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.