"I don't make things difficult. That's the way they get, all by themselves." (Riggs, "Lethal Weapon", 1987)
"Flow with the go." (Richard Bustillo, Chattanooga seminar)
During a break at a seminar in 1988, I asked famed Modern Arnis instructor Remy Presas what one attribute he considered the most important for fighting. "Flow," he answered without hesitation.
He used the imagery of trying to cross a creek that has become swollen by a springtime rain. The sheer power and energy of that raging water would make it hard to maneuver.
So a key ingredient in combat is physical flow--a sustained, non-hesitant barrage of energetic attacks to keep the opponent at bay. Fluid, dynamic movement that does not pause, does not stop to think.
But there is also the mental aspect of this non-hesitant energy. Call it what you will, being "In the Zone", "In the Pocket," or "In the Groove", but there is a state of mind in which nothing else seems to exist except for the task at hand. Many people also refer to this phenomenon as "Flow".
According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, (mee-hi chick-sent-mee-hi), the person most associated with the psychology of optimal experience, 'flow' is defined as a person's total absorption into an activity, or "being so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost."
Flow is a difficult concept to pin down, but we've probably all experienced it at one time or another. It is generally characterized by the following:
- Deep concentration
- Complete focus
- Unforced...it just happens
- Full involvement
- Single-minded immersion
- Absorption, preoccupation, being 'lost' in the activity
- Effortless action
I don't know about you, but I have had training sessions where I've lost track of time, and the outside world ceased to exist.
Some historians say that Michelangelo may have painted the Sistine Chapel while in a "flow state." It is said that he painted for days at a time, not even taking a break for food or sleep. He would supposedly become so absorbed in his work that he wouldn't stop until he reached the point of passing out.
Bruce Lee, in The Tao of Gung Fu, talked about flow, and, like so many others, used water as a metaphor. "Running water never grows stale," he said, "so you just have to 'keep on flowing.'" In "Enter the Dragon", Lee's character says, "A good martial artist does not become tense, but ready. Not thinking, yet not dreaming. Ready for whatever may come. When the opponent expands, I contract; and when he contracts, I expand. And when there is an opportunity, 'I' do not hit, 'it' hits all by itself."
Echoing Lee, Formula One driver Ayrton Senna described his own unique experience with flow while driving in the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix, "...Suddenly I realized that I was no longer driving the car consciously. I was driving it by a kind of instinct, only I was in a different dimension. It was like I was in a tunnel."
Bruce Lee talked about the Three Stages of Cultivation:
Stage One he referred to as the 'primitive stage.' This is the beginner who has never taken a martial arts lesson. If he were to be attacked, he would react naturally, fluidly, freely, without thinking. He does not know what he is supposed to do, and thus does not stop to consider his actions before taking action. His movements are pure and unadulterated.
He called Stage Two the 'mechanical stage.' The person knows a thing or two about fighting--how to move, how to punch and kick, what techniques to use. If confronted with an attack the person in this stage may experience paralysis by analysis, and the fluid nature of his reaction would be stopped as internal calculations are made and the right technique, performed just the right way, is dredged up from memory banks.
Stage Three is the 'spontaneous stage.' With enough training, the responses become automatic, and fluidity is once again achieved. "Instead of trying to impose on his mind," Lee said, "he adjusts himself to his opponent like water pressing on an earthen wall. It flows through the slightest crack. There is nothing to try to do but try to be purposeless and formless, like water. All of his classical techniques and standard styles are minimized, if not wiped out, and nothingness prevails. He is no longer confined."
He summarized the 3 stages succinctly when he said, "Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I've understood the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick just like a kick."
Dig this, we use flow all the time without thinking about it. "When we speak," says Gerald Edelman, in A Universe of Consciousness, "we know roughly what we want to say, however, words seem to pop up when we need them, in the right place at the right time, with the right sound and the right meaning...we do not have to search consciously for each of them or check our syntax at every step...if we had to do so, speaking would be an almost impossible task that would place an enormous burden on our conscious lives."
The_Might_Zep responded to a question about how to make guitar solos more fluid, and here was his advice: "I know it sounds simple and corny, but if you play what you want to hear and not just copying someone's style, it'll be both enjoyable to the listener and the player. Play what you're thinking of. Think: emotions. Do you want the solo to be more depressing and melodic? Or just plain crazy, fast, and awesome? The second you hold onto the guitar, you're not you anymore. You're the guitar. So play what you want."
In my own training and private classes with my clients we use Tactical Training Sequences which chain a series of movements together. Filipino Martial Arts call these flow drills, and many of these FMA drills have been adopted by other styles. Although you can become overdependent on these sequences, they are essential in teaching you to move without hesitation, from defense to offense, and from one offensive movement to another.
Don't force the techniques, let them flow spontaneously. With enough of the right type of improvisational-based training, the mind/body will know instinctively what to do.
Finished the second day of Logic of Violence in Edinburgh. The students derived about 30% of what I know (as opposed to 80% in Granada Hills). That is still a six year reduction in what it took me. Loving this as a teaching method.
One of the first things that everyone derives, so far, is exploiting momentum. It's not new. Every realistic combative method teaches it. But until people get exposed to the dynamics of assault, it's an intellectual knowledge. Not a feeling. Not an understanding. Exposed in the right way it is seen for what it is-- a crucial aspect of self-defense.
Old school stuff required it. The civilian self-defense that arose over time knew that the essence of self-defense was to be outmatched in size and strength and weapons and whatever else the bad guy had arranged. The old military systems (when sword and spear were king) realized that the unarmed arts were poor, last-ditch efforts against a superior and armed opponent. Early sport, like my beloved old-school (pre-weight class) judo relied on the concept as well.
Sport has changed that. Being stronger, faster and more endurant are keys to winning. Are they? Or are these attributes simply the easiest to develop when you are a young male? Compared to mat sense and timing and awareness-- which all add up to 'grace under fire'-- are they the best skills? Or merely the easiest to develop in that demographic?
BJJ reversed the trend for a time. In the early UFCs we saw grace under pressure defeating size and strength. But the competition mindset and the drive to create something exciting to watch drove a very particular kind of change. Add to that the fact that competition appeals to a very specific group of people-- young men with something to prove.
I'm not disparaging that. Young men are driven to know who they truly are. They want to be tested under pressure. MMA is the latest stage of a long evolution of finding a relatively safe way to test the limits of identity. I applaud the people who play and I am a little appalled and very unimpressed by those who watch and talk and don't test. Because an even bigger demographic than young men who test themselves is the demographic of young men who want to, but are afraid.
Side note-- I asked a young man if he had ever served in the military. Very primly he said, "I have never had that honor." Bullshit. There is absolutely an honor to it but you don't get it handed to you. You want that honor you get off you lazy, cowardly ass and volunteer.
Anyway, the ones who are driven to certain kinds of training are both the ones least likely to need it (who are you going to pick as a victim, a 200 pound martial athlete or a 120 pound elderly woman?) and the ones who get the most from attribute training. If I catch you young enough, especially before puberty, I can make you incredibly strong, endurant, flexible, able to withstand pain... all that good stuff. And, unfortunately, that is more true for males than females. Biology speaks.
When you don't have those?
Logic of Violence makes it incredibly clear that physical self-defense is all about recovering from a position of disadvantage. And that, simply, requires better physics (and some things conditioned to reflex). Mat sense. Timing. The stuff that old guys use in class every day to show the young pups that it is not all about size or strength or aggression.
Within that context, young men start to see the value of the old school basics. So that's my goal, and my advice to you. Train your body, your physicality, like you are a fit young man. But train your skills like you are a sneaky old women. That's the best of both worlds. And it is the best option when a predator chooses you.
STANDING APART--PART 1
"What we fear...is more than total destruction. It is total meaninglessness."David Riesman
"The idea that men are created free and equal is both true and misleading: men are created different; they lose their social freedom and their individual autonomy in seeking to become like each other."
"A man must consider what a rich realm he abdicates when he becomes a conformist."Ralph Waldo Emerson
David Riesman's best-selling book from 1950, The Lonely Crowd, suggested that as societies, and to some degree the individuals within those societies, develop they tend to go through various stages or phases.
When societies are stable, without much technological progress, they are tradition-directed. They are dependent on external rules which are dictated by those in power. Life is "governed by patterns and etiquette," says Peter Watson, and "admission to adult society is marked by initiation ceremonies that are formal and which everyone must go through."
In this stage there is an emphasis on what Watson calls the 'Three R's': ritual, routine, and religion. "Having little reason to suspect that the future will be much different from the present," says Douglas Robinson, the tradition-directed society "is guided principally by the way things have practically speaking always been done."
Riesman said that when technological progress comes along, people develop a capacity to "go it alone and set lifelong goals for themselves based on values like wealth, fame, the search for scientific truth, the quest for religious salvation and the creation of beauty."(1)
The influence and authority of tradition weaken, and the individual becomes inner-directed. "The new American," says Todd Gitlin, "no longer cared much about adult authority but rather was hyperalert to peer groups and gripped by mass media. Father might know best, but if he did, it was increasingly because a television program said so."
This phase is characterized by a distinct individualism, and each person has his own "internal gyroscope." People within these societies are often self reliant, driven, and individualistic.
"The inner-directed type’s psychological mechanism may be likened to a 'gyroscope' which, 'once it is set…keeps [him] ‘on course’ even when tradition, when responded to by his character, no longer dictates his moves.'” (2)
When the influences from mass media and peer groups begin to take the place of authority, and when people seek to become accepted into the mainstream by conforming to the expectations and preferences of others, they become outer-directed. Individuals in this stage, says Watson, display a "need for direction from, and the approval of, others that creates a modern form of conformity in which the chief area of sensitivity is wanting to be liked by other people; i.e., to be popular."
In ''Individualism Reconsidered and Other Essays,'' Riesman wrote: ''What is feared as failure in American society is, above all, aloneness. And aloneness is terrifying because it means there is no one, no group, no approved cause, to submit to.'' He often seemed to prefer an inner-directed time, and he urged Americans to find ''the nerve to be oneself when that self is not approved of by the dominant ethic of a society.'' But critics say that he saw promise in the flexibility and openness within outer-directed individuals.
What often happens next is a neo-traditional-directed society, one that longs for a nostalgic return to an idealized time.
But it is difficult to go back. As Douglas Robertson tells us, "We have so thoroughly internalized the other-directed worldview that, insofar as we remember our immediate inner-directed and more remote tradition-directed ancestors at all, we cannot help refashioning them in our own other-directed image; and that, as a consequence, we have a near-impossible time imagining the still barely-within-reach possibility of living inner-directedly and the actual, mummified, impossibility of living tradition-directedly."
Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone tells us that the era of the inner-directed man is almost gone, “When someone from down the street looks you directly in the eye, does it mean, ‘Hi, I’m glad to have you in town,’ or does it mean ‘You better watch your back’? Since we’re not as good at reading speech patterns from different cultures, the net effect is that in all the non-verbal cues we pick up there’s a lot more ‘noise,’ a lot lower cultural signal-to-noise ratio, especially in areas of new diversity. That may lead most people to assume the worst of everybody else and hunker down.”
I can quite easily see parallels in the martial arts world, having trained in fighting and self-defense for going on five decades. A compulsive conformity seems to hang over martial arts like a thick fog, and martial artists seem to struggle to break free. As Riesman pointed out, society ''ensures some degree of conformity from the individuals who make it up,'' so the question really is how does it secure that unavoidable conformity.
Traditional-directed schools, systems and styles offer little individual freedom or personal expression. As Cecil Patterson, a high ranking Wado Ryu karate instructor once said, "There is no room for self expression in Wado Ryu."
In many of these traditional programs there is a strong emphasis on routine and ritual. Nothing much changes year after year. The techniques, patterns, terminology and training methodology does not usually vary.
People within these systems are often driven by an intense inner desire to fit in and to succeed within the institution. They seek to become devotees to their art, striving to perform exactly as they have been taught, and to work diligently for promotion up through the ranks by performing according to specific and rigid standards.
Some may abandon their style, seeking to be free from such restrictive, tightly controlling authority. The transitional period between traditional martial arts and modern martial arts as seen in reality-based self-defense and combat sports, is best exemplified by Bruce Lee who called for a total break from the past in a pursuit of individuality.
“When there is freedom from mechanical conditioning," said Lee, "there is simplicity. The classical man is just a bundle of routine, ideas and tradition. If you follow the classical pattern, you are understanding the routine, the tradition, the shadow - you are not understanding yourself.”
"He enjoys going it alone, and while he conforms his outward behavior to match societal norms, the opinions of others have little sway on his inner life." (3)
Unfortunately this pursuit of autonomy and the initial sense of freedom does not usually last, and in their quest to become inner-directed, this new breed of martial artists may have merely internalized the ethical code and many of the traditions from their past. They may think of themselves as independent, but they still stubbornly hold on to many of the values or goals which they inherited from their traditional roots.
Without rigid authority and without obvious leaders, these inner-directed stylists tend to become outer-directed, looking to others, waiting on signals from their peers about what they should do. Everyone is constantly looking at everyone else. And as Kim Phillips-Fein tells us, this phase can be "destabilizing and frightening," as people pursue a non-conforming spirit of "nihilism;" "prisoners without bars, frantically glancing from side to side."
They often hunker down into an alienation from others, imitate what they see others doing, or try to resurrect a long-dead traditional approach.
Riesman understood that there were no clear divisions and that “There can be no such thing as a society or a person wholly dependent on tradition-direction, inner-direction, or other direction: each of these modes of conformity is universal, and the question is always one of the degree to which an individual or a social group places reliance on one or another of the three available mechanisms. And you can move from greater dependence on one to greater dependence on another during the course of your life.”
The real goal, Riesman seemed to say, was to become truly autonomous. Riesman defined the truly autonomous as “those who on the whole are capable of conforming to the behavioral norms of their society…but are free to choose whether to conform or not.”
The autonomous person has “clear cut, internalized goals,” but unlike the inner-directed, he chooses those goals for himself; his “goals, and the drive toward them, are rational and non-authoritarian and not compulsive.” He can cooperate with others like the other-directed, but “maintains the right of private judgment.” He’s involved in his world, but his “acceptance of social and political authority is always conditional. The autonomous stands outside and above the other types; he understands them, can reflect on them, and then can freely choose when and if to resist them or act in accordance with them. He is able to transcend his culture—by turns overruling it and joining in with it as he himself chooses in order to further his goals. The autonomous man is both idealistic and pragmatic.” (3)
Jiddu Krishnamurti knew all about this pull towards conformity, and the struggle of non-conformity, "you see our lives are so twisted with fear, so warped, corrupt, corrupted by fear, conscious or unconscious, and it seems to me that a mind that understands the nature of this destructive thing called fear must go into this question of conformity with its authority, with its sanctions, with its limitations, acceptances. And can the mind understand conformity, unravel it?...Can the mind go beyond all this, or is the mind not capable of it but can only function within the framework of the pattern of conformity?... And a mind that has gone into itself, delved into it - in the sense of meditation - will find out the limitations of conformity, without being told how to conform or not to conform." (4)
Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
We begin by a tip of the cap to a common martial arts friend who died recently. Then Kelly talks about his martial arts background and the evolution of his art, “Natural Spirit.” Rolling with a few folks – including his family members, and the constituents of timing, distance, and other such good stuff. Hang on people as a man with clear opinions, and the history/skills to back it up, tells you about his world.
"'Why can't you fly now, mother?''Because I am grown up, dearest. When people grow up they forget the way.'"J.M. Barrie
"Ratio omnia vincit("Reason defeats everything")Manilius, Astronomica
Is Chi Real?
Ask a believer, and they'll tell you that chi, ki, qi, prana, are merely different words from different cultures which all refer to the same concepts: energy, function, breath, wind, invisible life force.
Is Chi Real? Ben Serling seems to think so, "The answer is a resounding Yes…..It’s as real as that chair you’re sitting in."
"Chi is real," says Victor Shim, "but takes time to cultivate. No ego should be expressed. One should be in harmony with Heaven, Earth and one's true self. When one becomes a vessel that can accumulate the chi, permanent chi will be harnessed in the 'Dan Tien' (The field of elixir)."
"Qi is the difference between you and a fresh corpse," say the folks at Balanced Being Acupuncture. "It’s a somewhat macabre image, but look closer. The corpse is composed of the same things as you. You have blood, so does the corpse. Nerves, check. Carbohydrates for energy, check. On and on. You have all of the same parts. You are identical down to the chemical level. Still, it is obvious to everyone that there’s a difference between a corpse and a living person. We call that difference 'qi.'"
Bob Ellal tells us that "ancient cultures believed strongly that the universe pulsed with an unseen energy—and that it coursed through our bodies in well-defined channels that lead to our organ systems. Keep the channels open and flowing and good health prevails. Clogs in these meridians of energy lead to disease."
So, what do they have to say to people who have trouble believing in this invisible force? "To the 'Qi Doubters,' I leave with one final thought. Wind is invisible. When the leaves blow outside, what has you believe that it is caused by wind? Do you rely on faith, or is it just obvious to you?"
Do You Believe?
"A belief," says Niclas Berggren, "is the result of applying a criterion for assessing the truth of a fact claim on the basis of some empirical background material (things one has read, things one has heard, things one have seen). This criterion may or may not be chosen, and if it is chosen, it may be rational or irrational."
Berggren suggests that we each tend to follow a specific procedure in establishing when we believe something:
(1) We begin by adopting a set of criteria for determining whether fact claims (i.e., claims that a certain thing exists in some specified manner) are true or false.
(2) We are then presented with a fact claim.
(3) We evaluate the fact claim by using the criteria we have adopted for judging them, and in doing this, we make use of all available empirical knowledge pertaining to the fact claim in question.
(4) We arrive at a conviction - a belief - with regard to the level of truth of the fact claim presented to us. It is also possible not to have such a belief after steps (1)-(3), if we think that no convincing evidence has been presented.
Contrast this with what has been described as the 'scientific method':
(1) Science typically begins with an observation and description of a natural phenomenon.
(2) The observer then formulates an hypothesis to explain the phenomena.
(3) Using this tentative hypothesis, the observer establishes predictions about the existence of other phenomena, or quantitative predictions about the results of new observations.
(4) Observers perform a series of objective tests (experiments), and others can perform their own independent experiments in an attempt to validate or confirm those same results.
So the scientific method gathers knowledge by laying out a specific methodology for gathering, analyzing, and evaluating evidence to determine the validity of a fact claim.
Faith, on the other hand, accepts fact claims without, or even in opposition to, available or valid evidence. People, consciously or unconsciously, may continue to believe in something that is irrational and contrary to accepted reason or something that cannot be substantiated with evidence. People have the ability to override rationality.
The problem is that unless we are committed to rational, critical, scientific reasoning, we may end up believing something that is irrational. We may even have problems letting go of previous beliefs. "We never fully unlearn our mistaken intuitions about the world," says Jonah Lehrer in The New Yorker Magazine. "We just learn to ignore them."
Lehrer quotes Andrew Shtulman and colleagues about a recent study: "When students learn scientific theories that conflict with earlier, naive theories, what happens to the earlier theories? Our findings suggest that naive theories are suppressed by scientific theories but not supplanted by them."
Daisy Grewal, in Scientific American, says that we have two different ways of thinking: "System 1 thinking relies on shortcuts and other rules-of-thumb while System 2 relies on analytic thinking and tends to be slower and require more effort. Solving logical and analytical problems may require that we override our System 1 thinking processes in order to engage System 2."
Would chi, qi, ki, prana survive a scientific analysis. Not thus far, and it has become apparent that no additional analysis is needed. 'Healing' or obtaining improvements in how someone with an injury or illness 'feels' based on 'chi intervention' has about the same success rate as a placebo.
Being able to manipulate, alter, or stop the movements of another by the use of 'chi' has about the same success rate as that of hypnosis or suggestion.
Let me paraphrase English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley: "Chi is an hypothesis, and, as such, stands in need of proof: the onus probandi (burden of proof) rests on the chi-ist."
"'If you believe,' he shouted to them, 'clap your hands...' Many clapped. Some didn't. A few beasts hissed."J.M. Barrie
TALK NERDY TO ME PART 7
"A country that distrusts science is condemned to move straight back to medieval obscurantism."Marcelo Gleiser
"Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise."Thomas Gray
William Jennings Bryan was a celebrated political star in his time. He served in Congress, and he received the Democratic nomination for President on three occasions. But he is best known for being a fierce proponent of banning public schools from teaching the scientific theory of evolution, and for taking part in the famous "Scopes Monkey Trial" in Dayton, Tennessee in 1925.
Bryan took the stand at that trial, was battered by a series of challenging questions about science and faith from Clarence Darrow, and though it may be hard to believe, he ultimately prevailed in court.
Bryan, according to Austin Cline, feared that acceptance of evolution "would lead to a weakening of public morals and a growth of Social Darwinism." His extreme views on evolution could be summed up succinctly when he said, "If we have to give up either religion or education, we should give up education." He held the view that "there is no more reason to believe that man descended from some inferior animal than there is to believe that a stately mansion has descended from a small cottage."
He was adamant that parents should be able to control what their children were being taught in schools. "Parents," he said, "have a right to say that no teacher paid by their money shall rob their children of faith in God and send them back to their homes skeptical, or infidels, or agnostics, or atheists."
