Thursday, February 26, 2009
Here's a great way to open the door to more creativity on the mat.
Set aside a night of training, where everyone abides by the following rule:
You need to tap five times, to five different opponents, over the course of the training session. That's right ... you need to lose!
This is a simple idea that can really develop some creativity on the mat. being TOTALLY OKAY with 'losing' will free you up and allow you to try new things, new ideas ... it will allow you to perform 'crazy experiments' that you would never try if you desperately needed to win.
And again .. I have said it many times before - there are lots of things you will ONLY learn by 'losing' - things that you would never learn if you won 100% of the time - things like CONSEQUENCE, RECOVERY, etc.
I have learned some of the greatest life lessons from people who have lost, and lost royally! These are people who have been through hell and back, people who have become intimate with adversity. I havn't learned much from Mary Poppins!
Embrace defeat - embrace loss - particularly if you want to become more creative.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Creativity - in my view, this should be a compulsory subject in the public school system. Creativity allows us to solve problems, it is the driving force behind 'new invention', it allows us to change ourselves and the world around us.
Some people seem to be gifted with more creativity than others - does this mean that it is an inherited trait? or is it something we can develop and foster?
Like most secrets, I believe this one hides right out there in the open - too obvious for many to see. Children are highly creative, and many adults seem not be. it seems to me that creativity is something that we lose, not something that we gain. I think that we all start out as highly creative beings - and that many things, including the influences of the public school system, systematically crush it out of us as we grow into adulthood. Children start out in life, totally unafraid of making mistakes. As time goes by, and they are punished for making mistakes, they take the easiest route - and simply don't try things they are likely to fail at. This is the beginning of the end. For in my view, the secret to unleashing our creative potential, is to cultivate a mindset of experimentation - that is, we need to banish our fear of failure - in fact, we have to embrace failure, perhaps even to the point of recognizing that it can be fun to fail. Imagine the world we would live in if Thomas Edison was afraid of failing. He tried and explored thousands of possibilities in his attempt to invent the light globe - when asked how he felt abut his thousands of failures, he reportedly explained that 'They wern't failures; and that what he had actually done was successfully eliminated thousands of possible solutions - putting him closer to the eventual solution'. Here was a man who ebodies the evry essence of creativity. A willingness to 'fail' is childlike trait - it is also the secret to creativity.
Friday, February 20, 2009
When people start out with their BJJ training, things can seem pretty chaotic. There is simply too much going on for most beginners to process and this can make learning seem frustrating at times. I sometimes advise students to look for 'islands in the sea' - that is, I have them identify one or two positions and one or two techniques to focus on during 'rolling' practice. As time goes by, they graduate from 'one or two' islands of familiarity, to three or four, then five or six, and so on. Soon, no matter what's happenning in the 'grapple', they are never too far from familiar-ground.
As it happens, this is how we always 'map out new territory' - one landmark at a time. As we become more and more familiar with the territory, we can even begin to make creative-shortcuts, to make moving around a little more efficient. So for any relative 'newbies' out there who may be reading this blog - don't try and memorize the whole map - just pick a landmark or two and make for those when you grapple. Over time, your mental map with 'round out' and you'll begin to know where you are, even when momentarily lost. You'll start mapping the gaps.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Everyone interested in the self defence applications of martial arts training should be interested in the so-called 'startle reflex' or 'flinch response'.
Quoting from Ronald Simons informative book 'BOO!' - "The startle reflex is common in mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. It can be thought of as an override system, automatically activated when a sudden unexpected environmental event requires immediate first-priority attention. The essence of startle is that it is the mechanism designed to ensure that the statled organism responds to a potential danger as rapidly as possible, even before the eliciting stimulus is conciously classified and evaluated.
Most startles are false-alarms. The startle reflex system is designed to be sensitive rather than selective. First respond, then assess."
Back in the 1950's, a simplistic study was done on action-reaction time. This particular study gave birth to the so-called 'Hicks Law', which underpins much of the design of defensive tactics measures utilized by law enforcment today. Many defensive tactics instructors quote Hick's Law to bolster their argument that we need to keep our responses simple when things go 'pear shaped'. Basically Hick's law states that if we are presented with a sudden problem/action, then we can respond most quickly if we respond with a single solution/reaction. IE: When we have multiple reactions/responses to choose from, our reaction time slows significantly.
Even though there is some truth to the whole Hick's Law deal - it has suffered the effects of the 'Chinese Whisper' since it's inception, some 60 years ago. Defensive Tactics instructors have been exagerating things a bit, and it has morphed into something bordering on the ridiculous. The most commonly used exageration that I hear is this: that for evrry choice we add into the equation, our reaction time is basically doubled. That is; if we have two reactions to chose from we are twice as slow, three choices, four times as slow, four choices, eight times as slow, etc.
This defies logic! Let's think about it.
If the average reaction time is 150 milli-seconds (.15 of a second) - then choosing between two responses to a given stimulus, would take us 300 milli-seconds; choosing between three responses would take 400 milli-seconds; between four responses 800 milli-seconds; between five responses, 1.2 seconds - now it gets interesting; between six responses, 2.4 seconds; between 7 responses, 4.8 seconds - now it becomes ludicrous, between 8 responses, 9.6 seconds - let's hope we never have to choose between ten responses, because according to these pundits, it would take us nearly a minute to do so - and let's not even consider having to choose between 20 responses, because we would be sitting there scratching our heads for 16 odd hours before making a decision.
Clearly, this is not how the world operates; otherwise, how would pilots fly planes? How would boxers get through even the first five seconds of a boxing match? How would ten year olds play baseball?
