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Learning vs. Practicing

PracticeI enjoy learning new things.  It’s just part of my character.  I’m not a big fan of practicing.  So to drill the same thing over and over again, does not hold my interest.

The unfortunate fact of life is that you can never be great without practice, and lots of it.  With talent alone you can be good, but to truly excel at anything you’ve got to practice.

Repetition grinds action into long term memory.  These long term memories serve as domain knowlege in order to give you perspective on other learning experiences.  Without practice the knowledge will not be stored in long term memory.

Martial arts provides a good example.  If I practice a jab for an extended period of time, I will have a great deal of domain knowledge about jabs, more so then someone that practices a variety of techniques.  I will also be able to evaluate other techniques against that knowledge.  There is a balance to this and identifying your goal is important.  If your goal is to be the the guru of jabbing, you’ve got to practice techniques within that domain.

It’s the same with martial art styles in general, if you want to be an expert in a given system you have to practice that system, the more you practice within that domain, the more expert you become.  When you practice in different systems you gain perspective at a different level, your expertise becomes more general.  The brain handles narrow domain knowledge better then broad, the factors become too many to effectively evaluate a particular technique.  Your knowledge becomes more general.

Thus, you can never be at the top of a domain unless you relentlessly practice.  If the domain is to broad, you’ll never be able to process all the experience to reach a level that you would have if you stuck with something more specific.

Seeking the angle

I’ve noticed that the vast majority of single techniques practiced with a partner are done with excessive overcommitment on the part of the uki.  The problem with “here’s all the shit I’m gonna to when I get to the side of you” is that “all the shit I’m gonna do” is the easy part.  Getting the angle is the tough part.

If I manage to get the angle on someone, I’m gonna fuck them up.  Kick, punch, knee, elbow, whatever…  When your opponent is not facing you, and you are facing them, you have a distinct and clear advantage.  How many options do you really need once you get there.

In Wing Chun we call this angle the outside gate, if you put your arms straight out, anything on the outside of that is considered the outside gate.  Figuring out what to do once you get this advantage is never a problem.  It’s ever so painful to get there.  Trying to get the angle on your opponent is challenging, to say the least.  And in my opinion not practiced enough.

Sparing (standing or ground), and Chi Sao are two great ways to practice seeking the angle.  The key is a non compliant opponent.  I’m not saying that the techniques and drills that focus on the “ass kicking” after getting the angle shouldn’t be done.  Having the muscle memory is important, you wouldn’t what to find yourself in the situation and not know instinctively how to follow through.

What I am saying is there’s a danger in feeling overconfident that your techniques will win the day, and when faced with an opponent be unable to execute.

Thoughts for Bobbe

For those of you that don’t know Bobbe Edmonds here is where you find him.  Bobbe is a world class martial artists and a great guy.  To say that he’s going through a rough patch is an understatement.

Plagued with back problems he’s been in pain for months now.  Fights with insurance, and hospitals have challenged one of the strongest of us.

I am an atheist.  Not a militant one, but fairly sure the world is as we see it.  I don’t pray, as there’s no one to pray to, but I’m going to make an exception for Bobbe.  I truly hope there is someone listening, and I hope that someone gives him strength to carry on.

Bobbe Edmonds fav++

During a recent UFC match I saw one of the guys get poked in the eye.  The whole fight stopped.  Now, I’m not sure, there may have been a little acting involved, but a hard, well trained fighter got stopped in his tracks with a move a 12 year old girl could have pulled off.

The whole sport vs. martial art thing came into focus.  I think the difficulty has been that the MMA guys are dangerous people, they train hard, they are (usually) in amazing physical condition.  They also contunually test their techniques, to a level that martial arts cannot.  This is not a group of individuals that I’d want to get angry.

Now imagine a world where those same guys train just as hard, are just as disciplined, but train in a martial art that includes the intent to mame or kill.  Although the techniques cannot be tested, it’s good to have an awareness of them, and thay can be practiced in a controlled and safe setting.

As with every great debate, there is truth on all sides.  And I believe that the majority of the Martial/Fight community respects and learns from each other.  Unfortunately it’s those that are the loudest that have the most visibility.

Adding “fun” to GTD?

Inspired by Oliver Starr‘s blog post here.  I started thinking about including “fun” or “hobbie” next actions and projects to my GTD system.

To sum up Mr. Starr, if you find that you’re not wanting to look at your lists, it might be becuase there’s nothing on there that you actually “want” to do.  Motivation is a complicated issue, there are many tricks that people play to get themselves motivated “if I do this, I’ll let myself to this other thing” is one of the more popular.  My vote is for whatever works.

What I don’t like about the idea is “goalifying” or “projectifying” my hobbies.  I guess if I’m not sharpening the saw as much as I should, and I need to make some time, then it would be appropriate to create a project or goal.  But I don’t want to feel bad about not getting to my “Get to level 28 in Halo multi-player” goal.  This is not to say I don’t have personal goals, “get Wing Chun black belt” is actually one of them, but it’s just to keep me focused on what’s important to me.  If I systematize too much, I stop enjoying it.  Sometimes the purpose of doing something is that your not doing anything else.  If you have a tickler every Friday to “stop and smell flowers” I think you might be missing the point of, stopping and smelling the flowers.