William Jennings Bryan was a 'denialist.' What's a denialist, you ask? "Denialism," according to Mark and Chris Hoofnagle, "is the employment of rhetorical tactics to give the appearance of argument or legitimate debate, when in actuality there is none. These false arguments are used when one has few or no facts to support one's viewpoint against a scientific consensus or against overwhelming evidence to the contrary."
There are people for instance who deny the overwhelming evidence from geology, physics, chemistry, anthropology, paleontology, and biology and genetics, claiming that the earth is less than 10,000 years old.
There are people who deny that humans have ever walked on the moon, claiming that NASA conspired to fake the six manned moon landings between 1969 and 1972, "Despite," as Phil Plait reminds us, "the return of hundreds of kilos of rocks, thousands of pictures, and independent verification and authentication from dozens of countries (some of which were and still are our enemies)."
Hundreds of books and articles (and even a famous Oliver Stone movie) deny the Warren Commission's findings which concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating JFK.
So-called 'truthers' deny that members of the terrorist group al-Qaeda brought down the World Trade Center on 9/11. Loren Collins, in his brilliant book Bullspotting: Finding Facts in the Age of Misinformation, lists "Anti-Startfordians (who) deny that William Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to him."
And, perhaps worst of all, are groups like the Institute for Historical Review who deny that the Holocaust occurred.
The Hoofnagles and Loren Collins have listed the following tactics used by denialists:
- Selectivity or 'cherry picking' of evidence
- Denying the veracity of the evidence ('it's fake')
- Denying the conclusiveness of the evidence ('it's inconclusive')
- Ignoring the evidence altogether
- The use of fake experts
- The accusation of conspiracy
- Impossible expectations or 'moving the goalposts'
- General fallacies of logic
- The use of emotionally appealing assertions
- The use of unscientific or pseudo scientific evidence
- The use of anecdotes and anomaly hunting
Robert Manning quoted Ernest Hemingway as saying, "Every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating inside him." Sagan called it a 'baloney detector kit,' or skeptical thinking, which he said boils down to being able to "construct and understand a reasoned argument" while at the same time being able to recognize "a fallacious or fraudulent argument."
The fact is, common sense is not always a good or reliable tool, and a rational way of thinking--the baloney/crap detection capability--must be learned and practiced. The scientific approach starts with the construction of a tentative hypothesis, collects, analyzes and evaluates evidence to test the hypothesis, and works diligently to draw an objective conclusion.
"Unfortunately," says Loren Collins, "the human mind doesn't operate this way automatically, and even when it tries, it is prone to making errors. Not only that, but the human mind is conditioned to make very particular kinds of errors when evaluating questions, and those errors lead to incorrect beliefs."
It's hard for me to believe that after the rapid and remarkable achievements of modern science--advancements in diagnosis, treatment and controlling disease; improvements in efficient, time-saving technology; rapid changes in telecommunication and travel; the invention of the computer and the accelerating changes in data sharing--an anti-science viewpoint has taken hold across much of the country.
"You know how many years separated the Wright brothers from the Apollo 11 moon landing?" asked Steve Miranda. "66 years."
When you hear the word 'scientist' what image comes to mind? See if this matches the image in your head:
"A scientist is a man who wears a white coat and works in a laboratory. He is elderly or middle-aged and wears glasses. He is small and stout or tall and thin...He may wear a beard, may be unshaven and unkempt. He may be stooped and tired. He is surrounded by equipment: test tubes, Bunsen burners, flasks and bottles, a jungle gym of blown glass tubes and weird machines with dials...He spends his days doing experiments. He pours chemicals from one test tube into another. He peers raptly through microscopes. He scans the heavens through a telescope. He experiments with plants and animals, cutting them apart, injecting serum into animals. He writes neatly in black notebooks."
The description above, based on the studies of Margaret Mead, was a composite of the shared images of American high school students who were asked to describe a scientist way back in 1957.
According to Christopher Frayling, author of Mad, Bad and Dangerous? The Scientist and the Cinema, these stereotypes from over 50 years ago are still very much alive and well. That same image of a scientist is still commonplace, and knowledge about scientists, the work they do and how they do it, and their contributions to our lives, is all a big mystery for most Americans.
Forget Maxwell's equations, the Pythagorean Theorem, or the fundamental theorem of calculus, E=MC², according to Frayling, is usually the only equation that people can name.
While most people can name lots of different movie stars, entertainers, and professional athletes, when you ask the average American to name as many scientists as they can, the name Albert Einstein is typically the first name out of their mouths, then maybe Isaac Newton, but that's usually about it.
Scientists in the movies are often absent-minded and quirky, and they are often portrayed as being quite mad. The cinema tells us that they are obsessed with their work, are antisocial, and are unsuccessful in their relationships with normal people. They are secretive, sinister, and scary. On the big screen they build bombs, work in underground installations, conspire with criminal organizations, create monsters, and are often involved in plots to take over the world.
Some of these views have helped to stoke an anti-science sentiment, and that sentiment appears to be not only growing but picking up steam and becoming worse. Susan Haack, in Defending Science, says that some people actually believe that the "supposed superiority of science to folk medicine, voodoo, astrology, etc., is an illusion fostered by the success of its imperialistic ambitions."
"In what passes for our first generation and more to have lived in the Space Age," according to luckylosing.com, "there is an abundance of not just unscientific, but viciously anti-scientific beliefs to choose from. So ubiquitous, so easily tolerated, so poorly regulated is this tsunami of irrationality that one cannot miss that we live now in a new age of hilarious ritual and superstition."
Rick Nauert reports that "the less people know about important complex issues such as the economy, energy consumption and the environment, the more they want to avoid becoming well-informed. Researchers also determined that the more urgent the issue, the more people want to remain unaware."
Charles Darwin said, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.” Bertrand Russell said something very similar: "One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision."
Interestingly there's a name for this: The Dunning–Kruger effect. Here's a definition: "The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled people make poor decisions and reach erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the meta cognitive ability to recognize their mistakes. The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their own abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority."
In the song 'Miracles,' the musical duo Insane Clown Posse talked about all of the wonders of the natural universe that they don't–but more importantly, don't WANT to–understand, asking the question, "F-ing magnets–how do they work?", later saying that the question was effectively rhetorical, because all scientists are "lying m.f.'s" (expletives deleted).
Talk show host and self-avowed 'cultural warrior' Bill O'Reilly said, "I’ll tell you why [religion is] not a scam. In my opinion--alright? Tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a mis-communication. You can’t explain that. You can’t explain why the tide goes in." He later said, "It takes more faith to not believe, and to think that this was all luck ... than it does to believe in a deity."
Doesn't know how the tides work? In the 21st century? Heck, he should've just Google'd it.
So what does it matter if decisions are based without consideration of the science behind issues? "The answer," says Elizabeth Sherman, "is that people suffer."
"When our leaders take these anti-science positions," said historian Steven Johnson, "or when they happily plead ignorance about some of the most important issues of our time – our energy use, global warming, genomics, all the revolutions unleashed by computer science — they’re not just being anti-intellectual. They’re also being un-American. The people who founded this country were serious science geeks. We should be celebrating this fact, not running away from it."
Graphic courtesy KZ Miller, Wyrd Goat PressWhat follows is from a draft of the upcoming Conflict Communications Manual:
The idea is simple. If you are in danger of dying—starving, thirsty, sick or about to be killed and eaten-- that is your highest priority. Until you have taken care of your immediate survival needs you don’t give a damn, and you don’t waste resources, on anything else.Once your immediate physical needs are taken care of, you can start thinking about your physical security. How do you arrange to have food and water tomorrow and next week? How do you get shelter to protect you from the elements and from predators? The next stage is the awkwardly titled “Belongingness” need. Humans in the wild are poorly adapted to live alone. Providing all of the physical security needs are easier with a group, with tasks divided among several people. This is compounded by the fact that human children cannot survive alone. We are born into a family group of some sort and spend the rest of our lives in groups. Not only are few humans fit to survive alone, most can’t even truly imagine being alone for any length of time.Almost as important as being in a group is knowing your place within that group. Maslow linked this to status in the group, being loved and respected. That’s nice, but the need is deeper and less logical than that. Even being low status, a pariah, is less stressful than being unsure of your status. Most people have felt this uncertainty joining a new job or new team or a new school. You’re on board, maybe even have a title and official status… but you need to see where you fit with the social groups, the unofficial status hierarchy. Again, fitting in somewhere is far more important than where you fit in.Lastly, according to Maslow, if all of these needs are fulfilled an individual can self-actualize. You can live your dreams. Follow your heart. Write poetry or sculpt or do philanthropic charity work. Or you can live out your serial killer fantasies.That’s important. Not everyone shares your dreams. Not all humans draw joy from the same things. The pattern (whether of Maslow’s hierarchy or the scripts we address later) are nearly universal. Their expression, however, can run the entire spectrum of human thought and feeling. If you give a man everything he needs, he will start looking for what he wants. What he (or she, men have no monopoly on this) wants may be to dominate or to destroy. You cannot simultaneously ignore this fact and deal with it.
You cannot simultaneously ignore problems and solve them.
Maslow’s Hierarchy creates a pyramid. The more vital something is to survival, the closer it is to the base.As a theory, it has some obvious holes. It implies that there could be no art without a steady food supply. There is no mechanism in the theory for either heroism or death poems. It also implies that these levels are something we work through from the base upwards when, in reality, our ancestors took care of the two lowest levels long ago and we are almost all born into a group.So, in my opinion, as a theory it’s crap. As a model, however, Maslow’s pyramid is extremely useful for anyone who deals with conflict. If someone has multiple problems, they will deal with the lowest level first. When a tiger is chewing on your leg, you really don’t give a damn about your relationship issues or unresolved maternal relationship problems.Conflicts stemming from different levels have different patterns.Survival Level. If you are drowning or under attack with a knife, the skills you need are unrelated to the skills you need for a promotional exam. The resources that your body and mind can bring to bear are also very different. They are completely different problems.Nothing you have learned about sales or mediation will help you hunt, grow or steal food. Conversely, if you go into mediation as a hunter or thief, it will probably not work out so well.For most people in the industrialized world, the bottom two levels of the pyramid have never been a concern. It has been almost a century since Americans had to worry about winter starvations or an epidemic killing thousands of people. It has been sixty years since Western Europeans have experienced invading armies.Security Level. Shelter, food, water. Also savings accounts, insurance and retirement plans. There is not a lot of fear at the security level in our society, but there is a lot of anxiety, and that drives some conflict. You can see Union/Management issues this way, as well as some arguments between spouses.When big problems, like starving or being eaten alive by bears fade, energy goes into other concerns.
