Perception and Decision – Rory Miller

Been circling a thought. It’s nothing new in a lot of ways, but I don’t think I’ve hit it up the middle yet.

90% (statistic totally made up) of what I teach is about learning to see. That includes everything from seeing the physical possibilities (open targets, lines of balance, momentum vectors, environmental opportunities) to the social dynamics (what type of violence?) to exploiting the nuances of the social dynamic (gather resources, influence witnesses, reframe the problem…) to reading and exploiting terrain, both in the moment and strategically.

That’s cool. We can all stand to spend hours on that. One of the most useless things a self-defense instructor can do is to harp on awareness without ever explicitly stating what to be aware of.

Not a problem I regularly have.

That said, whenever you increase the perceived complexity of a problem, you run the risk of slowing down the decision process. Analysis paralysis. The brownbelt syndrome. Doesn’t matter what you call it.

There’s a bind there. It may slow down the decision. But it increases the opportunities for resolution. And often, for particular people, the best solution is going to be off the main path. If you teach SD as primarily a physical skill, you limit the chances for success for the less-physical students, who are far more likely to be victimized anyway. The more you see, the more options… but add that the options interact and it becomes a multi-dimensional problem with multi-dimensional possibilities.

And that’s good. As long as you don’t freeze.

Some of the stuff is basic, and leaving it out of training is unforgivable. That’s the chapter list of “Facing Violence”. But you can add an almost infinite amount more and, if you really understand it, the nuances can really increase your effectiveness.

So the first stage is getting the student to see as much as they can handle. It should be targeted, focused on the types of violence an individual student profiles… but more is good.

And then practice at manipulating what they can see. A lot of this won’t happen in the training hall, and that’s okay. Most of life happens in a perfect environment for reading and manipulating possibilities on almost every level. But the student has to practice. Get comfortable. Slowly shift knowledge to understanding. That will speed up the reaction time.

And then the different knowledges have to become less different. Violence dynamics and social dynamics and terrain and physical skills might be played with separately at first, but they all interconnect and if you play long enough in the world, they become sections of a single thing in your head. You know arms and legs and torsos and you can look at the world like that, but they eventually have to blend and be seen as people, not parts. The same thing happens with the dynamics of violence.

Just aspects, not different studies at all.

And somewhere in there, making a decision shifts from a cognitive process to something that just happens. A flow. Fluid or staccato, part of a complex plan or an immediate ending, your actions, your solutions just ‘are.’

Leave a Reply