, and if I need to replace mine with another's, I have to be convinced.

If all eight readers have a problem with something, then maybe the fault is still theirs, but I'm more likely to consider that it's mine. I could be right and they could all be out of step, but something went wrong between my lips and their ears, and me or them, my goal to communicate failed.

If all eight like and dislike different things? That's pretty good in my mind -- then we get into personal preferences, likes and disliked, and whatever axes they bring to the task.

That's one reason to look for input and validation. To see if truth can triumph ego ...

If one person calls you an ass, you may ignore him; if ten people call you an ass, you might want to consider getting yourself a saddle.

Always something you have to think about.

Mark H said...

Mr Miller,

While I see value in your viewpoint I can see another reason why someone might consult others. I often ask people in other fields, particularly related to the crux of the question for their opinions. Why?
Do you know how many breakthroughs have been made when a different approach is used to attack a concern or problem? History is rife with examples. I am particularly reminded of the old tale of how early on the U.S. spent substantial money to design a pen for the difficulties of 0 gravity writing. The Russians, well they just used pencils. Manytimes we fail to identify the true nature of the problems we bang our heads against for days on end.

Looking forward to your next literary effort, Mark H

jks9199 said...

At the moment... I'm beginning to think I'm an expert at bashing my head into walls for no particularly good reason.

There's a classic saying about experience: There are some folks with 20 years experience... and others with one year of experience, 20 times.

Been a long day, lots of random thoughts popping up about experts and validation... both internal and external. It's nice to be appreciated, and accepted and treated as competent and professional by your peers. But is it necessary? If so -- why? and what does it mean to be accepted?

Chris said...

I am dying to know her top 3 tips for fighting in roller skates. Surely they apply, to some lesser degree, to gravel or ice?

Unknown said...

you tube video of said rollerskate fight as well please!!!

Isegoria said...

I think she went to the wrong seminar. She should have gone to hockey camp.

Or traveled into the dystopic future of Rollerball to train with the Japanese team.

Tiff said...

I recall the conversation. My instant thought was of a concept I'd been taught in yoga class (of all places).

Concerning one's center of gravity, it's predominant in the abdomen. Yoga teaches us to become lighter, with a stronger foundation, by pulling inward the part of the stomach just below the belly button -- the psoas muscle (inside the pelvic cavity) -- what a yogi would refer to as the lowest three chakras or energy centers.

By drawing the muscle in and upward, one's foundation becomes more securely established without relying on whatever the legs or feet might be doing.

Perhaps that might help her control the bedlam in the roller rink, leaving her feet to move about as they like without her losing her balance.

Will Brown said...

First rule of bouncers: your job is to not get in a fight.

Sounds like your young interlocuter needs something that will disrupt the fighters balance on skates, while not ionterfereing with hers. Maybe something like the old (and probably mostly apocryphal) stage hook for bad acts in vaudeville? Perhaps a better description would be a shepherds crook or staff; something with a simple mechanism for lifting another's foot/skate from the rink floor, while being simultaneously long enough not to bring your body into easy reach of the fighters, yet still easily handled when not in active use. I would imagine it wouldn't pose too difficult an engineering challenge to adapt an existing police-type inertial baton into a practicle variation of the basic concept.

The contrast in varying degrees and type of liability assumed with and without using such a device is an interesting, and thankfully separate, topic.

Oh, and as regards the (more than a little facetious, I assume) suggestion regarding ice hockey; the referee's aren't empowered to break-up the fights, only identify the players involved and assign the stipulated penalty to each afterwards. Not much help in the skating rink security environment.

Justthisguy said...

Fights on roller skates? I'm sorry, I don't think I could stop giggling for long enough to intervene, even if that were my duty.

Oh, here's some practical advice: have a super-soaker full of oil and squirt it under their wheels. If they fall over and can't stand up again, well, you have them at a disadvantage.

Diesel Diva said...

I asked that question.

