Sunday, November 25, 2007
Been having an interesting exchange of ideas regarding amateurs versus professionals, and what constitutes reason -- whether it is a weak way of dealing with adversity or not -- on Rory and Steve Barnes's blogs. (Links in the list on this page.)
A few years ago, while doing research on "muscle memory," I contacted Professor K. Anders Ericsson, who was then in the psychology department at Florida State U, and considered an expert in the field of cognitive and perceptual motor-skills. We exchanged some email, and he sent me copies of some of his articles; other books containing his materials, I was able to find, and as a result, I garnered a fair amount about how people learn how to move in various disciplines.
The upshots were these: A) It takes a fair amount of practice to get really good at anything, and B) the more specific you are in your training, the better it works when you go out and do the real thing.
You move like you train. You want to be a great basketball player, you don't spend most of your practice time swimming. Yeah, it'll help you get fit generally, but it won't work the specific skills you need for round ball.
Well, duh ...
Science is like that, though; it takes those things that everybody knows and tests them to see if what everybody knows is true or not. Sometimes, common knowledge is dead-0n. Sometimes, it's dead-wrong.
Insofar as martial arts are concerned, the obvious connection is simple: If you want to use the stuff on the street, then you need to get closer in your training to what you might actually run into on the street. Traditional martial arts don't always do this. If you have to put on your gi, or your sarong, slip into your cup, take off your shoes, and then bow to your opponent, and if you do all your training on a nice padded mat, you might not be able to take all your skills with you when you are in street clothes, on concrete or uneven ground, and your opponent doesn't show proper respect to the dojo and then you before he attacks.
If you work out in what you are apt to wear out in public most of the time, and if the surface is sometimes this, other times that, then it's more likely that the moves you can do will be there when you reach for them. No guarantee, but more likely.
Scenario training is even better. You set up situations you might expect to run into, and practice those, amidst distractions -- noise, lights, like that. If you shoot IPSC or IDPA, you are still plinking targets, but they are generally scenario-based -- that target is a hostage, shoot it, you lose; this one over here wears body armor, you have to make a head shot or it doesn't count; the whole situation is in a store or bank or school, and you have to be mindful of your position, cover, concealment.
Another way is to use real people, but with paintball or airsoft guns. A training blade with a marking edge -- chalk or ink or even lipstick -- shows you right away where you would have gotten cut had the knife been sharp.
And don't kid yourself, adrenaline makes a difference. Stuff you can do easily when you are relaxed sometimes just goes away when your heart is going like a punk drummer on crank and epinepherine is coming out your pores. I saw video once of a state trooper in a shootout with a guy he stopped: both emptied their weapons --- and both missed each other from fifteen feet away.
What will serve you generally is not always what you need for specifics. If you are a street cop or a corrections officer, your skills will have to be of a somewhat different order than if you are a civilian. LEO's have different constraints, and its generally considered bad form if you shoot somebody, or break open a skull on every shift. Pretty much, you have to be better at it in such situations: It's much easier to protect yourself if you don't care what happens to your attacker than if you have to bring him in alive and relatively whole.
If you are a master of kickass-fu, your three-year-old jumping on your crotch feet-first is more likely to damage you than somebody your size who wants to take a poke at you. You don't want to hurt the child, and the less damage you allow yourself to inflict, the harder it is to control an attack without risk to yourself. An elbow to the temple is safer for the thrower than a wristlock come-along.
Dealing with a drunk who wants to take a swing at you in a bar is not the same as dealing with a convicted murderer serving life who is in a cell who doesn't want to come out. The skill-set you need is different.
Then again, the murderer is probably less likely to have a gun or a serious knife in his cell than the drunk in the bar, even if his attitude is apt to be nastier. (Never know but that the drunk in the bar is a convicted murderer who just made parole, is breaking it, and isn't planning on going back inside, no matter what ...)
This is the basic conundrum with martial arts, and why the better ones offer way to escalate or dial down a response -- you sometimes won't know what you are dealing with until it happens. Best to assume the worst, be prepared for that, and then if it is less, survive and be happy. Assume the best and you are wrong? It can be fatal.
Guy wants to take my head off in line at the bank? I assume he at least has a knife he can get to. If I'm wrong, no big deal. If I don't consider it and he does have a blade? That would be bad.
Point of all this is that if you fight like you train, then you should train for how you believe you will need to fight, push comes to shove. That is where your time is best spent. Me, I don't plan on spending any time in an MMA ring. Nor much time on the mean streets and lowlife bars, nor as an officer in Sing Sing, so I'm not going to work those scenarios all that much.
Attacked with leashed dogs in one hand, walking along a suburban street at noon? Somebody coming through the window while I'm at my word processor? Those I need to know how to deal with ...