Monday, February 13, 2017

rookie mistakes, monkeys, mongrels

disconnected. poorly planned, long-ass thoughts to ensue-

Monkey brain

1. Monkey brains don't like making rookie mistakes. Human brains see them as tremendous opportunity.

          a) monkey brains whine and fuss and generally worry about "how it looks"
          b) human brains wonder things like, why did this happen? what created the problem? what are the solutions? are any of them permanent fixes? and so on

2. Multi-Conscious events are funny experiences. Funny "ha-ha" funny and funny "odd" funny. Monkey brain and Human brain co-existing at the same time in the same experience and conversation ... that's a funny experience.

Context: participated in 3 days of training and several exhaustion drills. Day 3, final exhaustion drill - pushed hard and pushed to a failure point. Found it. Showed up as rookie mistake in a skill I have (oops - thought I had) down cold. Have taught the "correct' pattern so many times I can literally do it with my eyes closed and recite the checkpoints with zero concentration required.  I can apply it, adapt it and respond to the Threat on the fly - correctly.

And yet there it is -bigger than Dallas - on film for the world to see (gotta' love Facebook) -rookie mistake.

Too many thoughts and rabbit trails and possibilities to chase down, including how I feel about training and public videos. I'm only going to hit a few, for which you will be grateful; I'm sure.

Running down the ins and outs of the rookie mistake, the monkey/human split in the AAR was a cool moment. Both brains formulating my conversation simultaneously makes for a somewhat schizophrenic conversation during problem solving.  Monkey is whining - Human is playing with the puzzle pieces. 

Discovery.  Big guy - by comparison to me - REALLY big guy. Big guy who knows what's coming in the defense to the threat and compensates. Avoids the reality of an incoming strike by structuring out and leaning back so the strike inherent to the defense can't land (mostly because a little bit of leaning back with all that long-ass range is all it takes to get away from me). Big deal.

But it is. Because the rookie mistake could cause serious injury to the defender - in this case, me.

Back to the co-existing brains. Human brain says...does this need to be fixed? This is a training dynamic - maybe an artificial artifact. My partner knows the skill and knows the defense equally well. He can anticipate my every move because he has trained it at least as deeply/often as I have. We are all in the stress/exhaustion drill. He's as tired as I am and just doesn't want to get hit. As we debriefed the FUBAR moment he says "at that point I'd taken a lot of shots already in that drill and I was just done getting hit".

Avoiding the strike is easy with me - the range difference between us is huge. Just lean back but leave the weapon fully extended at arm's length ( the weapon I now have a hold of) and viola! I am in a very bad position and add to it the exhaustion drill - I make said rookie mistake.

Debriefing with my training partner, he ticks off correlations for the mistake.  In a real situation the Threat isn't standing there with exact knowledge of every move before you make it. With this kind of size differential, he's not expecting you to get into this position (for the strike) in the first place. This is happening because we know you're going to hit us/me so we're moving out of the way first, before the strike - so there's no way you can make contact. Training artifact because the "attacking" partner isn't doing anything else to avoid the strike. He's letting the rest of the defense play out from this odd body position and the weapon hanging out there in space with no efforts at retention or adjustment. So - yeah - weird artifact.


Human brain says maybe it's not something to dig into, fixing a training artifact so the skill "looks right" may create a deeper problem in a real circumstance. Monkey brain says ... no, wait. We HAVE to fix this. It's a big-ass rookie mistake. And I shouldn't be making those mistakes any more. It looks bad.

Where's the linchpin? find the pivotal moment in which the mistake comes to life and fix it. You know, so we don't ever get caught on video making this mistake again. So...we start picking it apart. Find a potential solution. And this is a little human brain action too because human brains like to solve puzzles but the human is kinda' working for the monkey.

At the Meta Level the solution venture has merit because it speaks to rapid adaptability and creating a deep physical program that cannot be degraded by exhaustion or deep stress. -AND_

The harder I train. The tougher the training will be. The tougher training, the harder the drills and the more mistakes I should be making. If you, me, if we never do anything in our physical training that is a mistake, we never learn anything new. And the rookie mistakes in an advanced practitioner are the best. This is human brain awareness.

In the moment of the mistake - I saw it happening and my reaction time v. the visual're fucking this up....couldn't catch up to each other so I laughed (and swore) and kept going. It was fun. The drill kept going and the drill continued to be fun.

The fun I had training into drenched-in-sweat-breathing hard-no time to think reaction work disappeared when I saw the rookie mistake broadcast out later as part of a public montage of the training event. This is not a fault conversation. It's an internal one and it's fucked up but it does a beautiful job reminding me of how strong the monkey can be.

Annoyed. I want to fix the mistake. Permanently. And am fully aware this is my monkey brain's desire to avoid public finger pointing and all the status games martial artists play (because we have nothing better to do?) The monkey convo stands in direct opposition to my human brain that finds the greatest lessons in mistake-making.

And it all boils down to this one question - does the rookie mistake require fixing?
Yes - be aware that the situation creating the golden moment of fuck ups could happen in a real encounter, albeit the possibility is rare due to the artifact that created it. Yes, because I want the level of nano-second adaptability that would have allowed my brain and body to work more simultaneously in seeing the mistake before it fully bloomed. This is about training. I like to train. This is easy.

No - it's a training artifact. The stimulus - response combination is a by-product of working with someone from within my system who knows the technique, is equally tired, and creating an artificial stimulus rarely seen in the wild. Creating a fix may make a real encounter fail at a faster and more dangerous level.

Then down another rabbit trail I go. Can we train past training artifact mistakes in a way that makes both brains happy? Possibly. Maybe. I think the only way to train past or through an artifact-driven mistake like this is to train with a group of people who all have the same deep respect for the rare opportunity created by a rookie mistake.

Why I think this is the mandatory element for rookie mistakes to become awesome learning events? Even the most senior black belts in a system have to be comfortable enough with the psychological safety of the training space that they can make an error in a rookie level skill - and be okay enough with the mistake to poke around at the whys and hows of it and ask all the questions and never judge the mistake (or the person). Without that, the mistake gets buried and tucked away like a mongrel tail between the legs of a shamed creature. Nothing gets learned. No discoveries with the exception that deep practice is punished.

Only problem is, I suspect in many organized systems in the martial/combat world - this culture doesn't exist. As long as there are people drawn to martial training who need their egos bolstered by standing on the mistakes of their colleagues, the monkeys win - the humans lose.

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