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Monday, December 17, 2012

Continuum, Quadrant, Levels, Goals, Qualities?

For reasons that will hopefully become clear some day, I keep thinking about models for defining why people do martial arts/combatives/combat sport/whatever. Listening to Dan John's Intervention triggered something in my brain. Sort of.

Dan breaks up athletic endeavors into four quadrants. You can read more about that here, or get Easy Strength or Intervention for a better explanation.

For the martial arts, I've been kicking around something similar...except that I can't organize the segments right. Or rather, they seem to function on multiple models.

The Four Things

These are basically reasons for doing the martial arts. Or doing part of a martial art. Or a drill.

The 9-1-1 Moment: A client of mine used this phrase to describe the intent of a particular drill we were working, and I told her I liked the phrase so much I'd steal it. In fact, I like it so much, that I think it fits for a whole category of types of training...that dealing with real-world violence.

This is self-defense. It's also combatives. It's also defensive tactics. At one point, I wanted these separated into different categories, but an insight from Coach Blauer proved valuable here.

Coach Blauer points out that regardless of who is engaging him, the bad guy is fundamentally the same. In other words, the psycho that the SWAT team has to try to take down after he's barricaded himself in someone's home is the same psycho that the cops were worried about tangling with during the manhunt that started after you fought this guy off when he tried to rape you. The scenarios may change, but the bad guy is still the same. The realities of the fight are still the realities of the fight. Everyone involved in fighting the bad guy is part of the same 9-1-1 call. Hence, the 9-1-1 moment.

Fitness: This is martial arts done with the goal in mind of "getting in shape." I have to be itself, I have a lot of problems with this idea. Martial arts are generally a pretty awful way to get in shape; an intelligently designed program of strength training, joint mobility work, and some solid cardio will get you in great shape without the bruises or joint damage. I know that this is a major reason for doing martial arts for a lot of people, but I still tend to think it's a bad one unless some of these other qualities are addressed.

Sport: This is martial arts done as competition: everything from kata competitions and point karate tournaments all the way up to MMA and Dog Brother's Gatherings. Sometimes it's about actually getting out there and entering tournaments or matches. Sometimes it's about just "brawling with friends" as Rory likes to say.

Personal Development: This is the catchall category for "make you a better person" stuff. Discipline, focus, meditation, self-esteem, confidence, humility, respect, etc. A lot of martial arts instructors claim to teach this, but I'm not entirely convinced that many really do. Or if they do, it's incidental rather than purposeful instruction. Rodney King writes about creating a Wisdom environment, but I think he's fairly unique in his approach to training.

The Four Models

I keep trying to come up with a visual model for this.

Continuum: I actually don't like this one very much, but it can work. I don't like it because I feel like it implies that there's an order to these things. Start with one, progress to the other. I'm sure that's some people's experience in training, but it doesn't have to be.

Quadrants: I really don't think that fits here, but it's how Dan John organizes his ideas.

Goals: This works to an extent. All of those things can be goals, but they don't all have to be. Maybe works better for organizing drills than training methods. Maybe.

Levels: I may be using the wrong term here--the image in my head is the various sliding levers on a radio or other piece of sound equipment. All of them can be moved up and down to various degrees. But, if you try to shoot them all up at once, the sound quality gets pretty gnarly. And pushing them all up the max is damn near impossible. My poor understanding of how sound equipment actually works is probably showing here.

A lot of people promise all of this, but realistically, it's tough to do so. Focus deep on self-defense, and you don't get quite as good at sport. Spend too much time navel gazing, and you discover you can't fight. Focus too much on sport, and you become an asshole. Focus too much on fitness, and you create Tae Bo.

I think this is valuable, but I need to clarify it.


Wes Tasker said...

I really enjoyed Dan John's book "Intervention". I like and can relate to the way he thinks and organizes his ideas. For what it's worth, these are how I categorize the "teleological" (yes, I like the word...):

1 - Combat
2 - Art / Self Development (fitness is here as well)
3 - Competition / Sport
4 - Heirloom / Preservation

Also an important note I have on my outline is that they don't have to me mutually exclusive.

Jake said...

Hmm...I forgot about heirloom/preservation. That might be a fifth one. Though putting fitness in with self-development could make sense too.

These aren't intended to be mutually exclusive, though I don't think they can all be jacked up to the same level at once.

Maija said...

I think there is also tribe/community and a comfort in hierarchy, and the D and D/Fantasy Hero motivation ....
I wanted to be Errol Flynn (as Robin Hood), or Zorro. I wanted to wear fantastic hats and outfits ... probably with goatee and moustache included ... and wield my trusty, flashing, sword around thwarting evil as I went ...
Just sayin' ..... :-)

Wes Tasker said...

While reading your comment the one art that immediately came to mind that 'could' fit all four into it is Gracie Jujutsu.

Jake said...


I tend to stick that stuff under "personal development." Sure, you're acting out a fantasy, but that can be healthy.

I agree that tribe and community become important, but I'm not sure how many people seek out the martial arts because they want a tribe. Maybe?


I could see that, up to a point. I suspect you could make the same argument for Kodokan Judo (especially if you dig into the pre-WII stuff).

Getting to a really elite competitive level doesn't allow for the rest though. If you're getting ready for Abu Dhabi or the Olympics, spending your time on counter-knife strategies is just a waste of time.

Granted, it's a very narrow segment of the population that needs to worry about that kind of thing.

Wes Tasker said...


I can see that. I guess the difference is where one draws the line at 'inclusion' vs. 'excelling'. To use Dan John's Quadrants - you could have all four at 1 and 3 but not at 2 and 4. And yes on the Judo and several other arts...

Jake said...


Yeah, something like that. Dan puts all of us martial arts guys in QIII, but I get what you're saying.

Some of this is part of larger thought process of trying to give people tools to identify what they're actually trying to get out of martial arts training. It's been my observation that a lot of people end up in the wrong training system for the right reasons...or maybe the other way around. This is part of trying to build a model to help make sense of that.

Yes, there's probably a few arts that can hit all the areas. Depending on the teacher, etc...