Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Women's Self Defence/Self Defence/Combat and Injury Science

I received the following comments via email based on a blog on women's self defence (WSD) I posted.

'What a treasure to stumble into your blog!' Thank you. I had to share that comment as it's a lonely task writing, with little encouragement or support.
How can WSD help AFTER the attack? Ideally, of course, she would have been prepared before it happened, but that is not always the case. Obviously there has to be therapy, but I am wondering if it would not be beneficial for anyone to have some sort of 'anger training' afterwards? I wonder what that would look like?
Good question un-named commentor. I said I would answer via a dedicated blog based on that insightful question - here it is.

Followers of my blog would have seen me refer to a relatively new science which studies injuries. Despite the detractors that suggest 'there is nothing new under the sun', I'd counter that with, 'there is always a first time for everything.' It is a relatively new science, albeit applying 'old' science in a new way to understand a particular phenomena - injury.

William Haddon is usually referred to as the father of injury science. He provides a matrix to analyse injury, and thereby a means to avoid or reduce injury.
Neo: What is the Matrix?
Trinity: The answer is out there, Neo, and it’s looking for you, and it will find you if you want it to.
Haddon recognised that injuries have multiple causes and conceptualised the multiple factors involved in injury using the elements of the epidemiological triad: host, agent, and environment. These elements interact to cause injury. The host is the person injured, the agent is necessary to cause the injury, and the environment is the environment in which the host and agent find themselves.

I've discussed in previous posts the phenomena of 'one punch deaths'. The host is the person who is hit (and dies), the agent is the person punching the victim, and the environment is the surface which the victim's head strikes resulting in the death. These three factors interacted to cause this unfortunate tragedy.

James Gibson and Haddon independently identified the agent of injury in the epidemiological model as being physical energy. For our purposes, that means kinetic energy (KE). All those who refer to the concept of momentum to explain martial arts techniques now need to reconcile the concept of momentum with KE. Otherwise, you are simply referring to theoretical concepts that have no practical application. And yes, I am deliberately being provocative.

I am sick to death of the books, articles, blogs, and posts that analyse martial arts techniques in biomechancial terms. So what? If it does not facilitate our understanding and study of those techniques, to paraphrase Attilio Sacripanti, then it is, to quote a black belt from the Jan de Jong Self Defence School, 'intellectual masturbation.' You have to reconcile these theoretical concepts with practical purpose, otherwise, it is intellectual masturbation.

This is where I found myself when attempting to use biomechanics to understand and explain martial arts striking techniques. I couldn't do it with the available explanations and literature. It was all 'wank'. So, I approached the issue from another direction. I asked myself, 'what causes an injury?' Viola, I found injury science. No more theory that didn't apply to practice. Rather, theory explained practice. If facilitated the understanding and study of techniques.

Haddon also introduced the idea of 'negative agents' of injury to account for situations where injuries occur due to the deprivation of necessary elements needed for normal health( e.g. lack of oxygen). He also added 'vehicle' or 'vector' elements to the epidemiological model which are the carriers of the injurious energy.

Haddon took the epidemiological method of studying injury a step further. He divided the injury event into phases and separated the injury from the events leading to and following from the injury event itself. These phases are often referred to as pre-event, event, and post-event, or, pre-injury, injury, and post-injury.

The pre-event phase refers to the period prior to the interaction between host and the agent of injury; the event phase refers to the period when the host and agent of injury interact; and the post-event phase refers to the period after the host and agent of injury have interacted. The epidemiological factors and the temporal phases were cross-tabulated to form a 3 x 3 matrix which is known as the 'Haddon Matrix'.

This is a subject worthy of a book in and of itself; surprisingly enough which I'm writing. Normally, the injury science theory and concepts are used to understand the causes of injury in order to prevent injury. However, uniquely to the activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter, these same theories and concepts can be used to understand why and how injuries are inflicted by the techniques taught within those injuries. Injury science is the study of both sides of those activities: avoidance and infliction.

Returning to our un-named commentor's question. Self defence courses, and all instruction associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter, should consider the three temporal time frames (and the three members of the epidemiological triad). Before, during, and after the injurious event. Most WSD courses consider the before and during, what about the after? What advice do they provide in terms of limiting the extent of the injury (physical and/or psychological) when the injurious event was unable to be avoided?

This systematic way of thinking about injury is very, very useful. Instructors, how do you demonstrate that you were not negligent if one of your students are injured? By showing that you considered Haddon's Matrix.

Instructors, how do you demonstrate that you were not negligent if one of your students are attacked and injured? By showing that you considered Haddon's Matrix.

Before, during, and after, the injurious event.

As a postscript, Nakayama, in his karate classic Dynamic Karate, analyses stances in terms of these temporal phases. Pre and post execution of a technique, stances should emphasise mobility; during the execution of a technique, stances should emphasise stability.

1 comment:

  1. A blog I follow once made a comparison between learning effective thinking and learning a martial art (http://lesswrong.com/lw/gn/the_martial_art_of_rationality/) . With rigorous analysis of injury epidemiology, you seem prepared to invert that and learn to fight by using effective thinking. That's really cool.


Your comments make my work all the more relevant as I use them to direct my research and theorising. Thank you.