Thursday, December 15, 2011

Training and Conditioning

Mentioned early, but it deserves some more talk.
I don't mean conditioning in the fitness sense. I mean it in the Behaviorist Psychology sense. It is a subconscious way to learn and we learn the lessons much more deeply than through regular teaching. We also condition faster than we learn.

My mother had been told by her mother that a baby couldn't hold a hard-boiled egg long enough to be injured. She conditioned me to the word "hot" through pain. One time and she could tell me something was hot, even before I could talk, and I would be very careful about touching it. On the other hand, that may be why I don't like eggs very much.

Conditioning is like that. Most of it is accidental. It happens so fast, so subtly, that we don't see it. We rarely exploit it. And some of our best teaching is completely undermined by concurrent conditioning.

My firearms training included hours of dry fire. Jeff believed in form first; that you got your fundamentals before you burned ammo. That was hours of four-count draw, presssssss, pressssss, low ready and scan, muzzle to muzzle, then 360. Reset weapon. Go to retention. Holster. All smooth.

There was one bad habit in the sequence. It was important, because it gave us the trigger pull. If we didn't reset the weapon we wouldn't get that feel. But later, I caught myself starting to reset the weapon in a venue where it was kind of important not to waste ammo by ejecting it onto the ground. I had conditioned the bad habits while learning the skills.

Very closely related to the story every range master tells about officers found dead with expended brass in their pockets because cleaning up the range was just a part of shooting.

We condition lots of small things all the time. With weapons training you can often modify the weapon to preserve the skills safely. Unarmed, that's harder to do. We wind up modifying the skills themselves. We pull punches or respond to taps as if a surrender signal was reliable. we pull up on throws and tell ourselves it is to increase the control for the follow-up when it is really about helping the opponent NOT get injured.

Conditioning is always there. If you practice a technique and reset (something I am guilty of with the counter-ambush material) you condition stopping based on what you did, as opposed to the effect it had.

We condition big things too, and this is something endemic in martial training. If the instructor is so ego driven that he must be the top dog in everything, he may be teaching students to win... but when a student tags the instructor and gets punished for it, the student is simultaneously learning to win and being conditioned to lose. When the student gauges the effectiveness of a technique by what the instructor says versus what the technique does, the student has been conditioned to require outside validation. Conditioned to not believe his or her own senses.

I've written about kids classes before and how the automatic obedience and "yes sir!" that is touted as discipline and respect is also exactly what a predator would want in a victim: conditioned obedience.

Habitual ways of doing things seem to get to the same part of the brain as conditioning. That's what makes a good drill good, and what makes repetition valuable. But repetition of crap is deeply habitual crap. And when the underlying skill you are training for is breaking people, crap has to be there to preserve partners.

Habits and conditioning.

More later, probably. Split up writing over three days and I sometimes lose my train of thought.


Josh Kruschke said...

"I've written about kids classes before and how the automatic obedience and "yes sir!" that is touted as discipline and respect is also exactly what a predator would want in a victim: conditioned obedience." - Rory

Reality & results matter!!! I wonder how much better, or worse (not everyone has good intensions), the world would be if we just stopped every once in a while to remember and ask, "Am I getting the results I wanted? Is what I wanted actually what is needed? Is what I planned what actually happened? Remember, just because I want something to be a certain way doesn't make it so."

Reality and results matter!!!

Andy said...

One thing I recently noticed after practicing off feeds, was I had conditioned myself to wait for someone to counter my attack, but only if I was the one initiating the attack.

I understand the usefulness of being allowing people to try techniques on you. How much are we conditioning ourselves to be thrown/choked/joint-locked/countered, and how do you undo that?

Anonymous said...

Excellent post.

I noticed that when I would do drills in training and do something wrong or get hit I would exhale and reset and sometimes walk in a counter-clockwise circle.

Then when I got hit in an actual confrontation, I think I confused the person I was dealing with because I exhaled and walked in a CC circle.

Looking forward to read the rest!