Thursday, October 30, 2014

Advanced Class

Just finished the second day of a three-day course for the training unit of a European city. After dinner, over coffee, the boss asked me, "Is there an advanced course we can book for next year?"

Yes. Sort of. No.

I get the temptation. There are people willing to pay me for more. More what? That's the question. And I'm a capitalist. Anyone who makes more than they spend is, by at least one definition, a capitalist, and I equate debt to slavery and like functioning in the black. So am I going to turn down money? If it means making shit up, absolutely.

Taught properly, any level of force is dead simple. Not because violence isn't complicated-- it surely is. But because simple works and complexity fails. Because all the things that work, if taught properly, are just natural. Because people already know almost everything about force, maybe on a genetic level. You rarely have to teach people to fight, you have to unteach all the crap that's been layered in their heads over the truth.

People want more. More moves, more techniques...more complexity. And there are people who will fill that desire for cash. I can't do it. In truth, an advanced class, if I were capable of creating it, would have less material, not more. Cleaner principles, more efficiently taught, less to learn, more to understand.

I'm pretty confident that everything that works can be taught to proficiency in forty hours. Years spent practicing would hone the skills, of course, but in the end, this isn't hard. We all know skeletons because we all have skeletons. Locks, takedowns, spine controls, structured striking, destroying base...all just fuckin' with skeletons. (That totally must be a T-shirt). Do you have to teach a dog pack dynamics or an ape how to live in a troop? Hell no. So with humans you just have to point out what they already know.

There are nuances. People who need to escape need very different body mechanics and mindset than those who need to cuff. Granted. So maybe three 40-hour courses, but not interchangeable. And there are always other things-- I want to create an instructor development class. Teaching people how to deal with force is a different skill than dealing with force.

But what actually works is very limited. If you understand it. If you "know" joint locks, there are thousands. If you understand joint locks there are eight. Just eight. It doesn't take long to get that down. Similar for takedowns. And strikes. If someone can teach you for ten years and there are new insights all the time, the instructor may be holding back. Or you may be stupid. Or the teaching is at the level of knowledge, not understanding. And knowledge tends to not come out in a fight.

So, when we discuss the advanced class next year, I'll shift the conversation to how to teach the simple stuff. The people who want complexity can find or make it on their own.


Jim said...

Instructor development class -- that's a great idea. Because you're absolutely right, teaching HOW is a very different skill set than simply doing. Add in the whys and you've really made it a challenge. And most so-called "DT Instructor" classes I've taken or seen end up showing a bunch of skills, maybe a teaching methodology (e.g., Introduce-Demo-Explain-Act), maybe a key point or two for the various skills, but damn little about how to actually teach them.

Michael Hamilton said...

I've always imagined your advanced class to be quite simple: "Hi, I'm Rory, it's your turn to teach me." A prospect I find both motivational and terrifying at the same time.

So an instructor development class? Sign me up. I'll be motivated. And terrified.

David said...

I disagree with this one.

Intellectually understanding how to manipulate skeletons is one thing, but there is a relatively long bridge between that intellectual understanding and the physical ability to effectively do so against a fully resisting and uncooperative opponent.

In an ideal world we could give "students" the intellectual understanding and it would efficiently and effectively, perfectly manifest itself physically. In reality though, without expert guidance, crossing the bridge will be full of unnecessary curves, detours/tangents, and backtracks. Some or most people never will make it across.

Take your example with joint manipulations... You can teach someone the principles of joint manipulations, leave, come back a year later, and find them doing all sorts of manipulations that would never work in the real world. It's EASY and NATURAL for training to evolve into unnatural and unrealistic environments...environments with too much cooperation, reliance upon particular actions and reactions, etc. Telling people to watch out for these things doesn't prevent them, at least not most of the time. It's hard to spot these things when you're in the middle of it.

As a teacher your job isn't simply to give students an intellectual/conceptual understanding, but to push them back onto the most effective path when they stray from it, which they most definitely will. It is easier, requires less effort, and less pain, for training to evolve into something that is ineffective. So as a teacher you go back to the same material again and again, but each time you go back the student is different. He or she is in a different place on the bridge between the concept and the application.

Your "advanced" class may essentially involve the same material. It's not the material that is more advanced, but the student (hopefully)...the subtlety of your teaching and of their application. Students won't REALLY see everything you're teaching in the "introductory" class.

