I am pleased to present a guest post from my good friend, RoseAnne Mussar. She hails from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and trains in Modern Arnis at the 6Tigers Academy in Barrhaven under Renshi Janet Heffernan. She also trains in the American Cane System, often traveling to New York for training.
In the 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie starring Robert Downey Jr., there is a scene near the beginning where RDJ-Sherlock is about to fight some oaf in a Victorian cage-match. We see his prodigious thought processes in slow motion as he plans out every step, block and strike. He executes his plan flawlessly; the giant falls; the prize is won.
I have come to the realization that this is bollocks.
Now, I love me some Sherlock Holmes. I’ve read many of the stories and watched many of the adaptations on film and TV, from Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett to Robert Downey Jr., and Jonny Lee Miller. Holmes is a master of deductive reasoning – if A then B then C. It makes for gripping storytelling. Too bad that’s not how the real world works. The real world is chaotic.
I was in class the other day, working on palis-palis techniques. Palis-palis comes from the Tagalog word for “sweeping”, in which the opponent’s attack is swept to one side, followed by various counter techniques. One, in particular, seemed a bit tricky. Everything had to be “just so” to execute the technique successfully. I asked for help from our inestimable teacher Janet Heffernan Renshi. “When applying this technique, you need to set it up and get the opponent in the right position first, right?”
“No,” said Renshi. “This really is a tricky technique that probably wouldn’t work most of the time. But if you see the opening, take it!”
Well, talk about getting hit on the head with the clue stick. I was a victim of my own “if A then B then C” thought patterns.
In common parlance, “chaos” and “random” are used interchangeably. But in scientific terms, chaos is not random. Chaos theory deals with unpredictability within a constrained environment, often stated as “sensitive dependence on initial conditions”. For example, if I were to attempt a front kick to an opponent’s solar plexus, many things could go wrong: I could lose my footing; the opponent could block or sidestep; I could misjudge my distance and land on a different target. What would NOT happen is something like kicking myself in the back of the head. I am constrained by the laws of physics and my own physiology. The outcome of the kick is not totally random, but it’s not entirely predictable either.
So how do you deal with the chaos?
All you Arnis players know the answer to that: you go with the flow of course!
Look for the openings. Be adaptable. Be prepared to change techniques if something isn’t working out. It takes a long time to master flow – I am certainly not there yet. I am still building my arsenal of techniques, putting the clues together and making the connections from A to B to C. Flow comes with time and training; repetition and muscle memory. Patience, grasshopper.