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Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu

Brain Criticality in Skill and Qualities Development in Muay Thai

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One of the most difficult things when trying to train pretty much anything is that the human organism, in fact all organisms operate with a profound sense of homeostasis. When the system finds its equilibrium it sets its internal thermostat to stay there. The human body regulates its temperature to fall within a certain zone, ideal for its chemical interactions. The alcoholic (just to pick something) stays within the circularity of habits that maintain a symbiotic relationship to the substance alcohol. Each is a system composed of a network or networks that circles back on itself, stabilizing the relations. One may be at the bio-chemical level, the other may involve friends, conversations, work habits, advertisement consumption, diet and many other things (also perhaps reduce-able to bio-chemical chains). How does one change a homeostatically driven system?

The first thing to appreciate is that if you have any "bad habits" they are likely part of a homeostatic system. They are part of a sameness, a stability. They aren't just "bad", they are "good" in a set of relations. If you keep dropping your hands in sparring or on the pads, this isn't just an error. It's also something that your body is reading as right or helpful in maintaining itself. If you don't figure out how to replace the "good" that is being done with another, more operative good, it's very hard to convince the system to make the change. In fact, it's pretty much impossible.

An example from Sylvie is that we've figured out that she lowers her hands at times in her movement. In particular we were thinking about how she starbursts them when kicking, for instance, instead of being more in guard. They aren't just dropping out of laziness. In fact they are forming part of a balancing mechanism, probably brought on by leanbacks in her kick, when her head moves off of the centerline. Her hands are part of a system of stability. IF you want to stop lowering your hands then you probably need to stop leaning back. You have to teach the whole system a different kind of balance. You can keep yelling at yourself to keep your hands up, but what you are telling the system is: "Don't save yourself." It isn't going to happen. There is a reason they are down. There are probably several reasons, in fact. A single thing like lowering the hands can play a role in several stabilizing systems, physically, mentally, emotionally, etc. But the point is: look to the system. Look to what stability is being accomplished.

This is a long way of saying, if you are trying to change one thing you probably need to change the whole thing. Sometimes you can change the whole thing by really pushing hard on the one thing. For instance, you can tie your hands in place, and make it so you can never drop them, and the whole system of balance would be forced to learn another way. That's a brute force approach. It's usually better to globally try and shape the whole system, that way all the connective tissue between parts gets touched. This is one of the reasons play in training is a powerful tool, it pulls more and more into the system, and guides it all to evolve without critical judgment.

So, onto the Critical Brain.

Some ruminations on the possible nature of the brain and how that might help us see mental (and physical) training under new models. With new models come new expectations and methods. The best article to read on this is the recent Ars Technica Rat brains provide even more evidence our brains operate near tipping point but the quotations in this article are from the Quanta article Brains May Teeter Near Their Tipping Point, Quanta Magazine. Both are summarizing the consequences of a new paper presented on how brains may be structured around criticality.

In taking up the idea of training away and through criticality we can see homeostasis in a new way. This theory of the brain suggests that it fluctuates just below criticality, which is in very crude terms like a sandpile.

How the Brain is Like a Sandpile

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If you drop individual grains of sand on top of a sandpile one by one, each grain has a chance of causing an avalanche. Bak and colleagues showed that those avalanches will follow a “power law,” with smaller avalanches occurring proportionally more frequently than larger ones. So if there are 100 small avalanches in which 10 grains slide down the side of the sandpile during a given period, there will be 10 larger avalanches involving 100 grains in the same period, and just one large avalanche involving 1,000 grains. When a huge avalanche collapses the whole pile, the base widens, and the sand begins to pile up again until it returns to its critical point, where, again, avalanches of any size may occur. The sandpile is incredibly complex, with millions or billions of tiny elements, yet it maintains an overall stability.

- Brains May Teeter Near Their Tipping Point, Quanta Magazine

The stability of the sandpile system comes from it's inherent instability. What is interesting is how they are very broadly analogizing sandpile avalanches to biological processes, and brain activity like cascading neurons firing to some effect. For instance, waking up.

