Crucibles

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“A situation of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new.”

Some training is a crucible, a trial demanding all you have and more, and challenging your notions of your own capacity across layers of skills.

The kind that makes you nervous just contemplating it.

When you are just so tired, you started at noon and its 2am the next morning and you are still at it and gearing up to do another run – and you know you will do the same thing tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. It’s pitch black when the lights go out, though all your practice was in the day time. You have to multi-task now and run everything with lights and lasers. Tests of competencies that start to fall off under duress.

It’s in the 90s with 90% humidity, and you are fully geared up, including the gas mask you wear every stinkin’ run, and you can’t breathe very well, and you can’t hear for various reasons, and everything you say to your partners goes unheard or misunderstood and you are pressed, from all sides, all the time, and damn it hurts when you take another mag of simulated training rounds from one side – and then another. You were given a short look at the tactics they want you to run but not enough to get any good at them and you screw everything up. With more epic fails than before and you start to question your qualification to even be here, doing what you are doing.

The lessons are written in bruises and scabs from the rounds all over your arms and legs and hips and ass, that you discover when, exhausted, you peel off your sweat-sopped clothes, so wet you may as well have jumped in a swamp.

Deeper lessons are marked by irritability, impatience, even anger. With your instructors, your partners (most of whom you don’t even know), and yourself. And then you do it again.  And again.

This isn’t about Embracing the Suck. This is The Suck embracing you.

It gets down to a core part of you when you go through something like this. You are broken down in many ways, before you climb back up.

Not a lot of people are comfortable with this kind of training. Afraid to put themselves out there, where egos are not simply bruised but battered, and in a way realistic to the problem tactically, technically, and psychologically. But after decades of training combatives and tactical disciplines, this is the kind that I like, and need the most, more than yet another feel-good class based on minimum standards or “wanting the student to be successful.”

Don’t read that the wrong way. I think most instructors want students to be successful; It’s just that most spoon-feed or softball their students to success.

Others basically demand the student be responsible for that success.

That’s how resilience is built.

 

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A Happy Anniversary

Ten years ago today,  almost to the hour as I tap this out, I barely escaped being shot to death during a crisis entry hostage rescue operation. In many ways that operation could be seen as a failure.

A “negative outcome.”

Instead I have come to see it as definitive. The first day of the rest of my life, a life that changed a great deal in light of that experience.

Most clearly defined was the juxtaposition of the different strains of training and practice I’ve pursued over the years, before and  since. The mental and physical elements that go above and beyond “techniques.” Modern and traditional approaches, which I have struggled at times to reconcile – dissatisfied with this or that take, always looking toward something else to meet my perceived training goals  – only to look  back and find they were being served all along, and that the seemingly discrete, even incompatible paths I trod were in truth two sides of the same coin.

Of  course other areas of my life were impacted, to the point that great changes ensued in fundamental ways. But this thing of ours in terms of martial and tactical training is so fundamental on so many levels that I keep coming back to the lessons  it offers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Other Three Corners…

What we really should be building toward is not so much being multi-disciplinary, but multi-dimensional tacticians.

Ever notice that most teaching and writing in the tactical and self defense fields is far more about the training itself than about the utilization of that training?  Often this revolves around building physical and technical skills, and a mental attitude geared more to self development and personal fulfillment rather than personal protection.

It’s modern pop-sport-psychology. Kind of the Tactical Tony Robbins approach…

Of course, being committed to being skilled, being fit, and being mentally resilient are necessary fundamentals, and it is important to have quality teachers across these multiple disciplines as we endeavor to achieve a comprehensive approach.

But each is really only one or two dimensions when it comes to actual field or street application and performance, leading to being one (or two-) dimensional tacticians. We cannot define comprehensive performance via measures predicated on things like A-zone hits and how fast they are achieved, to who throws or taps who, or punches thrown and punches landed. Those are metrics for closed, highly regulated systems not reflective of the open, kinetic environments which present with an array of very different psychological stressors. I’ve known technically skilled people to perform poorly under uncertain, rapidly evolving, and highly stressful tactical situations, and I’ve known people with lesser mat and range skills perform brilliantly under the same.

So don’t be one dimensional. And don’t expect that courses that teach or measure solely physical and technical performance are teaching anything more than just that, a critical evaluation of but a single dimension.

We have to go beyond that, and do so early in our training trajectory.

Confucius said:

“I never try to make people open up [to the world of learning] unless they already have a pent up excitement about it. Then if I give them one corner [of a problem or point of study], if they do not come back to me with the other three corners I will not involve myself with them again.”

(In Analects)

It’s up to us to bring the other Three Corners back…