Saturday, October 02, 2010

Big Mess

I like messy. That's good, because messy is the natural environment of life. We don't become humans in pristine test tubes but in liquid-filled icky wombs. Some people learn facts in well-ordered classrooms, but it pales besides the applications that they learn in the wind and weather and interference of the real world.

Life is messy. Conflict and violence are supremely messy-- and I'm okay with that. When you try to learn how to deal with violence (the essence of messy chaos) in the pristine setting of a training hall, you're missing the point. You (or your instructors) limit the chaos so that the solutions are cleaner and clearer so that you will feel more certain and safer. That's wrong. Hugely wrong on many levels, because the heart of violence is in the mess.

If we have seen, time and again, some of the world's most well trained martial artists in a real fight rolling on the floor throwing wild punches, where is the value in pretending that doesn't happen? What about getting really good at rolling on the floor and throwing wild punches? If you are going to go all cave man anyway, why not become the Michelangelo of cavemen?

Which isn't to say that there is anything wrong with martial traditions or techniques. Most work just fine... but only for the person who has adapted to the chaos and fear and adrenaline. If you are in denial about those, not only will you fail in accessing your awesome martial arts skillz... but you won't even succeed in fighting like a coordinated chimp.

But in that chaos, if you accept it and then embrace it, are an infinite number of tools and opportunities. The world is a big place and full of many things. Almost all of those things are gifts if you learn to see them and use them. The cluttered floors and cramped spaces of the real world are obstacles and shields and striking surfaces, if you embrace them. They are hazards if you ignore them. The wild attack pattern, whether of a drunk or someone trained differently, are easy to misdirect if you use them... and pathetic excuses for getting your ass kicked ("He attacked me wrong!") if you do not.

Even failure: once upon a time I was demonstrating a headlock escape on Andre Scott. Dre was a bodybuilder, enormously strong, an effective and well-respected sergeant...and the technique was totally ineffective. What I had been taught didn't work with a body-builder who 'posed' and turned his head away. So I had to look at what was right there, and what was obvious in the mess was faster and more efficient that the trained technique.

IF you can work with chaos, IF you can work with variables, IF you can see what is in front of your face and adapt to it, you can do amazing things.

If not, if you insist that the world conform to your sterile training, you will likely fail.

Messy is fun. Embrace the mess.


Anonymous said...

You paint great pictures in your text.
-Couldn't agree more though. Randomness, fatigue, and stress are some of you best training partners. They don't lie to you.

Tiff said...

This post really sums-up all the things about traditional training that irritate you (structure, teaching tactics, lack of imagination, no deviating from the "rules" and "roles," etc) -- which could be with the simple axiom of "be messy."

A great philosophy for life itself!