VV: Validating Form, Ignoring Function

Rory Miller's Blog - Sun, 2014-09-21 12:16
VV, get it? Fifth post in a row starting with V? This will actually be the fourth post talking about validation. First, read this article and prepare to get upset:
http://m.weeklystandard.com/articles/rotherham-s-collaborators_804406.html?page=1

Taking everything out, ignoring the fact that 1400 girls were systematically victimized, ignoring any cultural or racial parameters, I want to focus on one very simple thing.

16 years. 1400 victims. Local government, social services, the police and the National Health Service knew about it. Only five arrests, as near as I can make out... until this news report broke.

This is the part I want to write about: The groups that did so little, the groups that even after they knew children were being victimized, and by doing nothing allowed hundreds of others be victimized, were praised. They were praised for their approach and focus and their collaboration and their 'best practices.'

Partner, if 'best practices' leave children to be injured, they aren't 'best.' They aren't even good.

There's form and there's function. If the form doesn't accomplish the function, it doesn't matter how perfect the form is, it is wrong. When a person or an organization focuses on the form to the exclusion of function, which appears to be the trend in all bureaucracies, they become useless. And in cases like this, actively evil.

If you have a test to promote your sergeants, but the people who score high on the test aren't significantly better than the ones who score low, your test is wrong. It is a failure. You are testing for something-- tests always test for something-- but it is not testing for what you believe it is.

If your academy curriculum is centered around what is measurable and not what a rookie needs, it is a tool of bureaucracy, not justice or even survival. And you are dooming students to injury and maybe death to appease the system. And it is a system. And when the system must be served more than the people, you get Rotherham.

It's the way of the world. It has become so ordinary that no one notices, or those that do, laugh. California requires MSDS for bricks. There are places where you can't legally make a straw bale house because no one has written code for them. On a daily level, the constant bureaucratic meddling is annoying or funny. Hideously expensive and wasteful. But we just move on, because it seems so normal.

But this is 1400 victimized children. It should be a slap in the face hard enough to make anyone and everyone rethink how their methods are measured.

Otherwise, the gods of bureaucracy will have their blood sacrifices.

Meanwhile, at the VD Clinic in Minnesota...

Rory Miller's Blog - Fri, 2014-09-19 13:39
There will be one more post on validation but it's going to take a little research and composition. And it's political. So a short break to plug a big event coming up.

If you and I ever collaborate, think twice before you give me the power to name things. The only reasons my kids aren't named Nifty and Swifty are because my wife has these things called "rules" about "proper behavior" and she enforces them and knows where I sleep. Long and short of it, if we're having a Violence Dynamics intensive seminar and no one tells me otherwise, I'm damn well calling it the VD Clinic.

This year's MNVD will be held October 13-19 at the Mermaid in Mound's View MN. They'll have a special hotel rate for us. It will be twenty-five blocks of training over seven days. You can attend the whole thing, the weekdays, the week-end, or individual sessions.

The instructors will be Kasey Keckeisen, local SWAT member, training coordinator, experienced martial artist; Marc MacYoung, one of the pioneers of the RBSD movement; and me.
The details and sign-ups are here:
http://chirontraining.com/Site/VDinMNinOct.html

I'm excited about this one. You're going to get a core dump of insights, tactics and philosophies from three perspectives-- experienced perspectives. This is the only PD I've worked with that is cool with civilians training with officers. No details, but one of the sessions will be shared with a local specialty team. And if you are a pro, it is all POST certified.

The only one that is likely to fill beyond capacity is the Sunday session, Advanced People Watching and Reading Terrain. We have to limit the group size to the point that security doesn't notice we're running a class, so people who sign up for the whole week will have preference on attending Sunday.

Location:

The Mermaid Entertainment and Events Center. 2200 Hwy 10Mounds View, MN 55112763-786-2000
Sign-ups and further details:
http://chirontraining.com/Site/VDinMNinOct.html

Kasey's Description:
http://practicalbudo.blogspot.com/2014/08/2014-violence-dynamics-information.html

Validating

Rory Miller's Blog - Wed, 2014-09-17 12:26
Since I seem to have a theme going...

Long good talk with Erik Kondo last week about improving navigation on CRGI and many other things. Stay tuned on that, there are a couple of ongoing projects I need to write about soon. In the process we were talking about identifying good practices and practitioners, and I was balking.

"My idea of good may not be someone else's. There's a lot of really good stuff out there, particularly in the traditional arts, that is just misunderstood or missed by the instructors." I said.

