Sunday, June 30, 2013

Confidence Levels

No experienced instructor is right.
No inexperienced instructor can know when they are wrong.

As instructors, we are sure about many things.  My experience is that as the experience increases, the sense of being sure diminishes.  With only training and without experience, we learn all this stuff and we learn a framework of logic or maybe superstition that ties the stuff together into a structure.  And a structure that massive can't fall.  So we think.

So generally, as knowledge without experience increases, "sureness" also increases.  and a little taste of experience proves one thing right away-- massive structures do fall and the more massive they are the more weight they have to crush you.

Knowledge can come from training, but there are certain forms of understanding that can only come from experience.  But then you have to look at the experience with a certain kind of knowledge to put it in perspective.  That's as far as I've gone in something that may be an infinite spiral.  I don't know where the analysis/learning/understanding process ends, or if it does.  So take nothing I say as a truth.  It works for me, at my level.  That is all.

Case in point, with confidence levels.  All fighters are inherently conservative.  Not in the political sense but in the sense that if you have bet your life on something and it worked, you won't change it without a damn good reason.  Generally, you won't change it until it fails.

So we trust the stuff that has worked.  The words are fuzzy here but the confidence level is high, yet the 'sureness' level is as close to zero as we can keep it.  Trust your 'A' techniques... but count on nothing.  Being sure sometimes makes you blind to the momentum of failure and you keep on a plan that is going south.  Confidence gives initiative, sureness kills adaptability.

But there are two (at least) problems with this.  And this is what I mean by using knowledge to analyze experience.  Training in experimental design and statistical analysis and scientific method changes perspective.

Problem number one-- Small sample size.
No one has a lot of experience in a wide variety of violence.  Not when you count up hours and techniques.  Especially on the counter-ambush side.  300 HIRs in the jail (I quit counting at three hundred and stayed at the job for another ten years) is probably less than five hours of experience. One of the few officers I know with multiple gunfights can measure his experience in seconds.  Maybe a minute.  Maybe.

So as much experience as you have, it really isn't much.
I trust throat spears.  I have used it for real exactly once.  A sample of one means absolutely nothing scientifically or statistically.

The most reliable handstrike I know I've used maybe three times, had used on me once and seen used another handful of times.  Less than a dozen incidents in all.  That's not a big sample either.  100% fight stopper... but in a small sample.

Aside-- And this is where mere training leaves holes.  Take a broken nose.  Trained people trust them, experienced people don't.  I've never once seen it stop a real fight, and I've never seen it fail to stop a friendly sparring match.

Problem one, sample size.

Problem two, adrenaline effects.  Anything you do under an adrenaline dump feels more real than stuff you do in your normal life.  The reason I trust the throat chop?  Because I thought I was going to die and the threat outweighed me by more than 120 pounds and in an instant he was on his knees trying to scream and making no sound.  That sticks with you.

Something that feels real does not make it more real.  That's the knowledge talking.  The old part of my brain says differently.  And that is without getting into the perception and memory distortions that come with high adrenaline.

And one more that's a human thing, not necessarily an experience thing: Inappropriate extrapolation.

Things are what they are and can only be extrapolated so far.  Military operations are not cop operations are not civilian self-defense.  A bouncer throwing a drunk college kid out of a bar is not dealing with the same problem as a small drunk female targeted by the same drunk college kid.
Ring experience doesn't make you SWAT any more than being SWAT makes you an MMA contender.


Jim said...

Things are what they are and can only be extrapolated so far. Military operations are not cop operations are not civilian self-defense. A bouncer throwing a drunk college kid out of a bar is not dealing with the same problem as a small drunk female targeted by the same drunk college kid.
Ring experience doesn't make you SWAT any more than being SWAT makes you an MMA contender.

This is a huge thing. We were doing some training one day on room clearing. Someone made a comment; they'd done a demo of the approach we were using for some military operators... who were amazed that our approach was to push on through, not back out. Until they realized that cops can't call in an air strike or artillery. (Except in Philly... )

I think it's a really powerful temptation for humans to reach out and take what seems to work for the high speed types -- without assessing if it's appropriate for your operational environment. "After all, if it works for SEALS/Green Berets/PJs/The Justice League... it must work for us!" seems to be the thinking... often followed by amazement when the tactic doesn't fit the situation.

Jason Azze said...

This reminds me of a phrase we throw around a lot in the IT community: "Strong opinions, weakly held."

Natalie said...

Extrapolation goes much further than that, though.
Most people do not realize how much who they are - physically and emotionally - affects how they experience and interact with the world around them. And nowhere, in my opinion, is this more true than at the most basic level of communication: physical signals and, of course, violence.
My huusband is a big, strong man. Even before training. Once he went through puberty, he did not need to pay attention to many subtle signs about people and they way they talk/act/appear, because 1) he could handle most anything they threw at him and b) people didn't usually pick someone like him to fight with. So, he learned to be very observant of big egos and reaching for weapons, but will miss a lot of subtle clues.
I am a small female, and in my youth ended up a LOT on the streets, at night, in Europe, and often in strange cities and not speaking the language. I could not afford to miss cues that violence was probable/likely, but often could not rely on language skills since I would be in a foreign country, so now I am very good at picking up on a lot of subtlety about behavior, gestures, tones etc. way before a situation is truly escalating. I am also much more tuned in to opportunistic criminals, rather than chest-thumping ego dominance games.
What you notice depends not on what you fear, but WHY you fear it; what your weaknesses and strengths truly are, what your subconscious knows will put you in the most danger. You can afford to be confident - and thus, less attentive - where you can rest on your strengths. And so what you observe, what you experience, and how you handle it, will depend to a huge extent on what kind of person you are physically, what you can physically survive or dish out, because your body knows this even if your mind tries to pretend otherwise.
And then you try to pass on your tips on what to look for and how to handle it to someone who built and equipped completely differently, and wonder why that extrapolation isn't clicking. (Not you particularly - you make a huge effort to keep it useful for many kinds of people - but generally speaking).
(I wonder if this is part of the reason why women prefer women instructors, because it is rare to find a man who understands how ugh a woman's experience of the world and approach towards violence differs from his?)

Nick B. said...

One can learn from all experiences, its how its internalized that matters. I agree, this mirrors the IT phrases. Often these statements come from those whil fill their clasees with 'Nam experience, or "true" stories of combat experienc. The I haven' been shot at in 6 weeks types.

Anonymous said...

Great post Rory! Definitely enjoy your blog!

Brian R. VanCise