The Social Levels (Belongingness and Esteem)For most people, the conflicts they have been exposed to originate exclusively from the social levels of the pyramid. People trying to work their way into a group (and others trying to prevent this), people bucking for position within the group and people breaking or disrespecting the rules of the group.Social conflict rarely leads to serious violence. It would be counterproductive, after all, to destroy a group you wanted to be part of or to create so much hate and fear that you couldn’t enjoy status. When it does lead to extreme violence, such as a workplace shooting, the shooter is aware that he will not be getting a membership invitation from the group afterwards.This is the one area where people have extensive experience with conflict, and it is easy to base beliefs on this experience. Status struggles at work to “that’s my seat” at the bar, the patterns are predictable. This is the level where ego gets in the way. Where it is not enough to solve the problem, but you need to get credit for solving the problem. Where you need to ‘teach a lesson’ or show who is boss.Generally, the Self Actualized conflicts should be the easiest to resolve because there are no survival or esteem issues at risk. As long as both people are working from that level. If you are writing in your free time after you have put in time at work (paycheck covers the survival needs) and are writing for joy, unconcerned about what others think (no esteem issues) there is no rational problem. And no one working from a similar, self-actualized level will have a problem.Unfortunately, someone who feels a need to dominate (social levels) will be driven to tell you to quit wasting your time and do something useful.There is an exception to this. Some of the most violent people in the world are fully self-actualized. They are not killing and raping out of need or desperation, nor are they committing violence out of some deep psychological pain. They kill or rape because they enjoy it.Kill or rape is an extreme example. Less extreme, there are people who destroy other people’s careers when they have no need and people who seduce and abandon who do it simply for pleasure.
Conflict or violence can be triggered from any level.
Nach dem unser Jubiläumslehrgang so ein Erfolg war und die eingeladenen Lehrer wieder bereit waren für eine Wiederholung, hier nun die Einladung zu der zweiten Auflage:
Carlos Molina, 8. Dan Shito-Ryu Karatedo,
Tjong Kit Sién, 7. Dan Goju-Ryu Karatedo
Lehrgangsort: Schulzentrum Nord, Schulenhörn 40, 25421 Pinneberg
Lehrgangszeiten: Samstag, 01.06.2013: 11:00 – 17:30 Uhr
Sonntag, 02.06.2013: 09:30 – 14:00 Uhr
Die Gruppen werden nach Graduierung gebildet und trainieren parallel
Ein Plan wird vor Ort ausgehängt
Lehrgangsinhalte: kampfkunstspezifische Gymnastik und Grundlagen des Karate, Kakie, Analysieren verschiedener Kata (Bunkai) aus unterschiedlichen Sichtweisen
Lehrgangsgebühr: beide Tage: 45 €, nur Samstag: 35 €, nur Sonntag: 15 €
Hinweis: Für eine bessere Planung wird um Voranmeldung unter Angabe von Name, Stilrichtung und Graduierung bis zum 25.05.2013 gebeten.
Ausrichter / Sanga-Dojo – Shito-Ryu Karate-Do Genbu-Kai im SC Pinneberg
Veranstalter: Wolfgang Schwalenberg, email@example.com
Haftung: Der Ausrichter / Veranstalter lehnt jede Haftung ab.
Carlos Molina, 8. Dan Shito-Ryu, begann 1965 in Guatemala im Alter von sechzehn Jahren Karate Do zu erlernen. 1966 nahm Soke Mabuni Kenei Carlos Molina als Schüler an, der seit dieser Zeit sein regelmäßiger und direkter Schüler ist. 1969 legte Carlos Molina die Prüfung zum ersten Dan unter der persönlichen Anleitung von Meister Mabuni ab, ebenso wie alle seine weiteren Prüfungen. Shihan Molina ist Gründungsmitglied und Generalsekretär der Union Shito-Ryu Europa. Er ist Träger des 8. Dans und verfügt über eine Lehrbefähigung des Shito Ryu von Soke Mabuni Kenei persönlich. Ihm wurde aufgrund seiner langjährigen intensiven Lehrer-Schüler-Beziehung der Status eines Uchi Deshi, eines direkten Schülers der inneren Überlieferungslinie, von Soke Mabuni Kenei verliehen.
Tjong Kit Sién, 7. Dan Goju-Ryu, begann im Alter von 13 Jahren mit dem Studium der Kampfkünste bei der chinesischen Familie Chia in Jakarta, Indonesien. Unter Sifu Chia San Fei – welcher in der Chia-Familie für die Entwicklung neuer Techniken verantwortlich war – erlernte Tjong Kit Sién Okinawa Goju-Ryu, Shuaijiou (Sambo/Ringen) und verschiedene Waffentechniken. Von der älteren Schwester Sifu Chia Liu Yuan – Hüterin der Tradition innerhalb der Chia-Familie – erlernte er die taoistischen Atmungs- und Heilungsmethoden sowie die vertieften Techniken Qinnajui/Tuite und Tuisou/Kakie.
One example that may be useful is bullying. If my friend wants to go to fast food and I drive to a nice restaurant instead, is it bullying? I'm taking charge, disregarding wishes, showing that my desires are more important than his or hers, dominating. THAT IS ALL IN THERE. Is it bullying? Does your assessment change if I pay? If I insist on splitting the check even though I chose? If I say I want things my way? If I don't say it? Do I need to say a mean thing? What if I know the only reason my friend wanted fast food was for economy and I'm trying to be nice? Is paternalistic dominance any different than the other kind?
And, quick experiment but I doubt if one person in ten is honest enough to truly answer the question-- if we reversed the initial premise and I force us to go to fast food, do your political sensibilities around fast food make that choice worse and therefor more bullying than the other way? Is it not bullying if it is "for their own good?" And isn't that self-righteous bullying the most dangerous of all?
Point is, no two people will have the exact same line on what constitutes what behavior. And no person will be completely consistent either.
Conflict is natural and endemic. It will never, ever go away. Tropical plants poison and strangle each other for sunlight. No two people will ever agree on 'best.' If we want the same concrete things, we will compete for them. If we want different abstract ideas, we will compete there as well. It would take an infinite amount of resources to make concrete competition go away and an insect-like hive mind to make the abstract competition go away.
And that creates conflict. And almost every aspect of human behavior and language, on some level, is about managing conflict.
So where does conflict become violence? My answer would not be yours. Marc likes using a dictionary definition just to show that the definition of 'violence' is so broad as to be meaningless. A violent emotion, a violent storm, a violent outburst, a violent assault. In practice, I find that people define violence as conflict that scares them or really offends them.
My example-- there are acts of physical force that I don't find violent. Spin the guy, shove him against the wall and cuff him. I see no violence in that. I know that other people do. Spin the guy, sweep his legs out from under him and cuff him, I see a glimmer of tiny violence in the takedown, but it's borderline. Yet I see a huge amount of violence in grooming a child to be a victim personality. In that entire process there might not be even a harsh word... but I see it as profoundly violent.
Everyone will see and feel that line in a different place. Don't sweat it.
For our purposes, this is why we need to think about this: In what follows we will be talking about the motivations and patterns of beatings, assaults, muggings, rape and murder. But the exact same patterns will show up in other kinds of conflict that never rise to the physical level. A violent group will punish a member who betrays with an orgy of violence, with all of the loyal members participating. It is the exact same pattern as a group of high school girls starting a gossip/character assassination campaign because one of them started dating the clique leader's ex.
Don't think of violence as exotic. It is just more magnified. The patterns of conflict change very little even with extremes of expression, you just have to look at the pattern.
So, you DO have experience. Just at a different magnification. Take any examples or categories I give and look for the corollaries in your life.
And, second, as a favor-- just because something follows the pattern, please don't try to pretend that they are equivalent. Being bullied is not the same as being murdered, words do not cut like knives. This is something that people cling to in order to make their personal lives and experience seem more special. That's a trap. Whenever possible, personally, I take a step back and realize how very simple and comparatively easy my life has been.
So, this is lesson zero. Which means an introduction.
The class is going to cover different types of violence. The underlying drives of the different types, the patterns and some hints on avoidance, prevention and de-escalation. At the end of the class you should be able to tell them apart. It should also point out some common blindspots.
Most of the material isn't new, but it is spread out. I'll be drawing from sections of "Facing Violence" "Violence: AWriter's Guide" a series of articles I did for Concealed Carry magazine, and the Conflict Communications material. And if it comes together...
It won't be comprehensive. For two reasons. First, the subject is vast and my brain and experience are both limited. Second, this is the blog, not how I make a living, so it will not be my first writing priority*. Going into advice, specific strategies... that would make my poor little typing fingers (I only have two, my left index and right middle finger) very tired. I'll try to answer relevant questions unless it starts to take up too much time.
And there might be homework. Haven't decided yet.
*Current writing project (won't be long enough for a real book, so expect an e-book) is about how to teach cops.
Added material. Occurred to me that I might lose the bar napkin the lesson plan is written on, so just so I don't forget (and, of course, subject to change) the basic lesson plan:
Lesson 1: Conflict vs. Violence
2: The first underlying model
2.1: The second underlying model
3: Survival Violence
4: Social Violence Overview
9: Asocial Overview
10: Resource Predators
11: Process Predators
12: ID of Danger
12.1 Adrenaline signs, skilled and unskilled
12.2 Distinguishing social and asocial
12.3 Special cases- Cyclic violence and both date rape dynamics
13 Comfort Levels (may go earlier in the lesson plan)
"No cutlery is safe, when Uri’s in town!" Claus Larsen
I am amazed by how many of my martial arts acquaintances believe in mind over matter. You would think that they, of all people, would know better. They work so very hard to develop their skills, practicing techniques over and over again to improve efficiency, to increase speed, and to obtain power. They know Newton's F=ma equation quite well, understanding instinctively that force is required to move matter around. They use a kick, a punch, a take down, or a joint lock, and they see an immediate reaction from an opponent. With years of sweat equity they perfect their techniques, and they are able to move with grace, agility and precision.
And yet so many of them believe there is something more to it than that. They seem to think that there is an unlimited power source available to us all. Something that is intangible and immeasurable, and yet, as Michael Winn of the Healing Tao University declares it, "the most abundant 'substance' in the universe,' something that is real "beyond any doubt."
What is this power of which they speak? Chi, qi, ki or prana.
With specialized exercises, they tell you, such as deep breathing, focused concentration and meditation along with unique movements, one can tap into this vast, mysterious power source. Once plugged in you can apparently move people from a distance, stop their attacks without physical effort, or knock them out with minimal effort using light-touch, sequential-touch, or even no-touch techniques. With this power source you can even heal yourself or others from emotional and even physical maladies.
And it's not just for fighting. Chi often forms the basis of what is now called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Homeopathy, acupuncture, EFT/Tapping, reiki, or other modes of 'energy healing.'
I have two long-time martial arts friends who no longer teach anything having to do with fighting or self defense. Both now use their 'chi' to perform healing and 'energy work' for their clients.
