Saturday, July 25, 2015

Convergent Evolution

Hey everybody, I just got back from the 2015 USMAA National Training Camp.
I wanted to review the camp and jot down some ideas before I forgot them.  So I figured why not kill two birds with one stone and and blog it out.

So with out further adieu 2015 USMAA in review

Convergent Evolution

Convergent evolution is the independent evolution of similar features in species of different lineages. Convergent evolution creates analogous structures that have similar form or function, but that were not present in the last common ancestor of those groups.
The first time I heard the term, it was the title of a seminar co-taught by Tony Blauer and Rory Miller.
Two different guys that came up through different training systems and life experiences but developed a similar form to provide a specific necessary function.

I like to make the analogy of a sculptor.  If you use the chisel of successful application to remove everything that does not work what is left regardless of it's original source material is going to look pretty similar.  Clearly there will be some variation do to different application and plain personal preference, but you will find similar forms to provide a specific necessary functions.

The video from the above link,  to me, looks like a Judo class working on ashi waza (leg techniques) or sweeps.  It also looks like old man Judo not relying on size or strength.

The video is actually Bagua.

Similar form to provide a specific necessary function.

I saw a lot of this idea at camp.  Omar Ahmad's counter ambush training fits the function of what counter ambush needs to accomplish. 

Counter assault has to allow you to stay alive long enough for your training to work.

An operant conditioned response that will kick in before that adrenalin dump.  At the speed of nerve.  It will give you one technique with all your speed, power and precision before your fight or flight response kicks in and robs you of your fine and complex motor skill.  An operant conditioned response will mess up a threats plan, especially if it causes him damage.  It will force the threat to reset his ooda loop and have his fight or flight response kicks in.  It doesn’t guarantee victory but it sure helps level out the playing field.

Because Omar's approach achieves the function of counter ambush it has a similar form to what I do.
Clearly there is some variation do to different application and plain personal preference.

I also saw the concept of Convergent Evolution in Tim Kuth's Muay Thai class.
To the best of my knowledge Tim and Dillon have never met each other before.
However, Tim's intro to Muay Thai and Dillon's day one Kyokushin Karate class were all but the same. 

(Except maybe that Tim didn't punch me in the ribs like Dillon does as pictured above)

  • Footwork
  • Power generation
  • Fundamental Strikes
    • Jab - Cross - Hook
    • Teep / Mae geri
    • Te Tat / Mawashi geri

If you use the chisel of successful application to remove everything that does not work what is left regardless of it's original source material is going to look pretty similar.  That look / form has to serve a practical function.

At the Violence Dynamics Seminar we often discuss how humans learn best through play, and that play wires information to parts of the brain that will be active during combat stress.

At training camp it was fun to play (pun fully intended) with these ideas with a Neuroscientist and a Professor Emeritus of Pharmaceutical Sciences.  Ahmad Sensei and Makoid Sensei respectively.

It was such a relief to not be the smartest guy in the room for a change (that was sarcasm).

Makoid Sensei's class focused on principal based training and using play to teach the principle.
A game he used for play is called Bulldog.

In Bulldog, all students are on hands and knees (down starting position in wrestling).  One student is designated as the Bulldog and placed in the middle of the room.  The other students are lined up on one side of the room.  The objective is to get from one side of the mat to the other.  If the Bulldog catches you and puts you on your back you are out.

Mutant Bulldog is basically the same except if the Bulldog puts you on your back you become a Bulldog too.  So there starts to be two opposing factions.  Students trying to cross the mat and students trying to stop them.  The twist if any of the Bulldogs (including the original Bulldog) get put on their back they switch to runners.

Fun game.
Principles covered:
Base - the hands and knees position is a 4 legged table.  Remove one of the legs and the table falls

Strategy - (especially in the mutant version) If all the runners attack the Bulldog, they can flip him / her and win the game in one round.

Team work  / Push Pull - if you do team up against the Bulldog you have to work together.  If you pull against each other in opposite directions or push into each other you will never turn the Bulldog over.  If you coordinate and one pulls and one pushes you become very strong.