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They monitored the brains of lab rats as the rats moved from being asleep (thanks to a bit of anesthesia) and awake—technically, synchronized and unsynchronized states, respectively—and concluded that the rodent brains showed all the hallmarks of moving through a critical state as they cycled between sleep and wakefulness. Specifically, researchers saw spiking avalanches following a power distribution.

Ars Technica

How is it that a sleeping brain moves to becoming awake? What is the process? What is it like? This theory suggests that it's very much like a sandpile. It gets dripped on by grains and slowly moves toward its big avalanche, the cascade of neurons that in unison moves it into a waking state. You can read the articles and see how this may only be a rough analogy, but it's helpful. It's talking about how the organism moves between stabilizing and destabilizing states, and positions itself between.

How the Brain is Like an Atomic Bomb

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If the brain were extremely subcritical, according to Beggs, incoming signals would get damped and have no impact. “It would be like trying to talk to someone who is asleep or drunk,” he said. In a supercritical brain, incoming signals would get lost in a frenzy of electrical activity, and the effect would be like trying to talk to a seizure victim. Beggs and others argue that the neural network is most sensitive to incoming signals at the critical point. There, a chain of active neurons allows information to spread from one brain area to another without dying out prematurely or exploding.

 

 

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The above positions the human brain between thresholds of Noise and dumbness, ever balancing itself in a Goldilocks zone which allows a helpful rate of cascading. I present it here just for digestion.

I'm going to veer off on my own tangent. It's my intuition - and I did not read this hypothesis in the literature, and I have no particular reason to think it true - that the way that a cascading, avalanche prone brain dampens its sensitivity (super criticality) is likely that the overall critical system is nested. Which is to say that when a rice grain falls on subsystem x, this grain is released by another, more localized sandpile, if you will. You have hour glasses linked to hour glasses. And at times they cascade all together. At times, in fact many times, the cascade is well below the threshold of consciousness or action. Nested criticality is a very interesting model of development.

If we are perusing a physical change, say perhaps snapping back on the jab, or maybe more interestingly developing a quality, let's say being light on your feet, it may be productive to think of this element as a nested subsystem of criticality. Which is to say, we are building sandpiles. Many times we are working on something and it just seems like nothing is happening at all. We are just wasting our time. And, we very well may be. On the other hand, we may be also dropping rice grains with the aim creating a sand pile, which will then critically balance itself with cascades of the desired effect. What is kind of interesting about this is that we tend to look at states in very idealized ways. A good fighter is always calm. A good fighter is always on balance. This fighting style is quick and accurate. But in nested criticality there is no absolute quality. This particular sandpile tends to avalanche, to cascade with this effect, over time. At any one particular moment, a single fall of a rice grain, the system might express that quality, or it may not. If it does not, it isn't failing. It's only a tendency of that subsystem, a tendency to cascade.

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When we watch someone like Mike Tyson we are struck with significant essentialism. He is just so powerful. He is powerful in all things he does. But it isn't really that way. Many shots aren't powerful. Many shots miss or are miss timed. But then that huge shot lands, accurate, fast, explosive. That's a sandpile avalanching. Lots of grains fell in that fight in which there were only tiny avalanches, and lots fell when there was nothing. Instead of imagining that those were misfires, or failed, perhaps we imagine them as a system near criticality. His training, the state he had developed, was one when power tended to manifest itself. The whole fighter would cascade with a certain effect.

The same thing with maybe someone like Samart who is so slick, so on balance. The illusion he creates, often by virtue of great moments in fights when everything avalanches, is that he is ALWAYS this way. He isn't, he's off balance all time, he mistimes things, but he catches himself, the system is tending toward slickness, towards timing.