So there's fighting, there's healing, and apparently with enough training, and with years of hard effort, you just might even be able to bend a spoon.
Famous celebrity 'psychic,' Uri Geller, or as he describes himself, "one of the world's most investigated and celebrated mystifiers," has made numerous television appearances in his career. To demonstrate his mental powers he routinely bends spoons, a power he claims which came to him when he was only five years old.
But as one skeptic put it, "nearly every one of our household spoons is bent and what I would like to see is someone who can straighten them, with his mind or with anything for that matter."
So is this chi fighting force, or healing power, or spoon bending ability testable according to scientific protocol?
Well, claimants don't often give a hoot whether it's science. As 'Erica Awakening' tells us, "...you may have noticed that science changes its mind about the 'truth' of the world on a regular basis...as far as I can tell, 'science' can't make up its mind about anything." Her advice to those who would want to go to the trouble of invoking science, or testing, or standards, or clinical trials: "Around here, we talk about miracles a lot, and I want to make something abundantly clear: If you want to make miracles a way of life, you must let go of science. Yes, you heard me right."
Science for her is "unreliable hogwash," "ego-based limiting beliefs that block miracles from happening." The answers are not 'out there.' No sir, the answers lie within.
Even double blind experiments aren't convincing because, as she states it, "'double-blind' is merely an "illusion of separation, and illusions of separation are not compatible with miracles."
"While there are certainly many things that modern science does not understand," says Sean Carroll, "there are also many things that it does understand, and those things simply do not allow for telekinesis, telepathy, etc." One might add chi there as well.
About spoon bending, Carroll says, "Spoons are made of atoms, and we know what atoms are made of — electrons bound by photons to an atomic nucleus, which in turn consists of protons and neutrons, which in turn are made of quarks held together by gluons. Five species of particles total: up and down quarks, gluons, photons, electrons. That’s it. We are done. The deep lesson is that, although science doesn’t know everything, it’s not “anything goes,” either. There are well-defined regimes of physical phenomena where we do know how things work, full stop. The place to look for new and surprising phenomena is outside those regimes. You don’t need to set up elaborate double-blind protocols to pass judgment on the abilities of purported psychics. Our knowledge of the laws of physics rules them out. Speculations to the contrary are not the provenance of bold visionaries, they are the dreams of crackpots."
Chi is a faith-based, imaginary 'force.' It does not exist. There are those who now wish to imply that chi is nothing more than breath, 'energy,' life force, or the natural electromagnetic field of the human biological system. I can accept this benign definition. But trying to say that it can somehow be 'cultivated,' or 'harnessed,' or used in some way that is outside of the realm of science is absurd.
Many fields, including social work, public health, psychology, and counseling have begun to follow the lead of medicine and are now turning to science-based or evidence-based practice (EBP).
Here, is a deﬁnition of EBP that I'd like to recommend:
Accepting the conditional or provisional (i.e., changing, updating, subject to challenge) nature of science, and committed to a method of critical thinking and reasoning, use the results of compelling data from peer-reviewed tests, trials, research, and experimentation, commit to the selection of techniques and methodologies which have evidence of effectiveness; strive to avoid what Sean Carroll calls "sloppy research, unreliable testimony, confirmation bias, and wishful thinking;" continue to accumulate objective, empirical evidence; and continuously, vigorously and systematically monitor and evaluate techniques and methodology.
It was frustrating for me. Knee brace, cane and strict orders not to play. I love rolling with good people. Getting into the toilet stalls and practicing environmental fighting. Doing the mass brawl in the concrete fire escape stairwell. So I played a little. Don't tell my doctor. And had a great time. But there are a few things, like fighting, martial sports, football and naked dancing that were never meant to be spectator sports. The fun is in playing, not watching.
Still, for career reasons it's good to know that I can teach even when I'm crippled up. That the message still get through. Some good feedback.
Some repeats from last year including one who'd been at Edinburgh.
And, as always, the talk and camaraderie at the pub. And anyone who says English food is terrible really needs to try gammon. And bacon tomato sandwiches. And hunter's pie. And their pub snack pork rinds are way more like New Orleans cracklin's than grocery store chicharrones. I'll have to try to bring some back if DHS will let a packaged meat product through.
Rambling. Karen and Garry are wonderful hosts and good people. Watching them banter really makes me miss K. Got to see John again and Mick and Mike and Mike, all of whom left an impression last year.
The eight hour time difference is exactly wrong for calling home. K is leaving for work as the seminar winds up; I'll be asleep when she gets home. Slight possibility she will still be awake if I get up early enough in the morning. The twelve hour difference in Iraq actually made calling much easier.
A&T-- covered One-step, seeing and efficient movement; Context of self-defense (the '7' talk); blindfolded infighting; SD Law (shortened version, I'm not in the US); power generation, power stealing and power conservation; Violence Dynamics; Counter-assault; Ground movement; ethics and application of pain; striking from the ground; dynamic fighting; using walls and geometry; environmental fighting; groups; fighting to the goal. Plus a debrief each day. And the end of class ritual.
Lots of thinking. Looked like some lightbulbs went off.
Next up: Edinburgh. Unless someone wants to do something during the weekdays.
TALK NERDY TO ME--PART 6
Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.Richard Feynman
I think it is safe to say that no one understands Quantum Mechanics.
As the story goes the Nobel Prize winning physicist Niels Bohr once explained to a friend why he had a horseshoe hung up over the door of his summer home: "Of course I am not superstitious. I don't believe that a horseshoe brings good luck. But I'm told it works even if you don't believe it."
The opposite, I guess, can also be said...just because you believe in something, doesn't mean that it exists.
But you could also say that just because you don't understand something, doesn't mean that it doesn't work.
Confused already? Why heck, I'm just getting started.
It's a Small Small World
Quantum mechanics is cutting edge science. It is challenging, fascinating, bewildering, and mind blowing. Let's face it, it's just plain weird.
Quantum physics, or Quantum Mechanics (QM), or Quantum Electrodynamics (QED), is an extremely tough scientific concept to grasp. Bohr was one of the scientists who contributed to our understanding of the structure of the atom and to the scientific field of quantum physics. But it was Bohr himself who said, "Those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it."
Famed physics professor Richard Feynman used to lecture his undergraduates saying, "It is my task to convince you not to turn away because you don't understand it. You see my (graduate) physics students don't understand it...That is because I don't understand it. Nobody does."
"No matter how well the concepts are explained," says Raphael Rosen, "there is still something profoundly bizarre and inexplicable about the laws that govern the quantum world."
But as Eliezer Yudkowsky reminds us, "Confusion exists in our models of the world, not in the world itself."
Turns out we are big beings living in a large-scale world, moving around in a huge solar system, in an even more immense galaxy, in a giant cluster of galaxies, in a colossal super cluster of clusters, in an unimaginably big (and rapidly expanding) universe.
And yet every single thing in this universe--including you and me--is made up of unbelievably small parts: Atoms.
The concept of the atom is not new...even the ancient Greeks understood that matter was made of units or portions. But it is the modern field of QM and the theory of relativity, and especially the discoveries of the late 20th century, which have begun to unravel the mysteries of what's going on at the level of the very very small.
How small, you ask? Well, an atom is approximately 0.0000001 of a millimeter in diameter. Marcus Chown has estimated that "it would take about 10 million of them laid end to end to span the full stop at the end of this sentence."
But it gets smaller. The atom is made up of three particles: protons, electrons and neutrons, and Kenneth Ford says, "A hundred thousand protons, if they could be lined up in a row, would stretch only across one atom." But that's not the end of the line. Ford says that "Protons and neutrons are composite particles containing quarks and gluons."
And their tiny size is not the weirdest part. What's really strange is the behavior of these particles. In the big, day to day world in which we live our lives--the classical physics world--most things are fairly predictable. We know how things work. We can observe them, weigh them, measure them, pin-pointing their location, even in movement, with tremendous accuracy. We can predict that if something is traveling at such and such a speed in such and such a direction that it'll be at point X at a specific time.
But at the atomic and subatomic level, it's a world of uncertainties, where scientists can only talk vaguely about probabilities. It is what Ford calls a "disconnect between common sense and quantum sense."
Tom Stoppard described an electron orbiting the nucleus at the center of an atom like this: "Make a fist, and if your fist is as big as the nucleus of an atom, then the atom is as big as St Paul's, and if it happens to be a hydrogen atom, then it has a single electron flitting about like a moth in an empty cathedral, now by the dome, now by the altar."
No wonder the hippie movement embraced quantum physics.
I read Fritjof Capra's book The Tao of Physics in one weekend in the late 70s. At the time I was completely awed by Capra's ability to parallel Eastern mysticism and modern physics. Capra was, as David Kaiser describes him, "a hardworking quantum physicist by day, tuned-in hippie by night." He attended radical political meetings, anti-war demonstrations, rock festivals, and was part of the psychedelic California counterculture world of the 60s. He discovered Eastern religions, the lectures of Alan Watts, and the mystical aspects of Buddhism and Taoism.
As Capra described it, he was on a beach in the summer of 69, when he had an amazing, trance-like experience. Kaiser says that the "physical process all around (Capra) took on a new immediacy: the vibrations of atoms and molecules in the sand, rocks, and water; the showers of high-energy rays striking the atmosphere from outer space; all these were more than the formulas and graphs he had studied in the classroom. He felt them in a new, visceral way."
Capra began to think of the interconnectedness of all things...what he called "the inseparable, interacting, and ever-moving components," of existence.
The timing couldn't have been better. The 60s Zeitgeist, (the spirit, attitude, or general outlook of a specific time or period), included the shirking off of all things conventional and restrictive, the willingness to experiment with mind-altering drugs, the sense of freedom from entrenched, Orthodox Western religion, values and philosophy, and the growing New Age movement. It would have been easy to adopt an anti-science viewpoint...after all it had not been that long since the Cuban Missile Crisis and the fear of global nuclear war and the threat of total annihilation, and science was being used to develop weapons in the very unpopular Vietnam War.
So here was someone trained in this exotic quantum mechanics feild who was able to integrate "the abstract, rational worldview of science with the immediate, feeling-oriented vision of the mystic." Capra's book resonated with those in the counterculture, many of whom sought mystic experiences, and the ultimate reality.
Capra said, "The most important characteristic of the Eastern world view--one could almost say the essence of it--is the awareness of the unity and mutual interrelation of all things and events, the experience of all phenomena in the world as manifestations of the same reality."
Capra equated the scientist's use of experiments with the mystic's use of experiences to obtain a direct insight into the nature of reality. He saw these as, Robert Clifton describes it, as "complementary ways of knowing." In "Capra on Eastern Mysticism and Modern Physics: A Critique", Clifton says that Capra saw science and mysticism as "two complementary manifestations of the human mind: the rational and intuitive faculties." Capra thought in terms of two distinct but equal disciplines both after knowledge of a holistic world.