As teachers, sometimes it's difficult to see this. What makes sense to us, what we SEE and FEEL is not the same as what students and other teachers see and feel. So when you say "It's as simple as this.", and the student says..."Oh, wow, I get it."...they really don't. They may have a glimpse or even an elementary intellectual understanding, but they will not have the ability to REALLY apply the material AGAINST a fully resisting, uncooperative opponent.

Dogs learn "pack dynamics" by being members of a pack, over time. They are taught through experience, and sometimes it hurts. Apes learn how to live in a troop through practice. Some survive. Some don't. The vast majority of people you're teaching do not get practice dealing with violence. It's not natural to be good at it. It takes time and hard work. Very little is otherwise. As a teacher, you have to guide that hard work through time, or you'll end up with little in terms of practical application.

Rory said...

David- don't usually comment on comments, this section is for people to hash out their thoughts, but I have to on this one. Everything you have written would be true if I was teaching from an abstract, "intellectual/conceptual" understanding. But that's not what i do, nor is it necessary. Jettison that assumption and you can increase your student's learning speed by an order of magnitude.

David said...

Come on Rory, that's the oldest trick in the book...or three of them. I think you can do better.

Rory said...

Meaning? I have stable data that I can teach officers to improvise locks under real pressure in real encounters with less than an hour of training. MCSO had a 30% reduction in officer injuries with less than sixteen hours of training using these methods. It's not hard.
OTOH, if your income or identity is based on choosing to believe that this is a complex skill...

David said...

No doubt there are some things that can be taught to some people that can be used quickly, in some situations.

My disagreement is with the idea that you can teach *everything* that works *to proficiency* in 40 hours. I think this is a potentially dangerous sentiment to promote, particularly when there are so few places for people to learn realistic self defense, and so many people are looking for short cuts. This is under appreciated.

Everything is simple once you are good at it. Most things are complex before you are. None of this stuff is natural. It all requires experience/time, hard work, and proper guidance...or a lot of luck. We are talking about the chaos of a "fight", after all.

Neither my income nor my identity has anything to do with self defense/martial arts, anymore. My motivation here is solely based on helping people to learn how to protect themselves.

It's easy for teachers like yourself to forget how much went into what you know, how long it took you to come to the understanding and ability that you have now. It's easy to overestimate what your students get from you in a short period of time.

Again, I agree that you can teach some people some things that they can use quickly in some situations. But that is far from comprehensive self defense ability/skills.

Jim said...

I think you may be hooked up on the word "proficiency", David. I can vouch that Rory can take someone who's only understanding of joint locks was they saw 'em on MMA fights and have them improvising locks on the fly with about an hour or 2 of lecture, demo, and playtime. I've seen him do it. That doesn't make them "expert joint lockers" -- it made them PROFICIENT. Able to use and apply the material in an unstructured environment. In spot checks some months down the road -- I've seen some of those same people with limited grappling/joint locking training still able to use and apply them. So there's retention, as well.

Most basic LE defensive tactics training right now runs to about 40 to 60 hours cramming topics from arrest and handcuffing to search and seizure, tucking in physical instruction in defending yourself and using batons, pepper spray and CEW (the current acronym of preference for the Taser and other Conducted Electricity Weapons), too. So, 40 hours focused on proficiency (sufficient knowledge of the skills to apply them spontaneously and effectively) is certainly possible. Of course it's not the same as true expertise...

David said...

Hello Jim.

Yes, I am hooked up on the word "proficiency". According to Google it means "a high degree of skill; expertise."

I've been to a couple of Rory's seminars, one of which he taught joint locks in. And there is no doubt that he can get someone to understand how joint locks work, and to be able to apply them *in a cooperative, low energy environment*. Yes, they can improvise locks, but no one is trying to hurt them while they're doing so. There is no pressure.

I don't teach anymore, but when I was teaching full time I taught plenty of police and military. I had FBI students, ICE students, and some special forces. I was almost always, if not always, appalled at their lack of skill. The ones that were skilled in unarmed/blunt/sharp weapon use were skilled because they trained OUTSIDE of the 40-60 hour cram-courses. It's a travesty that LEO/military don't get better training!