Escape and Evade - You can win by evading the Bulldog.  How many martial art schools / self defense classes pay lip service to running away?  Here is a fun game that rewards students for escaping.

Predator mindset - If you watch the students playing the Bulldog you can see them make target glances, pick out one runner they think they can take / turn over (fits their victim profile), and make a dash straight at that runner when the game starts.

Situational awareness - The runners know who the Bulldog is or Bulldogs are.  When the Bulldog makes that dash at the victim they chose the other runners go where the Bulldog isn't.  If the runner is the chosen victim they have to fight their way to the safety of the other side.  Which leads to....

Conflict Strategy - It is better to avoid than run.  It is better to run than de-esculate.  It is better to de-esculate than fight (not that applicable in this game unless you can somehow talk the Bulldog into attacking someone else).  It is better to fight than die.

On this blog I have written, that more so than any physical skill, I believe the two most important traits for personal protection are awareness and adaptability.

Just like escape, it is easy to just pay lip service to these concepts.

I have some world training awareness exercises that I will post here for "Katamedo Self Defense September", so stay tuned for that.

Katamedo students, prepare to be recruited by ODIN

As for adaptability, how do you train for it?
Again on this blog I have written about Officers who were taught an arm bar take down at the academy, in isolation, and never used against resistance.

Then this Officer tries to use that arm bar take down in the field against a resistive subject that doesn't want to be arrested.  The technique is not working, but the Officer continues to try to force it while he / she is taking damage.

I have argued that instead of memorizing techniques Officers should be taught the principles of how to lock an arm and take someone down.

This is what is for
This is what it feels like when it is working
This is what it feels like when it is not
If this ever feels like that (if it ever feels like work) switch to this.
For Law Enforcement, it might be transitioning to a weapon.

Practice that transition and articulating (Circumstances and Officer / Threat Factors) why you chose that force option.

Katamedo Jujitsu has developed a  method to train and test adaptability.


Everyone has a plan.  Very rarely does that plan survive first contact with the enemy.  However, the enemy's resistance to your plan hands you something else. A gift.

Progression are training tools designed to help you recognise (awareness) and take advantage of (adaptability) of the gifts the enemy hands you.  As opposed to the above mentioned scenario of forcing a technique that clearly is not working.

Progressions also inculcate a process of breaking a freeze.

Let's take a look at a throw progression as an example.

Uchi Mata (Inner thigh reap)

If they hop around your leg to avoid Uchi Mata:
You might be surprised and have to start over again. (your ooda loop is re-set which causes a freeze)
You could keep trying Uchi Mata.

Or, if you know the principles of what makes Uchi Mata work and what it takes to stop Uchi Mata, in this case hoping out, you could take advantage because the opponent's resistance has left him / her vulnerable to O-Goshi.

Progressions follow 
This is what is for
This is what it feels like when it is working
This is what it feels like when it is not
If this ever feels like that (if it ever feels like work) switch to this.

Progressions allow you to stay on offense through their resistance or surprise (break a freeze) and take advantage when the circumstances prevent them from resisting any further.  You catch them because you are constantly resetting their OODA loop and causing them to freeze (if only very briefly).  You just need to get one step ahead of them.

Progressions also fit into another conversation I had with the Neuroscientist and the Professor Emeritus of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Principal based teaching.

Not only explaining how / why a thing works, but then using technique as a delivery method for the principle.

Understand the principle, learn the technique, find the principle through the technique so you can forget the technique.

Only the principle remains.  Takemusu Aiki - spontaneous technique

For a hip progression to work you have to understand what makes a hip throw work.  What I have described as trebuchet throws on this blog.  The progression is then just an exercise of being able to make that principle work under a variety of different situations.

There are 9 hip throws in the 40 throws of the Judo Gokyo.  But really only one principle.  The different techniques are just applying the same principle under different circumstances.

The title of the blog is Convergent Evolution

Several times I have repeated ... If you use the chisel of successful application to remove everything that does not work what is left regardless of it's original source material is going to look pretty similar.  That look / form has to serve a practical function.

Clearly there will be some variation do to different application and plain personal preference.

Along those lines of variation do to different application, what I saw at the USMAA national training camp could best be described using a 4 circle Venn Diagram.