Capra had no problem comparing a mystic's success in reaching a higher plane of consciousness with Einstein's view of a "relativistic space-time reality."
This idea took root. Now it's not uncommon for people in the New Age movement to discuss "wave theory" this and "packet theory" that. Because of the difficulties most people have in grasping the advanced mathematics behind QM, they simply cull words and phrases, such as the 'uncertainty principle' from QM to defend "quantum healing," describe "quantum potential," or somehow try to make us believe that what goes on at the small-scale, sub-atomic level applies to the large-scale, macroscopic world.
They use words like 'consciousness' or 'energy' in vague, unscientific ways and then try to make a link to quantum mechanics. They believe that physically tapping on certain parts of one's body can heal emotional and physical maladies. (It even works in proxy!). They believe that merely taping the word 'love' to a bottle of water can make the chilled water form beautiful crystals (as compared to the not so lovely crystals formed when words like 'hate' are used). They believe that 'chi,' the body's 'energy' or 'life-force' can be strengthened and manipulated to affect others from a distance--to heal someone or to stop him dead in his tracks.
Out-of-body experiences, telekinesis, ESP, chi healing, or what Skeptico says are "distortions of quantum physics to support a mystical viewpoint," are examples of what Murray Gell-Mann called "quantum flapdoodle."
Next time, we'll look at the the B.S. 'science' behind some of the claims of the proponents of this quantum flapdoodle.
I absolutely read it as "Little Snipers."
Wouldn't that be fun?
"Tommy, I saw you move. It's only been an hour."
"Sarah, I can hear you breathing. You aren't quiet enough."
"No, Billy, you can't go to the restroom. That's what your empty canteen is for."
Easiest, quietest job with kids ever. The gift shop would have little ghillie suits for toddlers. Of course, you could never take them on a walk in the park.
When my kids were little we would sometimes play a game I learned from my parents-- Hide and Don't Seek. I'd send them to hide and remind them to be extra still and extra quiet and that I would not only find them but stalk them silently. Then I would get done whatever job I needed the peace and quiet for. After that I would go look. "You guys did so good! It took me almost an hour to find you!"
I was not a good father.
My Interview with the Legendary Father of Modern Pankration: Jim Arvanitis
One of my favorite movies when I was a kid was the 1962 film, "The 300 Spartans." The idea of an elite group of soldiers going up against overwhelming odds fired my imagination.
I started doing as much reading as possible on the subject, and I even discovered that the Spartans competed in an ancient hand-to-hand combat art called "Pankration."
Pankration is even mentioned in the Bible. Are you familiar with the New Testament verse, 1 Corinthians 9:26? Paul says: "That is the way I run, with a clear goal in mind. That is the way I fight, not like someone shadow boxing." (International Standard Version)
According to fatherdave.org, "The 'boxing' St. Paul would have been familiar with was that practiced in the ancient Pankration - the greatest of the sporting contests of the ancient Greeks. The traditional Pankration was not a sport for women and children. It was designed for hard men who were just a little bit crazy. The Pankration, in St. Paul's time, was the final climactic event in the early Olympic games. The Games used to conclude with this event - featuring two men tearing each other to pieces in center ring.
"Legend has it that when Ulysses returned from the Trojan wars his own mother couldn't recognize him...but when a Pankration champion returned from the Olympic games, his own dog couldn't recognize him."
In the 70s I started hearing about a martial artist who was researching and revitalizing this ancient art of Pankration. His name is Jim Arvanitis, and I read about him in Black Belt Magazine. I bought his book, Mu Tau: The Modern Greek Karate, which has since become a prized collector's item.
Here's what Amazon.com has to say about the author:
Demitrios "Jim" Arvanitis is world recognized as Greek pankration's "Renaissance man." The Greek-American has made it his life's work to rebuild the remnants of the ancient combat sport from its ashes.
Among the elite pioneers of mixed martial arts, Arvanitis cross-trained in a number of different styles before it was an accepted practice. Opposing the theory that martial arts originated in Asia, Arvanitis began an odyssey to discover the combat roots of his ancestors before he was twenty years old. From the ancient pankration, he carefully analyzed the descriptions of Greece's early writers, and the paintings and sculptures of its most influential artists. These sources became his "blueprint" in resurrecting pankration into a modern form. It was Arvanitis alone who would introduce it to mainstream martial arts as early as 1970 and popularize it throughout the world in the years that followed.
Arvanitis has received myriad awards and has been honored by numerous organizations. In 2001 he was nominated by his former home state of New Hampshire as its "Athlete of the Century", and in 2006 was given "Living Legend" status by his fellow grandmasters in the World Head of Family Sokeship Council. Black Belt magazine inducted him into their elite Hall of Fame as "Instructor of the Year" in 2009. He was also nominated into Martial Arts History Museum in 2010. In addition to his contributions to the martial arts world, Jim is also a former boxing and wrestling champion, and a multiple world record holder for thumb pushups.
Highly respected for his teaching prowess, Arvanitis opened the first pankration palaistra (school) in 1972 and has also conducted seminars in many parts of the world. His students include boxers, wrestlers, martial artists from various styles, professional bodyguards and stuntmen, law enforcement personnel, and military special forces. Jim continues to teach small classes and privately, and has new book and video projects in the works. Specializing in both combat sport and reality street-defense applications, many seek him out for his effective weapons defenses and handgun disarming techniques.Today, Jim Arvanitis is legendary for his inspiring list of achievements and by beating the odds in restoring a legacy from antiquity. Through his athletic feats, books, videos, hundreds of television appearances, magazine articles and radio interviews, Arvanitis has truly earned the title of "Father of Modern Pankration."
My Interview with the Legendary Father of Modern Pankration: Jim Arvanitis
Ron Goin: You had one of the first NHB/MMA approaches I'd ever seen...was that your intent from the beginning?
Jim Arvanitis: There were two reasons for my efforts. First it was to rebuild the lost legacy of my ancestors whose contributions to martial arts were pretty much non-existent back in the day. In so doing, I used the remnants of antiquity as my “blueprint” in its restoration. The original pankration dates back to 648 B.C. and was as close to a no-holds-barred combat competition as you can get. So it was not that I claimed to have created anything new; I was simply reconstructing something extremely old but with new ideas and technology. So with that said MMA is hardly a novel concept.
Secondly, I was compelled to forge a new path in the self-defense community. I felt there were better ways to prepare for actual combat than what I had observed in the karate and kung-fu styles that were so popular at that time.
RG: Why do people still hang on to their own less-effective systems? Is there anything similar to 'kata' in your program?
JA: Let me say that I find value in ALL styles, systems, or methods. Each has something unique to offer to the vast pool of martial arts knowledge. At the same time, some feel a sense of security in their chosen styles. It is their personal choice to stick to what they have learned and whatever fits their own beliefs, similar to religion. That’s the nature of conformity, and I would venture to say that many are more comfortable clinging to tradition than facing change. But in my humble opinion, use whatever works for you.
There are no traditional Asian types of training such as “kata” in my curriculum. Nor is anything of that sort mentioned in ancient literature on pankration. Everything is based on adaptability and interaction with a live opponent. For me, an art should encourage creativity and freedom of expression, not robotic memorized drills that needlessly tend to squelch them.
RG: Is it true that you 'tested' your skills in street-fights? If so, can you give us examples of techniques/skills that failed during these tests? How did you determine what to retain and what to get rid of?
JA: Once I discontinued competing in boxing and wrestling, the street became my “arena” for testing my evolving theories. I had my fair share of scrapes, some including multiple assailants, weapons, and on hard concrete rather than cushy padded mats. I lived near some rough areas in the old days so fights seemed to erupt out of nowhere. This is how noted journalist and firearms authority Massad Ayoob first “discovered” me. He was searching for a martial artist with real combat experience for magazine articles he was working on. I guess my reputation preceded me, and once we met it opened his eyes to the fact that what I was doing was like nothing else out there at the time.
Insofar as what worked and what failed I must say that the basic skills were always the most reliable. But technique was not enough; it required street-savvy, going on the offensive, being ready for any situation, and being fit. And yes … the stories of my biting and gouging in one brawl are also valid. In some battles I was outweighed by 70 pounds and pinned on my back, so these tactics were often necessary to obtain a better position. I never had any remorse for those I fought nor was the term “dirty fighting” in my vocabulary. I also learned that fancy stuff, like high kicks and spinning moves, was useless in a fast exchange.
I should also add that I may have never lost a fight in the physical sense, but I did lose thousands of dollars due to legal cases brought against me. Some of my challenge matches against other “tough guys” and so-called unbeatable martial artists ended up in court. So, ultimately, it was an inevitable part of the learning process but it was, at times, a necessary evil.
RG: Do you/did you research other martial arts styles during your research? Can you tell us about that process?
JA: My base arts are derived from my actual studies: Western boxing and muay-Thai for standup, and wrestling and hardcore judo for my ground game. I also extracted some useful material from boxe Francaise savate. These systems I found provided the best mix that could be synchronized to flow together. Of course, I researched many other variables not only of fighting but applicable to strength and conditioning as well, such as kinesiology and scientific body mechanics. I wanted to make sure I understood how to get optimal results from my body to impart the most damage to an opponent regardless of his size.
From my experiences I also dissected the anatomy of a street-fight. It brought into play an entirely new set of tactics and principles, as well as techniques that these combat sports did not permit. Add to this my research of the Spartans and their anything-goes attitude toward pankration. They ceased competing in Olympic pankration as it banned biting and gouging, which the Spartan hoplites (foot soldiers) freely employed on the battlefield once their weapons were lost. They also allowed them in their own local matches.
RG: What is the proportion of striking arts compared to grappling arts in your system?
JA: It all depends on the environment: if it’s a street-fight I advise more standup. Being on the ground and attempting submission holds is risky due to the probability of concealed weapons and multiple attackers. Your visual awareness is also compromised on the ground.
If it’s one-on-one, however, then I put more emphasis on an equal balance of striking and grappling. This is challenging for many students as there is also that tendency of “specializing” as either a striker or grappler. Another important consideration here is your opponent. You should seek a skills advantage and exploit his weaknesses.
RG: How does your grappling differ from catch wrestling, BJJ, judo?
JA: There are many similarities since I trained with catch wrestlers who performed in the old WWF (World Wrestling Federation). I also studied hardcore judo modeled after the kosen style which specialized in newaza techniques (ground submissions). Some of the moves were modified for combat use, while others were left as they were. The grappling aspect differs in the sense that, like the classic pankration, much of it incorporates strikes from both the top control position as well as from one’s back. These are designed to either knock the opponent senseless from a dominant position or set up a finishing joint lock, choke, or crank.