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The reason why this is important, or productive, is that it's a way into seeing into the nature of "error" or even unresponsiveness. The failure of a system to produce the desired effect is quickly read in very critical terms. It is broken. It needs fixing. The first thing is to understand that the system, any system, is already not broken. It is operating under a homeostasis already. If the theory of the criticality of the brain is anywhere close to being true, at minimum any particular state a person is in, any habit they have, is part of a pretty delicate and miraculous balancing act of hovering near a tipping point of maximum efficacy. As we try and train that system to have different qualities, we are just moving its tipping points. We do that by addressing nested subsystems and their criticality. The other aspect of criticality and error is that just because the sandpile isn't cascading with the desired effect doesn't mean that it is broken. It just may be that not enough grains of sand have fallen for it to reach criticality. It's just a fairly insensitive pile as yet. Yeah, you flinch still in sparring. Not enough grains have tumbled down. Your eyes and other senses haven't seen enough yet. Yes, you can train bad habits, create sandpiles that cascade in an undesired way, but if you understand that you are building sandpiles in the first place, the role of error or unresponsiveness can be seen in a different way. You are not trying to create a perfect response, as in mechanical views of the world where you push a button, and gears turn, and then the gumball drops out. The same way every time. That is the model we often think of in training. Instead, you are creating sandpiles which tend toward certain effects, certain qualities. And, once you have a pretty good sandpile you are fine tuning its sensitivity to inputs, making it more and more prone towards sensitivity and flow. But, there is no "perfect" state of the sandpile. Even the most revered fighters existed in states where if a single grain fell, nothing would happen. Its only if when enough grains fall, beauty happens.

 

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What is at stake here is pretty much the mechanistic world view which we have inherited from the industrial age. Models of the world call our attention to certain features, and suppress our attention to other features, and let's just grant that there is no one "all features" model of the world. A great deal of what we do in the west in terms of Martial Art or combat training comes out of our gearworks mentality. We largely see the world in terms of interconnected cogs or forces that behave in practical ways. And if something predictable fails to occur we lift up the hood and check for where the connection is broken.

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We do this with ourselves as well, often trying to fix or replace "broken" parts, like our beliefs (that may be holding us back), or habits. We imagine that if the parts line up the machine of the world will work as it should be.

 

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And you can see this kind of mechanistic thinking in fight training. Especially in Dutch Kickboxing (taking its cue from Karate's katas, fused with boxing combo thinking), we practice set patterns that are imagined to work like a mechanism unfolding. In fact people partner up and exchange set patterns in simulated "sparring" just to make sure the well-oiled machine of responses is properly geared. You jab, I slip. You cross, I lowkick. Etc. 

One reason why this patterned teaching proliferates is that it fits in well with our mechanistic world, another reason is that just like in the world of commerce, making widgets (discrete units), and selling and moving them quickly, is a very keen business model for the production of knowledge. You can just stamp them out and put them in a relative assembly line. I'm not saying that all patterned instruction is like this, but we should understand that there is a certain cultural, commercial and paradigm-based balast to all of this practice,. 

What the complexity systems theory does to this mechanistic world view is change up our expectations, and revise our concept of "error" (or non-response, null value). Error is not necessarily a feedback of a broken part. It may simply be a criticality building system under development.

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Quite interesting and makes intuitive sense, especially your points about the industrial age.  A cascade of sand is such a nice way of thinking about physical and mental, even emotional epiphanies, as well as waking up.  Its always good for my horribly perfectionistic brain to find another way to think about errors as productive as well.  I am wondering if you would be so kind as to define the brain in "criticality" under these terms a bit more.

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17 minutes ago, threeoaks said:

I am wondering if you would be so kind as to define the brain in "criticality" under these terms a bit more.

I'm not entirely sure how you mean. Do you mean differently than the two articles cited do? Like, just in terms of error production? Or, do you mean more generally, how these articles paint a picture of the brain as a tipping point complex system?

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36 minutes ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

I'm not entirely sure how you mean. Do you mean differently than the two articles cited do? Like, just in terms of error production? Or, do you mean more generally, how these articles paint a picture of the brain as a tipping point complex system?

Well I think I was trying to cheat and just read your post since I am trying to get the kids off to school, do chores, chase chickens etc.  I'll read it later if there are clear terms.