The 4 circles being:

  • Traditional Martial Arts
  • Competition Martial Arts
  • Personal Protection 
  • Professional Use Of Force (Law Enforcement, Corrections, Military applications)

At the core, something all the classes had in common was that "what is left".  The different classes just applied the "what is left" to different circumstances.

Rudenick Sensei's class was Traditional Martial Arts.  It focused on Tsuri Komi Goshi (lifting pulling hip).  He showed two variations of the throw , one text book Kodokan Judo.

 - Technique as a delivery method for the principle - 
Understand the principle, learn the technique, find the principle through the technique so you can forget the technique.

The the other although still text book Kodokan Judo, more applicable to competition.

Sensei Bleeker showed me how the second variation worked against bigger stronger opponents.

Sensei Bleeker's class focused of Competition Judo.  Specifically grip breaks.  Sensei Bleeker is also an Officer in the Military and a Corrections Officer.  So although his class on grips breaks was geared to sport competition, after the grip was broke Sensei Bleeker always positioned himself at the opponents dead angle and took his own grip that work regardless of clothing (gi, no gi, no clothes). 

I could clearly see the influence of professional use of force on his sport competition Judo.  As I was practicing the grip breaks. 

(special thanks to one of Sensei Bleeker' students Trent Williamson for helping me with the grip breaks).

Why work so hard on sport grip breaks that I seek out help from Trent? Because that sport skill is also directly beneficial to personal protection.

My class had a personal protection vibe. Surviving the initial attack, getting somewhere relatively safe (your offense is viable, they have to reposition to use their offense). Off balancing and throwing from those relatively safe positions

Grab, Move, Unbalance, Fit in, Throw

That is at the core. My class was the personal protection application of those core principles.

Sensei Jimerfield taught many hours on the other mat. His circle of the Venn Diagram was also personal protection, but when I got to work with him I took advantage of his career in Law Enforcement and worked on professional use of force.

Lots of very cool personal carry training. I regularly carry a gun. I rarely carry cuffs off duty. If a situation can be solved with non lethal force, but still requires containing the threat until authorities arrive what am I going to do?

Now I have a solution.

What is it you might ask?
Randy King says - Kasey stop giving away stuff for free...
So you want to find out, come to the next camp or O3CT training course.

Also the edged weapons defense was very good. I don't say that often. The world is full of ridiculous get killed or jailed edged weapons training. So to see good stuff that uses that "what is left" core applied to defense against a blade makes me very happy.

Ahmad Sensei taught an MMA class. We worked a cool no arm (or more accurately replace with your arm) triangle choke. Which I now reefer to using a term I blatantly stole, I now call this choke the cry-angle ( you are welcome ). We also worked on knee bar progressions, and ankle lock progression.

And, just like I say in class on a regular basis, this is not a Brazilian school. We do not start on out backs.

So the major focus of the class was how to take someone down (Grab, Move, Unbalance, Fit in, Throw)
who is not bound by grappling rules. See also they can punch and kick you.

Again the core is the same. Although this was a sport MMA class, the skill of crossing striking range with out getting your head taken off to shoot a double is also easily applicable to personal protection, and professional use of force.

One of the great advantages of the Venn Diagram is the opportunity so see the core, the "what is left" from a different perspective.

With out this perspective you may have blinders on and not even know it.

Before training camp Omar and I were having a discussion about a Jujitsu Coach in Brazil that was murdered attempting to thwart an armed robbery.

Kasey - Did you read the sad story out of Brazil?
BJJ Coach decided he was going to take a gun away from a robber on a bus
didn't end well.

Omar - No control of the firearm limb. Stupid move. Also from the RNC position, he wasn't in imminent danger. Hubris.

Kasey - Agreed, so things martial artists need to hear, imho.
Any confrontation that becomes physical has the potential to go lethal.  So if it isn't worth killing or dying for don't engage.

What is worth dying for...?

Omar - Yes. also, BJJ doesn't regularly train goshinjitsu (Self Defense Techniques)

Kasey - Yup, skills in one area no matter how great don't necesarily transfer to other areas

Omar - Bingo!

