Sunday, January 26, 2014

"Try to Never Send a Loser Off Your Training Site"

"...the experience of losing in a simulation actually begins to condition a risk aversion pathway in the brain to which they may turn during similar experiences in the future - they may actually stop fighting and give up as they were programmed to do in training. This is why Murray will never let a student out of the training arena without ensuring that they are the decisive winner...
Yes, there will be a certain percentage of people who never grasp the training, but your goal as a professional is to keep that percentage to a bare minimum. It is easy to design a force-on-force paint bullet scenario that makes ever trainee look like an idiot, but all that proves is that the trainers are jerks. Ken Murray calls this "masterbation" - its only purpose is to act as a form of self-gratification for the trainer. But, suppose you are a trainer and you put a warrior through a scenario where he fails, and then you put him through it again and he succeeds. First you revealed a flaw in his armor and then you taught him how to shore up that weakness. In so doing, you brought him out the other end of the exercise as a superior warrior.
If there is not sufficient time and resources to run the exercise again, then just toss him a softball, and let him knock it out of the park. Your goal is to send winners out the door."
(From On Combat by Lt. Col Dave Grossman w. Loren W. Christensen, pp. 134-135)

As has been pointed out by many, any moron can design a workout that will "smoke" a trainee. It's a little harder to design a workout that makes the trainee better. The effects of repeated training to "failure" and breakdown can be deleterious. That's not to say that training should never be challenging, but as I say repeatedly success breeds success (and failure breeds failure).

Related Squat Rx Posts:
Commitment Follows Competence
Walk It Out!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

"When the weather's nice, be sure to check your change."

Even depression has its advantages. Recent research suggests that despondency helps us think better - and contributes to increased attentiveness and enhanced problem-solving ability. In an ingenious experiment, Joe Forgas, professor of psychology at the University of New South Wales, placed a variety of trinkets, such as toy soldiers, plastic animals, and miniature cars, near the checkout counter of a small stationery store in Sydney. As shoppers made their way out, Forgas tested their memory, asking them to list as many of the items as possible. But there was a catch. On some days the weather was rainy, and Forgas piped Verdi's Requiem through the store; on other days it was sunny, and shoppers were treated to a blast of Gilbert and Sullivan.
The results couldn't have been clearer: shoppers in the "low mood" condition remembered nearly four times as many of the knickknacks. The rain made them sad, and their sadness made them pay more attention. Moral of the story? When the weather's nice, be sure to check your change.
- From The Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton

A few years ago, here on the blog, I introduced a Japanese proverb - "In victory, tighten your helmet". As I am often forced to remember, the most common time for me to injure myself is when training is going great. Success often does indeed lead to even greater success, but if it is not tempered it can be disastrous. For me, the best training plans are developed when I am at my lowest...

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Squatting Really IS Like Sex

However manfully I resist nostalgia, Victorian silences appeal to me. Dr. Block, in an uncharacteristic fit of wisdom, observes, "The irony of creating a taboo is that, once something is forbidden, it often becomes very interesting." Sex in a time of ostensible repression at least had the benefit of carving out a space of privacy. Lovers defined themselves in opposition to the official culture, which had the effect of making every discovery personal. There's something profoundly boring about the vision that is promulgated, if only as an ideal, by today's experts: a long life of vigorous, nonstop, "fulfilling" sex, and the identical story in every household. Although it pains me to remember how innocent I was in my early twenties, I have no desire to rewrite my life. To do so would eliminate those moments of discovery when whole vistas of experience opened out of nowhere, moments when I thought, So this is what it's like. Just about every generation needs to feel that it has invented sex - "Sexual intercourse began / In nineteen sixty-three / (Which was rather late for me)" was Phillip Larkin's imperfectly ironic lament - we all deserve our own dry spells and our own revolutions. They're what make our lives good stories.
Unfortunately, stories like this are easily lost amid the slick certitudes of our media culture: that a heavy enough barrage of information produces enlightenment, and that incessant communication produces communities. Susie Bright and Susan Block and Dr. Ruth are loud and cable-ready. You can turn them on, but you can't turn them off. They yammer on about the frenulum, the perineum, the G-spot, the squeeze technique, bonobo chimpanzees and vibrators, teddies and garter belts, "eargasms" and "toegasms." Their work creates the bumbling amateur. Their discovery of sexual "technique" creates a population bereft of technique. The popular culture they belong to thus resembles an MTV beach party. From the outside, the party looks like fun, but for passive viewers its most salient feature is that they haven't been invited to it.
- Jonathan Franzen, "Books in Bed" (How To Be Alone, pp. 250-251) 

