Last night we arrived back at Manchester Airport after a lovely week with my sister Gaynor and brother-in-law Neil in Majorca, Palma Nova in fact, driving away I reminded my wife I would be back here early Thursday morning to collect Marc ‘Animal’ MacYoung and Dianna MacYoung who are staying with us for a few days whilst Marc does a lecture and seminar here in Sheffield. Marc has been really busy lately and I have seen lots of pictures on Facebook with Rory Miller and Kasey Keckeisen, especially from this last weekend in Minneapolis. I am looking forward to both the lecture and seminar and the backroom time with Marc and Dianna. I love meeting new people anyway and we have hosted people from many different countries, I remember one friend called Billy Tshabalala from South Africa staying here and watching Reservoir Dogs one night and he mentioned that he had the same gun as one of the robbers, my stepson’s eyes nearly popped out hearing Billy had a gun and the explanation why. It is always fascinating learning about other people’s lives and sharing experiences. Even when there is so much in common already.

I got the song that goes like this in my head the other day:

Fred and Ginger in a classic but my point is not about the singing or the dancing, my point is about our use of language and even the differences between English and American English fade by comparison when we start to look at the divers nature of dialects in England alone before we even get round to introducing the Welsh, Scots and Northern Irish. I know Marc is an expert in conflict communications but I hope he has an especially finely tuned ear this weekend. What started this train of thought was a video I saw posted on Facebook concerning the effects of adrenaline, apparently, this is called epinephrine in America, I did not know that. I have heard many different ways of explaining the effects of adrenaline from many different people, the most famous being Geoff Thompson’s ‘Adrenal Map’. I use a number of different explanations myself depending on the nature of the audience, but I do not go into the science of it and everybody takes it as a given, it exists, this adrenaline, we have all heard of flight or fight, but how exactly does it work. Take a look:

So it is simple really when explained properly, like most things in life if we take the time. So now we can elaborate our description of how adrenaline, oops, epinephrine works. The video is great, it makes the complicated easy. The thing is it is easy to rely on that shared body of knowledge that we call common sense, but how common is it. In his book ‘Thinking Sociologically’, Zygmunt Bauman, the Polish born sociologist, deconstructs the concept of common sense as not common at all. According to Bauman,

the power of common sense depends on its self-evident character…. In its turn, this rests on the routine, habitual character of daily life… We need this in order to get on with our lives. When repeated often enough, things tend to become familiar and the familiar is seen as self-explanatory…”

So think about this when we think how we teach, and learn, martial arts, how much knowledge do we ‘assume’ the other person has because it is common? Do we not need the detail because it is self-explanatory? Or do we go into incredible detail in order to cover all bases? Well it depends on who is paying the piper to call the tune really but there is time to supplement the practical with the theoretical I would argue in all good lessons. So we should not assume that everyone understands flight or fight or have even heard of adrenaline as it may not be common to them, or known by another name.

In his seminar this weekend, amongst other things, we will be examining martial mechanics and how we can lose power, most of us are very familiar with punching and kicking with force, I really enjoy it after all these years, I think I am pretty good BUT it is always good to go back to the basics, examine them and let an expert explain in easy to understand terminology exactly what is happening. So as in the explanation of how the adrenal medulla releases epinephrine we need to look at how our body is functioning in other ways in order to revisit how we do things.  You see the joy is in the detail alongside the devil. For me it does not matter how long you have been doing something, you should always be ready to take it apart and see how it works. The only problem for some is that they lack the flexibility to adapt and learn when new information challenges their long-held beliefs. I saw a quote attributed to the Dalai Lama the other day that went, “If science proves Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change”, I am not religious but I find this refreshing in the face of the recent flag burning fanaticism in certain parts of the world and clashes during the marching season in Northern Ireland.

Fundamentalism exists in the martial arts, it is alive and well and living in a club near you. These people will not be at our seminar or any others, they will not be at any other either as they are the ones who have discovered the one true way, and they are going to stick to it come what may. They are the flat-earthers of the modern world, they are the people who want to live in splendid isolation and good luck to them if they are happy that way. Me, I am open to the new, the challenging, the excitement of learning. I treat my martial arts like my diet, my staple is Ju Jitsu, I spin off regularly into combatives and tinker with a little this that and the other, it is the spice of life. There is no common sense in martial arts but we have lots in common to work on. However you say tomato does not matter, it is still s round red fruit (mostly). So this weekend with Marc I will play with some things I know a little differently, I know I am going to be training with some great people and the learning will be multiplied because of all the experiences they all bring to the table.

If I am learning something brand new I happily seek out an idiots guide, you know the one text that cuts through all the technical guff and tells it like it is, I always recommended ‘Methods, Sex and Madness’ by Derek Layder and Julia O’Connell Davidson for anybody interested in research methods, it knocks all those dry old tomes into a cocked hat, no pun intended. Better still get somebody who really knows what they are doing to show you, then show you again, and again until it really sinks in, until the new becomes familiar and needs no further explanation. Best of all have fun doing it, learning should be a pleasure not a chore, if it is a chore, why are you doing it? That is unless you are one of the fundamentalists, although you would not have read this far if you were.  I have a prezzie waiting for Marc and Dianna, it is a book by Jeremy Paxman, who I saw in Luxor once, on ‘The English: A Portrait of a People’, on the cover it is described as a witty, argumentative and affectionate book bursting with good things, and it is. I hope when the MacYoung’s read it, if they have not already, they learn some of the complexities of our culture in this tiny island, the English part of it, this Anglaland. After all, learning is a two way thing, until then I leave you all with this clip, a little bit of history and the way many people think we all still speak. Cheerio, toodle pip, Garry.