Sunday, May 10, 2009

Balancing Awareness and Paranoia

For many people involved in martial arts, the decision to cultivate those skills is a way of taking responsibility for their own safety. It's a given that even in the safest of societies or areas of town, that there may be the possibility of incidents involving anything from road-rage to attempted mugging. As mentioned in a previous post, awareness may preempt an unwanted situation. The challenge is having awareness without paranoia. So while walking somewhere, for example, it's a good habit to notice things in our immediate environment that could be used for defense, such as club-like objects in a street dumpster, or having a pen within reach, but not letting that awareness translate into an assumption that a boogie-man is going to jump out at you if you are not hyper-vigilant. Not always an easy thing if we watch too much tabloid news, but something worth striving for.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"What's The Best Technique?"

"What's The Best Technique?" is a really common question that martial trained people get from well-intentioned people curious about self defense. To put the answer in immediate perspective, we should ask them first "What's the best driving technique? Is turning right best or turning left best? Should I speed up, stop or go into reverse?" They will say "Well of course it all depends where you are IN CONTEXT, in the flow of traffic and so on, so I can't really answer that question!" And so it is in self defense. Also, your car does not drive itself; it requires your learned cognition specific to that skill, even if it now seems automatic. A Ferrari may be an amazing car, but it can be driven badly, so one can't say they practice some "proven and effective" system and assume that makes them somehow safe by association. Any system of self defense still requires that we do enough work to "own" the skills and not just know about them. A saying in Jeet Kune Do is "It's not what you know that counts, it's what you can do."

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Basis Of Martial Systems

One of the problems of traditional martial systems is that they generally don't start from scratch. That is, they start by teaching the proper movements of their tradition rather than presenting any kind of view of what natural human combative instincts involve. The first two common scenarios I'm referring to are mugging and "regular guy" types of confrontations. In "regular guy" confrontations, some of the most consistent things that can be observed are:
- No sense of distance or range; rather you see the hands-down chest bumping I'm-not-ascared-of-you distance, or two guys trash-talking from a mile away because they clearly do not really want to fight.
- Wide looping strikes; because our arms are on the outside of an axis, natural punches are curved swings.
- Stems (reaching out) in offense (grabbing) and defense (straight-arming and blocking).
- Separation of offensive and defensive actions.
- Telegraphing; huge obvious preparation of strikes.
So really, what we want to do first is ask "What are common human combative instincts?," followed by the question "What are the least labor-intensive potentially effective offensive and defensive actions we would want to functionalize?"

More about this in the next post...