Confidence Levels – Rory Miller

No experienced instructor is right.

No inexperienced instructor can know when they are wrong.As instructors, we are sure about many things.  My experience is that as the experience increases, the sense of being sure diminishes.  With only training and without experience, we learn all this stuff and we learn a framework of logic or maybe superstition that ties the stuff together into a structure.  And a structure that massive can’t fall.  So we think.So generally, as knowledge without experience increases, “sureness” also increases.  and a little taste of experience proves one thing right away– massive structures do fall and the more massive they are the more weight they have to crush you.

Knowledge can come from training, but there are certain forms of understanding that can only come from experience.  But then you have to look at the experience with a certain kind of knowledge to put it in perspective.  That’s as far as I’ve gone in something that may be an infinite spiral.  I don’t know where the analysis/learning/understanding process ends, or if it does.  So take nothing I say as a truth.  It works for me, at my level.  That is all.

Case in point, with confidence levels.  All fighters are inherently conservative.  Not in the political sense but in the sense that if you have bet your life on something and it worked, you won’t change it without a damn good reason.  Generally, you won’t change it until it fails.

So we trust the stuff that has worked.  The words are fuzzy here but the confidence level is high, yet the ‘sureness’ level is as close to zero as we can keep it.  Trust your ‘A’ techniques… but count on nothing.  Being sure sometimes makes you blind to the momentum of failure and you keep on a plan that is going south.  Confidence gives initiative, sureness kills adaptability.

But there are two (at least) problems with this.  And this is what I mean by using knowledge to analyze experience.  Training in experimental design and statistical analysis and scientific method changes perspective.

Problem number one– Small sample size.
No one has a lot of experience in a wide variety of violence.  Not when you count up hours and techniques.  Especially on the counter-ambush side.  300 HIRs in the jail (I quit counting at three hundred and stayed at the job for another ten years) is probably less than five hours of experience. One of the few officers I know with multiple gunfights can measure his experience in seconds.  Maybe a minute.  Maybe.

So as much experience as you have, it really isn’t much.
I trust throat spears.  I have used it for real exactly once.  A sample of one means absolutely nothing scientifically or statistically.

The most reliable handstrike I know I’ve used maybe three times, had used on me once and seen used another handful of times.  Less than a dozen incidents in all.  That’s not a big sample either.  100% fight stopper… but in a small sample.

Aside– And this is where mere training leaves holes.  Take a broken nose.  Trained people trust them, experienced people don’t.  I’ve never once seen it stop a real fight, and I’ve never seen it fail to stop a friendly sparring match.

Problem one, sample size.

Problem two, adrenaline effects.  Anything you do under an adrenaline dump feels more real than stuff you do in your normal life.  The reason I trust the throat chop?  Because I thought I was going to die and the threat outweighed me by more than 120 pounds and in an instant he was on his knees trying to scream and making no sound.  That sticks with you.

Something that feels real does not make it more real.  That’s the knowledge talking.  The old part of my brain says differently.  And that is without getting into the perception and memory distortions that come with high adrenaline.

And one more that’s a human thing, not necessarily an experience thing: Inappropriate extrapolation.

Things are what they are and can only be extrapolated so far.  Military operations are not cop operations are not civilian self-defense.  A bouncer throwing a drunk college kid out of a bar is not dealing with the same problem as a small drunk female targeted by the same drunk college kid.
Ring experience doesn’t make you SWAT any more than being SWAT makes you an MMA contender.

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