Training Blindness – Rory Miller

Have to get this out of the way first. Most of the self-defense techniques I see taught don’t take into account the essential nature of an assault. Not just ignoring the fact that it is fast, hard and from surprise. Most ignore the simple fact that the bad guy doesn’t do just one thing and then wait for you to solve the problem. If, anywhere in your solution, there is time for him to do something, the bad guy will be doing something. And that ‘something’ will change the dynamics of each step of your complicated, memorized technique.

I’ve seen this in an eight-move technique to escape from a wall pin that wound up in a nifty armlock. Even at a 90% effectiveness rate for each step, let’s see, .9x.9x.9x.9x.9x.9x.9x.9= .43. Or thereabouts More likely to fail than to work even if you are very good. And what really annoyed me is that there was a two-move option to get to the same result… but the instructor didn’t consider that elegant. Dammit, simple is elegant. And effective is beautiful.

Also seen it in a two move escape from a grab (at least it was a grab that actually happens, there’s that at least). The second move actually worked okay without the first move. The first move did nothing except afford me an opportunity to punch him in the face while he wasted time.

Had to get that out of the way even though it only has a weak connection with training blindness. Maybe the inability to see the artificiality?

I don’t teach new things. On some level, everyone knows the things I teach. You couldn’t survive without at least some gut feeling about this stuff. The running class on classifications of violence– we all knew that the monkey dance of a drunk college kid in a bar was different than a stranger rape. We all knew (if we thought about it for a second) that robbing to get the money to get the drugs was different than working out a self-esteem issue. And if we ever really thought about the problems criminals need to solve we would come up with efficient criminal reactions to those problems, not martial arts solutions.

So it’s not new, just making the information conscious and organized enough to use.

But one of the most basic is the hardest. And that is simply seeing.

Went to grab a throat and the student immediately ran through her memory rolodex to do what she was taught. Which did not have a hope in hell of working. It was too complicated, didn’t take into account our strength disparity… Hopeless. All the technique would have done is distract her while the bad guy escalated his evil.

And here’s the blind part: She knew it. Like every student, she has been moving her whole body for her whole life. She’s seen other people move and, I assume, felt them. One glance and she knew it wouldn’t work, anymore than any chi master will ever lift an engine block without touching. She knew and turned off her eyes and her brain and did what she was ‘supposed’ to do anyway.

Training makes you blind. Not at first. At first you see all kinds of new things. The world gets bigger. And that’s a huge component of getting good. The ‘Orient’ step of the OODA loop is one of the places you can freeze and it must be trained. A baby doesn’t automatically know that an object getting bigger is getting closer. You have to learn to identify the weight shift before a kick. All good.

But the longer you stay in one sandbox, the more you forget all of the other things outside the sandbox. Once you remember you forget to see. Once you start living in your head, you quit living in the world.

Going back to the defense that didn’t work– had she applied the exact same motion as the first move of the sequence at a slightly different angle she would have prevented the grab and jabbed me in the throat. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the physics or body mechanics of the move. Except for where they were applied and the assumption that 4 moves at 90% effectiveness would mean 360% effectiveness. When it is actually 65.6%.

A slight angle change and you get two solid effects with a single motion. (My goal is four with each motion). As opposed to four motions to get one effect with no finish.

The student already knew this. She could see it. It was right in front of her eyes. Except she couldn’t. Seeing a problem she knew from training, she remembered the response from training. In all of the years of training somehow the fact that it was only working because her partners had also been brainwashed into letting it work drifted out of consciousness and it became ‘the thing to do.’

With that, everything she knew about physics, about bodies, about the way angles cut into weakness (still tired, not using words gooder– basically it’s easier to move the end of the lever and even easier if you ‘cut’ while doing it and even easier if you move) just disappeared down some mental rabbit hole. For combative and self-defense purposes, this student was essentially blind. And her training had made her that way.

It’s not so simple, because everything I did point out was in her system. Any system that has survived for any length of time has the stuff you need in it. Darwin had a lot to say about things, until rule of law spread and even then for a long while until dojo arashi became frowned upon. (Anyone want to propose legislation that legitimizes dueling as an alternative to lawsuits?)

So not only did she naturally know this stuff, the system she trained in was based on it and somehow failed to pass it on in a useful way. How many instructors can you think of who can explain the principles of how techniques work but the techniques taught violate those principles? Too many.

This kind of blindness is hereditary. An instructor who has it will pass it on. In demonstrations, the blindness of his students becomes part of the reason his techniques work. A student who can actually see is an incredible threat to his ability and status

And it is all completely unnecessary. The good stuff is there. You just look for it, and then look for where it really fits. See.

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