The War in the Mind

A remarkable post on martial arts called The Pleasure of Drowning deals with the self-deception that comes from teaching your students how to fight you.  Here is a master of Aikido whose students have learned that they had best evade his every hint if they are to avoid a painful reprisal:

And here is what happened when he faced another master, who did not have that barrier of fear in the mind.

The author says that the students were complicit, but in fact they probably had each learned painful lessons in the face of the master, so that they were eager to avoid each of his strokes.  The competitor who had learned his own art did not come up with that fear of the master, and so beat him with ease.

There is a lesson here; there are several.  What are they?


karrde said...

On the practical end, find a teacher who won't punish you for being better than he is.

Texan99 said...

Fear of pain makes us slaves.

Grim said...

Good lessons, both.

T99's lesson is the lesson of the lion who grew up in a bamboo cage. He learned as a cub that the bars were too strong for him, so that when he was a grown lion he never tried to break out of them: though by then, he easily could. The students are like that.

There's a lesson from the perspective of the master, too. That's the one that bothers me most. At one point he really could best all these students; and over time he came to be so good at manipulating their psyche that he was really doing this stuff, throwing them around like rags without touching them. The power he had was real enough, within that circle.

The problem is that he seems not to have known the root of the power. He seems to have come to believe that he was invincible, and could throw anyone without touching them. And, so, he learned a hard lesson.

E Hines said...

In the first video, the students have no idea of how to complete a punch or a kick, since they're never allowed to. This is made manifest by the two students working alone/together on their (kata?). Their form just plain sucks.

This is a terrible instructor: he's only teaching his students how to fail. And in so doing, he's only taught himself how to fail. This is manifest in the second video, where he's slow, stiff, and tentative. And purely defensive--of the timid variety, not of the kind of defense intended merely to turn a disadvantage into an advantage.

The "instructor's" disadvantage is mental--he's already surrendered before the fight has begun. This is because he's surrendered in his own dojo, out of his fear of his students.

This man does not teach his students how to excel, only how to submit. By doing this, he not only limits his students, he limits himself: he preempts all opportunity to learn from his students.

Both physical skill and mental toughness. Honor and pride. Self confidence.

It's an attitude I've never understood, but it's far more widespread than in just a poor dojo.

Eric Hines

Tom said...

I have to think about this, but there are some other strange things here.

The instructor's given name is extremely unusual for Japan. 'Ryuken' is literally 'Dragonfist,' and the Japanese don't name their kids that kind of thing anymore than we do. I suspect it's a nickname (or art name), but that kind of nickname is unusual as well in traditional Japanese arts, or at least in my limited experience of them. Normally they are self-deprecating, or evoke simplicity, or something along those lines.

Then there's the art itself. Daito ryu aikijujutsu was the precursor to aikido. But what's Daito ryu aikido? Is it a blended art?

William said...

If one is studying a competitive art, be it chess, combat, or just driving down the road, complacency kills. Yes he has done a terrible disservice to both his students and to himself by not seeing to his own development and growth. The best studio I ever trained in encouraged senior belts to take field trips and visit other studios, preferably on nights they were fighting, in order to grow and develop.

William sends.

Grim said...

That's very good advice.

William said...

On reflection it occurs to me that this is an easy trap to fall into and that avoiding it requires the same focus, discipline, and attention to detail that has been discussed from Da Mao through Vince Lombardi. All that is required is to be satisfied enough and confident enough in your abilities to allow yourself to refocus your attention, time, and primary energies elsewhere. Then, much like a garden or a knife, if you don't return your attention often enough to train, weed, or re-hone, your abilities will decay and you simply won't notice enough initially to fix it. Excellence really is a habit that we need to be aware of. I can think of a few places in my life that have become like this. Now I must fix them. I hope that he chooses to grow also. (Personally, I believe that he owes it to his students to either help them grow, with will require him to fix himself, or to find them other teachers who will.) If not, his life will be miserable.

William sends.