Saturday, April 16, 2011


Not everyone does things for the same reason. Some people will get what I do, some won't. Some won't get it because they have no frame of reference and are simply incapable of truly understanding certain experiences. It's not a matter of intelligence or taste or opinion or anything internal. I will never understand childbirth. Seen it, trained to assist, I know all the words... but I don't get it. Not the way that K does.

And I will do everything in my power to make sure that she never 'gets' some of the things that I do.

Others won't get it because it threatens a piece of their identity. This isn't a bad thing or a good thing. We all get our identity from some pretty weird places. For entirely too long my identity was completely tied to three strips of cloth on my arm, just as an example.

What we train to do is one thing. As long as it stays abstract, as long as you never actually break a human being, there's no real identity in that end state. Whether you break a person with a kick or a body slam or an axe handle, it's imaginary until you do it. But how you train, that's real. Something you tangibly do, every day. That's where the identity lies. And if we pretend or believe that the end state (a broken threat) is the real reason, our training must serve that, right? So our training must be correct, right? To challenge that is to challenge identity.

Specific example (cause we talked it to death over the weekend)-- coming out of western weapons, I was always taught that three of the worst habits in beginners were caused by television. After watching years of Errol Flynn movies people:
  • Aimed at the weapon instead of the opponent
  • Tried to fight from out of range
  • Stayed in a predictable rhythm
These are, as I was trained and still believe, the three worst habits in sword training. There is a very popular drill that is based on these three things.

I don't want to debate the merits of that drill here (not because I have an issue with debating it but because the two people who were defending it most staunchly aren't here to respond and it would feel like a late hit.)

It's not just this one drill. I see it in a lot of training. People are ingraining identity tags, not skills. Or, more realistically, they are ingraining skills but too often skills in imaginary and useless things.

I didn't always think this way. I was in it too deep, really, to question it.

For the last two years I've been teaching civilians. I love it, they need it. But there is very little sense of urgency in them.

For the ten or twelve years before that, though, I wasn't teaching civilians. The people weren't there for a hobby or identity.

EVERY CLASS that I taught I would look at the officers and know, without a doubt, that at least a third of that class would need what I taught before the year was out and at least one would bet their lives on it. If I bullshitted them, if I lied to them, if I made them comfortable instead of effective the price would be paid in blood and I would be one of the ones going to do the hospital visits or, gods forfend, the funerals.

It's a huge responsibility. You will have these men and women for eight hours a year. Not all are in great shape: some are old, some are small, many have old injuries. They had to be able to prevail against younger, stronger people, people who sometimes got the first move at close range and had no compunction about spilling blood.

It makes you rethink everything you do. You don't have time for egos. The drills aren't about identity. Going home to your family is your identity. There is no time to waste. And you can't handwave past the bad stuff. With only those eight hours we had people handle situations that experienced martial artists put in a "That's a no-win situation. We don't train for that" category.

We (there were others involved, but it was largely Mac and me) didn't have that option. If we took that attitude... hospital visits. Funerals. I hate funerals.

I don’t know if it was luck or grace or what we taught, but we had very few injuries during the years we taught the new system and a few spectacular successes.

That's an aside. The pressure to make something effective, the responsibility for other people's lives, the limited time, the high stakes forced us to apply the same idea of ruthless efficiency to teaching that your martial arts should apply to combat. And it worked.

I can share that, share what we learned... but can't (and really not all that interested) in whether others get it. The ones that play for those stakes get it (and thanks, RC for the talks this weekend.) For the rest, it's just some data. Do as you will.


Quint Oga-Baldwin said...

"After watching years of Errol Flynn movies people:

Aimed at the weapon instead of the opponent
Tried to fight from out of range
Stayed in a predictable rhythm"

I actually noticed this today with my two sons (3 and 19 months) as they fenced with twigs. As I watched, I told the older one "be careful not to hurt your brother," and watched him step back and only whack the twig his brother was holding. My exact thought was "Huh...looks like what they did in Errol Flynn movies." Makes me think it's more than just TV influence - neither boy has seen one of those (or many similar) films.

SavageKitsune said...

They do it like that in "superhero" type cartoons as well. Cartoon "fights" are very sanitized. That's probably where he got it from.

Josh Kruschke said...

Rory -

And why should you worry about propping up someones identity or ego?