"Good's hard to identify," Erik agreed, "But you can spot bad in a heartbeat."

You have no idea how much I hate arguing with people who are smarter than me. But at least I learn a lot.

So when validating a technique, deciding whether it will work and whether to teach it, three things immediately come to mind. There may be a lot of other ways to suck, but these are usually easy to see and are definitely failures.

1) Time framing. Everything you do takes time. The less time it takes, the more efficient it is. The longer it takes to get to the same point the less efficient it is. If the technique taught requires more time than exists, you have a time framing problem.

You will never dodge a sword strike with a back handspring. If I throw a jab at your chin within range, you will never get a hand from your hip in time to intercept it. If you have an eight move defense and counter to a single move attack, your attacker is eight times more efficient than you are. You lose. Even if the initial attack and the counter take the same time (or the technique has a slight edge) it probably won't make up for the action/reaction gap. If you are reacting, the opponent will have completed a certain percentage of the motion (maybe the whole attack) before you Observe, Orient and Decide and initiate your reaction.

There are a number of things that influence this. Telegraphing is a big one. In many cases, you can look like you are very fast or even telepathic if you are good at reading telegraphs. Almost everyone has unnecessary preparatory moves before they begin the real action. Almost as prevalent and much more damaging to the student is poor distancing. You can get away with almost anything if you insist that the attack begins from a half-step out of range. If your technique relies on that half-step, it simply won't work.

2) Brainwashing. You can look all over the internet for the videos of the chi masters making their students go dizzy by pointing fingers or knocking people down without touching them. Here's the deal. There is a thing called "victim grooming" where a predator takes time and effort, usually with a child, and raises that child to believe that being a victim is normal and to actively seek out abuse. The students of these chi-masters (and a lot of others) have been subjected to the same process. They have been trained to respond as if magic works or suffer cognitive dissonance and some painful rethinking.

Probably shouldn't have started with chimeisters because it makes it easy to pretend the lower levels of this don't exist. But a lot of them do. Sometimes it is purely mental "I know this technique works because it only takes twelve pounds of pressure to break a knee..." No it doesn't. Your knee can take twelve pounds all day. Twelve pounds moving at 100mph is a completely different problem.

Sometimes it is physical. If your technique only works on your own students, it doesn't work. If you are more likely to be injured by a beginner than an experienced practitioner, your system may be deliberately creating inefficient fighters. That's the technical term for "losers." If you're demonstrating a technique and the student steps back to give you plenty of time, subtly points at which fist she is about to use... sigh. Groomed victim.

Lastly, demos and seminars and you. Really easy to see other people being brainwashed. Much harder to grasp your own suggestibility. Almost all people are suggestible to a degree. You've all seen that yawns are contagious. That's one example. Everyone thinks they are resistant to suggestion, but that belief has, apparently, no correlation to one's actual suggestibility. And when you go to a seminar, your suggestibility is heightened. You have already decided to go to the seminar expressly because there is something about this instructor you admire. That lowers your skepticism. (And don't think a skeptical attitude is a defense, I've read many stage magicians who consider self-declared skeptics the easiest to fool). You will be in a crowd of others who feel the same way, triggering the human herd instinct. Sometimes accentuated by insisting that people come dressed traditionally (much harder to break ranks when everyone looks/dresses the same.) And the really good ones have techniques to pick out the most suggestible (or at least weed out the most resistant) so that the early demos go so well it becomes even harder to question or complain.

If the instructor tells students what is supposed to happen, whether three touches on a meridian will make a KO or that when a hand appears going for the face the body has no choice but to throw itself (and, yes, before you ask, I have heard both of those) the explanation is part of the technique.

Bottom line, if the bad guy is responsible for making the technique work, the technique doesn't work.

3) Mechanical advantage. Any good technique must have a mechanical advantage. It must have an element of leverage, structure or vector that gives it an edge over things applied with more power. You can only do a good sweep if there is enough distance from the sweeping foot and the shoulder crash. You need the leverage. My wife could never outmuscle me pulling her into a hug, but she can use her pointy little elbows to make it really hurt, pitting my strength against her structure and winning. If a fist is coming in and you try to stop it straight on you would have to be far more powerful than the person throwing the punch... but a slap to the side has the vector to redirect a massive difference in power.

Ideally, a good technique will have advantages in all three-- good structure applied with maximized leverage along an advantageous vector. And there is no rule that says a bad guy can't be better at all three elements than you. That's life.

Bottom line- unless there is clear mechanical advantage in a technique, it will only work against a smaller, weaker opponent. It will only work for a bad guy.