RG: Did the ancient gladiators use Pankration-type techniques? Was there an empty-hand component to gladiatorial combat, or was it always weapons based?
JA: I gather by this you mean during the Imperial Period. There was no such thing as “gladiators” in ancient Greece. However, prior to the Fifth Century B.C. there were mock duels in local festivals known as hoplomachia. The participants wore full armor and held back to a degree on their killing blows with their spear and sword.
In the beginning, the Roman Games emulated those of Greece although soon thereafter, gladiatorial matches became all the rage among the crowds. Unarmed skills were replaced with weaponry such as the brutal caestus (spiked glove) and a variety of blades. The aesthetics of Greek combat were replaced by an increase in blood and gore.
RG: In ancient Olympic competition, did boxers, wrestlers and pankratiasts have any overlap...were there individuals who did 2 or more events?
JA: Pankratiasts often competed in more than one sport at the Olympics. There are nine recorded occurrences of athletes that attained victory in two combat contests, seven of which were victorious in wrestling and pankration, and two others having won the boxing and pankration events. No one, however, was able to ever win both the boxing crown and that of pankration in the same Olympiad.
Since all of the Olympian athletes trained within the same facilities and shared similar workout regimens it was not uncommon for pankratiasts to try their hand at a non-combat sport competition. Theagenes, for example, entered in the dolichos, the long distance run of over 3 miles. Another champion pankratiast, Antiochus, won the pentathlon event (which combined sprinting, the long jump, the javelin and discus throw, and wrestling) in the Nemean and Isthmian Games.
RG: I was a huge fan of your work going back to the 70s, and your book is a prized possession of mine. Have you made many changes to your program since its inception?
JA: This was my first book, and I am quite fond of it. It took me close to seven years to complete it. I see that it’s now a collector’s item selling on amazon for nearly $1,400. Yikes!! Naturally some changes have been made to my curriculum especially in the area of weapons defenses and certain techniques and methods of applying them. I feel I am a progressive thinker, a lifelong learner, so I am always exploring new ways and means as they relate to personal combat. But the pillars of my art remain much the same as from the outset… total fighting freedom, functional efficiency, adaptability, and combat realism.
RG: Fitness has always been a huge aspect of your art...how did that come about? Is top conditioning a prerequisite to train, or is it something that comes with the training?
JA: I have always been an athlete since my youth and my dad influenced me in that direction. I set high school records for track, push ups and pull ups in exercise classes, and city records for basketball. In one game I scored 68 points. My dad instilled in my brother (who is a regional golf champion) and myself ethnic pride, being of Spartan descent. Training is my lifestyle and I have done it religiously since then to the present day. You can have all the natural physical gifts possible but unless you’re in top condition, you will never reach your full potential. This is the rationale behind my various thumb push up feats and world records.
RG: You never did much advertising or seminars...why is that?
JA: Teaching always was secondary to my own personal training. When I do teach I concentrate more on quality rather than quantity in my classes. I have always been extremely selective and only find it rewarding to work with those who either have previous experience in a contact sport or martial art, or those possessing the right attitude to learn.
Marketing my program was never really my first interest. I stopped teaching publicly in 1992 as I was contracted to train Special Forces for Operation Desert Storm. After that I preferred private lessons and short-term military courses, making instructional videos, and writing books more than traveling to conduct seminars or run a school.
RG: Are weapons skills a part of your program?
JA: Yes in my pammachon (high-risk conflict resolution) component I teach defenses against impact and edged weapons, and firearms. This is an absolute must for preparing the student to face the realities of today’s hostile environment. You’re far more likely to face these types of weapons than a katana sword out of feudal Japan. My most recent book with Paladin Press, “Battlefield Pankration: Lethal Personal Combat for the Street”, contains much material on this aspect.
RG: What's keeping Pankration out of the modern Olympics? It seems that it should be right up there with all of the ancient sports!
JA: In the late 1990s when Athens was named the host site for the 2004 Olympics, a movement by the karate leaders there was undertaken to return pankration as a medal event. Before this there was no pankration in Greece. However, it failed to gain entry by a decision of the IOC. The Olympics are primarily concerned with sportsmanship and safety, and combat sports are under scrutiny as a result. For any form of mixed fighting to be allowed as an Olympic event it would have to carry an inordinate set of rules that would hardly resemble the true pankration.
RG: How does Pankration competition differ from UFC/Pride etc? Would the rules need to change if the sport became an Olympic sport?
JA: In my own brand of pankration I emphasize sparring with contact and protective gear. There are three variants: ano machia (standup with striking, take downs, throws but no ground fighting); kato machia (ground fighting that starts from the clinch but also allows strikes on the ground); and the complete contest itself (called pliris agon). I do not sponsor my own competitions but I do support tournaments held in Greece. Their brand of pankration (pangration athlima) is a much safer contest than the UFC or Pride. This is because the primary objective of the Greek sports governing body is to promote an Olympic-based version of mixed fighting. It is scored on points and no head contact is allowed. Nor are leg kicks, elbows, and ground and pound. In its current state it looks like amateur MMA, a combination of karate and jiu-jitsu. Even with these safeguards, pankration has yet to find acceptance as an official Olympic event.
RG: How much do you think Western arts such as Pankration influenced Eastern martial arts?
JA: This has been a source of contention among both martial artists and historians alike for many years. It’s theorized that the conquests of Alexander the Great into the subcontinent may have influenced the development of Asian martial arts. While some tend to agree, others do not. The record shows that Alexander was a critic of pankration’s usefulness in war. At the same time, he was an ardent fan of the Games.
RG: How important are concessions/submissions to Pankration?
JA: They’re important for one-on-one combat, as in a sporting competition or sparring. However, they’re less significant in a street brawl. Subs are more complex to apply than strikes and there is no room for anything complicated when your life is on the line. Chokes, for instance, require the use of two arms and both will be needed to stave off more than one opponent.
RG: What about small joint locks?
JA: Absolutely … I teach and advocate small joint locks, such as finger-bending, in my art. Like gouging, shredding, biting, head-butting, hair-pulling, etc. they’re part of the totality concept. My curriculum tends to encompass anything needed to prevail, and function always takes precedence over form or formality.
RG: You still train like an Olympic athlete yourself...can you share with us what some average training/conditioning sessions are like for you?
JA: My daily training is at least 3 hours a day 6 days/week. It includes the following:
- Cardio : Running 6-8 miles, rope-jumping, biking up to 40 miles.
- Flexibility: Leg stretching on various apparatus
- Strength: Weight and resistance training for core muscles, biceps, triceps, forearms, lats, traps, et al
- Bagwork: Heavy bags, speed bags, double-end bags, BOB dummy, small ball target, focus mitts, Thai kick shields, and many more devices to improve distance, speed, power, accuracy, and timing.
Most of my training is done solo, but I often have training partners for pad work. I lift weights 5 days per week focusing on different muscle groups. I compete in marathons, duathlons (running/biking), triathlons, and obstacle course races throughout the year.
RG: Can you share with us some gleanings from your own historical research into Pankration and ancient combat?
JA: What I have discovered through my own research of the ancient ways can be summed up in one of my favorite sayings; “there is nothing new under the sun.” Whatever we see today in the myriad of martial arts styles and systems is all there in the archaeological record. Hammer fists, front kicks, take downs, throws, submissions, trapping, et al, were practiced some 3000 years ago. It has been my personal odyssey to add the missing ingredients of what was left to us in artwork and poetic verses. This is where the punches, mobility and footwork of boxing, the kicks, elbows, and knees of Muay-Thai, the ground control positions of wrestling, and the judo submissions play a major role.
RG: Is Pankration more than a gathering, smorgasbord of random techniques from boxing, wrestling, savate, or is it more? In what way?
JA: The restoration of pankration into a cohesive form necessitated assimilating elements from modern sources that replicated the techniques of antiquity. What makes it unique is in its tactical applications and transitions (going from one position or level to the next). Nothing was random in its selection process. Each movement was carefully analyzed for its effectiveness in doing maximum damage while expending minimal effort. The guiding principle was always to keep it as simple as possible.
RG: How do you train hard but safe? What are your tips for avoiding injury?
JA: You have to listen to your body to avoid injury. When it’s crying out for a break then heed its call. One need not accept limitations but must exercise caution on far he is able to push himself. We all have different levels of athleticism and will-power so that should light the way.
RG: How does one go about learning more about your system and training in your art?
JA: To learn more of my art and training visit my website: jimarvanitis.com. Also my six books and over 25 instructional videos are available through blackbeltmag.com, Paladin Press, and amazon.com.
RG: What are your plans for the future...what's next on the agenda?
JA: I enjoy the creative process which for me is seemingly never-ending. I have three more books in the works, and more instructional videos. I also am working with Greece’s federation to evolve their pankration athlima (sports) competitions for the future. I feel that what I set out to do over four decades ago has come to fruition but I am not done by any means and sitting back on what I have accomplished. I continue to carry the torch of this legacy.
It was near the end of gung fu class...circa 1973. We had a few minutes, so the sifu opened it up for questions. "Anyone? Any question at all. Hey, there are no dumb questions," said my gung fu instructor.
I was new to this group, but I sheepishly raised my hand. The sifu told me to go ahead. "I've noticed that when people hold the kicking shield for you, they go flying back when you kick. It looks like they're playing along, trying to make you look good. Couldn't the person holding the shield just brace himself?"
"Excellent question, Ron. C'mon up here and grab the shield." As I got up I noticed some of the other guys smirking, shaking their heads, sending me telepathic sympathy messages.
The instructor began to explain basic physics to us...how force is a result of mass times acceleration. He explained that he would do his best to accelerate like a car at a drag strip. He would also try to put as much of his mass into the kick as possible. This combination, he said, would result in an impulse, or shock wave of force.
I grabbed the shield and brought it in tight. I planted one foot forward, and put the other one back, like I was planning on holding back that big menacing bull from the Schlitz Malt Liquor commercial.
He said he would count to 3 and then kick. He wanted everybody to join in on the countdown.
"Countdown?!" I wondered...wait, was he getting ready to launch me into space.
He asked if I was ready, made a few last minute adjustments and lightly punched the shield to make sure I was all set.
Although the shield was thick, I felt the powerful shock wave blast right through my arms and my body. Two blasts...one from the kick, and then the one where I actually hit the wall, which was about 3 feet behind where I had been standing. I may have lapsed into unconsciousness for a few seconds, and I was quite shaken. I'm pretty sure I bit my tongue.
"I know, I know," I said when I came to, "THAT was a dumb question...a really dumb question!"
I'm sure there are more, but for my purposes, there are three distinct modes of teaching and learning:
To make this useful, we have to define them.
For our purposes, 'Training' is verbal teaching, explanation, patterns and repetitions. Almost anything that you learn as a step-by-step process. Practicing basics is training. Going over the mechanics of a particular submission is training. Kata is training. Shadowboxing a specific pattern is training. Whiteboard lecture on SD law or violence dynamics is training.
