Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Slicing Time, The Slow and the Fast of It

This particular chapter of "Slicing Time" was inspired by something that Don, over at Instant Gratification said. Thanks Don.

As I have said before, good fighters will tend to fight heuristiclly, that is to say that they will tend to respond to a stimulus with one of a set of pre-programmed actions that their unconscious mind thinks will be effective in a given situation. The positive side of this is that a person that uses this strategy responds very quickly to a situation, the down side is that this strategy is not so good for dealing with "novelty", and because a heuristic strategy exists at the level of habit, it is difficult to change, even if it does not work as well as you would like.

The more "stress" a fighter experiences in a match, the more heuristic tactics will be relied upon as a rule, the two go hand in hand.

So what do you do if you find that your heuristic tactics have boxed you into a particular way of fighting that no longer serves you?

basically, you need to take your training to a higher level of sophistication at this point. You have to be able to break through what you have programmed in and add more choices, you have to take yourself out of the "practice" state and put yourself in the "learning" state.

There are three components to doing this.

The first is breath. Breathing is the most important thing you do. There is an old saying, "you can go three months without food, you can go three days without water, you can go three minutes without breath.

One of the things that keep a person "stuck" in a given heuristic tactic is that they have an inefficient response to surprise and failure. You need to set up an "anchor" that gets you out of the heuristic behavior loop. You use your breath to do this.

There is a particular kind of breath technique called "exhalation based" or "performance breathing" that you need to learn for this.

Rather than typing out the whole process I will point to a couple of descriptive articles by Scott Sonnon on the subject.

There is a lot more on the subject, but this will get you started.

Whenever you find yourself "failing" at a technique, or being shocked or surprised, you need to exhale from the abdominal muscles as an anchor to bring you out of any habitual reaction.

The second thing you need to do is "chunk down" the input you are dealing with. Most people can deal with 7 +/- 2 chunks of information at a time with their conscious mind. That is seven leaves, seven branches, seven trees or seven forests. If you go much beyond these numbers your unconscious has to take over, and you end up back in your old habits.

So you have to make changes in sufficiently small chunks that you can keep your attention on the process.

The third thing is slicing time thinly enough that you can attend to the process.

This means that you have to Slow Things Down to a point where you can make choices about what to do without breaking your flow. You slice time thinly by slowing everything down, but acting as if you were playing at full speed.

It would look like this.

You and a partner decide what problem you want to work on, keep it manageable, your goal should not be "I want to be a better fighter" it should be more along the lines of "I want to respond more effectively to this one kind of attack".

Then the two of you free spar at "Tai Chi" speed.

It is very important that both of you keep the same speed or "time frame", otherwise you will not learn.

At random intervals your partner will feed you the attack and you respond. Any time you "fail" in your response, or you find yourself distracted, or you start talking to yourself use a strong abdominal exhalation to refocus yourself. At no time should you go fast enough to feel pressure. You want to be very relaxed and comfortable, even if it means moving slower than a snail on 'ludes.

When you feel like you are getting the new skill down well at slow speed, take a break, and after a bit of a rest (where you should put your mind on something completely different) come back and work at a faster pace. Your partner should speed things up to the point where you can still do what you want to be doing, but you have to work for it. You partner should be coaching you at this point to refocus yourself with your breath.

Take another break and go back to the slow work to refine your new skill even more. Remember to work slowly enough that you can be relaxed.

After another break. Ramp the speed up again, work just below the point where you would consistently "fail".

After a couple of days to a week, have a match at full speed, full contact. See how much you have integrated your new material. Use that information to tailor your next few sessions. Repeat this process until satisfied.

I have used this process with very good results, even on people who are already excellent fighters (Steve Van Harn comes to mind, are you around Steve?) It can really help when you need to "get outside the box". I can't stress enough though how important the breath work is to this process. One of the things that you are training yourself to do is to integrate your breath, movement, and structure more effectively, and it all starts with breath.

If you want to find out more about this kind of process check out Scott Sonnon's Softwork, as he has done the most of anyone I know to make this kind of training accessible and useful.

Let us know how this works for you Don.


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