Monday, September 21, 2015

Verbal Judo

A full seminar (90 minutes) with the late George "Rhino" Thomson, English literature academic turned beat cop, on his system for de-escalating conflict:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Kung Fu animals

Many styles of Chinese Boxing (aka kung fu or gong fu) have origin stories based around the observation of animal movements and fighting styles. This notion has been popularized in the Kung Fu Panda animated movie and its sequels.

Many kung fu styles incorporate aspects of multiple animals, with specific animals
  • identified with specific techniques, or entire "sets"
  • taken to embody a particular of mindset and/or physical characteristics
In drawing on the animal heritage of kung fu it is helpful to learn more about the nature of the animals in question. Ways to do so include:
  • Visiting a zoo for direct observation
  • Watching nature documentaries and clips
  • Learning about the cultural significance of the animals
And, of course, go practice and pay attention to what you find!

* * *

In Hung Kuen chinese boxing (and other styles) the main five animals are:
  • Tiger (trains bones): sheer power, prowling, connection to the Earth, ultimate predator, claws
  • Crane (sinews): balance and grace, light footwork, wings, beak, little claws
  • Leopard (strength): speed, unusual angles of attack, no blocking, leaping, claws
  • Snake (qi): adaptability, fluidity, precise attacks, bite
  • Dragon (spirit): combines aspects of the other animals, mysterious, omni-directional, powerful twisting, wings, tail, claws
A Tiger posture

The Five Animal Frolics is a qigong based on a different set of five animals (with tiger and crane in the overlap): bear, tiger, monkey, crane, and deer.

Other animals of note include the praying mantis, monkey, and eagle. 

Xing Yi features ten to twelve animals, depending on lineage.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Jiu-Jitsu: Challenge yourself

Our new promotional poster:

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

A few throws: animated!

We pulled out a camera (thanks Ash!) at the end of 2014 and several of my senior students demonstrated a few of their favourite throwing techniques.

Although we were after stills, I thought some of the sequences might make nice animations:

Lejoe throws John: 3rd shoulder throw (kata guruma)
John throws Damian: stomach throw with stick 
Damian throws John: 3rd sutemi (maki tomoe)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Train as you fight vs deliberate practice

The following extended quote is from Think Like a Commander, the US Army's guide to Adaptive Thinking.  It's a nice exploration of a big aspect of what kata can be -- deliberate practice -- arguably the most effective tool (although not the only one!) in the development of technical expertise.
Train As You Fight versus Deliberate Practice

The maxim "train as you fight" has risen to such a level of familiarity in the U.S. Army that the value of the notion goes almost unquestioned. Yet studies of the development of expertise clearly indicate that "as you fight" meaning performing in fully realistic simulated battles is neither the most effective nor efficient method of developing expertise. Such "performances" can help a novice become acquainted with applying military knowledge, and can reinforce existing knowledge in an experienced person, but will not in and of themselves lead to the development of expertise. In many fields where expertise has been systematically studied, including chess, music and sports, development beyond advanced novice level requires large amounts of deliberate practice (Ericsson, Krampe & Tesch-Roemer, 1993) and good coaching (Ericsson, 1996; Chamess, Krampe & Mayr, 1996). The combination of long periods of study, relatively few chances to practice, and little or no deliberate practice with quality coaching has led to a situation in the army where most officers can talk an excellent battle command game, but reveal only an amateurish effort in actual performance. How does deliberate practice differ Irom performance or from casual exercise? Here are some characteristics that distinguish deliberate practice.

1. Repetition. Task performance occurs repetitively rather than at its naturally occurring frequency. A goal of deliberate practice is to develop habits that operate expertly and automatically. If appropriate situations occur relatively infrequently or widely spaced apart while performing "as you fight" they will not become habitual as readily.

2. Focused feedback. Task performance is evaluated by the coach or learner during performance. There is a focus on elements of form, critical parts of how one does the task. During an "as you fight" performance these elements appear in a more holistic fashion.

3. Immediacy of performance. After corrective feedback on task performance there is an immediate repetition so that the task can be performed more in accordance with expert norms. When there is feedback during "train as you fight" performance, it is often presented during an after-action review (AAR) and there is usually not an opportunity to perform in accordance with the feedback for some time.

4. Stop and start. Because of the repetition and feedback, deliberate practice is typically seen as a series of short performances rather than a continuous flow.

5. Emphasis on difficult aspects. Deliberate practice will focus on more difficult aspects. For example, when flying an airplane normally only a small percentage of one's flight time is consumed by takeoffs and landings. In deliberate practice simulators, however, a large portion ofthe time will be involved in landings and takeoffs and relatively little in steady level flight. Similarly, rarely occurring emergencies can be exercised very frequently in deliberate practice.

6. Focus on areas of weakness. Deliberate practice can be tailored to the individual and focused on areas of weakness. During "train as you fight" performances the individual will avoid situations in which he knows he is weak, and rightly so as there is a desire to do one's best.

7. Conscious focus. Expert behavior is characterized by many aspects being performed with little conscious effort. Such automatic elements have been built from past performances and constitute skilled behavior. In fact, normally, when the expert consciously attends to the elements, performance is degraded. In deliberate practice the learner may consciously attend to the element because improving performance at the task is more important in this situation than performing one's best. After a number of repetitions attending to the element to assure that it is performed as desired, the learner resumes performing without consciously attending to the element.

8. Work vs. play. Characteristically, deliberate practice feels more like work and is more effortful than casual performance. The motivation to engage in deliberate practice generally comes from a sense that one is improving in skill.

9. Active coaching. Typically a coach must be very active during deliberate practice, monitoring performance, assessing adequacy, and controlling the structure of training. Typically in "train as you fight" performances there are no coaches, instead there are observers/controllers who attempt to interfere as little as possible in the performance.