I do think that Hick's law can offer some value - we need to simplify things if possible; but we also need to 'raise the bar' as martial artists, or policeman, etc, by doing the one thing that can make all the difference - TRAINING!
I know several defensive tactics instructors who love Hick's Law, because it allows them to come up with a single idea that they then market as the 'panacea' to all things. These guys, I liken to snake-oil salesmen of the 1800's. One bottle cures all problems. Hey, maybe it does cure bee-stings - but don't be depending on it to cure a borken leg. The truth of the matter is that we need to train, to develop a variety of skills that we will need to deal with a wide variety of problems. As martial artists, we have a broad landscape to inhabit; and the training we do, needs to be sufficiently broad enough in nature to deal with the variety of probelms that we are likely to encounter on that landscape.
The startle reflex refers to one aspect of how we, as humans, react and interact with the world; one tiny piece of the puzzle that we need to adddress as martial artists. Study it, read about it, create a training model based on it - but don't neglect the rest of the equation - TRAIN TO DEVELOP SKILLS.
Food for thought,
Monday, February 16, 2009
A big part of my fascination for BJJ (and all things combative) is the realization that many of the larger lessons that I have learned in life, have come from my experience (relevations) as a martial artist. What I have learned on the mat, I have brought to bear in everyday life.
One principle comes to mind - and that is the principle of best leverage. Leverage - to move a lot with a little - is something that everyone learns quickly in their BJJ practice. bringing this understanding into our daily lives is something that has obvious appeal - and I am always mindful of the power of it.
I was on a Virgin flight this weekend just past (on my way to a seminar in Queensland) and the airline staff announced that they would be coming around collecting donations from the passengers for the recent Victorian Bushfire appeal. They also promised that for evry dollar collected, the Virgi Airline Company would match with a dollar of their own. As I dropped my donation into their bag, it occurred to me that this was a great way to 'leverage' my small contrinution into something more meaningful (double value - with the promised Virgin contribution). it then occurred to me that if I (or someone) could collect some of the larger donations that entire comunities/schools, etc are compiling, hump it onto a Virgin flight over the next few days, then that would be a great use of the leverage-principle. I would love to walk onto a Virgin flight with a sackful of dollars (say the 1/2 milliuon that our own community is collecting) and dump it into the Virgin sack. An instant million! Leverage. Obviously Virgin would quickly change their policy - but leverage would have worked it's magic - and hey, maybe Richrd Branson would even applaud the idea - who knows!
So if there is anyone out there who has an 'in' with a Bushfire Appeal committee, go talk to them, let them hear the idea - and take the collection onto a local Virgin flight to double the value. Just a thought - LEVERAGE IN ACTION>
Move a lot with a little today!
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
I must apologize for not being bale to blog of late. I have been away and in places too remote to get internet access. Arrived home today and getting into my usual routine as of tomorrow - today was spent with family and catching up on a swag of e-nails and other things that needed squaring away. getting back to my blog is the last thing on today's 'to do' list.
For those who have been following the news of late, you'll be aware of the devastating bush-fires that have decimated Victoria (the state I live in) of late. With nearly 200 people having been killed by the fires, this has been hailed as the country's worst ever natural disaster. Over seven hundred houses have been destroyed and a number of towns wiped from the face of the earth. A dark time.
Nearly a quarter of a century ago, lives were lost and towns destroyed by the so called Ash Wednesday fires in Victoria. I was living in Airey's Inlet at the time, and in fact, was one of the last people to leave the seaside township as the fires went through.
I will never forget the roaring sounds of exploding gas cylinders as I made my way through the smoke to my house to rescue my dog who was trapped in the yard. As I drove out of the town, I recall having to choose the path of least resistance over the many trees that had fallen down across the road. it was like a scene out of Dante's Inferno.
That day was both tragic and life-changing. Along with hundreds of other people, I was 'displaced' by that fire - and forced to restart my life somewhere else. For me, that provided new opportunities, that have ultimately, bought me to the life I live now. Who knows, what I would be doing had that event not kicked me out of my comfortable beach-side lifestyle.
I learned a very interesting thing after the Ash Wednesday fires - it became clear to me that many people only stay in relationships because of the 'material things' they co-possess. After that day, when people realized they had 'nothing' but the clothes on their backs - many, many decided that making a 'fresh start' mean't going their own way. I was astounded at how many 'couples' that seemed (on the surface) to be happy, decided to split once they were stripped of their material possessions.
Makes you think, doesn't it. If you owned absolutely nothing - no assets, no car, no house ... only the clothes you were wearing - would you remain in your current relationship? I think that there are more people that would answer 'no' to that question that what we instinctively think.
Starting over - after a natural disaster strikes - can (and should) mean starting over in every conceivable way. if you wanted to re-invent your life - that would be a perfect time to do so. It was for me - and I know it will be for many of the unfortunates who are suffering as a result of last weekend's disaster.
it is perhaps unfortunate that many of us need 'disaster' to strike before we realize we have within ourselves the potential to re-invent our lives. For we each do - every day, represents an opportunity to 'start over'. Think about the word EMERGENCY - for it often takes such a a thing for us to EMERGE anew.
Enough of that though - it's time for each of us here in Australia, who are fortunate enough to be reading this blog, to ask ourselves how we can help the victims of the bush-fires. We can donate money - or as I will be doing next monday, we can head the hospital and donate blood. Do something - no matter how small - to help if you can. A little from everyone will go a long way.
Best wishes all,