Validation

Rory Miller's Blog - Wed, 2014-09-10 14:53
You can't be sure. There is no such thing as a "survival level of proficiency." The world has a 100% death rate and no matter how skilled, equipped, or physically gifted you are, there is stuff out there that can splat you like a bug on a windshield. That's just the way it is. The one thing that's a safe bet is that if you are sure your stuff is adequate, you are already setting yourself up for failure.

No matter how tested something is or under what conditions it has been tested, all you know is that you haven't found the failure point yet. But the failure point is out there. So is your stuff valid? That depends how far you have tested your stuff. There is a point where it will cease to work. And the uncertainty increases when it is not tested. When there is no way to validate a thing, humans seek validation instead.

You can't be 100% sure of very much. 1+1=2 with high reliability when applied to rocks. It's less reliable when applied to rabbits. When you can't be sure (validity) people want to feel sure (validation).

How does one go about validation? They like be told by other people that they are good. There are a lot of rituals and trappings to it, but that's the essence. A black belt. Certificates and trophies. Creating "Councils of Masters" who cross-certify each other as "Masters." In the RBSD world, you have instructors who are combing academic abstracts looking for studies that appear to justify their own beliefs or discredit a competitor's. Everybody wants a guy in a white coat with a PhD after his name to validate their approach. The academic researcher takes the place of the shaman is this quest in this culture.

And that last, science, isn't bad. If you are scientifically literate (understand experimental design, the scientific method and the basics of statistical analysis as a start) and read the actual article, not just the abstract. And don't cherry-pick too hard.

But the rest aren't bad, either. Sort of. I want validation too. My validation comes from the respect of people that I respect. Hmmmm. Sort of. I respect almost everyone as a matter of courtesy. But when I look at my closest friends, I'm a little humbled to be accepted in their company. But it can be a fine line between a group of operators and former operators telling war stories and and a cross-certifying Master's Council. I'm fairly positive that each of those "masters" convince themselves that the others on the council are extraordinary and being allowed in is a compliment (even if one Hall of Fame award was offered to every member of a certain martial arts forum one year. Sigh.)

There are certificates that mean a lot to me because of who they came from and how they were earned. And I know there are, or used to be, certificates that came in a sheaf with a box of DVDs all pre-signed by the "master" so that you could fill them out and show potential students your hundreds of certifications.

And trophies-- you win an olympic judo medal or a UFC title and you are one tough son of a bitch, dedicated and skilled. Or you can just go to an event that has three times as many categories as competitors and come home with a pocketful of gold medals from events where you had no opposition. The good and worthless trophies look just the same on the wall.

It can look like the goal is to be strong enough not to need outside validation, to be so sure that you don't need other people telling you how good you are. But that doesn't work either, because some of the worst instructors I have seen had a profoundly over-developed ego. Someone who truly feels superior usually sucks (Dunning-Kruger) and are most likely to reject outside opinions yet most likely to need them.

Sometimes I  think about offering a certification program in thinking for yourself. The catch being that if you want a certificate in autonomy from someone else, you don't get it. You don't get the certificate or the concept.


Validity

Rory Miller's Blog - Mon, 2014-09-08 13:36
Trying to answer an e-mail and it needs a little thinking out loud.
It wasn't a big thing, there was a single sentence about validity, but the concept of validity in self-defense instruction is a big one. Rocky.

I've seen a lot of things work and a lot of things fail. And thought -- a lot-- about why things succeed or fail. And those whys became my personal list of principles, and those principles became the framework for my teaching. And that was tested in the field. A lot. And... does that make what I do valid?

What does valid even mean?

Here's the deal. A few people have seen the elephant. But on one, no one, has seen the whole elephant. Soldier experience isn't cop experience. Cop experience isn't corrections experience. Corrections experience isn't bouncer experience. Bouncer experience isn't secure mental health custodial experience. And none of that is direct experience with domestic violence. None of that, hopefully, is experience with being targeted as a victim.

As a man, when I teach SD to women, there is an entire part of the equation (what it's like to be a woman) that I can never understand. But, you know what? I also can't truly understand what it's like to be a bigger, stronger man than I am. Or what it's like to have 30 years of kempo experience instead of jujutsu. I know enough about violent criminals to predict their behavior and pick apart their rationalizations in an interrogation, but I've never been one.

All any of us has is a piece of this. There are no experts. So is there validity? Sort of.