An example can be seen on this video

Silva Knife Defense Video

Wim Demeere said nearly the same thing - 

Here's hoping this is a joke, but with all due respect to Anderson Silva as a MMA athlete, what he shows here as a knife defense technique is not only unrealistic, it is downright suicidal. The octagon is not the street, and vice versa. What works in one context doesn't automatically work in another. The corollary to that is that you can be an incredible MMA fighter and completely misjudge self-defense situations and the techniques needed there. However, the opposite also applies: you might be hell on wheels in the street, but that doesn't mean you will do well in the octagon.
Expertise in one area does not automatically give you expertise in another (similar) field of study. When what you teach means the difference between life and death for your students, that is something you might want to keep in mind...

If you never see things from any other perspective you lose the chisel of successful application. Then what you have is just best guess based on experience in a very different yet related field.

And as Wim eludes to, if what you are teaching could mean the difference between life and death for your students, do you want to bet it all on an untested best guess?

Using that chisel of successful application takes time and your body changes as you learn ...which leads me back to old man Judo.

Another part of camp is the testing board.  Everyone that tested this year did very well, I was impressed.  Those of you that have known me for awhile, know I don't give praise lightly (and I'm not all that nice of a person).  So if I write in my blog I was impressed, that is saying something.

Trent, who I mentioned earlier tested for his Shodan, and Alex Bleeker was his partner (so he also took the test although he doesn't have the time in grade yet).

Fantastic test!  For both guys.  In fact, even though Alex wasn't testing his counter ambush into Ura Nage (belly to back suplex for you WWE fans) was one of my favorite memories from camp.

Again, very good test.  Really the only critique from the senior board members (7th Dan and up) was that both guys are clearly strong, athletic studly young men.  Where they could improve is learning to not rely on athleticism, but rather use that mass and power to explode when necessary.
(Something Bleeker Sensei excels at.)

Because I am a comic nerd I immediately thought of Bane's line from Batman Rises

Good news is Trent passed his test, and Alex should be eligible to test next year.  Plus Alex will have a year of Division 1 wrestling experience under his belt by then too, as he earned a scholarship at North Dakota.

Better news is they are both young men and have the rest of their life to learn to fight like old men.
The hard part, will be to see the need / benefit of it.

It took me getting broken to start looking at smarter ways of doing things

The difference between a brown belt and a black belt is a black belt is just a brown belt that can demonstrate control.

The picture above happened in a "friendly" in house randori session where a brown belt (see definition above) defended against Uchi Mata with a frog leg or grape vine.  Illegal in competition and in "friendly" randori.  Even with my Aikido background it took getting broken to realise that strength and power are just crutches (pun fully intended as I was on them and out of work for 3 months).  It took being broken to realise there has to be a smarter safer way to get things done.  There will always be someone stronger, faster, more athletic, or meaner - willing to ignore the rules.

I hope Trent and Alex won't need to get busted up to learn this.
They shouldn't need to, as they have teachers experienced in passing on these lessons.

Omar had to learn this as well.  Omar was young, strong, and athletic (played football and swam in college).  His Sensei - Mike Makoid made him spend a significant amount of time gripping with only his pinkies.

Hard to use your strength and power with just your pinkies.  So Omar got good without strength.  Then when Makoid Sensei let him off the leash adding his strength and power to the skill he had developed was like a super power.

I was wondering what would break first, your spirit or your body

I feel the ability to explode with strength and power on top of skill and finesse when needed is why David Bleeker is a National Champion.

That is one of the coolest applications of old man Judo.

I'm excited to see Alex and Trent when the graph of young and athletic crosses experienced and well trained.  The will be dangerous men.

Another great national training camp.  More so than even the quality of training I enjoy the family feeling of camp.  It is easy for me to become jaded and cynical.  Show me a cop that isn't and I'll show you a rookie cop.  So it is nice to be surrounded by sincerely good and decent folks.  I look foreword to it every year.

Next July I hope anyone that reads this blog will find a way to make it to camp.

Train hard, Train smart, Be safe.

Surround yourself with the best people that will tolerate you

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