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2 hours ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

One reason why this patterned teaching proliferates is that it fits in well with our mechanistic world, another reason is that just like in the world of commerce, making widgets (discrete units), and selling and moving them quickly, is a very keen business model for the production of knowledge. You can just stamp them out and put them in a relative assembly line. I'm not saying that all patterned instruction is like this, but we should understand that there is a certain cultural, commercial and paradigm-based balast to all of this practice

For westerners and particularly beginners,  I truly believe they expect a mechanised, structured and organised system of learning any martial craft. I'm only relating this to martial crafts, however it could applied to almost anything westerners engage in. I feel this it is the only way a westerner feels he/she can gauge the value of whatever they are taking part in. So it fits perfectly with your last sentence. My personal opinion is, there's not many westerners that could be taught in any other way. Of course as you gain experience, mental and physical and of course if you are inquisitive enough, your attitude will change and the sandpile will become the driving force as opposed to the sheer mechanical process.

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5 hours ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

What the complexity systems theory does to this mechanistic world view is change up our expectations, and revise our concept of "error" (or non-response, null value). Error is not necessarily a feedback of a broken part. It may simply be a criticality building system under development.

Wow. Wowow. Thank you, this was an excellent essay. You put into words things Ive felt for a while. Ive got to digest before I say more, but this was really great. 

Edited by Coach James Poidog
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2 hours ago, Jeremy Stewart said:

For westerners and particularly beginners,  I truly believe they expect a mechanised, structured and organised system of learning any martial craft. I'm only relating this to martial crafts, however it could applied to almost anything westerners engage in. I feel this it is the only way a westerner feels he/she can gauge the value of whatever they are taking part in. So it fits perfectly with your last sentence. My personal opinion is, there's not many westerners that could be taught in any other way. Of course as you gain experience, mental and physical and of course if you are inquisitive enough, your attitude will change and the sandpile will become the driving force as opposed to the sheer mechanical process.

I will quickly comment on this. Maybe the term used by westerners, instead of mechanized, is structured. I truly believe we crave structure. I had a coach teach that mentality to me from the system he used and honestly since I started using it, its been easier to teach people. Ive never taught outside the US but I have taught a lot of people from other countries that move here and they respond just as well to a structured system. I wonder if its a by product of how we a re raised and taught growing up. If it doesnt have something to do with comfort. Similarly to the essay above, we crave structure because its familiar and familiarity breeds comfort.   

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10 hours ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

hahahaha. Sure. This is the better article:

Ars Technica Rat brains provide even more evidence our brains operate near tipping point

Ah ok they are using it in a physics sense.  Definitely needed to read that.  Never took physics, but get that it describes an aspect of movement in connection with time.

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On 6/11/2019 at 12:53 AM, Coach James Poidog said:

will quickly comment on this. Maybe the term used by westerners, instead of mechanized, is structured. I truly believe we crave structure. I had a coach teach that mentality to me from the system he used and honestly since I started using it, its been easier to teach people. Ive never taught outside the US but I have taught a lot of people from other countries that move here and they respond just as well to a structured system. I wonder if its a by product of how we a re raised and taught growing up. If it doesnt have something to do with comfort. Similarly to the essay above, we crave structure because its familiar and familiarity breeds comfort

100%. You and I are the same age. I'd surmise even though we are from different countries our schooling and formative educational experience would be similar. I.E. everything by rote. So I truly believe structured learning like you said (a better term,👍), is what we crave as it's what we respond too. However, thanks to Sylvie and something she said, I've adopted a try not to try sort of approach and just let it flow. In how I conduct a class eg. Instead of trying to plan a class down to the minute, last detail, I just let it happen as it plays out, if that makes sense,my own personal training and the way I encourage my students. As it stands at the moment, I know I teach better, I know I train better and the students are performing better. All because the aspect of self criticism has almost totally disappeared. And one thing most people are really good at is being over critical of themselves.

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On 6/10/2019 at 9:53 PM, Coach James Poidog said:

Maybe the term used by westerners, instead of mechanized, is structured. I truly believe we crave structure.

