I still remember my first and only year in the securities industry. I was still in school, finishing my MBA, with big ideas for my future. I’d read Graham and Dodd’s Security Analysis when I was 12 years old – frankly I didn’t understand it all at the time. And, the unvarnished truth be told, I was never going to be the investment sage I had hoped I would become. But, something else spoiled my fantasy early on, thank God.
I learned how many investment advisors got rich. It goes something like this. Today, I’m going to purchase 500,000 email addresses. Then, I’m going to write two letters. The first letter will feature a free stock pick – Apple Computers. In the first letter, I’m going to state that Apple is going to make some solid gains in the coming quarter. Then, I’m going to write a second letter – making the exact opposite claim. Finally, I’m going to send all the letters to the list divided down the middle (250,000 get one letter; the other 250,000 get the other letter) and wait. The very moment Apple’s stock makes a substantial move up or down; I’m going to start writing more email letters.
This time, I’m only writing to the 250,000 people who got the email that correctly made the right call on Apple’s stock. I’m going to send this group two letters (divided evenly again). This time, I’ll pick another stock, for instance, Google. The letters will again each totally contradict the other. I’ll send then and wait. The moment Google’s stock price moves substantially in any direction, I’ll write two more letters to the 125,000 people who actually believe I’m picking all these winners consecutively. I’ll invite them to do business with me. And, I’ll keep doing this until I run out of letters to send. I’ll claim that this letter is the last opportunity to do business with me. No more free lunch – don’t miss out!
Some people may decide to invest their hard earned money with me after the very first letter, some may invest after the second or third letter, but understand this – I can repeat this process seven times and still solicit 4,000 people (who think I’ve successfully picked seven stock winners in a row)!
The truth is, 99.9999 percent of the “to good to be true promises” utilize some form of deception to create misleading track records. And, still, many of us allow ourselves to believe someone else has a miracle solution for us – although, virtually all of our life experience tells us that sustainable gains come from hard work and thoughtful planning.
How does this apply to self-defense training? To be blunt, lack of critical thinking is what causes so many people to begin and to continue to train in martial systems that are not based on anything approaching reality. Encouraging students to critically examine and question everything, however, underscores an important self-defense tenant. Critical examination dramatically shifts the responsibility of personal safety to the student. In short, it activates the mind of the student and gets each of them involved on a personal level.
Here’s an example I often use to underscore this issue with my instructors. A few years back, I asked several instructors to stay after early training on Saturday morning. The next class was our mass introductory seminar. I welcomed the newcomers, made a few short remarks, and begin to lead the warm-up. I started by kicking my feet while jumping – like a traditional Russian dancer. Then I started moving my arms widely without any discernible pattern. I also began throwing my head around randomly and shouting one syllable sounds (not words) that surprised me as much as anyone else. This was all going on simultaneously.
I saw the instructors I’d asked to stay for class laughing at the back of the room. I stopped the class. Then I continued with what must have looked like a Pee-Wee Herman Saturday Night Live skit – no joke (skipping and jerking around). This really happened. The newcomers all tried to follow in earnest – all attempting to mimic the seemingly masterful rituals needed to become a Krav Maga practitioner.
When the warm-up was finished, I asked the class if anyone still needed to warm-up (not a peep). Then I asked if the class was beginning to understand what it was going to take to master Krav Maga. Everyone agreed – this was going to be a challenge.
Then I let the class know that the warm-up had been a big bunch of garbage. I further challenged the class to inquire whenever something felt amiss or seemed exceedingly difficult.
I ended my comments with my standard guarantee: If a student has a question about why we are doing something, I will have a fully satisfying answer. After all, if I’m asking someone to do something, I should know exactly why. Further, my answer to a why question should be directly related to successfully performing the technique (one of Krav Maga’s core principles). In other words, there are no -nor should there be- any unnecessary movements or actions.
I’d like to encourage everyone who teaches to be prepared to make the same guarantee (and be prepared to back it up). And, I’d like to challenge every student in every martial discipline to demand as much from your instructor. This is serious business and each instructor accepts a sacred responsibility to better prepare his/her students for violence.
When we all start thinking more critically and taking responsibility for our roles in teaching and/or learning self-defense, we all benefit greatly. Remember, iron sharpens iron…and we all are better when we hold each other accountable.
Train hard, train smart, and walk in peace…