Tuesday, September 16, 2008
The Fight Isn't Under the Glove ..
... it's under the hat.
Writing a fight sequence today, and as sometimes happens, to explain what the character was doing, I needed to clarify my own thinking.
The title of this entry goes to attitude, and to paraphrase Frank, one of the Fabulous Furry Freak brothers, "Attitude will get you through times of no skill better than skill will get you through times of no attitude."
At least in some venues in which "skill" is a volatile and relative term.
Speaking here as a long-time martial artist with not much in the way of skill, though perhaps a bit more than the average Joline on the street, my come-to-realize moment about this was some time back, and it can be broken down into simple statements:
1. Attitude triumphs skill alone.
2. Attitude and skill triumph attitude or skill.
Lemme explain my definitions a little:
When I say "attitude," I mean here the determined resolution to do whatever is necessary to be the guy who walks away from a fight, absolutely whatever.
"Skill" is the ability to move in efficient ways. These need not be complex, they can be very simple patterns --- basic punches or elbows, level changes, maybe some grappling attacks and defenses, kicks, weapons, like that. Mostly, these are tools the basics of which can be learned in days or weeks rather than years.
Here's a theoretical scenario: Bob is a ten-year student of Kickass-Fu. He knows all nineteen major, sixteen minor, and twelve variations of the Ultimate Grand Holistic form set. He has done them six thousand times, and is practiced against most of what he is apt to see flying at him.
Bob is also a proponent of the graduated force theory -- Avoid rather than check; check rather than injure; injure rather than maim; maim rather than kill -- like that.
Bob is not sure that he could kill somebody, and he would go a long way to avoid that choice. He is adept enough, he believes, that it won't ever come to that. Bob is, by all lights, a nice guy.
Larry, on the other hand, has never seen the inside of a dojo. He doesn't know a kung from a fu, and he's not a brawler, but he has been in a few knock-down drag-out slugfests in which he was the last guy standing and the other guy was out cold.
Larry is married, has two lovely young daughters and a beautiful wife, and more than anything in the world, he wants to live long enough to see his girls grow up and have happy lives. He would walk in front of a bus if that's what it took to protect them, and if the bus was bearing down on one of his children and he had a gun, he would shoot the driver dead to stop it, every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Both Bob and Larry are good-sized fellows in pretty good shape.
Do a split-screen: Both men are on their way home from the 7-Elevens in their neighborhoods with a six-pack and some snacks when a trio of strong-arm muggers steps out into their respective paths.
Bob is alone.
Larry has his little girls with him.
If you were forced to bet big money here on which guy you thought would make a better showing, which way would you go?
I've set it up so the choice should be easy. (Your card is the Queen of Hearts, right?)
Bob is skilled, but his internal governor has a top-end-setting. He doesn't want to kill these guys, so chances are he is going to be thinking about how best to take them out without stepping across that line. He might be good enough to do it.
His smartest choice is to turn around and haul ass.
Larry has his daughters with him. He can't run. He isn't going to be thinking about the welfare of somebody who is offering a threat to his children, or his unfinished job as father. Larry is going to let the Thing in the Cave loose and sure as pigeons shit on statues, he is going to drop the hammer.
I expect most of my readers can see this, because they -- especially if they have small children -- identify with it. This is attitude.
But here's a third guy. He's a combination of Bob and Larry. (Call him "Barry.")
Barry has spent years training in something -- not so important what, but it's an art that has basic and useful fighting skills -- punches, kicks, wrasslin' -- like that. And his attitude is every bit as determined as Larry's. Normally a peaceful man, he'd avoid trouble if he could, but when the muggers step out, Barry is hands-down my pick to mop up the pavement with the bad guys, because the formula as I see it is:
Skill + Attitude > Skill (or) Attitude.
Skill can be taught and learned. I'm not sure that attitude can be. In my heart of hearts, I suspect that if you don't have attitude, that training for skill might get you in as much trouble as it keeps you out of. That the best students for a fighting art bring the attitude with them, and are the ones to get the most benefit from training.
As Edwin allowed in a recent discussion, mean-old-bastards have an edge that nice guys don't ...