Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Fighting, PISR, and adaptation

Over the next few weeks I'm writing up three longish posts on martial arts. They are ideas that I've been thinking about for a few years and I'd like to flesh them out a bit.

The first post will be about the evolution of fighting from a socio-psychological perspective and what aspects of fighting are left over in the modern day combatant. From the first time proto-humans grouped together, armed themselves with sticks, and fought off apex-predators, to modern day humans grouping together, arming themselves with pool cues and fighting off drunken competitors.

The second post will be about martial arts as complex adaptive systems. This is originally an idea I wrote about a few years back on a martial arts board. What I wrote at the time was:

"Fighting is a complex adaptive system (CAS). "Patterns" of fighting e.g. boxing, kickboxing, BJJ, and MMA; evolve out of the complexity of multiple individuals who train together and fight (cooperate and compete) within certain environments e.g. a ring, a schoolyard, a gym, et. al. This also answers the question raised about who created MMA: no singular person did. To be sure, some individuals were larger "ideological nodes" and influenced the overall system, but it mainly evolved out of a greater whole through competitive adaptation and organized learning.

Fighters don't learn in isolation. They learn from within a CAS. The interdependent fighters within the CAS collect and analyse information to change their pattern of fighting and outmaneuver other fighters. Fighters within the CAS will retain patterns of combat that produce satisfactory outcomes in their environment, whilst disregarding patterns that do not. Fighters who become isolated from the reality of a competitive environment i.e. not fighting real opponents trying to knock their teeth out, will no longer adapt and learn, hence their systems become isolated and dead (in fact the American strategist John Boyd reckoned one of the best way to destroy a social system was to isolate it physically-mentally-and-morally from its environment, the system would then become so detached from reality it would cease to function on those levels and collapse itself)."

Those were my thoughts then, I hope to refine them using the ideas of John Holland and other theorists that I have read since then. I want to discuss the evolution of Brazilian Jujitsu from its Judo beginnings into the Mixed Martial Arts of today, where adaptive agents (martial artists), in the terminology of CAS, interacted with other adaptive agents and patterns of martials arts emerged in their environments.

The third post, and final post will be about Boyds PISR for hand to hand combat. One of the ideas that I've seen taken from Boyds briefings is the concept of PISR, or penetrate, isolate, Subdue/Subvert, Reorient/Reharmonize. I hope to discuss Jeet Kune Do as the prototype PISR martial art and how modern day Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) are similar to the concept of PISR. For instance the best MMA fighters tend to use quick penetrations through strikes, closing the distance, and shoots like double leg takedowns. They then isolate their opponent in the clinch or on the ground and then subdue them through submissions and strikes. I also want to discuss Reality based self defense in this section, and how they use PISR at a psychological level with such tools as Verbal Judo and feigning compliance, or weakness, whilst maintaining an offensive mindset and pre-emptively striking their opponent if needed.


Younghusband said...

Have you looked into the literature on hoplology?

Jay@Soob said...

Looking forward to the posts, especially the relevance of Jeet Kun Do. I wonder if Bruce Lee wasn't the last eastern warrior-philosopher in the tune of Musashi?

Younghusband, I've read that you're a grappler and I seem to remember Brazilian Jujitsu being somewhere in there. What's your base? Judo?
Mine was Greco-Roman during highschool. I had a brief stint in Tae Kwon Do some years ago, but it was essentially training for full contact tournaments and way too heavy on the technical aspects. You can only "chamber, kick" so many times before thinking "hey, I'm not in Korea looking to make the Olympic team here."

G said...

younghusband, yes I have. I hope I don't reinvent the wheel, or cover the great ideas, that Draeger and Hunter Armstrong have written. Whilst their ideas on combatives seem to be all encompassing, my posts will try and stay within the area of self defense, or the civil area as they would put it, although there will definitely be cross overs.

I guess I also didn't mention Hoplology because I disagree with some of their ideas like:

*The idea that sport based arts arn't good for what hoplologists consider true combatives (hand2hand and hand2weapons fighting in wartime). This comes from personal perspective where I seen guys in the army who came back from hand-to-hand courses and started showing everyone disarms or combative moves that a boxer, wrestler or mixed martial artist would make mince meat out of.

*Some of the psychological stuff the hoplologists (and I guess a lot of martial artists state) is a little bit misinformed, the one big one that irks me is humans having "predatory mindsets". Whilst humans are *now* apex predators, and may very well mimic predators, our hard wiring in our brains in combative situations comes from our long interactions in our evolutionary heritage between proto-humans and alpha-predators. For the majority of hominid history we were hunted by numerous alpha-predators like tigers etc. Humanity, whilst now being an apex-predator, has been for the majority of its existence a prey species and that also means our brains are wired in a prey manner, albeit a higher functioning, adaptable prey (For sources on this see Man the Hunted: Primates, Predators, and Human Evolution by Donna L. Hart and Robert W. Sussman. Hunter and Hunted: Relationships Between Carnivores and People by Hans Kruuk, Monster of God: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind by David Quammen and Blood Rites by Barbara Ehrenreich).

That's not say there are also cultural influences on combat, which draeger covered brilliantly with some of his south east asian martial writings.

So yeah, hoplology, interesting stuff but I disagree with some it.

G said...

Jay, that's a good point.

Perhaps there are some current ones but they haven't been translated yet? The Chinese PLA officers who wrote the unrestricted warfare text also come to mind, I think one of them was had a degree in writing or literature or something.

Dan tdaxp said...

Recalls the PIRSR of Miyamoto Musashi.

Younghusband said...

Subadei said "What's your base?"