There are two basic options for footwork in the martial arts.  Weather you subscribe to linear, circular, triangular, etc…, you always need to move the lead foot first or the back foot first (OK, you could hop, leap, jump.  But for the sake of argument we’ll assume your staying on the ground)

balancepart2slide3_copyYou can take a full step, thus switching leads, or maintain your lead.

As taking large steps in WC is rare, unless you’re bridging to engage, we’ll focus on maintaining the lead.  When moving the front foot first it creates a step and slide motion, your back foot sliding into a new position based on the position of the lead.  The other option is a skip step, where your rear foot moves first, taking the desired position, then your lead foot is placed, based on the rear foot placement.

In Wing Chun the step and slide is the only footwork used (when not switching leads), it’s believed that the skip step contains inherent risks and loss of speed.  I agree that there are risks to the motion, but this should not be enough reason to eliminate it from your training.

I’ve been doing some Silat training and have found the skip step to be very useful in Chi Sao.  Using it allows you to hook the lead foot, and shift the angle of your stance.  An interesting result that’s worth playing with.

Wing Chun as a Soft Art

Ip Man

Believe it or not but I’ve come to realize that a lot of Wing Chun is, what I would consider, a soft art.  Attacking the center-line is a “big” concept in Wing Chun, and when you’re not attacking your developing an opening for an attack.  This makes for a very “hard” style of WC at a lot of schools, and creates very competitive Chi Sao.  Two people with arms  flexed tightly as possible, pushing against each other.

During Chi Sao, a common defense to an attack is  to project your defense toward your opponents center, a Tan that turns into a Bil, for example (for a cross arm attack).  This makes many beginners feel that you always need to project forward, but all rules are meant to be broken.

When Chi Saoing with less experienced students, the Lap Sao (pulling the cross arm) is shocking.  I see people leaning into Chi Sao, bigger people like to do this to control the exercise, step to the corner and Lap, and if you’re up for it don’t forget your Chi Gerk (sweep the leg Johnny).  Remember that “soft” does not mean slow, to often I see soft movement being done slow.  If your partner is already being aggressive enough to lean into you, you’re not going to get away with doing this slow.

A nice firm push can set up a pull.  Push, pull, strike.  Don’t be afraid to turn your body,  “face their center-line” is more like a guideline then a rule.  If you find your getting a lot of pressure from any direction, consider redirection to create an opportunity.

Are you kidding me?  I want to destroy the person at Microsoft that created the “Windows Image Acquisition (WIA)” service.

MS Help and SupportOpening “My Computer” in XP has been taking between 2 and 5 minutes.  this has been happening for several months and I’ve been too busy to do anything but put up with it.  I finally decided to put a little time into it and found this article.  After I disabled the service, I found no difference in my machine other then it WORKING!  What the hell is the WIA, and WHY would it have a conflict when opening My Computer.

Thank God I have a blog to vent toward.

Switching Arts

I’ve found it takes about 2 years for me to get board with a martial art style.  I’m not sure what that’s all about.  Maybe it’s after about 2 years I’ve learned all the basics and now I’ve got to perfect those movements, which doesn’t hold my interest.

At some point I need to decide if I’m going to be OK with switching all the time.  I feel like I should take one art to “completion”, meaning learn all the techniques and forms (not necessarily perfect them).  Not really sure why I feel this way, it just seems to me as well rounded martial artists, I should have at least one “core” art.

The first 1-2 years is all the cool stuff, learning new techniques, and concepts.  Meeting new people and masters.  In all honesty, the first 1-2 years is also all the “easy” stuff.  At the same time dedication and commitment are part of the martial arts.  And if I ever want to teach again, I need to be much more dedicated to a single art.

I realize that retention rates at higher ranks is lower, but I think many people simply stop their training all together.

I’m at that point, where I feel like switching again, been feeling that way for several months, so I’ve been thinking about it for a while.  I guess time will tell.

Fable II for the Xbox 360

I rented Fable II the other day, and fell in love. This is a simple, deep and addictive game. When a game is simple and deep, that’s for me. I continually got distracted with side quests and just running around looking for treasure. Parts of it felt a little too deep, like trying to get someone to merry you, but it’s a very open sandbox. My issuses of not knowing what happens when you run quest X, are my own problems.

The character leveling comes at a nice steady pace, new weapons and abilities are fun and combinations are powerful. The one downside is the spell system. You have a single button for casting and have to hold it longer to cast different spell levels. Maybe I haven’t figured out how to switch quickly in the middle of a fight (you can do this through the menu after pausing the game), but it would be more fun to be able to assign spells to different buttons.

One of the best parts of the game is the bread crumb. The break crumb is a golden path that tells you where to go next, you simply choose one of the jobs or quests from your list and the golden trail is there to tell you how to get to it.

If you’re a hack and slasher, you’ll love this game. If you’re the elegant wizard, there’s much more to be desired. Most of the quests are “go here and beat up these guys”, which lends itself well to hack and slash, still a lot of fun for casters, but you’ll need to brandish your sword for almost any combat. Don’t expect too much of a challenge, it’s a relatively easy, it’s got more the feel of a discovery game, i.e. Metroid, Mario, etc.

The games graphics are impressive and fun, I’ve had to stop and look around several times, just to get a better view of the scenery. There is some clipping weirdness as enemies get tangled into rocks, but this is always during combat, and I just don’t care that much.

It’s worth a rent at the very least, and trust me you’re going to return it late. If you do rent, be sure you’ve got a long weekend and the depth of the game opens after about 5-10 hours of play.

Check out the rull review at IGN