My real analogy, the one I always turn to, is the learning of language. Do we really crave structure in learning a language? I kind of think not. I guess I can only speak for my own experience, but structure when learning a language always feels like something getting in the way. Just a bunch of stuff to be memorized, tested on and then filed away. When learning a language you immediate, more or less, want to know how to use it. Right away. How do I say "cat"? How do I swear? And, as everyone knows, the most direct path to fluency is immersion. Which means using it, using it, using (for a very long time wrong). Muay Thai, at its real level, is like a language. Which is why it's pretty much taught like a language in Thailand. You learn a couple of words, and then you just start using them. Then you learn some more, and you use them. You are not taught structurally. Now, I understand that teaching a class of 30 people, of differing levels, in an unstructured way is not easy. And indeed for many it might be impossible. But it does happen in Thailand, only it's not a class. I think the real reason why something like Muay Thai is taught in a structured way, so much, is because of the demands on teaching itself, which is not easy. Not really because people crave structure.

I was always struck by watching Andy Thomson teach beginners (a westerner who taught in Thailand for 2 decades). He would start them out with. Stand naturally. Now take one step forward. There, that's your stance. And he would proceed like that, and in 30 minutes - I swear - you were "doing" Muay Thai. Like...pretty damn good Muay Thai, considering. He put them on the bike immediately, and he was like: pedal. I don't think this kind of training or teaching style is easy. It takes a certain perspective. But one of the coolest things about Muay Thai is just how simple it is, at the bottom of it all.

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5 hours ago, Jeremy Stewart said:

100%. You and I are the same age. I'd surmise even though we are from different countries our schooling and formative educational experience would be similar. I.E. everything by rote. So I truly believe structured learning like you said (a better term,👍), is what we crave as it's what we respond too. However, thanks to Sylvie and something she said, I've adopted a try not to try sort of approach and just let it flow. In how I conduct a class eg. Instead of trying to plan a class down to the minute, last detail, I just let it happen as it plays out, if that makes sense,my own personal training and the way I encourage my students. As it stands at the moment, I know I teach better, I know I train better and the students are performing better. All because the aspect of self criticism has almost totally disappeared. And one thing most people are really good at is being over critical of themselves.

Yeah please dont misunderstand, the structure is loose lol. Its there in outline only. There still has to be an organic element to the class I believe. So I plan what I want to teach then see how it goes. Structure as in direction, not criticism or limitation. 

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2 hours ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

I think the real reason why something like Muay Thai is taught in a structured way, so much, is because of the demands on teaching itself, which is not easy. Not really because people crave structure.

This is definitely true, but I do think people do crave structure, if only subconsciously. To be clear, I mean westerners when I say people too. I cant speak to other countries and cultures, but I do believe western culture wants it to various levels. In teaching kids, I see it. Without structure to what we do they get bored and chaotic. The trick for me is to avoid the pitfalls of structure, the routine. So like I said above, I outline loosely to have an idea of what I want to teach, I plot time loosely so I know how much I have to get ideas across, then I go and see what will happen. Im not using structure as control for the uncontrollable. Im using it just to be more efficient with the time I have. And I think thats maybe where we westerners get our "crave" from. Its super time oriented here, right? Its part if why we have that rush culture, especially in LA. So, my hour class might be plotted like this: 5 min warm up, 15 mins bag work (if I have a plan for it itll be something like work jabs add movement), 15 mins partner drill (with the lesson, usually tied to bag work lesson), 15 mins spar/clinch work. Thats just an outline though. If they are vibing on the bag, we could stay there as long as they want. Just depends on the organic components you cant plan for. I think that crave of structure is just a hope of control in the uncontrollable. We like it not because we necessarily need it so much as are conditioned to it and maybe wish for more of it in lives that can be chaotic. Hopefully that explains my thoughts better. Trying not to ramble, so I might not always explain myself fully. 

