Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Is it Love or Confusion?

     “Is this love, babe, or is it ... confusion?” Jimi Hendrix asked in a song. But is it from the hormones, stress, adrenaline, or just distraction? Is it adrenaline messing you up or lack of focus? Or the overall speed of things?

Love? Hormones? Adrenaline and Confusion? Distraction, Focus.

     All those other replacement words don’t jive so well in the song, do they? How do they jive in the real world? Adrenaline is a hormone, and it can easily be confused with poor performance of tasks. Is it always the cause? Sometimes? Are instructors and researchers looking deep enough to really find the difference? Are martial arts? And the so-called self-defense instructors of today?

     Let's quickly discuss an experiment. Walk up to your front door, pull the keys out of your pocket, and unlock the front door. This is a task you have performed a gazillion times. If you dissect that very simple task, you would likely note that you use the same hand, the same pocket, and the very same speed to do this simple task. You have probably even unlocked the door in the dark using the same process and rate of speed. It becomes like an “instinct.” Automatic. "The nerves that fire together, wire together," as the new breed of neurologists love to say.

 "The nerves that fire together, wire together," as 
the new breed of neurologists love to say.

     But this new firing and wiring includes a specific rate of speed in the new brain road map. The speed in which you do the task is an integral part of the firing/wiring process. In another example, martial arts expert Dan Inosanto once said decades ago, “train slow? Fight slow.” And the fire/wire includes the same hand, same pocket, same door knob, same speed, the exact situation in which you unlock the door time after time. In other words, if you come home every night with the same briefcase in the other hand, that, too, is in the equation. If you always carry a shopping bag in your other hand, that is also in the performance equation.

     What if some things change? Within some range, the easy athletic success of opening the door can still be done. That depends a lot on the person. But what if these steps get out of this specific performance range? Ever unlock the door with a backpack dangling from your key hand? What about with two shopping bags of groceries, one with a carton of milk about to slip out? Pretty distracting. Probably your smooth, regular performance of easily unlocking the door is off by a few beats. Sometimes people even have to place one shopping bag down on the porch to get the job done. In some cases, just thinking about this ordinarily automatic process will screw it up.

     Or ever unlock this door in a hideous thunderstorm? Or run up to the door because you can hear the house phone ringing, and you expect an urgent call? You’ll have to be faster. The very speed that you approach the door changes things. Once blindly inserting the key and mindlessly opening the door, this task now becomes faster, and often a fumble and a slowdown ensues. The speed, for whatever reason - be it hard rain or the phone call - has now changed the equation. New firing. New wiring.

     Enough of everyday life. Let's get extreme. You are being shot at while approaching your door! Speed is needed! You may well fumble with your keys and the lock. If you do, many instructors and adrenaline-based training programs founded in marketing and money will quickly define the problem as sudden, spiking, and increased heart rates or their old-time favorite ogre - that old evil, skill-robbing, blinding, dumbing adrenaline. Why? They have invested in adrenaline-based fighting systems. Or they just haven't thought about it. It's adrenaline's fault!

     Relative speed is important. The speed you need and the speed you train for. If an enforcement agent has a car wreck in a high-speed chase, can you always blame it on adrenaline stealing your vision, hearing, and fine motor skills? No. The agent might not drive fast very well. The agent may have never been trained in high-speed driving skills. If a champion slow-pitch softball player is suddenly thrown fastballs, can he hit the fastball easily? Odds are he cannot. The need for the speed needed.

     Is all failure an adrenaline problem? Really? I don’t think so. Could it just be distraction? Could it be focus? Speed? Could it be a different rate of speed than usual? All from a sense of urgency in and among situations. These issues have real importance in all hand, stick, knife, and gun training programs. Is it all adrenaline? Or is it a lack of focus and improper, situational training at the proper speed? The ogre of adrenaline is way less of an ogre than many people sell and tell you it is. 

     Is it raging hormones or a lack of focus and skill? Speed?

     “Is it love, babe? Or just ... confusion?”

 The SFC Force Necessary Patch