Wednesday, September 24, 2014

On Applied Behavioral Hoplology

 Observations on the Science
Applied Behavioral Hoplology

A recent “discussion” with some very emotional longsword aficionados, compelled me to make note of three important lessons that, while they may seem obvious to the well-initiated, are apparently not universally known and understood.
I’d like to be clear that when I offer a critique, even one that may seem harsh, I’m not pointing out the errors of others in order to imply that I, myself, don’t make any. On the contrary, the reason I sometimes find it so easy too see the errors of others is that I have made the same error, myself. I’m in a position to warn you about potholes in the road, because I’ve driven on this road before and run over them.

Ritual Combat and Real Combat are not the same thing.
I once trained with a teacher who did only kata (etudes) in his school. They did NO kumite (sparring). When I asked him why, he explained, “In kumite, you must hold back. In a fight you must not hold back. You will do what you train to do.”

In a real fight, your primary objective is to completely disable your opponent(s) offensive capabilities. Killing him is usually a reliable way to do the trick.  At the same time, your secondary objective is to avoid getting killed, yourself.
As soon as you impose any restrictions, as soon as you have “rules” for a “fight,” it becomes a ritual combat.  “No holding, no eye gouging, no rabbit punching, no head-butting, no hitting below the belt…” and certainly no biting groin-kicking, knee-breaking.”  Hey, what is this, a Quaker ice cream social?  In a real fight, head butting, groin kicking and knee breaking are all highly recommended gambits.

My brother from another mother and father, Richard Alvarez, did a fun little film called “American Jouster.”  It features interviews with a variety of professional jousters  --- mostly, but not exclusively, sturdy young lads ---performing on the Renaissance Faire circuit. One of my favorite moments is when he asks the interviewees what they think the relationship is between jousting and “real” combat.  There are degrees of waffling from the boys who find varying degrees of similarity.  But one fellow – who just happens to be a recently returned army combat veteran – immediately and unequivocally, responds that there’s absolutely no comparison whatsoever.

The Roman historian Vegetius wrote, “They are most enthusiastic about war that are the least familiar with it.”  Likewise, if you’ve never experienced real, life or death combat, it’s easy to think that your ritual combat veers fairly close to the real deal.

It doesn’t.

There may be a risk of fatality involved in the ritual combat. Even the duel, which may indeed be deadly, is subject to rules and conventions that establish the duelists are members of a particular social group and have a certain status within that group.
But with most combat sports and games if a fatality happens, it’s due to accident or negligence, and is seen as a tragedy, because death is not generally the sine qua non purpose of the ritual.
Instead, ritual combat is an elaborate variation of posturing, one of the four threat responses. (fleeing, yielding, posturing, fighting).  Ritual combat is about fulfilling social needs, to be recognized as a member of a group (initiation rituals such as the German student duels) and to achieve status and success within that group.

Real combat is all about survival.

Like many other young men in the throes of testosterone poisoning, I never understood the distinction between ritual fighting (posturing) and real fighting until it very nearly cost me my life.

I have no problem whatsoever with whatever combat sport or game anyone wants to invent. All I ask is that they are honest about what they are doing, and not pretend to be something that they are not. What I object to is misrepresenting this or that sport or game as “real” combat.

It isn’t.
Be glad.

Doing and Teaching are not the same thing.
It’s an extremely common error to assume that if you can perform well, you can teach others to perform well. But it ain’t necessarily so.  For example: Throwing punches in bunches and managing the punching mitts to teach someone ELSE how to throw punches in bunches, are two completely distinct skill sets. Lots of boxers have never worn punch mitts in their entire lives. Not their job  
On the other hand, you have someone like boxing trainer Angelo Dundee who worked15 boxing champions including: George Scott, Jimmy Ellis, Jose Napoles, Sugar Ray Leonard, Carmen Basilio, Willie Pastrano, Luis Rodriguez, George Foreman, and the incomparable Muhammad Ali. But, although his brother Joe was a boxer, Dundee, himself, never held any boxing titles. Indeed, had never been a professional or even amateur boxer. He dedicated himself not to learning how to fight, but to learning how to train others how to fight.
Typically, martial arts “teachers” are simply those who have memorized what they were taught and then try to imitate how their teachers taught them. They are not trained to be teachers; they have not acquired that specialized body of knowledge or that physical skill set.
There are, of course, excellent doers who are also excellent teachers. But they are excellent teachers, not BECAUSE they are excellent doers, but because they have learned how to teach.

Knowing and Doing are not the same thing.

I’ve read several excellent books about birds, but that doesn’t mean I can fly.
It’s important to understand the difference between the cognitive domain and the psychomotor domain.

The cognitive domain involves knowledge and the development of intellectual skills (Bloom, 1956). This includes the recall or recognition of specific facts, procedural patterns, and concepts that serve in the development of intellectual abilities and skills. 
People use the cognitive tools so much that they begin to believe that it’s the right tool for every job.  Cognitive learning is an exceptionally good tool for learning about combat. It’s a miserable tool for learning how to fight.

The psychomotor domain (Simpson, 1972) includes physical movement, coordination, and use of the motor-skill areas. Development of these skills requires practice and is measured in terms of speed, precision, distance, procedures, or techniques in execution. It is perfectly possible to be a fine violinist without having a knowledge of the history of western music, the construction of violins or the science of acoustics. While those subjects may be fascinating and add to your appreciation of the violin, that knowledge will not make your fingers faster or more accurate.

Fencing is a particularly good example of what we could call “learning domain confusion.” Fencing is replete with aficionados who can name-drop with the alacrity of Inigo Montoya on a mountain top, cite titles and dates, have memorized and use the most esoteric terms for the most simple actions, and even offer impressive quotations from “the great masters, “ but who cannot stand on guard, cannot move without losing their balance, or manage a sword in a controlled and disciplined manner to defend themselves effectively.  These are folk who don’t understand the distinction between knowing and doing, or the process required for either one.

Two out of three ain’t bad, but I suppose I should make some mention of the affective domain.  The affective domain (Krathwohl, Bloom, Masia, 1973) includes the manner in which we deal with things emotionally, such as feelings, values, appreciation, enthusiasms, motivations, and attitudes.

If the cognitive is the domain of knowing, and the psychomotor is the domain of doing, then the affective is the domain of feeling.

When we say that we teach the “Art, Science and Spirit of the Sword,” we’re not trying to come up with a clever sales slogan. We are describing a way of being that derives from the perfect holistic integration of the three learning domains knowing (science), doing (art) and feeling (spirit.)

In our next exciting episode, I’ll address some aspects of language, terminology and jargon.

Be sure to tune in, same bat-time, same bat-station.


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