Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Street Fight Skills

A while back I had a post prompted by my clinic with Erwan Le Corre - Fight for your life.  Erwan stresses moves, skills that will save your life - running, climbing, swimming, fighting etc.

I was reminded of this by one of the aphorisms in Nassim Taleb's excellent new book:  The Bed of Procrustes:

Skills that tranfer: street fights, off path hiking, seduction, broad erudition. 

Skills that don't: school, games, sports, laboratory - what's reduced and organised.


John Sifferman said...

Yes, I remember a conversation about this not too long ago. I think the group's conclusion is that complex skills transfer to simpler skills more often than vice versa (but not always). In other words, rock climbing transfers to pullup skills moreso than pullups transfer to rock climbing skills.

Robin said...

Interesting, thanks for the link to the PDF. Not sure I always agree, I think that in reducing something we can more efficiently practice the parts. I think if I tried to street fight years ago before martial arts training, I'd get my butt handed to me. Practicing thousands of punches independent of a street fight gave my hands the vocabulary to know what to do.

Similar to the way it's difficult to jump right into complex physics equations without ever having learned algebra, calculus, etc. Sometimes reduction is helpful, and other times it's not. I think maybe the trick is in knowing which is which.

RafeK said...

I think along very similar lines to Erwan on the importance of physical training being focused on skill development and increased motor complexity.

However there is no doubt that reductionism has its place, I have been in street fights without martial arts training and with it and certainly found value in having martial arts training, I also see a huge place games, sports, school etc.

The path of increasing complexity does not mean starting with the complex it means working towards it with while understanding the underlying pieces and building them progressively.

Asclepius said...

I agree with much of what Rafe has put. NNT seems to miss the point that 'play' is seen in the wild and clearly DOES transfer. Games are not neccessarily an inhibitive-formalisation of 'play' - and depending on the game, can have a much wider application/benefit.

If training could be distilled in to one word, it would be 'specificity', but I'd challenge anyone to define the unqiue 'boundaries' around any one activity.

Doug McGuff, MD said...

Skills that can get you killed: street fights, off path hiking, seduction, broad erudition.

Skills that won't get you killed: school, games, sports, laboratory-what's reduced and organized.

Sometimes the fact that you didn't die makes it look like there was a skill transfer when really you just got lucky.

The most dangerous component of martial arts training is it decreases the likelihood that you will use "heel dust" as your first line of defense.

Doug McGuff, MD said...

Also forgot to mention how useful games and sports are for dissipating our bellicose tendencies. These outlets probably keep us from killing each other.

Also, I have noted that there were no "X-games" during WWII. With a war on, there was no need for testosterone-dissipating risk-taking. Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have ramped up, extreme sports have waned somewhat.

Billy Oblivion said...

Dr. McGuff:

* I don't think that broad erudition can get you killed, absent the Khmer Rouge. And even then if you were being erudite abroad you were safe.

* In (part of) my world we say "Fortuitous outcomes reinforce bad tactics".

* There were no X-Games in WWII because prior to that "living" was an extreme sport that was likely to kill or injure you. And I think you're wrong about the waning of extreme sports and testosterone dissipating effects of said activities. If I recall correctly certain types of activities, including sparing (and certainly weight training) INCREASE testosterone.

What we have done (somewhat) with athletics is formalize the rutting behavior of adolescent males--rather than wrestling in the streets or what not they have "legitimate" social outlets where they can compete for high value females while these females display their assets in other ways.

I don't think we're seeing a "waning" of these activities, I think many of them have been so mainstreamed that we don't get bombarded with them any more.

Billy Oblivion said...

Oh, and those aphorisms?

Here's a hint--when you want to sell a book or an idea don't be an ass.

I read Black Swan, and I get it. He's right. We don't know what's coming, and it's better to build skills, talents and endurance than wealth, although a "mixed investment strategy" is probably a good bet because most people don't die after the collapse of civilization.

However saying asinine things like "Pharmaceutical companies are better at inventing diseases that match existing drugs, rather than inventing drugs to match existing diseases." and "Modernity's double punishment is to make us both age prematurely and live longer." you're going to turn off a bunch of people who have just decided you're a simple minded little shit.