Saturday, November 12, 2011

Missapplication of Principles: Motor Skills and Hick's Law

Some things refuse to go away. The items in the title being used incorrectly to illustrate a point are the ones that are my biggest of pet peeves. It's not that they don't exist or aren't factors, it's that they are misapplied as descriptors and misunderstood. And much of the time, they are used as a basis for advocating one technique over another, giving a false picture.

Most often, the gross vs. fine motor skill argument is used to advocate slide grabbing a pistol rather than using the slide stop. Now, to be clear, I use, and as far back as I can remember, have always used, the slide stop to run the slide. However, I don't care what technique is used as long as one isn't getting chosen over the other on bad information. If you're gonna be a slide grabber, go ahead and be a slide grabber. Just don't tell me it's a "gross motor skill, which you'll revert to under pressure." That simple can't be true.

OK, so what's a gross motor skill? By definition, a gross motor skill is a movement that uses large muscle groups. In terms of using a gun, the easy definition to understand is that gross motor skills are everything that happens above the wrist. A fine motor skill, by contrast, is anything that happens below the wrist. The argument is that the ability to do fine motor skills deteriorates under pressure, and that is, of course, true. But examine that a little more closely, and you'll find that it doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Consider this: if you can't use your thumb to release the slide via the slide stop and must grab the slide over the top to do that job, how can you possibly use that same thumb to release an empty or faulty magazine, or control the trigger with the index finger from that same hand? I'm not saying that slide grabbing is wrong; it's a valid technique and it works. Just don't tell me the reason to choose it over running the slide stop is that I can't use that thumb and index finger. If that were true, nobody would ever be purposefully shot because the hands wouldn't work at all.

Incidentally, the reason I chose to run the slide stop is because I put both techniques on the timer, and running the slide stop is considerably faster. The timer is the way I've proven, or had proven, different ways of doing things with a gun. Except in terms of it's use by politicians, time doesn't lie.

Which leads us to Hick's Law. I won't bother going into the history of it, because the Internet doesn't care about that when they're misusing it anyway. In short form, Hick's Law says that it takes your mind too long to choose between two tactics. Worse with three! Therefore, I will show you one response." In terms of raw choices, that's true. If you give an untrained person choices, they'll struggle and make errors in attempting to complete the task as they try to pick a way to do it. No argument there, but this post is about arguments, so what's my beef with it? That beef is, once again, the Law being misapplied. 

Anyone who's been around shooting and training for any period of time has no doubt heard the phrase "another tool for the toolbox". But, just as it is with a mechanic, just having the tool doesn't mean much. In the hands of the professional mechanic, the right tool is the fast way to get a job done, and done correctly. It's really no different at the core of fighting with weapons. The tool doesn't really become a tool until close attention here, here's the difference maker...until you MASTER it. Obviously having a choice and not knowing exactly how to use it in a pressure situation won't help much. But master that skill, and combine it with other mastered skills, and you have the gunfighter that nobody wants to go against. One last example: consider Anderson Silva, UFC Middleweight Champion for quite some time now. He's got kicking skills from muay Thai and karate, a black belt in Brazilian Jui Jitsu for ground fighting, and has knocked out just about everybody he's faced with precision striking skills. Watch him fight, and you'll see a fighter who mixes techniques as he sees fit, and there's no lag time between them. Why is that? The skills have been MASTERED. 

For the Love of Pete, if you're going to make an argument for or against a particular technique, make sure the reasons you use are valid. I'd rather hear somebody say "I prefer to do it that way, I'm more confident and comfortable with it" than to misapply physiological or psychological principles in the process. That crap won't go away once it gets out there.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Musically unusual

In what seems like a different lifetime, I was a bass player. I did that for about 12 years until I came to a couple of conclusions: first, I wasn't creative or talented enough at it to get anywhere with it, and second, other musicians, especially guitar players, are typically a PITA to work with.Being in bands just got old, although I loved playing live. I got to play in a house band for a little while that played Sunday nights at the church in an attempt to try a different format. That was back in the '90's, but I still remember it fondly because my brother was the drummer at the time. He's a bass player now. It was a big church, and the attendance was pretty good. There were probably in the neighborhood of 700 people there that night. Good times.

Another conclusion I reached was that I would never be as good as either of these guys. Two of my favorite bassists are Victor Wooten with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones and Otiel Burbridge with Aquarium Rescue Unit. Besides that these guys create these huge grooves, they're capable of doing anything, so there's improv in there within driving the song. It's an amazing talent that very few have.

Victor is probably the best overall bassist in the world, in my book. I love that he's so dynamic and forceful within the very unusual framework of The Flecktones, and he can do all that with only four strings. Take a listen to this:

Otiel Burbridge is...I dunno how to describe him except a groove machine. When I first heard these guys, I knew the bassist was black, but I was pretty sure the rest of 'em were, too. Surprise! Otiel plays a six string, but he uses all of it, and what he plays with all those strings drives the song...and he can sing his solos, too. ARU might just suck without him.

Bass players make everything better...just as much as guitarists make everything difficult. LOL!