Let’s start with a couple of definitions.
Firstly, “training scars” are not the casual war wounds incurred in the day-to-day bumps and bruises of combat sports training and street-operative preparation. Those bumps, bruises, scrapes, abrasions, busted noses, lost teeth, et cetera are collateral damage, accidents, part and parcel of the fun.
Training Scars refers not to a physical phenomenon that you can point to for bragging rights in your own version of the USS Indianapolis scene in Jaws, but to a cognitive quirk of the human mind.
Training scars, aka path-dependence, refers to bad habits in training [for our purposes combat training] that will carry-over from training to real-world application much to our detriment.
Training scars does not specifically refer to bad habits in the bad-form sense of the actual training of your chosen combat endeavor. That is, you “swimming your jab” [leaving an open line as you fire or retract the jab], “Sweeping out of plumb” [paying no attention to eye-level when hitting a sweep from the bottom], and other such bad habits of technical execution are not training scars so much as, well, mistakes that need to be corrected pronto.
Training scars refers specially to bad habits built in the off-moments of training, the perceived down-times, the moments in-between successful drill execution.
Training scars can be found in the best of practitioners and has nothing to do with bad-form.
Let’s go to an example to illuminate.
You and your partner are working a weapon disarm. It is your turn to disarm the weapon which you do with fight-film choreography perfection. You then bend over, pick up the weapon, and offer it to your partner for their turn at perfection.
That bending down to pick up the weapon, that simple act of courtesy is a training scar.
Whether we realize it or not, that simple rote bit of kindness gets tagged along in our brains as part and parcel of the weapon disarm performance chain.
This practice of civility can manifest in street-conditions by sheer dint that we have made it part of the training.
If you doubt this, I’m sure you can dial up more than a few videos of law enforcement officers on camera who disarm an actual weapon under real life dire circumstances and then, you will be aghast to see them hand the weapon over to the assailant.
The results are harrowing.
[FYI-As a policy I never offer video of real-life suffering. One, I never want to give a face to scum; Two, one can find enough human suffering online without me gleefully adding a link to more.]
Another training scar, offering a partner a hand to get up off the mat during throw or takedown practice.
Another training scar, treating even casual sparring situations as less than real. That is, stopping mid light-contact boxing session, popping out the mouthpiece to discuss your lead hook.
You can discuss that hook, but—keep your hands up, keep your eyes on your opponent, and step away until you are out of range.
Just as with a firearm, treat all combat endeavors as loaded, safety off.
Fortunately training scars are relatively easy to remedy—examine your drills in the gaps and post-execution phase and eliminate the cognitive downtime.
Harder to cope with is “Task Saturation.”
The human animal often reacts less than ideally in chaotic or unfamiliar circumstances, hence the importance and value of training for military, low enforcement, combat athletes, et cetera. Training for chaos with chaos in mind is not a 100% bet that you will perform up to snuff, but it is a nice bit of insurance.
Task saturation is, in short, being exceptionally focused on your training protocol. That is, here we have an operator performing everything perfectly, in perfect order no matter what.
Task-saturation is well-studied by the military because the nature of military training seats skill so well under so many chaotic circumstances that they will have a higher likelihood of manifesting. Where this can go awry is when one aspect of the hierarchy or checklist is no longer available or ideal, an operator who is task-saturated will fixate on completing the task despite its loss of validity and in face of it being a potential harm.
There are many instances of, say a military helicopter having to ditch and the ditching checklist is adhered to a bit too closely making the ditch even hairier.
Task saturation is a tough glitch to overcome, as it is the opposite of bad form in training, or even training scars, here, we have an operator/athlete so well-trained that the protocol will not be broken come hell or high water.
Task saturation is seldom experienced by good improvisers, folks we would call quick on their feet. We must walk the fine line between being very well trained with an eye on protocol, and having an awake eye for when the protocol [or aspects of it] need to be tossed.
The military attempts to thwart task-saturation by varying tasks and programming scenarios in training where the protocol must be scrambled, that is forcing improvisation upon us.
This is wisdom.
There is a similar concept among American Indian warrior training that teaches a lightness or flowing quality to stress-stimuli. In Comanche the catch-all term is Wumetu, or flow.
Wumetu asks us to follow our training but it also asks us to be eyes-open at all times for when the battle-plan must be adjusted or abandoned altogether.
Wumetu is inculcated just as the modern military instructs its elite warriors, chaotic training under stress with variables pitched willy-nilly to keep the mind hopping.
There are also a few other intriguing additions to instilling wumetu. Some that verge on the “Wha?” but seem to do the trick.
One such approach is the “T’zare kuukeme” or “Be a stranger.”
Stay with me as this is a bit different, but under test conditions it proves quite illuminating.
The warrior is given a new name, new personality traits, even different clothing—regalia he or she would not normally wear—in some cases, no clothing at all. And over the course of, say a week, all refer to the warrior by the new name and the new characteristics. The warrior is to respond thusly and never as himself. He must take his new role seriously and embody whatever this assigned personality is.
He is taken on hunts or engages in mock war sessions as the kuukeme and engages in all under this new identity. After a week or so, he becomes himself again.
He may be assigned someone else entirely new at different points throughout the year. The “T’zare kuukeme” idea is to find who is the best warrior within you, but if we drop the fuzzy language there does indeed seem to be something to this practice.
Several studies have shown that the mere act of donning a mask or wearing a costume will alter the way individuals will behave and engage with the world.
We’ve all witnessed some form of this when we see the buttoned-down guy or gal who dons the macho biker or sexy nun costume on Halloween and let’s their freak flag fly a little.
“T’zare kuukeme” takes a well-trained warrior without training scars, and may just break task-saturation and force improvisational skills by calling on the warrior to be more warriors than one, and perhaps out of the many warriors within, one is a mighty fine improviser who gets the task done with or without shortcuts come hell or high water.
[For more Drills & Drill Concepts such as these see the No Second Chance Book of Drills available only to RAW Subscribers.]