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Oh and side note on language. I had a professor that was really known for his theories on language. He believed, and could back it up with research, that to really learn a language you had to think in it. So how do you do that if you dont understand it? He realised that people living in other countries picked up the language faster than those that were at home. He deduced that it was the immersion in the culture that really got them to be so responsive. It wasnt just that you had to learn because thats all they spoke, it was that culture shapes the brain and language is tied to culture. In essence it was really the immersion to the culture that got you thinking the right way to be able to think in the language, like a prep or lol pre workout. You became primed to learn. It really made me become more receptive to idea that culture (basically ideas) is the root of everything.  

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59 minutes ago, Coach James Poidog said:

He deduced that it was the immersion in the culture that really got them to be so responsive. It wasnt just that you had to learn because thats all they spoke, it was that culture shapes the brain and language is tied to culture.

Yes. 100%, but it is also that you have to use the language - albeit full of errors and inexactness - all the time, you fumble your way through, often without any correction, but just through living use, you somehow find a way, you find correct. If it was just being IN the culture, a lot more long term westerners in Thailand would speak Thai. A large number of them do not. In fact, I don't at all, I've been here 7 years. Sylvie is almost fluent, or at least getting there pretty quickly. The difference between us is that she fumbled and bumbled through uses of it, to do real things, to interact, shape things, get things done. I didn't. Andy Thomson, the amazing coach I mentioned above, didn't really speak Thai after 25 years here.

But, I totally agree that if you have the opportunity to USE the language repeatedly in the culture you get all kinds of rich clues about the uses of it. This is one of the beautiful, kind of amazing things about real Thai gyms like the one Sylvie finds herself in, there is just a tapestry of Thai "Muay Thai" culture everywhere, and that whole culture of behavior and values - how you hold your body, how you hold aggression, or exhaustion, or respect...- molds all the techniques you are trying to use. That's the super difficult thing about teaching Muay Thai in western contexts, the "culture" of Muay Thai (in the Thai sense) is missing, all the rich, tiny stuff. You can try and duplicate certain aspects. You can wai when you come in, you can adopt Thai attitudes in techniques, but it's just really an absolute shadow of a Thai gym, and kind of feel just like imitation and in some cases caricature...so, maybe that's why instead you need structure, for the absence of "culture".

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Detouring back to the original theme, here's a citation from a secondary essay I'm reading on Self Organized Criticality "Society as a Self-Organized Criticality" (I have the PDF if anyone is interested, message me on the forum message system)

 

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This essay takes up the thesis: What if society were organized like Bak's Sandpiles (mentioned at the top of this thread). Now, a few translations have to take place to appreciate the possible impact on this passage on Muay Thai. In particular, the author is interested in how "catastrophic" or "revolutionary" events happen in societies, for instance the outbreaks of war, or scientific paradigm shifts. But let's not be mislead. The theory really is that systems near the edge of chaos, near a tipping point, are complexly organized toward what we might call "avalanches". Avalanches, like on sandpiles upon which individual sand grains fall, are sudden shifts of coordination from many parts of the system. Whether this be an outbreak of war in a society, or a perfectly timed Mike Tyson punch full of power and accuracy, the avalanche is when disparate parts all flow and work together. In the rat brain study cited at this thread's beginning, it's how the brains of rats slowly wake up from sleep. There are small, unpredictable waking actions (tiny avalanches), and over time eventually the large system-wide avalanche, the rat wakes up.

This is what I find incredibly interesting. One of the great frustrations of training, and trying to change oneself in Muay Thai, is about trying to bring all the parts of the system (your body) together in a desired way. Your muay is, perhaps like a sandpile, and training is about getting it into these criticality states, when suddenly, but perhaps not predictably, it will avalanche in concerted ways. What is very cool is that this could mean that your muay, and all your practice to hone it, is more precarious toward sudden efficaciousness than you think. In the cited passage above, any influence can set off an avalanche who's size (degree of coordination) cannot be predicted. You do not even know the state of your own muay.

