I have used the phrase ‘artifacts of training’ sporadically to refer to conditioned responses that result from improper training assumptions and methods. One of the most notable is the ‘sensei effect.’
The Sensei effect works on both teacher and student – the student ‘over-reacts’ to the instructor’s input (making any given technique look more effective) and this only further reinforces the perceived divide between them in skill. It is a psychological barrier at best and at worst it can lead to delusions.
Numerous ‘habits’ can betray a student – where they learned by their mannerisms. Do they raise a tepid hand to stop an atemi without moving the target – trusting that the symbolic block will be respected? Are students cutting through the target or reflexively stopping short? Do ukes anticipate the technique and start to move into position prior to being moved? I see all these artifacts of training and worry because they impede development.
A recent meditation by James Keating illustrated more subtle artifacts of training – including the simple act of wearing a gi.*
The current vogue in self-defense training is ‘reality based training’ which usually has a ‘force on force’ component. I agree entirely. It is impossible to argue with the training theory that the closer the encounter is to reality that it will provide invaluable experience. The only challenge with reality based training is the map and territory problem.**
I do not have a solution. Artifacts of training – I suspect – are inevitable. The phrase for me usually implies a ‘bad habit’ but all training instills a conditioned response. Our goal is to be continuously aware – honestly aware – to discern which habits are correct responses and which are false. Which are bad habits and which are good. And never forget that correct and good = life whereas false and bad = death.
*wearing a gi:
The Fireside Chat w/ JAK
In my own (personal) world it has always been about the end goal. That for me was true “performance”. The ability to actually do advanced things as if they were easy. High performance – never miss application and creation within the midst of the battle frenzy. That was the plan anyway. A calm within, a storm outside. Early on in the fight game I had an experience that altered my perceptions about uniforms, training gear, functionality and reality. It was after training in Karate for some time that I had a real fight. Kid shit really, a minor dust-up if you will. But in street clothes the entire encounter seemed so out of place and out of control. I had unwittingly became belt & uniform dependent. In the dojo your rank spoke for itself. Your uniform (gi) made training easier and the heavy canvas popped as you moved. It was a neat thing. The realization that I encountered was that I felt so damn “weak” without the “right attire and the right location” of the dojo. It was a noticeable loss of psychological confidence. Not high performance. It needed fix’in pronto! So I set to it.
After that small enlightenment I began to work & train more in my regular clothes. Experimenting constantly and learning my path as I went along. At some point I accomplished my task and became forever free of any dependencies of gear, weapons, environment or apparel. I was comfortable with being me. It became more of a game about me than ever before after that – a refinement of self. For after all it is ME (you) that empowers the clothing, the weapons, the place and the moment; not vice-versa. The more accoutrements one deals with the weaker you become. To learn the path of simplicity and find divine guidance in battle one must develop the eternal self. Only by this means can the hidden YOU be released into realization. It starts with small things day in and day out. It eventually leads to all things. Believe in yourself!
Today in these “selfie” saturated times we see that uniforms of every kind are now the gateway drug to the ridiculous, embarrassing shit that adults seem to crave anymore. In times past martial arts wore a uniform, it was accepted. On Halloween some costumes were uniform-like, that also was accepted as normal. Today, it has became more about looking cool. Cosplay, video games, movies, reenactors and fantasy buffs all play dress-up to some degree. I am not against cool clothes or uniforms. But too much of a good thing can become tasteless and childish. We’ve hit that point of abnormality some time ago. Playing at survival has overtaken training for real survival! One glance through the internet and you will see what I mean.
At one point in time learning sword or pistol was about survival. Now it is about dress up, playing and posing. Advertisements abound for gadgets, gear, guro’s and games. 100% questionable commercial combat content. Period. No gain, just material reward in place of real personal gain. A con. Give up depending upon external things to aid in your quest for martial ability. Know the secret to achieving your goal is found within yourself. The gifts the creator has blessed you with can thus be understood and embraced. Martial arts are the whetstone, you are the blade. They are meant to sharpen you up to face the challenges life throws at you. They were never meant to a dead-end or trap. But through cult-like ideals it is easy to have it happen to you. The best martial arts require little more from you than your sincere “being-ness”!
Whether I use a sword or pistol, fight with empty hand or blade. It will be in real time, a setting that will reflect reality as it is. When I think like this, when I train like this I become stronger on several levels. My actual combat root in this violent world is stronger because I train in this mode all of the time. My technique and skills are unfazed by the lack of dojo setting or complimentary cult clothing . If I do choose to wear a uniform my energy is quite powerful unlike the other dojo-ites who see the uniform as a type of martial cosplay to make learning the art “fun”. Seek high performance from yourself, why train for anything else? Dodge the tee-shirts, the man-dummies, the colorful clan costumes, ring trunks and samurai hatchimaki’s. Just be you as best you can be. Irregardless of your clothing or lack of it your job is to kickass and that is what you’d better do when the SHTF. Less is best, more is poor. Train yourself austerely, for your own good. It’s a tough planet ya know! All of the many martial ways eventually lead to the same mountain, some get you there quicker and others take a bit longer. Just do your best and I’ll see you sometime at the foot of the great mountain! We’ll climb it together and talk of many things
** The Map / Territory problem is well illustrated by Borges and Lewis Carrol . Borges succinctly and Lewis Carrol in a longer meditation, outlined the problem of maps, scale, and representations. The problem was more formally described by Alfred Korzybski – but the conclusion is that to accurately represent a territory the scale needs be greater than 1:1. For a martial artist that would require experiencing combat as ‘training.’ Augmented reality training is the logical next step and is in development – VIPE. But it is impossible to train for every scenario and therefore we will never remove the fog of war. The uncertainty and unpredictability of every encounter requires that success is always achieved through adapt, improvise and overcome.