These last few posts pose some very intriguing issues. First to Mike and the tounge in cheek comment about getting out of the dojo being the equivalent of no longer doing karate. I am certain that alot of people believe exactly that and this is clearly THE problem with reality style combat.
To those, I would remind them that karate is a form of self defense only if you want it to be. It can also be a cultural study, a fitness program, a macho endeavor to impress your friends, a money maker and even a babysitting service. Intent matters.
But as a self defense system it has to be looked at and commented on from the back of the room. It has to be reverse engineered to answer the question, "Why do we do what we do?"
When you free yourself from dogma you recognize that time and place matter. The karate practitioners paradigm is built mostly upon eighteenth century Asian combat, designed specifically for that distinct time and place under those cultural values, attitudes and norms. Because of this single reference point it can be argued that karate is "more real" when practiced in Asia which still embraces many of those cultural norms that were around at the time of karate's birth. Certainly those times have changed, but what is really different is the rules of engagement in the west. The west is, and has been a strikingly different culture with a different set of values, attitudes and norms. The west is more independent, more individual, less homogenized as a culture and it breeds a different, more aggressive,more brutal breed of predatory criminal. Absent drunken barroom fights, a fight in the west is far more likely to result in serious injury or death. The US consistantly posts top numbers for aggravated assault and murder when compared to all of the developed nations during times of peace and among a civilian population.
So what we see when we take the raw martial arts and apply them to actual combat in America is that they are a bit mismatched. They aren't necesarily designed to deal with the new kinds of attacks that the west offers; that's obvious, but I think in a more profound sense, they are operating in a highly litigous society that discourages pre-emptive strikes and mentally conditions its members to be able to articulate the attack that was percieved so that reasonable people, who will stand in judgement agree that the defense was necessary
. This overly cautious mindset causes a form of denial that has become a cultural norm. It creates a habit of dismissing critical intuitive feelings
that an attack is imminent. In America we force the art to be a science, and science requires proofs. Gut feeling, intuition, spider-sense, call it what you will are all very real things indeed, but very indefensible. That's why in the last post I said that... you have to be right.
How does one describe intuition
to a peer group who stands in judgement of their defensive pre-emptive attack? Well, we try to characterize it in physical, observable behavior.
One thing I have said over and over again, is that even if you are "defensive," the fight begins BEFORE the first punch is thrown. Somebody is often being overly agressive, loud, pointing or poking, red faced, or even calmly and quickly closing distance. These factors indicate you're in a fight, even if you haven't been hit yet.
Yeah, we got a million auditory and visual descriptors, yet none of them speaks as loudly as the intuition that makes up the hardwiring of the primitive brain. Usually what we are describing when we talk about these indicators and cues is nothing more than posturing
behavior, what Rory once describe as the monkey dance
. In fact, someone exhibiting these "indicators" is often doing what animals do to avoid
fights. They make themselves appear larger and louder. They change colors. They call upon subtle primitive facial expressions as signs of warning. They close distance and in doing so express their territorial boundries. They set up lines for you not to cross.
We can sell this to a jury easily. These are agreed upon indicators of aggression regardless of how accurate they are. But if you really want to train and teach others to recognize true aggression you have to get in touch with intuition. Predators do not do any of those things we describe. They would not want to give their position away. When animals hunt, they try to blend in not stand out. They try to conceal themselves not appear larger. They are quiet, stealty rather than loud and threatening. They penetrate territory, striking hard, viscious and fast. Then they exit, and disappear. They do not claim territory for themselves. They violate it. They are wanderers not homesteaders.
The amazing thing is that we are all hardwired to percieve danger, recognize its imminence and respond in a blink to a primal fight and/or flight response. It is our intuition that keeps us safe and alive. Nothing more...or less. Yet intuition is dismissed as being non-scientific, and therefore a liability. It's tough to train to it because it defies proof.
So most dojo's today teach to wait for a visual attack, an apparent motive. Not on purpose mind you, but rather it is implied in the way we perform the ritualistic combat scenarios. Intuition is absent in most classical dojos and it will remain absent until we leave the dojo, its hardwood floors and secure walls which trap in the values, attitudes and norms of eighteenth century Asia .
Debecker describes it well:
"We think conscious thought is somehow better, when in fact intuition is soaring flight compared to the plodding of logic. Nature's greatest accomplishment, the human brain, is never more efficient or invested than when its host is at risk. Then, intuition is catapulted to another level entirely, a height at which it can accurately be called graceful, even miraculous. Intuition is the journey from A to Z without stopping at any other letter along the way. It is knowing without knowing why"