Saturday, June 26, 2010

Scenario Training

There are different types of scenario training and there are different levels.
Like any training, scenario training must serve a purpose. The purpose has to be something that helps the student as well-- if you are setting the rules, telling the story and controlling all the parts, you can always "teach" a student that they will fail. That's for your ego. A student subjected to that only learns to never try.

Some scenarios can be for testing, and one of the best aspects of armored opponent scenario training for martial artists is that they learn a little about the huge gap between dealing with a training partner and dealing with an attacker. It's never a complete exposure, but skills degenerate so universally that all but the most self-deluded take a second to wonder about the difference between training and life.

That's learning a negative, however. Understanding that you aren't prepared is a step... but it doesn't help you to be prepared. It motivates you.

So in scenario training, you start with what you want the student to learn. You wanted the student to learn how to tap into her inner beast and let go? You can set up scenarios for that. You want to get a student over some deep personal conditioning? You can inoculate for that with scenarios. You want them to take sterile skills and apply them to a dynamic, messy environment? Scenarios were made for that.

Most often I use them to help the student develop judgment in tandem with skills. They know how to take someone down... do they have any idea when it is appropriate? They know how to defend themselves, do they know what constitutes self-defense legally? Can they explain their actions to a jury of their peers?

Can they tell when a situations is developing? Do they know when to leave? Do they recognize the point of no return? Knowledge of violence dynamics (how bad guys attack) and force law are integral parts of self-defense. Every so often, these elements have to be practiced together.

The other thing about scenario training is that you find glitches. When the student doesn't run; or uses a martial skill instead of a survival skill (fighting to win instead of fighting to escape) or plays to the scenario instead of the problem (decides not to use the mirrors or doors, ignoring truth for an image in the head) it tells you something. The same student is vulnerable to his or her own mind games and assumptions in real life. That's a glitch, and a dangerous one. The best survivors are cheaters. If you want to encourage survival skills, you have to make it safe to cheat.

It takes good role-players and a good coach. A role-player who wants to can turn everything into a fight...and the student learns that only fighting (never leaving, never talking) is what works. A role-player who can play a convincing criminal (not an unstoppable monster or a cartoon character) is solid gold.

The coach has to let the students run and not micromanage or microcritique. There are lots of ways to be right, ways to survive. the goal is for the student to learn and so, whenever possible, the student, not the instructor, should be pointing out mistakes and areas of improvement.

You also have to watch the 'weirdness creep.' Most bad things that happen are pretty basic. There aren't a lot of variations on the Monkey Dance. Armed robberies follow pretty simple patterns. Good scenarios that reflect reality will blow away beginners and teach them tons. Unfortunately, what the student does once, the crew (facilitator and role-players) will do many times. The crew starts to get bored. The crew decides to make things more interesting and challenging. the scenarios start to get a little weirder, a little less like real life...

This is where we plan to finish up tomorrow. Sold out show. Life is good.


ush said...

Saw this exact thing happening yesterday at a seminar, a scenario was set up and everyone decided that it was a "fight" despite the odd's being stacked massively against the defender. No-one realised that they could have just ran through the fire exit behind them and they were free to escape.

Alsharad said...

Rory, if ever you are looking for a book to write after "7", a book on scenario based training from you would be awesome!

Rory said...

Ush- Good to hear from you. Been a while.

I believe the book has already been written. On my long list of stuff I need to read that I haven't gotten around to yet is "Training at the Speed of Life" by Ken Murray. Haven't read it yet, so I can't give a personal recommendation, but people I respect say it is THE book Simulation Training.

Maija said...

Is there a correlation between the ability to be a good role player and the ability to read threat? I am kinda assuming the better role players have some understanding of real life behaviors .. but maybe I'm wrong?
But if so, can you teach good role playing to those that don't have real life experience to draw from? Does learning to be a realistic role player help to train being on the receiving end?
I'm thinking, yes it does, but would love your comments as to if it's a good idea/worthwhile/prone to distortion of reality, etc?

Rory said...

Maija- Someone who knows criminals can fake them better, but someone who knows the audience/students can push buttons better, and that gets to much the same place.

Ideally, the interaction between the facilitator and the role-players will get to a very good place. Telling the role players, "Keep woofing, say really sexually aggressive stuff and subtly move closer. I want to see where she starts setting boundaries. If she lets you get with in reach, go for the weapon behind your back."

I guess like a good director or a good actor can make a film.

Isegoria said...

In my experience, roleplaying, like animation, has an awkward tendency to fall into the uncanny valley, where increased realism makes the whole thing seem less realistic.

In real life, I trust my gut, but in a scenario all the cues are off, and I have to consciously pretend to counter-intimidate the guy brought in to yell at me, or whatever.

Where it's undeniably useful is in eliciting a huge adrenaline response or a sense of total shock and surprise, because that opens some eyes — fine-motor skills go bye-bye, tunnel vision kicks in, etc. — and teaches you both how to stay somewhat calm and what you can do when you're not centered.