I know that, as someone who has created over 20 videos dedicated to squatting and squatting technique, it is probably hypocritical of me to say that the modern flood of "information", certifications, and guru-ism in the strength and fitness worlds have "created the bumbling amateur" and have "created a population bereft of technique", but that is exactly what has happened.

It's not that hard. (I'm talking about squatting people! I'm always talking about squatting, understand? Get your minds out of the gutter!) ...and if you can't do it, it's not the end of the world, just so that's clear...

Start from the floor in a push-up position. Walk your feet up near your hands. Keep your feet flat on the floor, take your hands off ground when you feel steady, and squat up.

If you did that, you're good!

There really isn't much more to it than that. You don't need an invitation. You don't need a guru. The moments of discovery are waiting.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

LARPing and the Strongman

Otherworld was founded in 1991 by four members of Quest, a Connecticut-based LARPing group. Several months after completing a particularly challenging adventure, they received a letter from one of the participants.
"It was from a woman who'd attended, and she started by saying, 'You're going to think I'm crazy, but the event you ran changed my life,'" says Kristi Hayes. "She was working in a dead-end job she hated, and she was living with her boyfriend, who from the sound of it was really treating her pretty badly. She'd sort of accepted that... this was probably about the best she could expect from life.
"And then, she said, she came and spent the weekend having all these adventures and doing all these challenging things. She was particularly afraid of any sort of public speaking, but at one point during the event, the story line took a dark turn and she had an idea about how to fix things, so she stood up in a crowed room and told everyone about it. People listened to her and followed her idea, and as it turned out, doing so saved the day.
"She told us that for a long while after coming home  from the event, she continued on with her normal less-than-stellar routine but often thought about the weekend. She thought about the person she'd been there, the one who'd stood up in front of all those people, even though she was afraid, and convinced them to listen to her. And I will never forget what she wrote about that... 'She would never put with crap like this. She would find a way to fix things... if I can do heroic things when I'm running around in the woods, why can't I do them here at home?'
"And then she did. She went out and got herself a better job and she ditched the lousy boyfriend. She'd make those changes and built herself a better life, and she felt like she needed to write to us and thank us for it. That was just amazing to me, that we'd been able to help someone reach that point. And we started thinking, 'Gosh, if this event did all that, when really our only goal going into it was for everyone to have fun, well, what would happen if we ran events where we tried to give people these opportunities?'" 
From Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It by David M. Ewalt (pp. 194-195)
Curiously, "life-transforming" certifications have become very popular in the fitness industry over the past 5-10 years. As I often say here, competence precedes confidence, and a good certification gives its participants a sense of competence and accomplishment. While I wouldn't go so far as to call them exercises in live-action-role-playing ("LARPing"), the parallels are interesting to note.

Role-playing is a great teaching method. Everyone knows this on some level of consciousness, and yet it isn't used very often. Prejudices towards the teaching method are, perhaps, rooted in the common adult disdain for fantasy, and the common loss of ability to play make-believe that many kids experience as they struggle to grow up too quickly. Furthermore, the amount of preparation needed to go into creating a context rich enough to make a roleplay authentic enough to not feel strained is substantial. Under-prepare and you run the risk of having participants standing around awkwardly, unable to suspend connection to current reality ("This is cheesy"). Over-plan and you could end up with participants stiffly reading a lifeless script ("This is boring"). The key is to create structure that is flexible enough to allow and respect the freewill and contributions of the participants.