Friday, July 23, 2010

Purposeful Mistakes

There are a lot of things that you can do on purpose to good effective that are disastrous if done accidentally. It's that mindfulness thing. Almost any rule (whether a law or common sense) can be broken advantageously. Most of the time, breaking rules have negative effects. Often for others, but for us as well.

Self-defense, for example, is an affirmative defense: "Yes, your honor, I committed an act that satisfies all of the elements of the crime (assault, aggravated assault, manslaughter) but it was justified because..."

Physical self-defense, counter-assault, is breaking the rule against doing harm to others.

That's a tangent.

Over on Patrick's blog, he writes about stiff-arming in judo. It is a beginner's mistake, but it is a really hard habit to break. It is a hard habit to break because it works.

It occurred to me this morning that when a beginner stiff arms and blocks a throw, it is a bad habit. Poor judo. When a skilled practitioner blocks the same throw in the same way it is "good structure."

What else does this apply to? It's subtle, the first thing that comes to mind is the manhandling drill. Being thrown around really messes with people, until they learn that it is all a gift and suddenly danger becomes opportunity. That's different, though, because usually what the beginners try doesn't work.

What are the things where beginners are effective, told to stop being effective because it is bad X or whatever, and then later are either taught to do it again under a different name or just notice that the senior practitioners do it?

I know of 'chi masters' in internal styles that state that they don't move and their students seem incapable of seeing them move... but they clearly do. There are weapons instructors who state emphatically that the hands (or weapon) must lead the feet, must move first. But those instructors never actually do that. Their hands and feet move together. The student has no hope of matching speed or coordination or power until they reject what the teacher says and do what he does.

It's curious. A fun thing to think about. I don't think it's deliberate, except in a few cases. The instructors aren't trying to hamper the students. In some cases it does make sense. The stiff arm in judo works very well defensively, but it gets in your own way offensively and hampers sensitivity. It works, but it really gets in the way of internalizing ju.


Irene said...

Grabbing your own hand and yanking it to your chest to break a wristlock?

jks9199 said...

I know that I sometimes have not realized that what I say and what I do aren't exactly the same until a student tries to replicate one -- and doesn't get the same effect. I've been fighting this issue for a while, to understand and recognized what I've internalized versus what I think I'm doing... and knowing which is which and why it's that way. Not always easy. And it takes being honest enough to realize that there are indeed times when students need to do things at a different step or level, too... or when you've been cheating to maintain (false) superiority.

Steve Perry said...

Knife drill: The defender holds his knife in the ice pick grip. The Attack uses the saber grip. They stand facing each other at such a range that the attacker can just nick the defender's hand. The attacker flicks out his knife, the defender has to move his hand out of range. Neither player can step in or back.

The attacker tries to cut the defender's knife hand (or back-up hand) and the defender tries to avoid it.

This is only the first part of the drill, and it is just a drill -- nobody will do this in the real world.

Eventually, it leads to the attacker trying to cut and the defender looking for an opening to move in, since s/he is too far away to make contact with his weapon.

As long as feet-planted is the mode, the attack can get real frisky. As soon as the defender is allow to counter and come in, the attacks are much shorter and more focused.

For the attacker's part, s/he is learning distance, and how action beats reaction. But the attacker has a tendency to cheat it a little by leaning in. Doing so lets him reach the defender's hand, but he's learning a bad habit if he does it -- if he leans a hair too far, his balance is off enough so that he'll be open to attack himself.

I hope I'm making this clear, and it might be that you'd have to be there ...

Yes, there will be times when leaning a bit and cutting or sticking somebody will be enough to draw blood and maybe win. But against a skilled player, that might be the perfect opening for a nasty counter-attack.

If the only goal is to nick the hand, then leaning works. If the larger goal is to do it and not leave yourself open for reprisal, then it's not as good a tactic in our thoughts.

When you are learning drills, the other guy can usually cheat it and tag you. If he's trying to count coup and demonstrate that he can, that's not hard. It's not about the "right" way, but about parity. If one guy gets to cheat, then the other guy gets to cheat. Which is how it goes in the real world, but not how you break stuff down into drills sometimes ...

Isegoria said...

When a white-belt stiff-arms, it's bad judo. When a black-belt stiff-arms, it's good structure. I'm reminded of the SNL sexual harassment training film, starring Tom Brady.

In this case, the advice to be a black-belt is not the same as the facetious advice to be handsome. The skilled grappler is using the stiff-arm to shut down an attack he didn't quite anticipate, so he can come back with a counter or just return to square one. The unskilled grappler is using the stiff-arm to delay the inevitable — all the while, tiring himself out and learning very, very little.

Settling in for trench warfare is a terrible strategy, but taking up a fortified position is often an excellent tactic.

Irene said...

I was also just thinking about the much-maligned X-block, which is often a beginners' instinctive reaction to an overhead strike. It's visually nearly indistinguishable from the expert's two-handed high-low block/redirect-then-open-up-and-move-in. There is of course the issue of following-up on the block, which is where training comes in - once you have that first strike blocked/redirected, what do you do next? But consider, if you taught the x-block as part of an opening or entry-sequence, could you use that instinctive reaction to good effect?

jks9199 said...

Irene, that's the essence of several defensive tactics systems like Tony Blauer's SPEAR. The instinctive cover and flinch is converted to an entry move... I've personally got mixed opinions, though I have to caveat myself that I haven't really been properly taught them.

Derek Simonds said...

In BJJ we have several things we teach beginners as rules such as two hands in or two hands out whenever passing. As you progress there are many passes that are one in one out. I was going to post this on Patricks blog as I was thinking along the same lines.

Unknown said...

I just came in from bucking up some wood in this heat so I'm a little brain fried but let me try:

In Chen taiji (Hong's Practical style) you can clearly see the master moving but he says he isn't. That is because of special language use.

1st case: if a hand moves from the waist tho the eyebrows but is described as 'not moveing', it is usually because the wrist joint is not involved in the lift so it is not the hand moving but it is being moved by the shoulder. The hand is only 'moving' when the wrist joint moves it side to side or up and down.

2nd case:
In the form for data and for fighting, there are 'moves' and 'adjustments.'

An adjustment does not affect the opponent, it just gets into position. A move affects the opponent so he is pushed off balance or whatever.

Therefore you may see a move that pushes the opponent out without changing its relationship to either the opponent or yourself (ie, doesn't seem to move) while the other hand is 'flapping' but it is said, 'see, no movement.'

Jake said...

Boxing and Muay Thai coaches are forever admonishing students to keep their hands up, yet there are plenty of examples of high-level fighters who do just the opposite.

Hell, I sometimes get lazy with my hands because I can get away with it against certain people (against others, I cannot, and pay for the bad habit on occasion).

The main difference is that beginners usually drop their hands either because they're tired, or frustrated, or just forgetful, and get popped for it. High level fighters do it as part of a strategy, and have the timing and distancing to know when they can get away with it, and when they can't.

But it's still dropping your hands, at the end of the day. And it can always get you popped.

Dan Gambiera said...

Here's the difference...

The beginner is doing it because he doesn't know any better. He has no answer besides stiffening up. If he isn't broken of the habit he'll do it when it is counterproductive. And he'll do it instead of learning and developing other better skills.

The practitioner does it because it is the best solution at the time. It's not the only trick in his bag. If the situation called for something else he'd be able to adapt. His skill and understanding allow him to recognize when it's called for and not otherwise.