I had the pleasure and privilege to attend New England Warrior Camp again this year (my 11th out of 13) in the woods of Sudbury, Massachusetts this past weekend. Others have done a much better job illuminating the actual goings-on, such as my friend and senior, Jon Merz. One of my huge takeaways from the weekend, however, came from one of the training sessions.
Dennis Mahoney, head instructor at Shinobi Martial Arts, gave us this important lesson in his session:
The name of a technique describes the effect on your attacker, not what you do.
In the martial arts, we get so fixated on what we’re supposed to be doing that we forget completely about what we’re supposed to be achieving. Dennis’ session was a stark reminder that our goal is what matters, not our method. As a martial artist, you can get to omotegyakutedori, the outward wrist twist catch and lock, with your hands, arms, feet, weapons, probably even a used cheeseburger container. As long as you achieve the effects of getting the upper quarter of the body locked up, spine locked, and arm assembly locked, you’ve more or less achieved the technique.
Where most of us go wrong is in rigid insistence that we move exactly a certain way, hold the hand or wrist in exactly the right manner at exactly the right angle – despite the fact that conditions and situations may dictate a completely different set of methods to get to the desired result. Instead of adapting to the situation and working towards a goal, we get bogged down in “the way we’re supposed to do it”, as though attackers use textbook methods to assault us.
So what does this have to do with anything outside the martial arts? Think about how insistent some people can be on any particular marketing method. You MUST be using social media! You MUST be using email marketing! You MUST be doing SEO.
Well, no. What you MUST do is know what outcome you are trying to achieve, and then figure out which of the tools in your toolbox can help you achieve that result. Think about that for a second. What’s the purpose of email marketing? To reach out to people and let them know about stuff that’s going on, right? What else can do that? Email can, certainly. So can Twitter. So can LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.. All of those have mechanisms for outreach, and thus if the desired effect is “let people know stuff is going on”, then the thing we call email marketing isn’t just POP3, SMTP, and IMAP, but a collection of tools to reach people and a way of doing it that makes them glad to hear from us.
Here’s another example: search engine optimization. This means being findable, right? Findable where? Our narrow view of marketing says that we obey the dictates of Google, and while that’s important, being findable also means making sure your podcast is in iTunes, that your business can be located on various location services, that you have social profiles with consistent naming, and so on. Being findable is far more than just inbound link building.
The next time you sit down to evaluate your marketing, look at it from the perspective of what you want to achieve and then examine all of your tools to see if they can be used in that context. You might be surprised to realize that some of the tools in your toolbox have far more uses than what you’ve traditionally used them for.
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I actually disagree with Dennis on this point, rather vehemently in fact. Focusing only on the end goal of a technique is dangerous and irresponsible, and frankly, is backward logic – especially in the Ninpo Taijutsu we study.
After all, if your goal is to get an attacker off of you or down on the ground, why study Ninpo at all? A solid lead jab and rear cross will do the same thing. Dennis’ theory that the method doesn’t matter is inherently flawed. Ninpo Taijutsu is all about teaching the practitioner proper methods for becoming fluid, adaptable, and the development of proper mindset for dealing with the harsh realities of combat. And the harsh reality of combat is this: if you go into a situation with an end result fixed in mind (such as the omote gyaku you mentioned), you may well die. Conditions in combat are never fixed, they change in the blink of an eye, and it is virtually impossible to predict the future.
Throughout our training, we are shown classic examples of scenarios that are the way they are specifically to take us down certain pathways and show us certain methods. Bo kata from the Kuki Shinden-ryu, for example, do not even have a winner or loser in them but are ongoing back-and-forth attacks and defenses deliberately set up that way to lead the student into certain areas of thought, to illustrate certain principles, and to develop the proper attitude.
Ken gave a great example of *why* the method is important on Saturday night. When he spoke of how he went about opening a dojo, he told the story of going to Japan with Mark to ask the Grandmaster of our tradition if it would be okay to open his school. That’s the correct way to do it – showing respect, following proper etiquette, etc. Using Dennis’ theory, the method wouldn’t matter – just open the school. That’s the goal, right? But doing so without careful regard for the method wouldn’t be proper. In fact, there are people who have done just that – opened a school without following the proper etiquette and as a result of their ignorance, they have failed.
While I certainly understand how you have interpreted Dennis’ theory to coincide with the business world, I have to say that it is a very dangerous idea to put faith into when it comes to the world of realistic self-protection.