Friday, May 17, 2013

Alternate Reality

It Just Got Unreal

This month I want to talk about choices and about being careful about what we present to our students as "reality based" or how real things are "on the street". You see, our best intentions at "keeping it real" may ultimately have a negative impact on our student's outcomes during real confrontations and all our hours of training and practice will be for naught!

Grappling With The Issues

I remember in the early '90s when BJJ and other grappling sports began to be the "measuring stick" for reality; some participants attending seminars in those arts, would raise the very reasonable question " well what if there are multiple opponents?"
In response to this question the seminar instructor would challenge the inquirer by asking if their art had an answer for the same problem. Of course, not to feel stupid, the person would incorrectly claim that their system had the answers ( this ego response was expected). 

What was not expected was the counter from the seminar instructor. He and an assistant would then accost the person inevitably taking him to the ground to prove their point.
What they missed was that in the impressionable minds of those attending they inadvertently proved a false point. If you are attacked by more than one person you will lose.
They failed to see that due to the conventions of social interaction in our martial arts culture they put the person asking the question in an un- winnable situation which was then accepted as truth by the less informed.
The truth is that multiple assailant scenarios are survivable, even by untrained people. Trained properly, our chances of survival improve. Mind you, they are never guaranteed, but odds do get better.

 The gist of the above and the following sections is to show where our attitudes, our words, our demos and our beliefs may negatively impact our students' mindset.

Getting Grounded
Here's an oldie but goodie. "95% of street fights end up on the ground." When was the last time you asked yourself; who came up with that number? A clever marketing tool  from the  grappling community to get more people to train that became accepted dogma in many circles. Before you ever repeat this again think deeply about how many fights you saw ended up on the ground in a grappling style format. Perhaps a few , maybe a lot, but was it really 95%?

Then think, when somebody was on the ground was it one,or many people, where they on the ground because of ballistic impact from punches or did they fall unconscious? Once you start computing the variables you realize that, although many fights do go to the ground, what's really is important is not so much grappling skill, but avoiding ending up on the ground, being able to protect yourself from the ground and getting up quickly from the ground while under pressure.  This is not to exclude grappling skill but mainly prioritize intelligently.

Living On The Edge

Another group guilty of offering "alternate reality" to their students is the knife culture.  In our chase to try to be honest with students we again fall in the trap of showing movements or saying things that impede their progress.
There is the old "if you get in a knife fight you will get cut" myth on one end. Other teachers advocate there is nothing that can be done etc.
There are the folks using magic markers  on white t shirts, to show their students the " reality" of how much you will get cut.  Then there is the infamous electric knife. I don't know about you but I have never seen a real knife make that noise :-)
Training in the above methodologies literally teaches our students to mentally prepare to lose  and this is the biggest failure I see in our industry today.

Raising Hope

These fallacies are not limited to the areas of multiple opponents, ground fighting or edge weapons.
The "reality based" self defense world is replete with examples of Hyper Reality and Alternate reality instructors and messages that bombard the public. 
Their "you must know this magic ultra macho sounding move that I invented" attitude is creating a culture of hopelessness and learned helplessness.
We must introspect and monitor what we say, how we say it, what we demonstrate and teach in order to make sure we have a balanced approach. Our students need to believe that no matter what they are faced with they improve their chances of survival with proper training.

Ill be cartoonish for a second to drive the point. Imagine if somebody told you that a flying purple people eater was the most dangerous animal in the world and nobody has survived an attack from it. They kinda look like a cross between a badger and a platypus except they are purple and they fly.
There is a world wide infestation of the critters. Would you just simply resign yourself to die as a snack or would you try your best to train to beat them. And , most importantly, if you didn't get a chance to practice and you are suddenly faced with one, would you simply surrender?
Exactly. Our warrior mindset would kick in and we would try our hardest to fight and survive right?

So why is it that through language, attitude, Hyper reality, and teaching, instructors constantly remind their students of the opposite.

Our students have a choice, give up or engage the problem.  If we don't train them intelligently we take away the choice and make them hopeless. 

Regardless of how "impossible" the scenario our students questions are about. " I am surrounded by multiple armed assailants on drugs and they all are 6'4" and 300 lbs, what do I do?"  Our answer should never be... Oh don't try anything, just give up and die.

Tony Torres
Copyright Tony TOrres

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