I should add that LEO/military use of force is typically much more straight forward and easier than civilian self defense. LEO/military typically enter a situation from a dominant position, in a state of readiness, armed, and with back up. (That's not to take away from the danger of their jobs and the great work that they do! And as always, there are exceptions.)

My point is, there is a HUGE difference between being able to apply locks in low energy, friendly environment vs. against someone who is trying to seriously hurt or kill you. And, locks are only ONE tool in self defense. There is footwork. You have kicks, hand strikes, knees, elbows, and defense against all of them. There are locks, throws, chokes, and positional entry, maintenance, and escapes, standing and on the ground + defense against all of that. Just think about the enormous body of material there is with respect to clinch and ground grappling. Then you have long and short blunt objects, long and short sharp objects, linked objects, and projectile weapons. You could conceivably demonstrate all of the concepts and techniques surrounding these things in 40 hours. But that would be a condensed "presentation" that would lead to nothing remotely close to "proficiency".

I want to add here that although it may seem like I'm bashing Rory or his material, that is not my intent. I just think he is underestimating how much people can learn in a short period, to the degree that they can functionally USE it. Again, there are exceptions for some people with some techniques in some situations. But I'm talking about comprehensive self defense ability/skills...not multiple aggressive people from a position of extreme dominance extracting a single guy from a cell, etc.

Rory said...

Sorry, David. My experience differs. Today i saw a young man with no previous training handle a simultaneous full speed attack from three people. That was with ten hours of training. Two more hours and he was putting things together.

You made an impressive list of things to know. If you sort them right, it's not that complicated. For years, instructors have been unnecessarily complicating these skills. The teaching methods that require years to understand simple things are the problems, not the solutions.

The reference to cell extractions as my dominant paradigm is a false sort-- the primary job of a CO is to maintain control of 32-75 violent criminals in direct contact, alone and (for the first ten years of my career) completely unarmed. It was not coming on the scene with a dominance of anything.

I'm sorry if, in some way, my experience offends you. i have data. Jim has corroborated. It's just a simple truth. If something is taught poorly, yes, it takes years to master. If it is taught with the end-user in mind (taught from the ground up to be easy to learn, not to be easy to teach) it's not that hard.

David said...

I'm not offended at all Rory, and I hope you're not either. :)

I agree with you that all of the things I listed can be taught through a very small number of concepts/principles. I have a SINGLE concept I use myself for everything I teach (the covered blast), which is very similar to the concept you teach in your "one step" drill. It all applies to everything, and yes, it's not complicated. Unnecessary complication is never good.

Nevertheless, there is a LOT to learn, and the work of creating the "muscle memory", building the qualities, the ability to use it, is long, hard, and requires guidance IF it is to be done in the most efficient and effective manner. There is a reason (other than ineffective techniques and training methods) that people spend years and years of their lives training martial arts before they reach significant proficiency.

All of this is not to say that things cannot be taught simply. I have taught total beginners who have successfully used techniques in self defense in under a week...2-3 hours of training. I've taught cops who have used techniques right after learning them, in an hour. But that doesn't mean they could have defended against a larger opponent with a knife, a more skilled attacker, etc. The question of "how long does it take to learn all the skills" is an impossible question to answer. Skills for what? Against whom? In what situation? You can learn SOMETHING in 40 hours. But to approach what I consider comprehensive proficiency...takes a great deal of time. We may just have to agree to disagree on this one.

David said...

One more point Rory...

You said "Today i saw a young man with no previous training handle a simultaneous full speed attack from three people." Either those three attackers weren't really attacking, and certainly not continuing (as any real attackers would), or that says something REALLY bad about the three attackers' ability to attack. If one guy can learn to handle three, but three cannot learn to successfully attack one...there is a problem. I'm pretty sure the "problem" is that no one is REALLY learning to deal with a serious attack in a single weekend.

That's not to take away from what you are doing, but from people's ability to really absorb it to proficiency in a short period of time. Again, as I wrote in my previous comment, there are things that people can learn in a short's just not comprehensive self defense skills. Otherwise, your three attackers would be mauling the one.

Jim said...