Validity is a function of logic, of syllogism, specifically. (And I'm a little out of my depth in the nuances of philosophy 101, but bear with me a bit). If A is B and B is C then A is C. If there are no holes in the logic chain, then it is valid. A is C. Is it true? Seriously, do you even have to ask? If A was C, then cat would be cct. All of the pieces have to be true for validity to resemble truth. As well as all of the assumptions, like what 'is' means.

In self-defense, one of the dangers is that people confuse validity for truth, and they often teach that things that should work do work, or that things that worked on sober, eager students in a class will work on drugged and enraged people in other places. People frequently rate logic or received wisdom over experience.

"As we all know, self-defense is exactly like math. If you do the same thing, you will get the same effect every time."-- A self-defense instructor who will remain nameless. Not a single person with any experience whatsoever and a marginally functioning brain believes this. Not one. Probabilities go up with higher levels of force, e.g. I have never heard of a .50 to the head failing...but a .45 to the head has.

This validity, this search for truth is, in my opinion, a side effect of the subject matter. We recognize that if we or our students are ever called on to use these skills it will be for high stakes. Any failures will be catastrophic. The combination of high stakes and limited experience (remember that three hundred encounters is probably less than five hours of experience) drives people to seek certainty elsewhere: Received wisdom from a 'master.' Thought experiments. Dojo experiments. Chains of logic where every step is a guess or an assumption.

You would be so much stronger as a fighter or a teacher if you could just get over the need to be sure. There is no right. As Tia said recently, there's just solutions with less suck than other solutions. That lets the goal change from being right to being better. The problem with thinking you're right is that you can't improve on 'right.' Accepting that there are no perfect answers, that tiny touch of humility, gives you the superpower of continuous improvement. You can never be perfect. You can never be right. Feeling sure is a dead giveaway that you don't actually know. But you can be better. Every day.

And validity is a slightly separate issue from validation, but that's a post for another day.

PICK UP THE PIECES

Ron Goin's Blog - Thu, 2014-08-28 20:37
PICK UP THE PIECESTHINGS I'VE PICKED UP ALONG THE WAY
"I have only one purpose: to make man free, to urge him towards freedom, to help him to break away from all limitations, for that alone will give him eternal happiness, will give him the unconditioned realization of the self."
J. Krishnamurti, "Truth is a Pathless Land


I've shared an amazing, mind-opening parable by Jiddu Krishnamurti before, but I think it bears repeating.  If you recall, Krishnamurti was very influential in the 60s and 70s, and the late Bruce Lee looked to Krishnamurti's writings for inspiration.  JKD has many points in comparison to Krishnamurti's teachings, most of which are about freedom and individuality.


“You may remember the story of how the devil and a friend of his were walking down the street, when they saw ahead of them a man stoop down and pick up something from the ground, look at it, and put it away in his pocket. The friend said to the devil, “What did that man pick up?” “He picked up a piece of Truth,” said the devil. “That is a very bad business for you, then,” said his friend. “Oh, not at all,” the devil replied, “I am going to let him organize it."


In my five decades of martial arts and combatives training I have picked up pieces of the truth here and there.  For a very brief period I considered organizing these pieces, putting them together in a systematic way, carefully arranging them into a tidy, neat package.  Fortunately, I too read Krishnamurti, and I began to see things differently.


"Truth," Krishnamurti went on to say, "being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. If you first understand that, then you will see how impossible it is to organize a belief."

So what I ended up with in my own walk was a disorderly collection of common-sense, no frills skills, skill-sets, training methodologies, concepts and principles.  They are not in any particular order, but they seem to flow naturally from one to another and back again.   

I still get contacted from time to time from people who would like to see this information laid out in a sequential, step-by-step, systematic manner.  And it is tempting at times to consider it, but I'm afraid I'd just turn out like the devil's friend in Krishnamurti's wise tale, forever trying to organize the collection, labeling the various parts, arranging them, trying to piece together the jigsaw puzzle that cannot be solved.  

So along the way I ended up with some oddball nuggets, some slivers and segments, some untidy tidbits of truth concerning self-preservation and coming face to face with aggression.  

In this, my final blog article, I wanted to share some of these random truths.

1.  Fighting is primal.   


"So it was in him, then," wrote Zane Grey, "an inherited fighting instinct, a driving intensity to kill."  

Fighting, like other actions promoting survival, is in our genes and part of our instinctive drive.  According to Konrad Lorenz in his bestselling book "On Aggression," Julian Huxley "compared the human being to a ship commanded by many captains.  All these commanders are on the bridge at the same time and each voices his opinion.  In doing so they sometimes reach a wise compromise which provides a better solution to their problems than the single opinion of the cleverest among them; but sometimes they cannot agree and then the ship is without any rational leadership."  

