Sunday, February 28, 2016

Information at Cross Purposes

There's tons of information out there on any given subject that seems to contradict each other. People give information to people without the people who want the information truly understanding what they're asking.

Part of learning is not just asking questions, but knowing the right questions to ask. The cure is to ask questions and to keep asking questions and not to stop even if you're satisfied with the answer.

I see this all the time in many subjects from heating and cooling your house to physical fitness. Problems usually arise because someone has a problem, but instead of truly understanding it they go out and find a patch. The patch makes more problems, so they get another patch. It's like a massive game of telephone where the actual problem never actually gets addressed because it was never actually discovered, but you end up with a weird "fix" to the problem.

A recent example of this comes from bodybuilding. I'm not a bodybuilder, but I like to stay in shape to look good for my mate and everyone else. There's a lot of weird contradictory information about what it takes to get big muscles because of one piece of information that's usually lacking, because a question is never asked. Are you on steroids? Steroids almost completely changes the way you train, because they circumvent your body's natural processes. If you're on steroids you train a specific way, which is almost opposite to the way you have to train when you do it naturally. On steroids you work out for volume, so you do relatively low weight for lifting and do it a lot. If you're not on steroids and work out this way you will not see the same results, because you're not on drugs. However if you ask a bodybuilder what type of work out he does, he'll tell you and he's not lying, he's just not telling you the information you really need. I'm not on steroids by the way. I don't have big muscles either.

This happens in martial arts as well. Sports, aesthetics, combat, fighting, self defense, fitness and spiritualism have all been blended together to give us a bunch of information at cross purposes. Training for all of these is different yet many people think they're all the same. They model their training off of professional fighters, but don't understand that professional athletes train in a cycle with well defined training plans because they know exactly when they need to perform. It's on a calendar. In combat there are a huge amount of resources that go into each battle with each aspect of the larger military campaign assigned to a different type of unit, which each have their own individual goals and training. In self defense it's prudent not to push yourself so hard that you can't respond to a sudden violent attack. All that training doesn't do much good if you're limping down the road because you train full contact five days a week, and a half starved hobo just has to push you over to get your wallet, when otherwise you could have just ran away.

Technique for example is an illusion. There is no such thing. There are effects on the body. If I trip someone, it's not because I used my foot, hand, a chair or a fart, it's because the other person lost their balance. I made them lose their balance, but it's the result that's desired not how I get there. I don't care how I get there. However, if I train in a system where I need to learn a specific gesture or choreographed scene to get my next colored belt than technique is important. I will be tested on how I get to the result. The result is usually an assumed afterthought.

If the focus is on self defense than technique is less important than result. If the focus is on sport and who can do a specific group of techniques better than the other person than technique is very important. Sport is the cart before the horse. But, technique is important right? Nope, it's not. It's as if a soldier would stand up in the middle of combat and say "hey, time out guys. This dude didn't kill this guy right. He didn't use the right technique." Like they care as long as it gets done.

This is where these inane arguments about how long you should practice a technique for come from and when you've "mastered" something. As if there is such a thing. You practice until you die. End of story, let's move on to something more productive.

All this different information leads to a lot of wasted effort. Patches on patches on patches. People who train in techniques to get belts, because they believe they'll get skill, but all they have are belts and a dictionary as if owning a dictionary made you a writer. They add more technique to patch their kata because that's not real and then they add more techniques for different scenarios to patch the fact that they don't know how to use the movements they already have creatively to get results. They add more patches and techniques from other parts of karate to try and "understand" movements that they never sat down and studied to begin with as if being in a thousand one day relationships is the same as being in one thousand day relationship. Add to the fact that this is all just pissing in the wind when it comes to the complexity of violence and what it takes to survive the conflict physically and survive the aftermath mentally and spiritually.

The point is if you're a karateka sit down and look at what  you have right now. How can you use it? How can you abuse it? Do you really understand it? People survive in harsher environments with just a loin cloth and their wits. I think we can all learn to use what we have around us and inside us instead of looking for more imaginary fixes to made up problems.