There is a lot to learn. There's also, as Rory has said, a lot of unnecessary complication. When I was in the basic LE academy, we actually had 7 or 8 of my classmates fail out on a handcuffing test. They didn't fail because they didn't succeed in putting handcuffs on the subject; it was an entirely compliant setting! They failed because they didn't hit all the checkpoints in a rigid list of criteria. As I recall, some of the points were as minor as hand positions in the escort position. It was enough to shock the academy staff. And... 90% of that class was never used again. In the real world -- what matters is that you get the cuffs on. Not that you did it in a specific sequence. In fact, my latest refresher eliminated most of the remainder of that class!

We're dealing with many recruits now who may never have been in a fight. Many of them never played contact sports. I question if some of them even heard a harsh word... I'm in favor of pairing DT instruction down to a level that can be communicated quickly, internalized easily, and retained well. Focused on skills that will lead to, first, successful protection of the officer, and second, successful control and arrest of the subject. I don't know if Rory's 40 hour figure is 100% accurate -- but I think it can easily be less than 100 hours. Rory's spent more time teaching that stuff than I have, so I have to figure his number is closer than mine.

How can it be done? Well, let's look at striking quickly. What do you have to do? Impact the weapon against the desired target. The power generation principles run the same, whether we're looking at a palm, a clenched fist punch, an elbow, or baton. If taught in a principle based manner, all you have to do is change the striking implement. So, instead of an hour block on palms, an hour block on punches, an hour on elbows (OK, figure that's really on 2+ block of "striking") coupled with another couple of hours on "baton striking" -- we have an hour or two on "power generation & impact weapons." Figure the time has been cut in half, at least. Joint locks would be a similar breakdown; they were just an example of paring something down to effective principles rather than a lengthy catalog of techniques.

And, of course, there's no replacement for practice. But the way many DT classes practice doesn't build effective application. "Do it 3 times, trade off, let your partner do it 3 times." Later on, a more dynamic practical. Or... play time. We've found adults learn really well in a "play time" environment compared to the empty drilling. So... get the principle out, give them time to play and experiment and apply it, with guidance and steering... then move into more dynamic and stressful (read scenario based) practice. Better retention, better internalization, and probably less time. Or the time used more effectively.

David said...

Alright Jim...I've written a detailed and rather long response on my own blog, with quotes from you guys, pictures, etc.

Lloyd said...

David, with respect:

"It's easy for teachers like yourself to forget how much went into what you know, how long it took you to come to the understanding and ability that you have now. It's easy to overestimate what your students get from you in a short period of time."

I know where youre getting that idea from, but its based on the premise that what you know now is the result of years of accumulated beneficial knowledge. Maybe you do need to go through that, but i personally wish id never trained a day in my life (wait until youve finished reading before you jump to conclusions).

The only time ive ever had to defend myself, with no training at all i went from being beaten on the ground to 'just' tackling the guy. How did i tackle someone from the ground? Dunno, but thats what happened. There was no thought, no doubt, no excitement, it came straight from me and it worked.

After that, i had a 'this can actually happen to me' moment and started boxing. Boxing is a form of fighting, right? Hard training, hard sparring, fitness, conditioning, technical skills... In hindsight, it was a great boxing gym. But it took me 4-5 years to realize that *i naturally grapple*, and id just spent years ingraining into my consciousness to 'use my distance'. I can actually remember completely unintentionally clinching people when i first started, sometimes quite forcefully, but you cant clinch people in boxing (well, not exactly).

Now, maybe you *need* to dredge through bad information to find your own personal truth, but i ended up with a deep mental conflict between what i wanted to do (grapple) and what id spent years training to do (strike). Indecision, confusion, skill in a sport-fighting style that runs completely counter to whats inside me, and i didnt even know it was happening until i spontaneously tackled something again, and it was like a revelation of understanding.

Care to guess how long it took to *unlearn* all that trash (for me it was trash)?

Later i completely unintentionally found one of Rorys articles, that just so happened to explain exactly what id just done. But thats unimportant - maybe for YOU, YOU learned things that enhanced YOUR ability to manipulate a skeleton over an extended period of time, and maybe you needed that. Whether or not thats the best way to learn, all i can tell you is that i did something natural without any experience, time, hard work, guidance, or luck, in a chaotic situation (with someone build like a brick s***house whilst utterly terrified, mind you). And all of those things were, for me, a counterproductive form of teaching because theyre all totally inflexible.

