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.


mparker said...

I previously wrote a more detailed and articulate comment to this posting but it got deleted when I attempted to post it. So, I'll keep this one short. As a new martial arts student and as a psychologist, this blog entry generated a lot of thoughts. I think my scariest opponent would be someone that I love and trust. I *know* the insane person is going to give me a win or lose situation, but how will I react with someone I care about? Would my emotions make me hesitate in committing to the fight, even if it were a life or death situation?

Maija said...

Sorry it's taken so long for me to reply.
Physically difficult is very different to emotionally or psychologically difficult.
However still just as important to think about and understand. I'm not sure any of us can truly say what we would do in a crisis situation, but at least thinking about it ahead of time will help.
I would refer you to Rory Millers books, Meditations on Violence and Facing Violence for more thoughts in this regard.

Unknown said...

" Killer Instinc " once you have the ability to turn it on or off at will , then you can push yourself beyond your limits. This is trained by spiking your emotions. For example, your at home lounging around and somone you know calls to invite you somewhere , say to coffee. Here's the training. Take this oppertunity and treat it as a life and death situation. I change flat tires this way. I imagine I am in a war zone. I can change a flat on a busy freeway in 20min. Ive done it. I was taught this type of training many yesrs ago. This is how to train your killer instinc in a safe manner. No one is born tough, your either trained or not. If you have skill because you train alive = real timing , real energy , real motion with progressive resistance. Now just ad killer instinc and objectify the insane person with angles of defense and angles of attack. When I use killer instinc I don't see a face on my attacker, I see angles and body parts. Happy training.