Saturday, January 22, 2011

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Black Mice and Happy Accidents ...

How do new techniques evolve? I see techniques evolving two different ways; firstly, they can be designed through the process of intellect; that is, we can deliberately build them, correcting and modifying as we go – or they can be stumbled upon and evolve through what I call the process of ‘happy accident’.
To understand the happy accident concept – we need to understand how the evolutionary process works in nature. To explain this process (and perhaps highlight how quickly it can happen) I’ll use the example of how a mouse population might change/evolve from white to black in only a few short generations.
This example goes like this: we have a population of light colored mice living happily on the grass covered plains – a local volcano erupts, and spills large areas of black lava rock over their habitat. Now, one out of every 1000 mice, by genetic ‘accident’, is born darker colored. This happens purely by accident, as a result of genetic mutation … but then what happens, why does the entire population of mice turn black over a few generations. The answer is provided by natural selection … in short, it goes like this: we have tens of thousands of light colored mice and a few dozen dark ones. Because the environment changed and the landscape was now darker in color due to the volcanic lava flows, the birds who eat the mice can more easily hunt the lighter colored mice; in short time, the light population is decimated, leaving the few darker mice to breed and eventually populate the landscape.
The point of this story is to illustrate how a random accident can have a real and lasting effect on how things evolve. I believe the same sort of process is occurring on the mat all the time. Sometimes, by pure accident, we turn left instead of right, we pull instead of pushing and something positive happens. Provided this happens with enough frequency that we take notice of it, we may decide to repeat it – and suddenly, we develop new habits and new techniques.
Sometimes, these happy accidents can have a very significant impact on how our game evolves … another reason to approach grappling practice (or anything else for that matter) with a playful mindset. The more we ‘play’, the more ‘happy accidents’ we are likely to have …
JBW

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2 Comments

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This evolution you describe, John is accelerated by short life-spans. That's why insects evolve so fast. In the same way, if we could kill our pre-conceived notions and keep an open mind, we could evolve faster.
I've discovered many "shortcuts" by taking the long way home. Great thought-provoking post.

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a very good and thought provoking posting.Having been involved in various martial arts (on and off) over about 50 years I continue to find new applications.
That having been said, good technique in whatever form remains the foundation - and from there we build.
For this reason my advice to students is, "practice what you have been taught diligently, and then let your imagination run a bit. That is the road to "spontaneous techniques" and to individual expression.
This is by no means a new concept. OSensei Usheiba taught it. So did Bruce Lee. Nevertheless, it is fundamental to the point of being the real goal, but often forgotten, especially by teachers who insist on strict adherence to pre determined forms only (which is stifling to the spirit and in many respects destructive of the real purpose of Budo training), so it bears repeating - often.

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