Ill trade 4-5 hard years of boxing for 40 hours of learning to do my own thing under pressure any day. Or nothing at all. And if there are officers learning skills they can verifiably use in a relatively short space in time, does it matter if you agree with how its being taught? Theyre getting what they need, more power to them.

Though, i also wouldnt have figured any of this out if id never gone through it. Vicious cycle.

Rory said...

Aaaah. David's last point explains the fundamental disagreement. Absolutely _fighting_ three people would take a lot of skill because it is a fundamentally bad strategy. And it does take years to get good enough at a bad strategy to make it work. That might be worth writing about in more depth later.
The essence: Understand the problem first. Perceive goals. Goals drive strategy. Understand principles. Work with the student's nature (exactly, Lloyd). Imperative that the teacher understand Teaching, training, operant conditioning, and play as training methods and know strengths and weaknesses of each.
But this is just words. Randy King in Edmonton has invited me to run a Core Dump class next May. If you want to see where 40 hours can take you, that's the place.

David said...

The problem is that against three guys YOU (the defender) don't always get to decide if it's a "fight" or not. You might try to simply take them out (or escape), but when one of them counters your attempt and "ties you up", then it's a "fight".

It's really the same against a single individual, especially if you have been attacked first. You might not WANT it to be a "fight", but if the attacker is good enough, then it can be. You get to decide what YOU do. You don't get to decide how your opponent responds.

There are no magic techniques that allow you to instantly take out one or more *fully resisting, uncooperative* opponents. It MIGHT happen, but that depends largely on the skill of your opponent(s).

Rory said...

David, you're working very hard to misunderstand the question so that your pre-determined answers will be valid. If that's your path, best of luck on it.

David said...

Rory, I'd say that's exactly what you're doing, unfortunately. Your income and identity is based on choosing to believe these things, which definitely makes it harder to see.

Obviously this is going nowhere, so I'll quit wasting both of our time.

Scott said...

You've barely scratched the issue of giving people permission.
The whole idea of breaking the freeze is still a work in progress.
The idea of adopting a non-challenge mindset and physicality is well developed conceptually, but is a long way from being an effective teaching game.
The relationship of identity to permission also needs more games, as does the relationship of identity to institutions.

I still frame martial arts as violence dynamics, dueling, dance, theater, social fun, narrative skills, spontaneity skills, tactile arts, visual arts, magic tricks, and a path to enlightenment (for people who have trouble fully comprehending the idea that everything dies).

None of that is about complexity. Whether you are right or wrong about how long it take to transmit all that stuff there is still challenge in finding new ways to crack it open and new context and new people to crack it open with.

I totally agree that there are lightening bolt ways of learning almost everything. Many of them require shifts in mindset, counter-intuitive observation skills, clearing away blind spots, and discarding identity.

My advice, try teaching an entire three day workshop blindfolded.

When you actually stop teaching this set of classes and sleep for 6 months, you will come up with another set of classes. Or you will become a homeless guy with a beard.

Ymar Sakar said...

Cleaner principles, more efficiently taught, less to learn, more to understand.

Making do with less. Instead of 3 sequential movements, 2 movements that do the same as 3, but in 66% of the time.

Something like that, compression of time and energy.

Less choices to debate intellectually allows more time for the body to adjust physically. More time for physical movements means more time for the mind and spirit to focus on enemy reactions.

It's difficult to teach this from an external perspective, since it's more like an internal habit than regurgitating material in a lecture.

Ymar Sakar said...

I've been to a couple of Rory's seminars, one of which he taught joint locks in. And there is no doubt that he can get someone to understand how joint locks work, and to be able to apply them *in a cooperative, low energy environment*. Yes, they can improvise locks, but no one is trying to hurt them while they're doing so. There is no pressure.

Tactics and war strategy is a completely different arena than the mere warrior skills and proficiencies in various weapons and armed moves.

A lot of it has to do with talent and experience. That can't really be taught. It's something inborn or learned by oneself.

Even if a person has all the skills due to education, if they make a bad judgment or descend into a decision chain that brings disaster due to inexperience, that isn't something that can be fixed by superior skills. Because it's a Art of War issue, mentally. The brain hasn't been trained correctly, even if the body has.

Thus there are situations where people lacking military assets can defeat those who have more assets, or in this case, the skilled being defeated by the unskilled or vice a versa.