A train­ing scar is a bad habit that stu­dents build in the off-mo­ments of their work­outs, their per­ceived down­times, the sec­onds that fall be­tween drill it­er­a­tions.


'on’t let your stu­dents de­velop train­ing scars, warns an ex­pe­ri­enced in­struc­tor. -ust what is a train­ing scar? It’s a habit un­know­ingly cul­ti­vated in the dojo that can carry over to real-world ap­pli­ca­tion much to the detri­ment of the stu­dentK

L et’s start with a def­i­ni­tion. For the pur­poses of this col­umn, the term “train­ing scar” does not re­fer to a ca­sual wound in­curred by mar­tial arts stu­dents dur­ing their reg­u­lar work­outs. Those bumps, bruises, scrapes and abra­sions are col­lat­eral dam­age, the re­sults of ac­ci­dents — and of­ten things the stu­dents point to for brag­ging rights.

In con­trast, a train­ing scar is what of­ten de­vel­ops be­cause of a cog­ni­tive quirk of the hu­man brain. Also called “path de­pen­dence,” it’s a habit un­know­ingly cul­ti­vated in train­ing that may carry over to real-world ap­pli­ca­tion much to the detri­ment of the stu­dent.

don’t specif­i­cally TRAIN­ING SCARS re­fer to bad habits in the sense of stu­dents prac­tic­ing with bad form — for ex­am­ple, a stu­dent “swim­ming his jab‚” which refers to leav­ing an open line as he fires or re­tracts his punch; or a stu­dent “sweep­ing out of plumb‚” which refers to pay­ing no at­ten­tion to eye level while hit­ting a sweep from the bot­tom. Th­ese are bad habits of tech­ni­cal ex­e­cu­tion, not train­ing scars so much as mis­takes you need to cor­rect when­ever you see them.

A train­ing scar is a bad habit that stu­dents build in the off-mo­ments of their work­outs, their per­ceived down­times, the sec­onds that fall be­tween drill it­er­a­tions. Un­for­tu­nately, all stu- dents, no mat­ter their skill level, are sus­cep­ti­ble to de­vel­op­ing train­ing scars, and they likely have noth­ing to do with bad in­struc­tion. Let’s go to an ex­am­ple to il­lu­mi­nate.

stu­dents are work­ing a TWO OF YOUR weapon dis­arm. It’s Stu­dent A’s turn to get the knife away from Stu­dent B, which she does with fight-film per­fec­tion. Then she bends down, picks up the dropped blade and hands it back to her part­ner for an­other go. That bend­ing down to re­trieve the weapon, that sim­ple act of courtesy, is a train­ing scar.

Whether they re­al­ize it or not, that rote bit of kind­ness can get stored in the hu­man brain as a com­po­nent

of the dis­arm. That means this lit­tle prac­tice of ci­vil­ity can man­i­fest in street con­di­tions by sheer dint that the stu­dent has made it part of her train­ing. And the con­se­quences can be deadly.

If you doubt the like­li­hood of this happening, look on YouTube and you’ll find more than a few videos of law-en­force­ment of­fi­cers dis­arm­ing weapon-wield­ing sus­pects in real life and then — you’ll be aghast when you see this — hand­ing the weapon back to the as­sailant.

more ex­am­ples of HERE ARE TWO train­ing scars. (Once you know what to look for, you’ll start spot­ting them in class.)

Stu­dent A of­fers Stu­dent B a help­ing hand so he can get up quickly af­ter be­ing thrown to the mat.

Stu­dent A stops in the mid­dle of a light-con­tact spar­ring ses­sion, pops out her mouth guard and pro­ceeds to dis­cuss Stu­dent B’s lead hook.