Modern jujutsu, then koryu, then BJJ with about a million things in between (including JKD). Have been off for almost a year now tho' as thesis writing is a bitch. If I had to do it all over again tho, I would do greco as a kid for sure.

m├╝nzenberg said "*The idea that sport based arts arn't good for what hoplologists consider true combatives"

That isn't really what they say. What they say is you must train the way you fight. Arts like TKD, BJJ etc are for dueling (technical hoplology term) and are best suited to it. That doesn't mean you can't use them on the battlefield, it just means they aren't meant for the battlefield. Look at a pro-baseball player. He is training for the diamond, but a bat is a deadly weapon in his hands. Its called crossover.

I am not informed enough about the "predator" stuff to make a comment.

G said...

dan, you are always one step ahead.

younghusband, I think our perspectives are different sides of the same coin. My perspective on this particular facet of hoplology came from an interview with Armstrong (and if you have any other sources that might broaden mine it please list them, becuase I would be interested). In that interview Armstrong stated:

"Boxing, I think, is a great sport. But to say that boxing is the best means of engaging in combat on the street is silly. That doesn’t mean it can’t be used on the street, as a good boxer can certainly handle himself in a one-on-one fight. But if you think you are going to win all street fights because you can box, you are going to run into a problem. Even more so if the boxer goes into a more combative or battlefield combat realm, he’s going to be in real trouble."

So from my reading, I would say it covers both of our perspectives, on the one hand he is saying to train how you are going to fight, to not do that would be rather rediculous anyway. On the other hand he is making a statement on the effectiveness of a sports based art in a combative situation (by saying a boxer would run into real trouble). Which is what I originally had a problem with.

Whilst throwing a boxer into the midst of some battle is rediculous, in this particular case the combative sport training of boxing prepares the body and mind better than hand-to-hand combative training. Both have training methods that are similar e.g. controlled aggression, keeping balance and unbalancing your opponent etc. But I would wager that a boxer would handle himself better in a close quarter unarmed battle than the combatively trained person. The reasoning for this would be for training method. A hypothetical ... take two diggers on two different days in different patrols. Digger one has trained a bit of boxing for a bit, Digger two has had a couple of unarmed combat classes. Digger one is clearing rooms in a close urban environment, he gets lazy, briefly becomes detached from his patrol in the midst of battle ... starts to forget weapon retention because of fatigue and BAM, enemy militia, unarmed, appears out of nowhere and smacks digger one in the chops and his rifle goes flying.

Digger two also has the same situation. Which one is going to be better prepared for a close quarter unarmed battle on the day? Digger one? Who has trained dishing out a beating and, most importantly taking one. Or Digger two? Who has had a couple of unarmed courses, whilst useful, might not have had the time to train on those courses because he's been on the range and therefore has limited ability to take a beating, and dish out one.

Now, its a bit of an unfair comparison, because a lot of other factors come into play (like the guy in the fight, or the opponent), but for pure training method I think the sport based arts have a major advantage over the "combative" side and could very well be quite effective on the battlefield. From that interview Armstrong thinks otherwise, unless you have other sources? Which I would be interested in reading.

(This also isn't to say boxing isn't the be-all and end-all of fighting, I'm a boxing fanboy, but I'm aware of its limits in the clinch and on the ground and with weapons, though the fathers of unarmed combat and ww2 vets applegate and biddle loved boxing)

But hey, I'm no expert on hoplology, I'm an interested amateur, so I may be incorrect on all this.

Younghusband said...

I don't want to get into speculative "who bests who" scenarios. I think Chip's comment was right, boxers are not prepared to fight in a non-duel environment. They aren't trained for multiple opponents, or uneven ground conditions, or weapons or a lot of stuff. That is just fact. But it isn't saying that boxing isn't valuable.

As a guy who has done his share of sport, I do understand the value of sport training. One of the big differences between the sport guys and the "combatives" guys is pure athleticism. That is an extremely important variable that the sports guys have that more often than not the non-sport guys don't have.

Jay@Soob said...

Hmm. Just to toss my two cents in here. I'm not nearly as well read in this as either of you but speaking as someone who's youth saw a fair share of fisticuffs I'm leaning toward the dueling sportsman being at something of a disadvantage here.
The problem with dueling practices is that they generally include rule sets that simply don't exist in the "real world" of fighting. You can train hard in the static environment of a dojo or wrestling mat and find yourself staring up between your Nikes in a hurry should your opponent be one whose honed his own skills on the street. Learning your skills on the street, in a nutshell, means a (hopefully) declining ratio of run face into opponents fist/run fist into opponents face. Technique, repetition, and athleticism go a long way but learning the "hard way" adjusts more than just the tactics of a person, it adjusts the "instinct" as well.

In this respect the hoplologist perspective makes the most sense. The guy whose learned in an environment where the variables are the most complex (and dangerous) will present a more complex foe and generally hold the upper hand.

Of course the best case scenario is one who brings the street to a discipline. Which is where you both seem to be in unknowing agreement.

G said...

I don't reckon it is speculative.

They are different training methods with measurable outcomes.

A fight is a fight. A punch to someones head, or a finger jab to the eye, has the same biomechanics if there were multiple opponents. Put a knife in a boxers hands and give him some quick pointers on how to use it, and he'd be a hell of a lot more dangerous than a guy who has done a training method of pure "knife fighting". Of course, give a boxer a rifle, and he'd be clueless (because the base biomechanics have changed). I'm well aware that boxers don't train for non-duel environments, but the physical biomechanics for fighting are the same. The strategy is just a little different when the environment changes.

Anonymous said...

"Of course the best case scenario is one who brings the street to a discipline." This seems to be the key problem: How much of the street (or the battlefield)CAN you bring into a training environment without losing a lot of your students?

For example, a boxer may learn how to take and give blows better than a martial artist-- but they aren't studying some of the moves martial artists do. How do you practice moves for breaking arms without either sending half your students to the hospital or getting into the habit of pulling your blows?