Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ukes and Intel

You have to present the right question to understand what a good answer is.

The tennis coach feeds the student shots that they have to return. They vary the shots to train different aspects of the game, and as the student gets better, these problems, or 'questions' that need answering get chained together to become more and more complex and thus create the whole. Each of the questions requires different body mechanics, movement options, balance requirements, alongside power and accuracy. Full body/sense training, and very straightforward - get the ball back over the net in the marked area, and prevent your opponent from returning it.

This is how technique based martial arts training is meant to work too - I throw a #1 strike, or a right cross, or whatever, and you respond. The difference, however, is that in martial arts the answer is given to you ahead of time, and it's your training partner's job to throw out the right question for this particular answer.

Perhaps you can see the potential problem here?

If your training partner gets sucked into the Monkey Dance game, whether they want to dominate you, or feel uncomfortable doing anything other than submitting, the question is in danger of turning into the wrong one. And keep on answering silly questions with inappropriate answers, and what are you really learning in the end?

What most don't understand is that this is as a 'wrong question' problem, not just an asshole/ineptitude problem. So you either try to force techniques or speed up to make them work. Or conversely do something totally half-assed and have your partner cave anyways. Basically you do something that teaches you nothing about the thing you are meant to be learning, just puts you smack into the middle of a fantasy monkey dance.

So how do you create the RIGHT questions?

Uke training.

People think it's easy to be the uke (the 'bad guy'), also known as the 'loser'. But losing by it's very nature is hard to do, especially when your have to calibrate the ease with which you lose to the skill level of your partner.

It demands an understanding of what is happening, what off balance means, what the strong and weak lines of structure are, timing, time, natural reactions to threat, range, targeting, and I'll say it again because it's so important - time.

I've started a conversation with some folks in other arts about coming up with a set of 'warm up' partner exercises to practice learning these things. How to calibrate to your partner. How to be appropriately difficult, yet not too difficult to move. How to listen to your partner. How to communicate with them.

Many grappling/throwing arts have these already, though some have been lost over the years ... but how about weapon and striking arts? How do you teach people who don't understand what they are really doing to throw out appropriate questions?

I think there's a way, and that way is to start learning how to listen, observe, and notice.

I think of it as 'gaining intel'. When you gain intel you let the other person speak ... in fact you let them ramble on to their heart's content. Your job is to stay present, connected, and throw out enough questions and interest to keep them talking whilst keeping yourself safe.

That's really what a good training partner does. And in the end, being able to gain intel is awesome for fighting too. I'm betting that 'asking questions' will up your skills faster than just learning to 'answer' them all the time ... And the beauty of thinking of it this way is that it should keep you out of your monkey brain, and that right there would be a massive leap in the right direction.

What do you think? Possible? Ideas?


The European Historical Combat Guild said...

It's tricky in't it!, The added thing I have found is that many people don't want to ask questions, they want to be given answers, or to have their current answers validated, of that their answers are better than yours.
Also we can be lazy so sticking to the form, without asking questions is easier...

The European Historical Combat Guild said...

Though I do find that it can be something that gets easier to get people to do when they reach a certain point in te training or when they have certain goals in sight.

It is also something that is easier with direct transmission, as are most things that we do in this field, regardless of the the actual training method used.
There is of course an element of intellectual understanding that needs to be explained but as always the true understanding comes from doing it. At first normally with a more skilled practitioner and then in direct application

Jake said...

Some of this sounds similar to some of the ideas/concepts we use in the PDR/SPEAR program. Specifically, there's a paired set of concepts called Be A Good Bad Guy, and Be A Good Good Guy.

The one sentence summary of the concept is "never make your partner look good, and never make your partner look bad"

Getting people to DO that is harder. We talk about it in various drills, but we don't have a specific set of drills just for teaching bad guys...that comes more from experience and working on things.

We have a threshold drill for calibrating hits--it's mostly for High Gear, but you could use it with any striking art (why have I never had my Muay Thai students do this, he wonders). I suppose you could transfer it to weapons systems as well.