Monday, April 20, 2015


Hayatochiri (Coming to a [False] Conclusion)

Quick disclaimer from the pitiful excuses department of the dojo- Happy 2015- things have been busy but I'll be making a greater effort to update this blog.

The human brain is a remarkable instrument, capable of astounding feats of calculation, memory, reason and piercing insight.  It is, however, when combined with our limited sensory abilities (compared with most other species on earth) and propensity to rationalize, easily fooled, coerced or outright convinced into stupidity.

In the context of learning almost any art or way, we as students find ourselves confronted with some bit of oral history that has been 'repeated enough to be true.'  An easy conclusion to draw is that because one's seniors are, well, senior, that they must have some kind of special knowledge, borne from years of training...

This can encourage the repetition of dumb tropes (the Bushi [Samurai] were paragons of virtue and honor) dangerous myths (OUR Super-deadly-technique-X TM will always work in every situation and against all comers) and just plain idiocy ('the reason for the zenkutsudachi [long front-stance posture adopted by some modern karate schools] is because when the samurai threw their spears...*' )  Beyond repeating factually incorrect things though, it's not uncommon to come to conclusions about our own experiences that we (genuinely) believe but objective listeners might find less convincing.

A particularly striking example of this was overheard when two retired law enforcement officers (and longtime practitioners of combative arts) were exchanging stories recently.  One, a big, hearty fellow, related that during an arrest he found himself engaged in a three-plus-minute grappling session for his service weapon- the upshot of this for him was that his training provided him with superior stamina which allowed him to triumph.  While it's easy to be glad that the 'bad guy' didn't succeed in wresting control of the pistol away from the officer, that conclusion seems... dubious.  Yes, conditioning is essential in combatives.  Beyond that though, it was luck- had the 'bad guy' been in better shape, that story could have ended very differently (and probably not told by the officer.) Wake (wah-khey- reaching a conclusion based on judgement and research) proves to be a better tool than Hayatochiri.  A number of us present for that story had the same reaction, "I'd change the way I train." Just as with any stage of practice and study, there will be times when facts aren't comforting, but continuing to cling to impressions that we drew as younger people doesn't help and in fact, often serves to retard growth.  That is especially true when looking at the 'technology' that underlies our art(s) of choice.  No art does everything, but earnest training, learning what the strengths and weaknesses of what we do and honest appraisal about where we are in that continuum are hallmarks of a mature practice.


*Every... single... thing about that is not just wrong, but so utterly nonsensical that even just typing it elicited a cringe.