Key of course, is to regard, and really assemble your self into a criticality state, one prone to the right kinds of productive avalanches, the right awakenings. Easier said than done. But "error" (or really null values) sits in a very different place in these models. Error is waiting for the avalanche of coordination.

Key to this coordination possibility is for the system (your self) to have a certain amount of play in it...and by play I mean both the unpredictability of outcome, but also maybe actually "play". This is one reason why too rigid, or too stable of training system will not produce the criticality that will bring diverse parts together. Consider this passage in the same essay:

 

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Heavy pattern repetitions, overt control over diverse parts or actions, may produce just too stable or shift a system. Instead you want one which has parts that interact a lot (as they do in play), capable of sudden shifts (as they do in play), with a certain unpredictable nature (success or "failure"). You want a sandpile that might, at any point, cascade. If you are training much of the time in states far from this, you are maybe spending too much time in non-criticality. 

Edited by Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu
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That mechanistic structured way of teaching is also often the only way it makes business sense in the West. I mean come on, let's be real. You basically got a room with 40 people on the mat and only 1 trainer (translation: cult leader who wants to get his dick sucked), so people new to the sport are made to partner up and hold pads for each other. It's blind leading the blind - not their fault, they're forced to do it. How can you make someone who doesn't know something teach it to someone else who doesn't know it? Only by stripping the whole thing down and doing the rote thing you describe.

Which then becomes only one very structured, K1ish combo for the entire 3 minute round, then switch pads over. And in that 3 minutes, 2 of those minutes are spent by the pad holder trying to figure out how to hold and where, remember what side etc. And god help you if you're a leftie. Absolutely nobody could do it. Round over, and you haven't even broken a sweat. Fucking disgusting, makes you wanna cry. And if you fight for that gym, pay your monthly membership, and want the trainer to hold pads for you, you're expected to pay him 50 an hour to basically do his fucking job.

But usually that's the whole point. The highly structured thing you guys are describing? That's so he can spend *ages* talking and talking and talking when he demos the combination, more time than the students will spend actually doing the damn thing. Because in reality, that class he's running is in fact an advert for his personal training service, where he makes his real money. Basically from office workers with selfie sticks on the mat who are doing it for their Tinder photos. That's the Western gym's bread and butter, that's where the money is. 

If that Western gym was to do it properly it would need to split that room between fighters and casual exercise ppl, then hire at least 2 more experienced trainers/former fighters to take care of the people preparing for fights. But why would he pay those salaries if he doesn't have to? 

But then again this was all in my country, and from what you guys say it sounds like America does it way better than this. 

Edited by Oliver
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2112393037_BellvsL.PNG.a5681ce6289eb922cf42447ecd691b56.PNG

The above illustrates what proponents of Self-Organizing Criticality imagine. Since the invention of statistical mathematics our vision of the world has become very Bell Curved in expectation. That is to say, wee "see" in averages. Things that fall far outside of averages are seen as anomalies, and largely are excluded from much consideration. The L Curve of Power Law distribution (shown here as the related Exceedience Probability) is a very different world view, and brings out the connectivity between those out-lying properties, and the overall system. These are the avalanches, the cascades that are rare, are built into the system itself. They aren't exceptions, they are part of the patterns.

This is a world view shift if we think about the kinds of productivity, and exceptionalness we want to build in new skills or new traits. The Bell Curve of Averages causes us to see our present averages - let's say of skill level - as essential and relatively "stuck". If a beautiful kick suddenly comes out, it's just an anomaly. Our kick, fundamentally, is an "average". Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad, mostly meh. The Sandpile conception of complex systems positions supposed anomalies on a scale. When the entire system cascades, it's just a sandpile having an avalanche of connectivity. We set about making the sandpile more prone to these events, of the quality searched for.

graphic from:

Bak's Sand Pile: Strategies for a Catastrophic World ($9.99 Kindle)

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19 hours ago, Oliver said:

That mechanistic structured way of teaching is also often the only way it makes business sense in the West. I mean come on, let's be real. You basically got a room with 40 people on the mat and only 1 trainer (translation: cult leader who wants to get his dick sucked), so people new to the sport are made to partner up and hold pads for each other. It's blind leading the blind - not their fault, they're forced to do it. How can you make someone who doesn't know something teach it to someone else who doesn't know it? Only by stripping the whole thing down and doing the rote thing you describe.