Conditioning is pairing a stimulus with a response. Through immediate reward (punishment also works but can have some side effects) it can bring action up to nearly reflex speed. It has limitations-- it's very difficult if not impossible to condition a complex response. The stimulus must be realistic, etc. But conditioning is what you need in very fast situations. And (proper) conditioning does come out under stress. Responses that have only been trained seem to require experience before they can be accessed under stress (the 3-5 encounters that Ken Murray mentioned in "Training at the Speed of Life").
Play is getting into a chaotic environment with the fewest possible restrictions and getting a feel for what works. Randori, sparring, live training and competition. But there are also a lot of games in different things. And nothing beats reality. No one has become a good driver just through classroom lessons or simulators. You can memorize all the vocabulary and grammar rules but until you can bargain and argue and flirt, you don't really know a language.
Conditioning is limited, but it has a critical aspect that is invaluable. It is not only effective under stress but it is fast when done properly. How many reps does it take to learn to throw the perfect reverse punch? That's training. How many reps did it take for you to learn not to touch a hot stove? That's conditioning. It is powerful. And conditioning is always on. Your hindbrain is constantly learning lessons, getting a feel for what works and what hurts. It is incredibly common for an instructor to teach something different than he is conditioning. You teach pulling punches, you will yell at the student who makes contact. Punching is taught but missing is conditioned. The student will miss under stress.
Playing is critical because not just improvising but improvising subconsciously (the conscious mind is too slow) is possibly the most critical skill when things go bad. Playing is how your skills become 'nothing special.' Just a normal way to move. Playing moves what you have trained from your too-slow neocortex to a deeper part of your brain.
Training is the aspect I find myself questioning. Some stuff is complex and almost everything interconnects. Your higher brain is the only part that can grasp that, so training is critical. But almost by definition, training wires skills to the part of the brain that is least effective in a crisis. Critical. Especially critical for talking about, challenging and improving your stuff. You can't share information easily or clearly by the other two methods-- so without training everyone is in the trap of their personal experience and personal lives. I believe it was Kano who said, "We must learn from the mistakes of others because we will never live long enough to make all the mistakes ourselves."
So is training necessary? How necessary? How much? When and how is it counterproductive? Does rote repetition actually make you worse under stress? I know it does if the environment is too different. I know it can get you killed if you don't recognize when you are staying on a script and the world is changing. So is training good? Sub-optimal? Bad? A necessary evil? How necessary? And do most people spend most of their time with that aspect because they believe it works? Or because the other two are too simple to satisfy our monkey minds? Or because we all know, on some level, that training is easier, more controllable and often safer than conditioning or play? And humans love control, safety and ease.
Real quick, the next step in our program, as the students identified the principle became:
Is there an aspect of the principle that can or must be conditioned? How?
What needs to be trained to understand and apply this principle?
Can we come up with a game that relies on the principle so that it becomes natural, easy and fun?
Note- Play includes conditioning. Instant feedback to what works and what doesn't; immediate reward and punishment. And play also provides 'teachable moments' where you can, with a few words, evoke a principle and increase efficiency.
Lightbulb moment. One of those tiny epiphanies. Not a real mind blower, but a lot of subtle implications:
When you are training (anything, not just martial arts or SD). Do you try to do it well? Or do you try to not make mistakes.
On one level, they seem to get to a similar goal. If you never make mistakes, what you do, by definition, must be perfect. So you are doing it well. That's pretty logical.
But it's not. Too often, flawless is lifeless. Trying to create a positive impression feels different and looks different than trying to avoid a negative impression. Good things happen when you try actively to do well.
But mistakes, especially in this field, can be dangerous or deadly. Costly. And so it makes sense to put effort into avoiding mistakes.
Either side can be toxic. Enthusiasm is one step away from false confidence, and that is a stupid way to die with a penchant for horrible last words, like, "Here, hold my beer. This is gonna be fun." But fear of failure leads to a paralysis, sometimes from overthinking. Sometimes from learned helplessness.
I'm of course thinking of martial arts. The perfectionists overtly try to avoid mistakes, seeking a visible perfection. 'Form.' And these often divorce form from use. So things can look perfect and not work. And I wonder sometimes if the tendency of the perfectionists to avoid rough and tumble testing is just an extension of the fear of making mistakes. You don't have to count the mistakes you don't know about, right? And there is a potentially toxic teaching style with this. If you point out every flaw, if nothing can ever be good or good enough, the student conditions at a very deep level that the safest strategy is to do nothing. Be passive. Never take risks. This is 'learned helplessness' and it is an important aspect of training someone to be a victim.
The other way may have no standards at all. Do your own thing. And to an extent, I support that. LLR and I are different sizes, genders and have different training backgrounds and life experiences. It would be stupid to assume that we would fight the same. But 'do your own thing' without a goal and a test for effectiveness is self-absorbed, pointless masturbation. And people have a tendency to get self-righteous about this kind of thing. Especially when it is untested.
(This is an aside, since I'm thinking about the questions not the answers... but here's my answer. Do your own thing BUT constantly get better, by working the physics and studying the problem and the context and use an outside source to test if the improvements are really happening.)
Even at the best, though, the positive/active side of this tends to be sloppy. They can almost always use a tweak in their body mechanics.
Are these personality types? Inherent to certain systems? I know learned helplessness can be created through poor teaching; as can ridiculous overestimation of abilities.
Trying to do it right versus trying to avoid doing it wrong. Huge difference.
"Our capacity for self-deception has no known limits."
On the PBS radio game show, "Whad'ya Know," one of the categories of questions they ask is "Things You Should Have Learned In School (Had You Been Paying Attention)."
It turns out that a lot of us didn't pay very much attention at all, and as a result, we are easily taken in by scams, deceptions, and bad science, junk science or what Robert Park calls 'voodoo science.'
Here's a great example. I own a knee wrap that has magnets in it. The guy who gave it to me wanted me to join him in selling these wraps because he believed that the magnets could help eliminate pain. He even gave me a brochure that explained how they worked. The 'science' sounded convincing: Magnets produce a measurable force called a magnetic field. Heck, the force is even measured in cool terminology called a Tesla (T) or units called gauss (G), and 1 T = 10,000 G. Throw in some talk about "low-level electromagnetic fields," "positive and negative ion energy levels," and the fall-back tactic of mentioning "quantum physics," and you might even believe they could work. But as Scott Fishman says, "They join a long line of miracle cures and gadgets that have promised a cure for pain but have mainly produced a lighter wallet. There is scant scientific evidence for the effectiveness of magnets."
A few years ago I had a seasonal cold. No biggie, just an annoying couple of days of coughing, sneezing, body aches, and a runny nose. A guy in the office told me about a over the counter product called "Airborne" cold remedy. He said you could take it before being around other people with colds, and that it would actually keep you from getting it. Or, if you already had a cold, it could help you get rid of it...quick.
Well, it turns out the claims made by the company, according to the non-profit consumer watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), determined that "the idea proposed by the company, that you could take this formula and be instantly protected when you enter an airplane or other closed quarters, is incorrect. There is nothing you can swallow -- no vitamin, no mineral, no herb -- that will instantly protect you. The immune system doesn't work that way."
There is even something called "Tooth Fairy Science" in which, according to Harriet Hall, M.D., people conduct "research on a phenomenon before establishing that the phenomenon exists."
"You could measure how much money the Tooth Fairy leaves under the pillow, whether she leaves more cash for the first or last tooth, whether the payoff is greater if you leave the tooth in a plastic baggie versus wrapped in Kleenex. You can get all kinds of good data that is reproducible and statistically significant. Yes, you have learned something. But you haven't learned what you think you're learned, because you haven't bothered to establish whether the Tooth Fairy really exists."
The TV show "Finding Bigfoot" on the Animal Planet network uses Tooth Fairy science. Matt Moneymaker, James “Bobo” Fay, Cliff Barackman, and Ranae Holland have spent 3 seasons 'investigating' the mythical beast. They use night vision goggles and infrared cameras, and they even resort to beating the bushes and creating Yeti-style yelling and screeching to see if they can catch a glimpse of the shy and elusive creature. Guess what? Nothing, nada, zip, zilch.
In 2010 there were at least 5 TV shows devoted to tracking down ghosts: Ghost Lab, Most Haunted, Ghost Adventures, Paranormal State, and Ghost Hunters. The fact that no evidence has ever been produced to actually prove the existence of ghosts doesn't stop the intrepid hunters.
Nessie, UFOs, dowsing, the efficacy of prayer, the existence of protective guardian angels, chi, chakras, reiki healing, remote viewing and mind reading, astrology, alternative medicine, and homeopathy all tend to fall into this category as well.
Q: Did you hear about the homeopath who forgot to take his medicine?A: He died of an overdose.
Real science, according to The Skeptic's Dictionary, requires "clearly defined, controlled, double-blind, randomized, repeatable, publicly presented studies."
But if what one believes can't be seen, measured, reproduced or detected? What if a special power just doesn't work under controlled conditions? Does that mean that those who advocate for these beings or cures or powers will reject their beliefs?
Nope...doesn't work that way...these people 'know' in their heart of hearts that what they believe is real. They put their own personal anecdotal evidence on a scale alongside scientific studies, and their beliefs far outweigh science every time.
Forget that anecdotal or testimonial evidence is prone to contamination by beliefs, selective attention to details, wishful thinking, self-deception, or distortion. Forget that time can skew fallible and imperfect memories, that facts and dates can get muddled, and that some people are simply deluded, confused, or just bad at math and statistics. Forget that there is little true scientific value to their claims...these people KNOW, they just know. Don't try to weigh them down with factual details.
Thomas Gilovich, in How We Know What Isn't So, says that we must be on guard against tendencies to:
- misperceive random data and see patterns where none exist
- misinterpret incomplete or unrepresentative data and give extra attention to confirmatory data while drawing conclusions without attending to or seeking out disconfirmatory data
- make biased evaluations of ambiguous or inconsistent data, tending to be uncritical of supportive data and critical of unsupportive data
Charles Tart said, "Let's take this into the laboratory, where we can know exactly what the conditions were. We don't have to hear a story told years later and hope that it was accurate."
In other words...science. Science, according to Ben Goldacre, author of Bad Science, is where "we take a claim, and we pull it apart to extract a clear scientific hypothesis; then we examine the experimental evidence for that hypothesis; and lastly, if there is no evidence, we devise new experiments."
But for most people with firmly entrenched beliefs? Nothing doing. Instead they seem to enjoy what Goldacre refers to as their "self-imposed isolation from the corrective of academic criticism, the persecution complex, the grandiosity, the denouncement of critics as being in the pay of darker forces, and their enjoyment of jargon."