Context and the Thought Provocation Method
I remember having a conversation in graduate school on the topic of leadership, when a friend of mine simply stated that “leadership is defined by context”. I think we had been debating on the development of students’ participation in extracurricular activities, and the foundations of initiative that would allow them to make the jump from receiving information in their classes, to enacting and living those lessons throughout all aspects of their lives.
This is not that different from our own training. Every technique, every strategy or tactic, every application of weapon, individual or group is seated in a foundation of context. Onlookers often speculate on why we begin our template training in a “scarecrow” fashion, with our opponent simply standing still in front of us. When we relate our methodology to that of shooting however, to putting rounds downrange in a static stance at a fixed target it suddenly doesn’t seem so foreign. Every form or set in most martial arts around in the world and throughout history at one point had an appropriate context. The unfortunate phenomenon is that in many systems these contexts of applications have been lost or forgotten. The Japanese Martial Arts world encounters this frequently with their interpretations of kata, and Guro Dan often recounts an experience of watching a well known eskrimador perform beautifully executed movements but then had no idea what they would be used for.
One of the tools we like using to influence our training or lesson plans is surveillance footage of attacks. These examples demonstrate real attacks, in real world context. While we do not rely on these videos as our sole source of information, they are a valuable resource in reminding us that what is easy to conceptualize in training, can truly happen to ordinary people in ordinary places like our homes and towns. Some of the more recent viral videos include the Chinese student being beaten behind a school in Chicago, and this one if a seven-year-old escaping a kidnapping attempt at Walmart.
Our Transportation Security Administration (TSA) does this kind of thing constantly, so every time someone tries to use their shoes or liquids to threaten air travel the rest of the population is subject to reactive searches based on previous threats. No matter how real or informative these videos or experiences are however they are still receiver based. We wait to see information, or hear about some breach and base our knowledge, awareness and subsequent training on what has happened. But what about what could happen?
Sayoc Kali addresses this question with a fundamental cornerstone to our Philosophy of Learning, known as the Thought Provocation Method:
The Thought Provocation Method is basically this: what are all the ways we could think about scenarios or situations, no matter how fantastic they seem? Could we imagine an instance where we would need to strike at Vital Targets while a body is fixed in front of us? What if they were running away from us? What if that was our own little girl, taken of her feet in front of us. What if instead of letting her go that man began to run away from us? Does practicing targets from behind an opponent make more sense now?
The martial arts taught at IEFMA come from individuals and families that no only examined their own experiences, but constantly research and develop our curriculum in real world situations and scenarios. What I have been taught has at one point been done, and been done successfully. So if I teach it, it comes from a relevant context. I am in no way smart enough or experienced enough to design, develop and propagate original material or techniques. In her book “The Philosophical Baby”, Allison Gopnik discusses the concept of counterfactuals, and our human ability to imagine possibilities; alternate realities founded in a long and carefully protected childhood that allows us to use play as a developmental tool. We are given the gifts of reason, of intellect and of imagination, and we are taught in a methodology of Thought Provocation. We are feeders. We use the past, we research our own and others’ experiences and we take that knowledge and expand on it. This is how we use our drills and templates and techniques and learn to grow with them, to evolve through them.
I give you all situations in class, and many of you have already incorporated the practice of imagining scenarios in your own lives at work, at home or even at school. And now, we can take dated technology such as using a flying sidekick to knock someone off of a horse, and apply it to someone trying to abduct your child and run away in front of you. Use your imagination. And keep training.