Friday, September 10, 2010

Excessive Construction, Maybe

Sometimes (maybe this happens to other people) when I'm trying to simplify teaching methods I hear, "Maybe that applies to someone with your experience, but a beginner would never get it." Or, even, "Some of you guys who have been doing this so long forgot that you had to learn it."

There's good and bad in that, truth and fiction. Some of it is accurate, but much of it is defensive.

So, the truth- I'm shitty at teaching breakfalls. I've been doing them so long that I really don't remember how the early classes were set up. I'm good (clearly a bragging story: once in Dynamited Cave I fell off a simple climb. It was at most twelve feet total and easy so we weren't roped in. When I fell I was only maybe five feet above the floor... but it was the usual lava tube floor of broken up rock and aa lava. Sharp and hard. I landed in a perfect right side break fall, except that my body was bent and wrapped around all the significant sharp boulders. Some scratches, nothing else...but I was able to adapt a ukemi on a hard, irregular, sharp surface with the glance from a flashlight as it fell.)

Bragging, but the point is that I can tell you how to do it, maybe even make up some drills... but the only way to learn to do it that fast is to do it a lot in ugly conditions... but I don't clearly remember how I learned the very basics of ukemi. Sort of, but in my memory it seems like just a few minutes of training.

My son is getting heavily into gaming. He takes his world-building very seriously. He is trying to figure out the imaginary physical laws of an imaginary place. What the politics are, what the gods do... so little of that matters.

Do we live in an aristotelian, newtonian or einsteinian universe? Do you realize how little that knowledge, or the perspective, affects people's lives? Newtonian mechanics got us to the moon, but the average guy watching his TV and driving his car didn't know or care from Newton. If string theory proves to be true or if it doesn't will directly affect the lives of a handful of physicists. The rest of our species has lived for hundreds of thousands of years without even asking the questions.

My son thinks that worldbuilding involves having all the answers. He doesn't understand that it is supposed to be fun, and that means giving the players the right kind of questions. Human-sized questions. Questions they can relate to. Things that they can do in small ways, safely-- like talk to girls or stand up to someone scary... things they can barely do in real life.

Which brings up another puzzler-- people who are afraid to tell their boss 'no' fantasize about fighting dragons. People who don't understand their own wives and children and live in constant conflict feel perfectly qualified to criticize high-level diplomacy. People who do not know their own mind or the mind of their closest friends will tell you what God believes...

It may seem I'm wandering, but these things are related. I'm not talking about action under stress right now. I'm talking about training. When we (I think most will agree, hence the we) denigrate training or training methods, most of the time it has nothing to do with us forgetting our baby steps. None of us popped out of Zeus' head ready to rumble. We remember, sometimes painfully, the slow progression and the learning curve.

What we do see is the hours and the effort spent on things that are completely irrelevant. The training for attacks that don't happen. The inbred layers of defense and counter that only apply--or work-- in house. The minute dissection and bickering over details... like criticizing the penmanship in the Declaration of Independence.

Too many hours spent building things-- whether physics for an imaginary world or series of actions to respond to a wholly imaginary attack that don't exist and wouldn't matter if they did. It's a human sized world with human-sized problems. Learn to deal with those and you'll see some deeper connections.


Lise Steenerson said...

LOVE this!!!!

Anonymous said...

Still, Rory, some of your comments have sounded like you think you can chop 90% or more out of typical martial arts training ... and a large fraction out of good training. The "do I have enough material for a 3 day class?" thing say.

People have been training people to fight as long as there have been people. Some of the teachers had lots of experience with violence, and good training in teaching. So it would be surprising if that big an improvement over ordinary good training was still possible.

zzrzinn said...

hmm it seems like another issue involved here is HOW training goes down, not just volume of stuff.

The truth is (I think) that good martial arts training is actually pretty simple, Maybe part of the problem being seen here is that most martial arts classes operate on the idea that there should be a central authority who is there to fill up an hour or more by imparting material to you in a "list" form that you are supposed to retain somehow.

If martial arts are taught in that context, you pretty much HAVE to draw things out to fill up the time.

Seems like there are other methods of people learning this stuff though, explaining concepts, and having people teach themselves to some degree.

I wonder if the fat being talked about here isn't in the presentation and format, rather than the material itself.

Mac said...