The reason I did is, I am a very good skater and I'm not bad at Krav Maga, but who do you ask when it comes to combining the two? There wasn't a rollergirl, speed, jam or freestyle skater that could tell me, and my Krav instructors couldn't help either. Not individually anyway. But everyone I asked did have at least one bit of advice here and there that together has become how I handle violence on skates and is the basis for a brand new derby strategy (we're coming for you Oly).

The fact that the new tactics are not grounded in anything to do with skating is whats making them so effective. Mr. Mark H. puts it best, overlooking the value of outside input is what leads to crappy skating and zero G pens.

Rory said...

Very cool, and I was hoping you would join in. It's very cool seeking insight and advice and looking outside for new thoughts and ways. Every good instructor does that. Tiff looks to yoga. I learned a lot about criminals from working with dogs and explain wristlocks with a sailing/flying concept (yaw, pitch and roll).
Here's the deal, and maybe it didn't come out in the post: I was honored to be in the presence of a world authority. That's you, ma'am. A very, very rare expertise.
I know I'm reading thoughts into your head, but I would love for you to take a minute and revel in that. Of all the people you know, lots are good at things, but very few are among the best in the world... and you are one of them. That always tickles me and puts me in awe to be in the presence of humble greatness.
I hope it tickles you as well.

Master Plan said...

DD, which team do you play on?

I'd be quite interested to see\hear more about the resulting derby strategy. I've been pondering MA->derby crossover stuff for a couple of months now...seems like interesting work.

Good luck w. Oly. ;-)

Charles James said...

RM said, "Why do you look for validation?"

I have tried many times to answer this question but I have this one theory that validation is tied to the survival instinct nature gave us. We tend to gravitate to groups. Groups are tribes which provide all the members a means of protection as we are better protected in a group then alone. In order to achieve acceptance in the tribe or group we need to have the group accept us, i.e. validate us as good material for the group, etc. There is a reason the quote only the strong survive as the tribe/group of yesteryear is one that survives when the members are all of high caliber survivalist material. It's nature and although it may not actually be necessary in today's high tech world it still exists in our nature so it counts.

Validation by the group means acceptance which means as a member of the group we survive or the chances of survival are greatly increased…instinct, DNA, etc.

Rory said...

Charles, and I'm thinking out loud here: There is a difference between validation on the edges and in the center. If you are training for survival, you are training for unusual experiences... why seek validation from someone who doesn't know any more than you do and probably less? Why does validation from a human (flawed, narrow-minded and tribal) so often trump the validation of direct experience?

When a student hits someone and knocks him on his ass, the hit can an instructor then step in and say it was wrong? And when they do, why do the students listen?

Anonymous said...

before people keep using the hoary and trite "NASA should have just used a pencil!!!!" story, they might want to do a littler more digging on the actual story behind NASA's adoption of the Fischer Space Pen.

to start with, NASA paid exactly zero for the research and development of the pen. It was designed by Fischer as a private venture into making a pen that could be used in literally all environmental conditions.

being that they were doing this in the 60's, a natural marketing hook would be to get the pen adopted by the space program. Since the pen was pressurized, it was a perfect fit for space use.

Secondly, people who think pencils are such a great idea for use in space should consider some cold hard realities about the inside of a spacecraft.

they tend to be heavily oxygen-saturated, to the point of severe fire hazard if one occurs. They also tend to have electrical systems, some of which can get space crap stuffed inside them and some of which are fairly high voltage.

It's also extremely difficult to retrieve small amounts of floating crap in zero gravity, and just like on Earth, pencils break off ends and leave shavings.

bits and shavings of graphite, which is a reasonably good electrical conductor, and which is perfectly capable of starting an electrical fire in an environment where such fires are hard to fight, are especially deadly due to the abnormally high oxygen supply, and for which there is no real escape while in orbit.

After the Apollo I fiasco, where a fire onboard the grounded craft in a environment being fed nearly 100% oxygen combined with an inability to escape killed all astronauts onboard, NASA would have been irresponsible to not consider ways to reduce fire risk.

their reasoning must have also worked for the Russians, who abandoned their initial use of pencils and switched to pens of that general type.

what we "know" frequently just isn't so.