10/26/2012: "Legos and levels"
Legos are building blocks. The square Lego can make a house or a car or a rocket ship. The wheel Lego makes a car - not a house or a rocket ship. The chimney one? House. You get the idea.
We train with "Legos".
We teach defenses against common attacks first - along with the "don't get attacked in the first place, keep your eyes and ears and senses open" part that should come before (and help avoid) an attack. If, say, 95% of people are going to do a front choke, then we'll train for those 95% first, and the other 5% (who do a juji shime) later, after the students have learned to deal with the more common attack.
Learning "Legos" also allows you to build on them. Here's an attack, here's a defense. OK, now that you have that, we'll add a couple of other things to it that may (in our training) make it a higher-level technique. There are reasons for not making the addition earlier - the main one being safety, because often the addition will make the defense more effective, and thus more damaging to the attacker. Another is that the addition may require more awareness of the defender's body and how to manipulate it, and could also be a little too complicated (no, you need to move over HERE and put that THERE and do THIS at the same time) for a beginner. (Once you start to understand body mechanics, HERE and THERE and THIS become a lot easier.)
A basic attack/defense scenario in which (let's say) the attacker moves left as you do the technique rather than right - that could well lead into another basic defense. We initially split up the two defenses, though, so that the students can see them separately and not get too confused. In a little while they'll be able to integrate them or recognize that response A isn't going to work quite right, but response B will, because they know what to do with attacker's changed body position.
That's a "Lego with purple spots". The response is still (mostly) the same Lego, but a slightly different angle or movement on the part of the attacker may require an adjustment.
But then there are the "Legos with purple and pink spots and a weird knobbly on the side that just popped out" - that's the other 5% (or at black belt, the 1%) of the attacks, or the response (or lack thereof) to your defense that's a lot different that what you expected. Levels - of complexity, of differing responses, of unexpected responses, of just general weirdness (you trip over something you didn't know was there).
Take, for example, The Groin Strike. We use it a lot. Person A says it works 100% of the time. Person B says it works 0% of the time. Whom do you believe? Perhaps the truth is somewhere in between, or has to do with the kind of attacker with which each person was dealing.
So you knee your attacker in the groin. Hard. And like in the movies, little or nothing happens. (You know - Good Guy gets in a fight with Big Bad Guy, and socks him in the stomach. Bad Guy just looks at him. Good Guy hits him in the jaw. Bad Guy just looks at him.) That's when you really need to know your way around the human body, and where the vulnerabilities are and how to attack them. (And in a case like that, you're going to have to respond at a more extreme level than for a "regular" punk attacker, because pain just got taken off the plate as a motivator.)
For most of us, that Bad Guy won't be the one we run into. Probably. But if you do, that's where the Legos you've learned with the 95% become the Legos you can use against the 5% - because you've learned how to switch between them, combine them, and where the most vulnerable parts of the human body are and how to damage them. (Hint: low, load-bearing joints are good. Can't chase you if the knee doesn't work right.) We learn to do that on the fly, through our unscripted knife randori and multiples training at the higher levels.
That little square house you first built? It's now a Greek Revival mansion with a sculpture garden. Same Legos, different end result - but you built it all yourself.
Legos and levels. Start at the beginning and grow from there.
This post was prompted by a class discussion a couple of nights ago, where one student - who used to train in a hard style - said that the reaction to being kneed in the groin we were describing was not, in his experience, how people reacted. True enough. It wasn't - not in the context in which he was used to seeing it. So... you don't get what you want? You change the game in your favor. We're the "gentle/yielding art", after all...