I contend that in the face of danger this counsel of commanders drops the compromise and listens to the single voice of survival.  But while the primal urge to survive is there, we must intentionally gain knowledge and experience and skill to make survival possible, to make sure the odds are in our favor when the time comes to roll the dice.  

If in our training we learn to follow what I call the A-B-C principle, Action Before Cognition, and respond instinctively, forcefully, and immediately to a threat, free from the paralysis of analysis, we become reacquainted with and reinforce this natural self-preservation instinct.

2.  Some people are natural fighters, (but most are not). 

Just listen to this description of Civil War soldier, Champ Ferguson:  "He was a man of strong sense, and of the intense will and energy, which, in men of his stamp and mode of life, have such a tendency to develop into ferocity, when they are in the least injured or opposed.  It is probable that, at the close of the war, he did not himself know how many men he had killed."  

In the martial arts world these types of people simply love to fight.  They seem to have no fear, will take on bigger and tougher opponents with glee, and must be taught to rein in their combative instinct less fellow students become injured.  

Most of us, however, do not have this so-called killer instinct so close to the surface.  It lies deep within, like a dormant volcano.  

Most of us must be trained to unleash this beast.

3.  Fancy, flashy, exotic looking movements are a waste of precious energy and much too risky to attempt in the heat of battle.  


One simply cannot imagine an ancient ancestor, out hunting a giant mammoth to feed his tribe, who stops and twirls his spear in an elaborate manner before plunging it into the beast's neck.  Or practicing cartwheels before letting loose an arrow in mortal combat with a hostile enemy.  

Just yesterday, as I drove past a strip-mall martial arts academy, I saw the windows decorated with images of people performing high flying kicks.  I went in and watched a martial arts demonstration featuring people jumping and kicking and leaping through the air.  I saw unrealistic Hollywood-movie defenses against guns and knives and clubs.  There were people breaking flaming bricks, performing techniques en masse in unison and precision, yelling menacingly, and executing deep, elaborate stances that were designed to replicate the movements of fierce animals.  


This is art, plain and simple.

Martial ART is to combat what a mime's performance is to reality.  

Watch a mime 'ice skate' or 'eat an apple' or 'walk against the wind.'  If he's really good you can almost come to believe that what he's doing is real.  But it's an exaggerated expression or depiction of the essence of reality.  Superb form, of course, and extremely difficult to perform.  But it's not reality.  

We do not study the mime's movements in order to improve our own.  We do not find truth in a mime's performance, we simply see an artful representation of tiny segment of life.

4.  Use whatever works.

Aside from the rare, gifted athlete who can perform seemingly impossible moves, most of us should just stick to time-tested, battle-proven, no-nonsense, common-sense, practical, effective and efficient skills.  

They are not nearly as exciting or crowd pleasing, but the truth of the matter is we are not performing to please the crowd.  We are not preparing to face a master, we are training to fight monsters.

We should be pragmatic, using skills from whatever source we can find, regardless of style and devoid of aesthetics merely for the sake of aesthetics.

5.  Fortunately most of us will never come face to face with the horrors of war, the terror of a vicious attack.  But, just in case... 


Peace and comfort is probably something we've grown used to, something we've come to expect.  But this is not true for many people around the world who live in war-torn countries, harsh conditions, and who must deal with random and daily occurrences of violence.  

Our ancestors, still very much in the food chain, faced the threat of predation daily.  The comedian Louis CK wonders what it would be like for commuters today if cheetahs were always hanging around at the train station.  

The truth is most of us will succumb to heart disease or some other ailment, so kill-or-be-killed training is simply (pardon the pun) overkill for our daily lives.  

This is probably why most people who practice martial arts emphasize the ART over the MARTIAL.  FORM over FUNCTION.  ENTERTAINMENT over EFFECTIVENESS.  RITUAL over REALITY.  This is probably why kata is still so popular.  It is something to obsess over--the precision, the minutiae, the tedious and trivial pursuit of stuff that doesn't really matter.  

6.  Real violence is nasty and brutish.  


It is ugly and reprehensible.  It is chaotic and unpredictable.  It happens fast, and it's usually over quickly.  It is not something to glory in or desire.  It is not pleasant or poetic.  

It's been interesting writing articles, researching history, philosophy, cognitive psychology and physics.  It's been a joy playfully poking fun at the martial arts world.  Now, it's time for me to put up my rock and roll shoes and read some fiction for a change.





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