The heart of the matter is self-knowledge and confidence, the brain of the matter is forethought and the body of the matter is training and experience. To simplify the latter, ask yourself what you are training for: combat (kill in one move; anyone can learn it in 5 minutes, no belt required), self-defense (practice running and first aid), sport (dueling) (many years of technical skill necessary and, in practices such as MMA, the ability to take a great deal of pain and damage and keep going), art (a year or two of developing recognitions and reflexes), health or philosophy (a lifetime). So, before one can figure out where Rory is going with his research, figure out where your base is. But as a spoiler, I think what Rory is trying to do is be able to inculcate or elicit an awareness-to-action mind-set that is reflexive, appropriate (for the situation) and satisfying (doesn'y traumatize you) in a weekend training format. But first, you gotta know what you want and what you can do.

Tiff said...

Interesting. Given what Mac wrote, I can pick out various styles/approaches by combining two or more of the foci mentioned. Makes me wonder if Rory has a "style," after all -- perhaps the combination of "self-defense" and "art?" (Will experiment with different combinations in my head.) Never looked at it that way before, Mac -- thanks.

Rory said...

Everyone else, thanks.
Oooooh, Anon... Are you serious? Marine BCT is about twelve weeks. Army is ten. DPSST is 16 weeks for enforcement and 5 weeks for corrections, and these all need to cover everything from commo to law to report writing. All of these people are expected, at some point, to go into combat.
Then take a martial artist who is told it will take years to develop any kind of proficiency, that a three-year (or, in the good old days, a minimum of eight years) black belt is just a start, just the sign of a serious student...and they are never expected to actually use it.

Yeah... I can easily chop 90% out of martial arts training. So can anyone with half a brain. Sturgeon's law (90% of everything is bullshit) is more than exceeded in martial arts...and if you honestly think that martial arts training is, in fact, exactly the same as training to fight, I have to call you on that. That is purely delusional.


jks9199 said...

Two thoughts that I've been playing with for a couple days...

The first regards excessive construction and over-analysis or over-thinking. I'm kind of thinking that this is an inherent response to something we can't control: we try to create as much control as possible. So, I've seen rookies over-analyze a call (and I did it myself!) rather than simply look, and cuff. I've seen martial arts students what-if themselves to death, rather than simply doing something. And... for the gamer set... I kind of wonder if the elaborate worlds some people develop in games aren't responses to the lack of control they have in their own life. I'm reflecting on my own youth here; when I was in my teens and dealing with all the usual crap plus family issues -- I spent a whole lot of time designing fantasy game worlds. Don't know if it's a valid thought, and I'm not at all suggesting it's some form of pathology -- just a means to cope.

Now, with regard to trimming stuff out of martial arts... There's plenty that can be trimmed in most arts. There's a reason that self defense and DT courses aren't martial arts courses. It's kind of like the difference between creating an edible meal and being a world class chef or throwing a quick frame together to keep the snow off the garden and building a hothouse. When I teach martial arts, I have months to teach someone to punch, to receive (I'm getting less and less fond of block as a word!), and so on. When I teach DT -- I have hours to give someone enough effective skills to survive on the street. There's a big difference...

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The European Historical Combat Guild said...

I have found in teaching. that people want more, they want to get more stuff or find ways to magnify what they have to in to more and more combinations. In teaching people who want to to teach I find the same thing, they don't want their students to get bored so they give them more, like giving children more and more presents and toys to keep them happy.

Many people have the mind set of the more stuff I have, techniques, ways of dealing with the same solution etc, the better I am. An in the world of teaching having a long and complicated system, means that the students have to keep back and paying you money to teach them. There is one martial arts system out there, that would every couple of years re-discover a lost text that would mean all the teachers had to realern, and repay to get the "new" knowledge....
Escapism, fantasising and greed can all contribute to making things over constructed.

John Andrew said...

I think what Rory is brushing on here is teaching a student to quiet their own mind and own their own art. What the modality or subject matter is doesn't matter, other than the student's motivation to quiet themselves enough to learn it.

Students who say, "Rory, you forgot you learned this once" are not focusing on what is working and building on it, their focused on "it's hard and I'm experiencing other than success." Well, focused attention causes growth, so what are these students growing?

Kevin said...

I realize that I'm very late in the game...just discovered your blog. But I found this statement rather profound, "Which brings up another puzzler-- people who are afraid to tell their boss 'no' fantasize about fighting dragons. People who don't understand their own wives and children and live in constant conflict feel perfectly qualified to criticize high-level diplomacy. People who do not know their own mind or the mind of their closest friends will tell you what God believes..."

Definitely food for thought.