"Scientific training"

By: Lawrence Eng

When I speak of a scientific training method, I am referring to the philosophy of making as few assumptions as possible when seeking the truth, and when you do make assumptions about a situation, make sure that they are based on facts and not on idealism. Use this philosophy whether you are looking for the right technique to perform against a punch, or are deciding what art to study.

"Expect the worst, hope for the best" is what I always say. Never assume that your opponent is incompetent. Never assume that your favorite technique will knock out your opponent, even if it connects. Never assume your opponent is unarmed. Never assume you are facing only one enemy.

Basically, I am advocating that we be careful, not cocky, when we are faced with danger, and that we deal with the situation at hand as it occurs, without preconceptions. In other words, train with a skeptical mindset. You may feel that your progress is slower compared to those who blindly follow a set curriculum, but in the end, you will be better off, knowing more about what is real.

Remember, however, that skepticism is not an excuse for disrespect or not wanting to learn. The key is to keep an open mind and learn all you can, at the same time thinking critically for yourself and not believing out-of-hand everything you're told. "Skeptics" who are close-minded are not really skeptics. They believe that they know what is right and what is wrong, what is possible and what is impossible. In other words, they are "skeptical" of anything they don't agree with. Don't believe anyone's BS, and make sure you don't believe your own.

I advocate science, but I do not advocate the pseudoscientific drivel that is sometimes presented by the media. It is amazing what some people pass off as "science" these days, especially in terms of martial arts training. In regards to certain advertisements I have seen, I do not think fighting skills can be taught as : If you hit your opponent in this spot, he will react like this, at which point you do this and he'll react as such, and then you do your finishing move, at which point your opponent will be incapacitated on the ground. Admittedly, fighting is as deterministic as the rest of the universe (whatever that's worth), but there are so many determining factors involved at every step along the way, you can never expect a fight to go exactly as you plan it. What you may find is that if you hit your opponent in that spot mentioned above, he may not be affected at all for any number of possible reasons. And then what are you going to do, especially if you never trained for such contingencies?

Never assume a technique will work 100% of the time. Expect the unexpected. Be able to improvise if strategies fail. If the strategies you were taught don't work, figure out new ones. That is what I mean when I say "scientific training."

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Last updated on June 24th, 1998
Lawrence Eng