Friday, June 19, 2015

Snickets, Ginnels, and Wynds

I can tell you in words why something is useful, or good, or is worth doing, but your resistance to doing it will be in direct proportion to your resistance to the idea that you have a gap that needs fixing.

If there is no space for something to change, you won't change, however much I try to convince you it's a good idea.

Sometimes pointing out the problem to you physically helps. For instance, if I can make you notice that you can't find a clean exit after your entry, it will hopefully become obvious that you do indeed have a gap in your strategy, and thus opens your mind to the idea of change.

Thing is, sometimes taking a problem head on makes it worse. The mind gets in the way. It comes up with reasons and rationales to stay as it is, or stay within the bounds of it's imagination.
Sometimes problems need to be sidled up to, casual like, and worked on, without looking them directly in the eye.
Not for everything. Not all the time. But sometimes, especially when the existing program is hard wired, you need to take the more circuitous route to avoid heavy resistance.

But the circuitous route, almost ignoring the original problem, can bring up resistance too. For instance, I might know that doing seemingly unrelated X is the best way to help with problem Y. X might seem counter intuitive to your brain and it will start wondering why you are doing it, but remember, I'm teaching your body, not your mind.

I know that if you keep at it, your body will find a use for X without you thinking about it.  It's like an after market part that bolts right into the system and improves the running profile. The body is smart. It learns stuff and stashes it away. Then it reappears all over the place as the connections in the brain rewire, and if I'm right, suddenly your gap that needs fixing, will start to go away.

But you have to put the work in. And that's the hard part. Do you trust that this material really is good, even though it seems unrelated? Do you try it? How long for? Does the teacher know something you don't? Or do you know more than them? Are they selling you snake oil? Or might it actually be gold?

Everyone has to take responsibility for their own decisions. The way I do it is to ask myself if I want what they have, and by 'have', I mean how they move? If I can't do what they do, I want to learn how.

That's all. I'm happy to follow instruction until I find a dead end.

I will add one thing more.

Sonny asked me a long time ago if I was a 'good student' or a 'bad student'? What he meant I think was if I was capable of putting the work in, but also of thinking critically about everything that he taught me to do. He wanted us all to test the ideas. Are you better? Did it help?

Do the work, but obviously be careful who you follow down the back alleys. They are often the fastest route even though you can't see where they are going, but still, you need a guide who knows where they are going.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Time Machine

The previous Puzzler post shows that you can beat speed and power with timing. More importantly perhaps is that if you have less speed and power than your opponent, then timing is your best physical skill outside of deception. You will also need accuracy and targeting of course - you have to do something useful with this time that you have created.

So, timing. What does that mean?

To me it means being in tune with the action and playing between the beats. This can mean before, during, or after something that your opponent is doing. And because time and space are essentially the same thing (It takes this long to move that far), you are also working in the empty spaces around the action.

Whether you look at time as a linear function or as a spatial phenomenon (or even just a single morphing affordance) is of no matter.

In some ways I prefer looking at the space, because space allows, or limits, movement depending on the relative positioning of the players. It's also easier to understand angles, and thus where the danger is, and is not.

Actually, what is even more important than where danger IS ... are it's precursors. If you are only seeing danger once it's happening, how can you use the act to your advantage? You will be reacting only to the moment at hand, and thus are at the OO stage, whilst your opponent is having a blast at the OODA stage.

If you could know what they were going to do next, whether by reading their movement or intent, or by forcing them into an action, you could also see the empty space, the safety if you like, around them. Not where it is now, but where it will be.

For that's where you need to move to, and act from, to gain advantage.

And this is why it pays to play within an unscripted flow, so the precursors, 'the bits before,' actually exist to be seen.

How else can you learn what they look like or how to use them?

Sparring is obviously one way, but sometimes it's hard to pay attention and learn efficiently when winning and losing are such great barriers to focus.

Random Flow Training is another way, limited by parameters but basically just one long stream of real life precursors.

Want to learn how to look back (or is it ahead?) in time, and perhaps to deflect it's course a little? Get out of your dead drills, and embrace the wonderful world of Physics - Cause and Effect.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Puzzler

For all those of you that are fans of Car Talk. Here's a Puzzler for you


I was sitting at the traffic lights today next to a young guy in a car with way better acceleration than mine. It's obvious that he wants to be first off the lights. But I beat him. Easy. (Of course he then passes me a few yards further up as he keeps on accelerating, but whatever.)

He was not on the phone or texting. In fact he was watching the light. I didn't run the light, it was green when I went, and because he was revving a bit, I'm assuming that he had a manual (stick shift) transmission like me and we were both in gear and feathering the clutch.

Is my reaction time way better than his? Probably not, seeing as he looked alot younger than me.

So how did I beat him?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Risky Business

They say you should imagine the scariest opponent you can think of, and that your training is valid if only if it works against them.

I get this - Certainly if your training only works against an inexperienced, clumsy, compliant, half wit you are indeed doomed to failure. But is the opposite true for the other end of the scale?

Who would you most fear to cross swords with? Not in a sport context, but in an imaginary lethal encounter?

My personal nightmare is a bigger, faster, stronger, insane person. (Let's not go into multiples/ambush/unarmed vs armed etc. Just keep it simple, to a one on one see 'em coming both equally armed context). And for me, the 'insane' part is the part that makes them the most scary. If someone is insane and does not care if they live, what options do you have? Not many. There is no potential harm you can threaten them with. They cannot be reasoned with, and the height/weight advantage means they outmatch you once contact is made.

When the odds get this bad, you have to risk everything to stand even a small chance of prevailing. Your options narrow down to the smallest of windows of opportunity, where the risk of injury or death is almost a certainty, and your only option is to 'go'. Once. Win or Lose.

You could argue that this is the most important place to train because it matters the most. But it is also extremely rare. Many people might outweigh or outreach you, and there are certainly people out there who are more highly skilled, but insane? Not so much. For someone to care less if they 'die' just for the pleasure of taking you out? This takes a very particular type of individual with a very, very, personal grudge.

Why does any of this matter?

Because this is the opponent most people seem to fight, all the time.

Is this 'wrong'?

There is a logic that says that if you have the answer to the most difficult problem, you also have the answer to all the easier problems, because the only thing that is changing in the equation is the threat level the opponent presents. As the threat level goes down, so the winning should become easier and easier. Right?

Well, kinda ... yes, the technique might be very effective, but no, because the risk to self is left extremely high.

Remember, in training smart, we are looking for maximum gain for minimum risk. When you have no time or space, you have to judge everything, from range, to timing, to angle, perfectly. Even if there is only half an opening, you hope for some luck to add to your slight chance of surprise and you take it. Because you have to. And if nothing else, it never hurts to increase the chaos if you are losing.

But what of mere mortal opponents? I would argue that here, you actually do have the luxury of space, time, and especially rationality, to play with. You have choices, and those choices actually increase as the RELATIVE level of the threat decreases.

Rory once said something to the effect that time is a commodity, and one of the differences between a veteran and a rookie is knowing when you have it, and when you do not. If you do have it, it is far better to spend it gaining intel, rather than rushing straight into an unknown chaos without understanding what you might be facing.

Same can be said for sword play. If they are not insane, gain some intel first. Don't risk yourself unnecessarily. You do have the time and the space. Use them. Make a smart decision.

I found the quote below on the internet. I have no idea if it is a real Native American saying, but I thought it was quite good. It speaks both to the difference in attitude whilst training versus in 'reality', but perhaps it also applies in a dueling situation, to the one who controls the game versus the one who does not?
"The huntsman can make many mistakes, the hunted, only one".

Be the hunter.