This one is more self-therapeutic, getting things out of my head. Feel free to skip it if that’s not your thing.
I’m sitting in a cafe in not-so-sunny Scotland, two days after the CRGI Instructor Development course in Sheffield with Rory Miller & Garry Smith. First day on this trip where I’ve been able to just relax and do that. Nothing on the plan, it’s the only real vacation day this time. Not that I’m complaining, it’s been a fun week. But I do need some quiet time to process.
I’ll do a full review of the seminar later, maybe next week. Short version: Fantastic, if a bit short for the material & depth.
I have many takeaways from it, but the main thing is that since it ended I’ve been deeply uncomfortable. That’s probably a good thing, if I handle it right that’s a good indicator that some internal growth is happening. But it’s not very pleasant. Until I have more time to sit down and think things through, write stuff down, maybe meditate on it and talk stuff out with a few different people I won’t 100% know why. I do have a few theories.
I think my teaching is going to change, possible fairy radically. Some things I thought I was doing I now think I wasn’t quite. Principles based teaching was a big theme, and frankly I’m not quite there. I’m playing at the edge between martial arts and self-defence a fair bit, and some of that mix is good but some problems might have been sneaking in that I didn’t think about. I also think I need to bring the context in even more. Might be time for a few theory classes. Might also be time to split the lessons more. A lot of “mights” and “maybes”, I don’t have good answers for some of these things, but lots of open ended questions. The course didn’t quite have enough time to sort through all of them with the other participants (almost all of which have waaaaay more experience & training than me) or the teachers. Though it might have given me some tools to sort them out myself, which brings me to point two.
I think part of me was hoping for more answers. Self defence is not a topic with clear cut, definite answers. And neither is teaching. People who tell you otherwise are usually trying to sell a specific answer. And there is great comfort in those. And in validation, having people we consider more advanced who we trust telling us we’re doing something right. Or even doing something wrong, weirdly enough. This was a place with lots of people like that, and some of this happened. But I suspect a large part of the discomfort is in realising that I need to take care of the open questions myself, not wait for an external answer. That has limits of course, there are martial artists with better body mechanics, and people with way more real experience with violence who should check some of what I do, some of the biggest douchebags in this field entirely self-validate. But overwhelmingly, it’s on me (and anyone else who does this stuff of course). And validation only matters if the source is valid. I know martial artists who are great authorities on their system, and who would be perfectly valid to check my body mechanics, but who have no clue about the context of self-protection. And people with tons of real experience who are great to check context, but useless for the fine points of Aikido. There were a few instances of checking coming up at the course which were very useful. The order of teaching applications for joint locks that I use seems good. One technical detail we’ve been using only works if the other guy makes a specific mistake, so we’re scrapping it. I feel kinda dumb for that one, it should have been obvious. External checking is sometimes useful to get past blindspots. But overall there wasn’t too much of it. And I realise there will never be. My smarter half, who did the course with me, pointed out that like in scientific research ,if anyone else can 100% validate what you do, you haven’t done anything new. Which leads into the next point.
Since I started teaching, I’ve been getting more and more happy with the classes and the results. But also more and more stuff was coming up and simmering under the surface. Things I don’t know how to improve, topics that I should cover, drill design and a whole bunch more stuff. Realising where some of my holes are, where some of the blind spots may be. Things I simply do not know how to do. And so part of me latched onto this course like an anchor. I’ll go there and learn from these guys who I highly respect and have worked with before and some of whom are awesome, in the literal sense of the word, and then everything will be fine. And that was not what the course was. More than that, there is no course or nothing that could be like that. This topic is a deep, open, almost endless mix of things, where there are no clear cut answers and nobody should ever get to the point where they say “good enough”. So all those issues that were under the surface now keep coming up. When I get back there will be a lot of writing, and a lot of working out what might be possible ways to deal with them. But realising, not just intellectually but deeply that there is no anchor is painful. And probably very, very good for me in terms of growth. But change hurts.
Some of the most powerful stuff at this course was not what you would find on a list of topics covered. In a lunch break being shown a glimpse of a system of training that bio-mechanically and in terms of intensity is an order of magnitude above anything I’ve ever done. Talking late into the night over beers with someone who has trained longer than I have been alive. Realising during a simple exercise just how powerful some of the good aspects of what I learned are. And, more than anything else, realising the terrifying responsibility of teaching this stuff, paired with the knowledge that nothing we ever do or teach will keep anyone perfectly safe, ever.
I think “..if you try sometimes, you get what you need” applies here.