Perceiving The Elephant

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by Bill Mattocks, Jan 2, 2019.

  1. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    A classic story involves blind men encountering an elephant. Each described what they perceived with their hands, and decided that they knew what an elephant was based on their perception. We laugh at the story because the blind men are all wrong, and we can easily know this because we can 'see' an elephant.

    Blind men and an elephant - Wikipedia

    Similarly, people with sight might see a martial art technique and decide that they know what it is, what it is for, and decided whether or not it is of value, without any true understanding of the true reasons behind the technique.

    This gives rise to several errors. The first is obvious - there is a technique which will be rejected by some because they do not 'see' how it could possibly work. The second is more insidious - it involves those trained but apparently not to the extent that they grasp the concept either. These will also claim that a technique, or even a style of martial arts, is valueless because they either could not grasp it or it was not taught to them by a person who understood it.

    I have heard this expressed in many contexts, usually over the traditional martial arts.

    Kata is one. Individual techniques or training methods. Ways of standing and moving. Even basic concepts like respect shown on the training floor via traditions like bowing and terms of respect.

    If you are a student being shown these things, I would urge you to show patience and trust your instructors. If it is not becoming clear to you, ask questions, seek clarification. A competent instructor should always be able and willing to demonstrate the 'why' of what you are training.

    If you're an instructor, I hope that you understand these things and are passing them along as best you can.

    And if you're just an observer, or a specialist in another style, who thinks they know what a kata or a technique or a practice is for, I would urge you to try to find out more before condemning it out of hand.

    Otherwise, the elephant is just a snake because you touched its tail and think you understand it.
     
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  2. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    I'll add to this: if someone is asking these questions, don't talk down to them as if they're inferior because they don't already know the answer, or because they have a different answer in mind than you do.
     
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  3. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    Quite true and well said. I take your point.

    I would also add that quite often, questions are asked with a loaded intent. In other words, the person asking the question already has what they consider the 'correct' answer in mind and will accept no other. They did not ask to get an answer, they asked to get the answer they wanted to hear. Human nature.
     
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  4. Martial D

    Martial D Senior Master

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    Yet sometimes they can see the elephant for what it is and realize a horse is much more efficient and useful for transport.
     
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  5. wab25

    wab25 Brown Belt

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    I've never seen that happen here...

    I always try to look at the things I have learned, as being only a small part of the whole. If I can keep reaching out on the part I am touching now I will continue to learn more. But, if I come at it from another direction, it may be something else entirely. While I try to move around and come at things from all directions, I try to appreciate how hard it would be for a blind person to get to all directions of a living animal, surely I miss a few directions and certainly there are gaps.

    This is why places like this are good, and talking and or training with other martial artists from other styles is so valuable. They have touched different parts, and learned things they can share with me... and hopefully vice versa.

    An important part of this story to me, is to imagine myself as the blind guy and other people I talk or train with as blind guys as well. No one is trying to mislead the other, only share what they have found. When you find people honestly trying to experience the elephant, I have found that I get more by listening to their explanation and then trying to explore what they found... in order to add it to what I have found. Its not a "right or wrong" thing, its not an "either or" thing. Its an "and" thing. I found the tail, you found the leg, another guy found the tusk... An elephant is not a tusk or a leg or a tail. An elephant is a tusk and a leg and tail and a whole lot of parts in between, on top of and underneath that I haven't even imagined yet. So much to learn.
     
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  6. TSDTexan

    TSDTexan Master of Arts

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    How many karateka does it take to change a light a lightbulb? One to do it, and ninety-nine to complain "He's doing it wrong cause thats not the way, I was taught".
     
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  7. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    He wouldn't need to change the light bulb if he was more careful with his nunchucks.
     
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  8. Buka

    Buka MT Moderator Staff Member

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    How many Karateka does it take to change a light bulb?

    Wait...you want to change something? Nooooooo!
     
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  9. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    And now the story of the emperors new clothes...........
     
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  10. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Ill add that sometimes things are simply outside the realm of one’s experience. When that is true, perhaps one ought to resist proclaiming his uneducated opinion as fact.

    Sometimes ya just don’t know what ya just don’t know.

    Welcome back Bill. As you can see, some things haven’t changed.
     
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  11. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    The part that grinds my gears is where a person says "I don't like the way you guys do X." I reply that I don't do X the way he perceived it. "Oh, yes you do. This is how you do it and I don't like it." Funny. Not only do they know what it is 'we' do, they know what *I* am thinking when I do it. I had no idea they were such good mind readers.
     
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  12. Martial D

    Martial D Senior Master

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    I'm pretty sure nobody has done that. Do you have any examples?
     
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  13. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    Look up my posts. Then read the people who reply to me!
     
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  14. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    I am so glad I'm not the only one who experiences this.

    Or the assumption that if I didn't say something, it means we don't do it or I don't know it, and then I get ridiculed for not teaching right.
     
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  15. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    Let's not open the door to every crazy idea out there that anyone can invent and profit from.

    Ok. So there is kind of two ideas at play here.

    We can have a functional expert who performs well using a method that might be a bit left of field. (hand weights don't help hand speed/strength. But Tripple G does it.)

    And we have a theoretical expert who has a specialized method. (David wolf and avocados for cancer treatment. And hey what does a Surgical oncologist know about avocados to be dismissing that)

    Form follows function.
     
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  16. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    Yeah. Everyone is the exception. Everyone is the guy who makes that work. Nobody has proof.

    I am a unicorn not a horse.
     
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  17. Buka

    Buka MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Hey, Skribs, F'em. You train hard, you're passionate, you teach, you're learning and gaining experience, your articulate and you always just lay it out there. Rock on, brother.
     
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  18. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    So here is a left field idea about how technique isn't the king of success.


    But we dont give that idea weight because of some esoteric success that nobody can see or prove.

    Real observable consistent success.

    Keenan Cornelius - Wikipedia
     
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  19. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    Medical students go back and forth between the classroom ("technique") and then practical training ("experience"). They have to learn policies and procedures, terminology for effective communication, and all sorts of things about the human body and how it interacts. This is the equivalent of the "technique" training.

    But then there's the actual experience of going to see patients and trying to figure out what this kind of cough means, or what the patient means when they say "I have this pain here". They have to practice their bedside manner, the manual dexterity of working with a patient to feel what's wrong (i.e. swelling) or to do basic procedures (i.e. sticking a needle in them).

    What a martial artist gets out of that is the ability to read their opponents, react quicker, and simply to have confidence going in.

    This is where techniques and drills (which I would put into the classroom portion of martial arts) differ from resistance training and sparring (which fit more into the practical training). Both are important.
     
  20. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    In martial arts when you do technique you are learning the wrong technique.

    Because you are copying someone elses technique.
     
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