Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Martial Expectations

Something I noticed and have been thinking about. I don't have it nailed down completely, so bear with me while I explore it a bit.

If you haven't seen the new TV series Sherlock's opener and you still plan to do so, this is a spoiler, so skip this post if you don't want to know one of the big reveals.

In the story, Dr. Watson is accosted by a mysterious and powerful fellow -- he can make any phone the doctor passes ring -- who has him transported to a warehouse. This fellow offers that Sherlock probably considers him his arch-enemy, and offers to pay the doctor to keep tabs on his new roommate.

Naturally, the doctor tells him to piss off.

Well. As readers of the books know, Holmes's arch-enemy is Professor Moriarty, and while no names are mentioned, we make the assumption. Who else?

Not so. It's Holmes's smarter brother, Mycroft, and his intent toward his brother is benign.

To fans of the novels, this is a full-on cheat. 

Might be that all is fair in love and war, but all is not fair in a mystery wherein one is expected to figure out something from legitimate clues. Yes, you can strew red herrings hither and yon to confuse a reader or a watcher, but you have to play fair to the extent that the truth, however disguised, is there and can be winnowed out. 

One could argue that Mycroft displays some of Sherlock's abilities, and that is a clue, but it doesn't overcome the cheat: This fellow is tall and slender. Mycroft was a stout, large, beefy fellow, and the writers  knew that, given what else they got right, so it was a deliberate falsehood. Had he been a large and beefy fellow, that would have been valid; that he was not flouted the rules they have to play by. (Unless of course, a diet to lose weight had been mentioned. It wasn't.)

Non-fans of the great detective, it doesn't matter, but the show was full of things pitched to the hardcore, so this one shouldn't have been there. Not a red-herring, but an outright lie.

I brought this up to demonstrate something that raises a question for me in fight training, notably the reality versions. 

The caveat: I am not a fighter. I have studied martial arts for a long time, but if I see a fight coming, I am heading elsewhere if I can.

It's been pretty well established that scenario training adds much to fight exercises. What works on the nice padded mat in the dojo in a gi might not work so well on the sloped muddy ground in the rain, or the smoky barroom full of drunks in street clothes. It's thus good stuff. Not reality -- only reality is that, as has been pointed out -- but closer and thus more useful. I'm good with this.

However, one of the things mentioned in passing is the notion of a sudden, unexpected, full-out attack. Those are hard to deal with, and one of the drills offered is that a teacher can pick a student in a class and demonstrate this by going unexpectedly bugfuck on him. The six or eight hits a second tornado blows,  and very few people will be able to successfully withstand that.  

Muggers don't play fair, it is offered. You shouldn't expect the Marquis of Queensbury.

True. I can see that. And if the point is that an unexpected attack can come from anybody, anywhere, at anytime? Yeah. But like the skinny Mycroft Holmes, that part is also a cheat. 

Expectations are bad, I've brought that up here a time or fifty. They get you into trouble across the board. And yet, we all have them, and we couldn't function on a day-to-day basis without at least a few. 

We wouldn't get into a car if we didn't expect that most of the drivers on the other side of the road were going to stay there and not zoom head-on into us. Or that there was some expectation of people stopping at the red light after it turned red and stayed that way. Stragglers, sure, you watch for them, and if you aren't driving defensively, you are missing a bet. But at the end, we are assuming incompetence over malice most of the time when we get behind the wheel. The road is full of assholes, but not murderers.

We don't expect the waiter to poison our food. Nor the Safeway clerk to pull a pistol from the register. Nor the gas station attendant to turn the hose on the car and flick his Bic. All those things could happen. But anybody who expects them? Probably needs to have his meds adjusted.

We don't expect our best old pal since third grade to suddenly up and come at us full on with murderous intent for no reason, assuming we think he's reasonably sane. Nor do we check the hall closet to see if our loving spouse is in there with a bat, waiting to bash us when we go to turn out the kitchen light. 

It is not unreasonable to expect that your wife isn't going to stab you while you are asleep, and if you believe that, why are you sleeping there? Leave.

So when the instructor goes bugfuck, he gainsays the implied teacher/student role, which carries with it certain expectations. Yes, he can. Yes, it makes a point. But it's still a cheat. 

If you are walking down a dark alley and you hear somebody coming up behind you, if you aren't on some kind of guard, you are missing a bet. With people you don't know, you might behave differently than with those you do know.