Which then becomes only one very structured, K1ish combo for the entire 3 minute round, then switch pads over. And in that 3 minutes, 2 of those minutes are spent by the pad holder trying to figure out how to hold and where, remember what side etc. And god help you if you're a leftie. Absolutely nobody could do it. Round over, and you haven't even broken a sweat. Fucking disgusting, makes you wanna cry. And if you fight for that gym, pay your monthly membership, and want the trainer to hold pads for you, you're expected to pay him 50 an hour to basically do his fucking job.

But usually that's the whole point. The highly structured thing you guys are describing? That's so he can spend *ages* talking and talking and talking when he demos the combination, more time than the students will spend actually doing the damn thing. Because in reality, that class he's running is in fact an advert for his personal training service, where he makes his real money. Basically from office workers with selfie sticks on the mat who are doing it for their Tinder photos. That's the Western gym's bread and butter, that's where the money is. 

If that Western gym was to do it properly it would need to split that room between fighters and casual exercise ppl, then hire at least 2 more experienced trainers/former fighters to take care of the people preparing for fights. But why would he pay those salaries if he doesn't have to? 

But then again this was all in my country, and from what you guys say it sounds like America does it way better than this. 

Man, you must have some bad experiences. There are a lot of those places the world over, I would imagine. I personally don't have any bad experiences to relate that to. Although I do know one person who fits that bill. He and I don't get along personally precisely because of that. However, that being said his gym has produced some excellent fighters because of the instructors he employs. They are really good at what they do. 

In defense of of combined classes, unless of course one has a full time premises, you generally only have an hour to get the most out of your students. I personally spend a lot of time with new students, and hold pads for them. I also teach pad holding as part classes as I firmly believe this is an art unto itself.  My senior students also don't mind holding pads. All my students are welcome to come and train with me free on a Friday night in my shed. Usually only 2 take up the offer. 

Some dudes and I would imagine some women would get off on that cult type thingy you mentioned. They must have some sort of deficiency in their personalities though.

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That's actually a really good idea, teaching people how to hold. Sounds ridiculous but this is actually the reason I left and went to live in Thailand, just to have someone to hold pads for me. Like... legit, it was worth it just for that.

Yeah maybe it was just bad luck on my part - there was 1 decent gym back home that wasn't so bad, but the rest I tried were cults. And yeah, usually those trainers would spend more time trying to seduce the new hot chick than taking care of fighters. One was a semi crook, lied about his fight record and never sparred with his students. 

Actually, the funniest one? Never had the misfortune to go as this was in another town, but there was a dude teaching classes while wearing a monkol and armbands. 

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Attempting to bend the thread back to it's general theme a bit, for those reading across the posts, the concept or critique of patterned training in the west is perhaps, from the position of Self Organized Criticality, one in which the notion of error and correction produces a real ceiling on development. It causes us to view errors as broken pieces of a machine of techniques to be repaired or replaced. I've elsewhere made the connection between patterned fighting, and the more broad commercial requirement that patterns facilitate promulgation. Meme-ishness below.

 

1609406336_TheRiseofPatterns.PNG.5b7b8a91ad0980baa99dd4371e85e3bc.PNG

 

In many ways this isn't really something so much to blame, as to simply recognize as a phenomena. For things of one culture to promulgate in another culture there has to be some sort of grafting of the one onto the other, very often including extreme translation. People are going to experience this as a bastardization, or a distortion. Perhaps, but it is almost an necessary one. In the widest view we just need to recognize it.

On a more personal level, when dealing with one's own Muay, and thinking about the patterns within it, this thread is about maybe thinking about one's progress not in terms of Bell Curves, but instead in terms of possible Power Laws, where exceptional leaps are expected as part of the process.

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