Does that mean you should for­bid your stu­dents from help­ing each other up af­ter a take­down or throw? Should you pro­hibit them from dis­cussing tech­niques in the mid­dle of spar­ring? Not at all. It means you should ed­u­cate them and point out po­ten­tial prob­lems when you no­tice them. For ex­am­ple, af­ter you spot some­one drop­ping her guard to dis­sect a punch, ex­plain that she can do that as long as she makes sure to keep her hands up, her eyes on the op­po­nent and her body out of range.

For­tu­nately, train­ing scars are rel­a­tively easy to iden­tify once you learn the con­cept, at which point they’ll be easy to rem­edy. The best way to de­tect them is to ex­am­ine your stu­dents’ ac­tions dur­ing the gaps be­tween drill rep­e­ti­tions and in the pos­tex­e­cu­tion phase, and then of­fer re­me­dial ad­vice on the spot.

Harder to cope with, how­ever, is some­thing sim­i­lar that’s of­ten called “task sat­u­ra­tion.”

or un­fa­mil­iar cirIN CHAOTIC cum­stances, the hu­man an­i­mal of­ten re­acts less than ide­ally, hence the im­por­tance of train­ing for those in the mil­i­tary, law en­force­ment and com­bat sports. Train­ing for chaos with chaos in mind is not a guar­an­tee that you’ll per­form up to snuff, but it’s a nice bit of in­sur­ance.

Task sat­u­ra­tion comes into play when stu­dents get ex­cep­tion­ally fo­cused on their train­ing pro­to­col. In essence, one of them per­forms ev­ery step per­fectly, in per­fect or­der, no mat­ter what de­tails crop up along the way.

The mil­i­tary has stud­ied task sat­u­ra­tion ex­ten­sively be­cause the na­ture of mil­i­tary train­ing in­grains skills so well un­der so many chaotic cir­cum­stances that soldiers have a higher like­li­hood of de­vel­op­ing is­sues. That means when one item on the check­list is no longer ideal, a sol­dier who is task-sat­u­rated will tend to fix­ate on com­plet­ing the task de­spite the fact that it’s no longer valid and might ac­tu­ally cause harm.

Ex­am­ple: There have been many in­stances of mil­i­tary he­li­copters hav­ing to ditch. Task sat­u­ra­tion can be a prob­lem when pi­lots ad­here so closely to the ditch­ing check­list that some of their ac­tions make the ditch even hairier.

Task sat­u­ra­tion is a tough glitch to over­come be­cause it’s the op­po­site of hav­ing bad form in train­ing. It en­tails hav­ing a per­son who’s so well-trained that pro­to­col will not be bro­ken come hell or high water. The good news is that this is sel­dom ex­pe­ri­enced by peo­ple who are good at im­pro­vis­ing, folks we’d call quick on their feet. Make sure your stu­dents fol­low in their foot­steps as they walk the fine line be­tween be­ing well-trained with an eye on pro­to­col and be­ing well-trained but hav­ing eyes that are al­ways search­ing for in­di­ca­tions that pro­to­col — or even a bit of it — needs to be tossed.

the mil­i­tary at­tempts IN TRAIN­ING, to thwart task sat­u­ra­tion by vary­ing the tasks soldiers per­form and cre­at­ing sce­nar­ios in which pro­to­col must be scrapped. In other words, they force im­pro­vi­sa­tion.

A sim­i­lar con­cept was used in Na­tive Amer­i­can war­rior train­ing that was de­signed to teach a light­ness or flow in re­sponse to stress. In Co­manche, the catch-all term was wumetu. It di­rected war­riors to fol­low their train­ing but also to keep their eyes open at all times so the bat­tle plan can be ad­justed — or aban­doned — at a moment’s no­tice. Wumetu was in­cul­cated, just as in the modern mil­i­tary, by hav­ing war­riors en­gage in stress­ful train­ing with un­ex­pected vari­ables in­tended to keep the mind hop­ping.

There’s no rea­son you, as a mar­tial arts in­struc­tor, can’t ben­e­fit from the wis­dom of th­ese two groups the next time you’re de­vis­ing self-de­fense sce­nar­ios for your stu­dents.

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