I think everyone's identity or ego should be challenged on a regular basis. It's good for them.

If I ever thought you were just telling me what you thought I wanted to hear, I'd stop reading the blog.

People tell me I have no tact, but mostly I just don't see any use for it.


Kai Jones said...

Joshkie: because people learn best when they learn it themselves, not having it forced on them. Because nobody appointed you my parent, G-d, or superior, and I didn't ask you to challenge me.

The point of tact is to let jerks (and we are each jerks at some point) live in community together without killing each other off. Even jerks have something to add to the community.

Josh Kruschke said...

Do we blog to challenge our ideas, identity and ego?
Or, are we bloging to find like minded people to strengthen our ideas, identity and ego?


Irene said...

It's because for most people (well, most men) what they think they know about fighting comes out of play. And when little kids play at fighting, they learn quickly to aim at the weapon and fight from out of range, because otherwise you end up hurting your playmate and they won't play with you any more. It's not just TV/movies, it's also experience.

Josh Kruschke said...

I'm not happy with my last comment. It was my attempt to tactfully responded to Kai's response to my first comment.

I'm not happy because it was ambiguous and left open to interpretation.

Here's what I really wanted to say.

My first comment was in response to the last paragraph of Rory's post, and was made with/on the assumption/premise that that they're two types of people that come in fir training with Mr. Miller.
1. Those open to learn and challenge their identity and ego with new knowledge that might be out side their experience. And...
2. Those with preconceived biases and expectations that are look for validation.

This goes for blogging to. If someone puts up a post with comments enabled, I assume they want some kind of feedback; to be ether challenged or validated?

As, I'm not a mind reader I assume the first until proven otherwise.

The point of my first comment was what moral and ethical obligations does Rory have to those he instructs? I feel that he has no obligation to prop up the expections, identity and ego of those who come to him for instruction.

And to my having no tact at least you will always no where you stand with me.


Josh Kruschke said...


If our identities and egos are so fragile that they can't stand to be challenged or called into question, what's going to happen to our identities and egos when some life altering even out of our control happens?


VW is inferate. I think it's trying to tell me something.


Rory said...

About tact: there are good and bad reasons for tact OR for ignoring it. If the goal is to make everyone comfortable and not hurt any feelings, then tact is critical BUT nothing will change, there is no growth. Nothing extraordinary comes from a goal of stasis and comfort.

On the other hand, the good reason for tact is that invoking emotion stops people from listening. Eschew all tact if you wish, but don't pretend it makes communication clearer to be rude.

And the other side, like of tact (or even meanie subtext) is useful when the goal is to shatter illusions. Won't work with everybody of course...

Lack of tact can also simply be a monkey dominace game.

Josh Kruschke said...

I guess it is all goal specific.

When someone comes to you (Rory) with the stated goal of learning something new, at some point you are going to have to make the disision whether or not tact can work to bring someone not ready to learn to a place where they are.
Maybe this is my biasis or blind spot People annoy me when their stated goals don't match their actions.
If someone has the stated goal of learning then are not open to learn then they are wasting their time and yours.
I guess it's a question of how much effort are you or I willing to put in with tact or working with their ego to get them to a place where they can learn.
Hmmmm... I can see where this could be something I need to work on.


Steve Perry said...

So, um, meanie subtext is to shatter illusions? For our own good?

Uh huh.

Rory said...

No Steve, if I use it consciously for a purpose, meanie subtext is to shatter illusion. Most of the time it's just frustration.

Josh, it's reframing. Of course it's frustrating when people state their beliefs and values and act differently...or it's an ability to know them better than they know themselves. Frustration becomes insight and a tool. The question then becomes (from a teaching perspective) do you give them what they need, what they want or what they think they want? And how much effort do you put in?

Josh Kruschke said...

Hmmm... I think that is an answer to my first question.

I do hope I add value to the discussion; as, that is my goal. I just don't want to waste your or my time dancing around the subject, but I guess that's backfired.


Anonymous said...

It's the perspective of ourselves that allows the ability to understand the perspective of others. Most people I meet have very little understanding of themselves and thus very little tolerance of other people's perspective(s). What's cool about reading posts from you commenters is that you are seeking to deepen your own perspective and thus, in
Rory's world, your - not only survival, but also your success.