Sometimes the switch is not a rheostat, it's on or it is off. It might take more to flip it on, but if that happens, the game changes. I would think in a less-structured scenario that starts with real surprise, that the chances of serious injury would rise. If the defender gets frightened and is able to break his freeze, what might happen if he's strong and skilled?

Just a thought. 


Thomas said...

Unless of course, a diet to lose weight had been mentioned. It wasn't.

Actually, it was mentioned a few times -- sort of a running joke between the brothers. Sherlock says something like: "How's the diet?" with venom dripping from his tone.

Steve Perry said...

Not in the TV series. And as I recall, he never lost any weight.

Mario said...

Mycroft: And you know how it all upsets mummy.
Sherlock: I upset her? Me? It wasn’t me that upset her, Mycroft.
John: N-no. Wait. Mummy? Who’s mummy?
Sherlock: Mother. Our mother, this is my brother Mycroft....Putting on weight again?
Mycroft: Losing it, in fact.

Steve Perry said...

Too little, too late. For a clue to be valid, it has to be given before the reveal.

Stan said...

Expectations are a minefield. We use them as "short cuts" or even "Macros" to help us get through the day. However, as Steve (and Rory Miller in his books) has pointed out, expectations also set us up for surprises which can place us at risk.
In jujitsu, the term, "Kazushi" means to off-balance your partner / attacker. Mentally "off-balancing" a person is as effective as physically. It creates openings both for attacks and escapes.

Then again, whoever said that the world is fair? ;~)

Jim said...

Yeah -- but you know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle cheated all the time as a mystery writer, right? Of course only Holmes could solve the mystery; only Holmes had all the pieces. The most the reader gets is that Holmes paced around outside, or maybe studied and tasted the ground. You don't get that his "trifling monograph" on the soils of London identified the sand, or the tobacco.

Steve Perry said...

Absolutely, Doyle cheated. No way a reader had enough information to solve the crime in many, if not most of the stories.

Whenever there was no apparent reason for something, Doyle would have Holmes pull another trick out of his bag and presto! a solution.

Doesn't make it right.

The form has changed somewhat. There are whodunnits, whydunnits, howdunnits, and combinations thereof. MIsdirection is expected in a whodunnit, it's part of the game. But like chess, you can't make illegal moves -- if you play the game, you have to play it fairly. I didn't think the Mycroft trick was fair. Not everybody agrees, but that's how I saw it.

Anonymous said...

Had an instructor at a Stephen Hayes ninja camp 25 years ago ask me to hit him, so I dropped him with a backfist. Oops.

steve-vh said...

Krav Maga trains for surprise attacks all the time. However, military Krav expects that you are on duty 24/7 so a little diff for a civilian training in KM.
However, the intent i think is to minimize the freeze reaction by consistent conditioning with surprise senarios. Not surprise in itself, but how to respond as quickly as possible to a situation.
My friend's rule in his class is that at anytime and can go "bugnuts" and jump them. They never know when. I had to get him to amend that to allow them structured time to let their guard down as I could see that they were not always able to learn when stressing too much. Now it's mostly during conditioning, unless perhaps a student is slacking and then he just has it coming.

Steve Perry said...

I dunno about this attack-at-any-time business. If I thought I was going to get seriously attacked that way, I expect I wouldn't go there. If I did and the rule was, protect yourself at all times, I'd want to stand with my back to a wall and any time a potential attacker got within range, go for him first.

A paintball gun or a shockknife might be nice, too.

Somebody is apt to get hurt playing that way. I would rather it be the other guy.

steve-vh said...

Oh they train that way and it's usually the teacher that get's banged up. It's how it's done. but then he's trained that way his whole life since 5yrs old. Made him a good recon Marine :-)

Oh, and he's saving up for shock knives.

I'm not pitching the training methodologies, just sharing. Krav as terminated training protocols has been proven effective, I'm nowhere near knowledgeable enough to pass any judgements.

Steve Perry said...

Since when do I have to know anything to pass judgement ... ?

steve-vh said...


Master Plan said...

Hmm. I think I know the drill you reference and I think it's more like a demo than a drill. If it's the one I'm thinking of I've seen it demonstrated on some relatively (to myself) skilled folks, at least one of whom kinda expected it was coming.

Anyway. I think it's a demo not a drill. Can't really function well as a drill in fact. Hard, as you note, to repeatedly repeat it to any particular training effect.

Could be wrong tho, obvs.

Steve Perry said...

Probably the term "drill" wasn't correct -- that usually implies repetition. "Demonstration" would have been a better word. Good point.