Alive or Dead: Analogies to Training
I realize that the word "alive" is used almost as much in today's Bullshido comments as the word "Ninjer" or "Street". It's become the elephant in the corner, though, because of it's overuse, or the dead horse because of it's misuse; but it need not be, when we logically understand it in relation to non-martial art based life, aka "The Real World" outside of our gym, dojo, kwoon, etc.
Analogy #1: Fire Drill
For those of us who haven't been out of school for long (and by long I mean 10 or less years), it's easy to remember that fun time at the start of every year and spread randomly throughout: the fire drill. Yes, the one thing we hoped would come in the middle of Ethics, Trigonometry, or American History class. Now, why do I bring it up? Easy, this is a very good analogy for "alive" training.
The analogy: Alive training is like active fire drilling.
The plot: Somewhere in a hallway, a fire alarm goes off. Teachers and students follow a predetermined plan to exit the building, so that all within will know where to go in the case of fire. There are alternate routes, which are also used to illustrate how to escape should the main exits be blocked by flames. Students practice crawling through "smoke filled" hallways and classrooms, so that they know how to avoid smoke inhalation and escape.
The correlation: When you spar at full force, you are "practicing" for what could happen. There are rules to keep you safe, but it is as close to the real thing as possible. You may drill techniques, but you do not stay only in the realm of drills as these are not close enough to a living, breathing, resistant opponent.
The opposition: Those who do not compete, spar, or laud compliant drilling claim that tie-in 1 is plenty to learn self defense, but how can they justify thgis? Without ever actually taking the routes or crawling on the ground, the student's natural instincts may well oppose good traits to escape a fire. Also, without the time limits, while the student may put together the techniques of tie-in 2, they might not get out in time to survive as they are unsure how long it takes to do irrepairable damage from smoke inhalation.
- Drilling techniques - Going over the routes to escape
- Sparring - Practicing escape routes and crawling under smoke
- Resistant training - Time limits to escape
Analogy #2: Gas, Gas, Gas!
Those of us who have a military background will automatically know how the title relates to the alive discussion, but for those who don't: the gas mask training program includes much the same system as a fire drill at schools.
The analogy: Alive training is like the US Army's gas mask training.
The plot: You are trained first by viewing documents & videos and then by listening to Drill Sergeants discuss the correct way to use, clear, and then seal a gas mask. At this time you are then asked to actually do the aforementioned yourself. You practice placing the mask on, clearing it yourself, and then sealing it. Then you are tested based on a time limit, which has been determined as the amount of time the average soldier has to put on said mask to save themselves from a chemical attack.
The correlation: We all learn techniques by viewing them, listening to their description, then practicing them in drills. After this time we practice at varying degrees of resistance until such time as we have learned the technique sufficiently to utilize it in sparring. At that time, we are asked to use the techniques we learned in free sparring.
The opposition: All martial arts incorporate drilling and technique learning. Many incorporate varying levels of resistant techniques. But fewer use 100% sparring, usually feeling that the other steps are enough to give "good" self defense. But would you say that, when the time comes to protect yourself from a chemical attack, you'd want to have never actually tried to put on the gas mask as fast as possible or to know how close or far from the "limit" you are?
- Drilling techniques - Video, documents and examples by Drill Sgt.
- Varying levels of resistance - Time limit is gradually cut down to actual test time
- Sparring - Final test and cerification with gas mask
Final Analogy: Medicine
My final analogy, the one that I found the best correlation to martial arts, specifically self defense, is one involving medical practice, ie. how a doctor becomes a doctor. Would you consider self defense as important to your health as a medical professional's training? I would, so it makes sense to correlate the two.
The analogy: Alive training is like practicing surgery before actually performing said.
The plot: Surgeon's, some of the most technically challenging and important members of the medical field, utilize video, audio, and technical documentation of surgery techniques at the earliest levels of learning their skills. They then move onto watching actual surgeries, cutting open cadavers, and being involved in surgeries at different levels. They are finally tested on their knowledge of surgery and move from school to residency. At residency they help perform surgeries, up to and including performing simpler surgeries themselves, always with an experienced surgeon at hand. Before they get their own practice, though, they must show that they have the expertise to perform their specializational surgeries (cosmetic, trauma, etc.) on their own.
The correlation: Much like a surgeon, a martial artist begins his practice with instruction and examples from those who are already experienced. Through visual and auditory cues, as well as physical adjustment from those more experienced, during drills we learn to use techniques in practice. We will then watch free sparring from more experienced competitors, noting how they move, what techniques they use, the counters, the general "aggression" level needed to remain calm yet be effective. Before we can move onto new techniques and higher levels of training, we are tested by our peers. At this time, we move up to more experienced levels, learning more complicated techniques and sparring harder. We will begin using these techniques while drilling them, until one day we are performing them on our own, during sparring and even upper level competition.
The opposition: Many martial arts don't get past the reistant training point, but as you can see, that would be like a surgeon who never performed a surgery on his own. Really, how much more blatantly obvious could it be made that free sparring is a large chunk of good self defense? Regardless of how many "rules" the detractors say there are making sparring and competition "unrealistic", unless they are training by killing actual people with their "deadly" techniques, are those techniques ever proven? Someone who spars and competes in a largely free format will always have a far better chance, experience for experience, than an equally trained non-competitor.
- Drilling techniques - Learning through books & video and physically cutting cadavers
- Reistant training - Assisting experienced surgeons in different roles, making incisions, doing "low level" surgeries with help
- Sparring - Performing more and more surgeries by oneself, until such time as one is considered a surgeon in their own right
In closing, if you pit your average Isshin Ryu student with 5 years of compliant training and a non-competitive, nonsparring training mentality versus an average BJJ, Muay Thai, KyoKushinkai, or even another Isshin Ryu student with 5 years of noncompliant, competitive and sparring training, you'll see firsthand how only taking your training 2 out of 3 steps can be the difference between self defense and self destruction. Those who fight against this designation casually consider that it is 'unlikely' to fight another well trained individual in the street, but as most of us will attest, I'd rather prepare for the worst and not need it than prepare for the best and have to deal with the worst. Alive will stay in my repertoire of defining terms for training, regardless of what the detractors can say. Alive training = alive at the end of the day. Non-alive training = non-alive when it comes down to it.