Monday, May 28, 2012

Are you experienced?

There has been something going around in my head over the past couple of weeks…and it sort of became “materialized” last weekend. A friend of mine Milan Jerinic and I conducted a seminar on some of the fighting principles and methodologies of the Homo Ludens system of martial arts. Like always, the emphasis of out approach is having the attendants experience the material taught and develop as much as possible, and as early as possible, the corporal understanding of the principles and material presented.

While I would say we had some success in attaining this goal, there was one thing that crept up during the work. Experiencing…well, along with all the good things that come with it, there seem to be some downsides too. In short, while it is good to be able and say that one can claim from the personal experience that something does work in real time, there appears to be an inclination of experienced solutions to a problem to become somewhat “dogmatic”. In other words, once a person manages to apply a technique or a movement in real time and under pressure, they tend to start thinking of it as the only solution to that type of problem/task at hand.

Specifically, during the seminar segment that I dedicated to learning about weapons use (particularly in the symmetrical manner), the earlier presented and adopted methods kept showing up even during the drills that were explicitly instructed to use other methods. In the future I will try adding more asymmetrical situations in between the symmetrical ones, in hope of keeping it up bit more “chaotic”, thus requiring departure from singular interpretations.

However, this whole experience (hmmm) led me to thinking about something else – how many methods, drills, techniques etc. have been dropped from training (especially in the so-called RBSD camps) simply because the instructor(s) never came to trying them, owing to the fact that they had tried, and were successful, with something else?

Of course, the reality-based cluster is not the only one succumbing to this occurrence. We have all witnessed techniques that had been discarded as “useless” re-occur in MMA occasionally and with stunning effect. 


Some of them have since become widely accepted (eg. high roundhouse kick), while other ones not really (eg. spinning backfist or that Machida-jumping front kick). Could those actually become “normal” or high-percentage if practiced with more dedication and open-mindedness?


Even in the systems that declaratively do not have pre-defined techniques (most notably Systema), you will see people reverting back to some favorite answers to the tasks that bear some resemblance. I know, they will say it is due to universal principles that apply “across the board”, but that does not change the fact that they use the same expression of the given principle over and over again.

The question then is when to reach beyond and try new things? How much training in something is enough to try it in a dynamic environment and conclude with some degree of certainty that it is functional or not?

Of course, there will always be the inevitable interference of fluke and lucky shots…but how to recognize and tell it apart from the reliable high-percentage options?

This gets me to the clever words of my friend Noah Gross, referring to how they do things in A.C.T. (Armed Combat and Tactics. If you are unfamiliar with these guys, you would be well-advised to check out their work – a superb group of people that are both brilliant fighters and genuine gentlemen). In Noah’s words: “The most important thing is to keep looking for ways of using old knowledge in a dynamic training environment. You spar and survive – you get experience. You learn a technique – you try to implement it. You didn’t – you go back to the drawing board and look for the why's and the if's and the how's…Bottom up + top down. Knowledge meets experience…

Noah Gross and Alexander Zhelezniak of A.C.T.

Time to go back to the drawing board I guess…

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