PDA

View Full Version : Skeptic in the Dojo (A Review)


Please visit our sponsor:
 

AikiWeb Sponsored Links - Place your Aikido link here for only $10!


jurasketu
09-09-2015, 03:29 PM
I spent Labor Day weekend at Dragon Con (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon_Con) (in Atlanta GA) this past weekend. While otherwise enjoying myself, I decided on a lark to attend a presentation called: "A Skeptic in the Dojo" hosted by the local "Skeptics" group that regularly participates in Dragon Con (I'm not exactly sure why...). One of my dear friends and a regular DragonCon attendee has long warned me to avoid the Skeptic society presentations/panels because he thinks they are idiots. My friend is very rational thinker, and I highly respect his intelligence and wisdom.

Ignoring my friend's sage advice, I attended anyway. The vast majority of the attendees were not martial artists. The presenter, Evan Bernstein, billed the presentation like this: "Having worked in the martial arts industry. Evan offers a special insight as a long-time skeptic who has seen how the business works. The power of magical thinking permeates all of martial arts, and skepticism is the only defense which really works."

So, I was thinking to myself that the guy probably has done a bunch of arts over the years and interacted with different people, etc, etc. I was guessing he would highlight the usual problems in martial arts that anyone with any experience knows about - especially the magical thinking part. I thought he might delve into some of the questionable business practices that some martial arts studios engage in, etc, etc. I thought it might be interesting in that aspect. I expected him to slam Aikido and Tai Chi for having that silly "qi" stuff. I view "qi" as an abstraction to describe the behavior of living things in response to stimuli and the mind rather than as a mystical fluid. But I'll leave that discussion for another thread. Regardless, I thought it would be interesting to hear what this guy had to say.

Mr Bernstein begins the presentation explaining that he decided to learn martial arts after the horrific Cheshire CT home invasion (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheshire,_Connecticut,_home_invasion_murders) that occurred near his community in 2007. He researched the various dojos in his community - rejecting Aikido because of the website's description of "qi". After further research, he selected a Krav Maga dojo (http://kravct.com/). And apparently this is the only place he has trained with his family. That is all well and good. The dojo chief instructor does, in fact, have a long background in the martial arts. If chief instructor had given the presentation, it might have been worthwhile...

Anyway...

SO then, to show how magical thinking completely "permeates" the martial arts community, he shows three videos.

George Dillman (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Z0_n7tGnK0)
Kiai Master vs MMA (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wd7M4H0b62k)
And the poor Kali master who chops himself in the arm... (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlybPPTAvx4)

And then he says "Don't drink the Kool-Aid" and become victimized by this stuff. I'm not making this up. By this point, I realize I've blundered into a bad imitation of a "Live at Five Local News Expose"... Instead of leaving and socializing with people dressed up as Superman, Spock, Darth Vader and Dr Who, I decide to see what further nonsense will issue forth. I was not to be disappointed.

He then slammed visualization exercises (even really simple ones). Some people just have no imagination I guess...

He proceeds to discuss Women's Self Defense by putting up a bulleted list of things women [and men] should do to protect themselves. The best one being "Don't freeze up", but failed to mention that requires quite a bit of training for most people to overcome. Thank you, Captain Obvious. Most of the other items would not make my list of things I would recommend (shudder). But I'm not an expert in that area - I'll leave that discussion to others.

BUT THEN... BUT THEN...

Mr Bernstein "demonstrated" the importance of knowing self-defense by telling a story from three years ago at a previous Dragon Con (which is in downtown Atlanta but generally in a nice area) when he was walking a woman friend back to her hotel from a convention event in the late evening. This is perfectly wise. Walking a city street alone at night is generally to be avoided by the prudent. All well and good.

In the course of walking her back, though, a drunk/high homeless person (Mr Bernstein's description) approached them unexpectedly from around a corner some 40-50 feet away. The homeless person blundered into Mr Bernstein who, for reasons he failed to explain, hip checked the man into the street (a simple side step would have sufficed right?). The man got up and began to shout at them angrily (I'm stunned). Mr Bernstein said he took up a fighting stance that frightened the man away (I am at a loss for words..). Maybe the actual encounter was more complicated than that... but I can only go by his description.

At this point, I'm thinking - "SO... You nearly managed to escalate an encounter with a street drunk into a violent encounter - never mind the fact you could have seriously injured the drunk with the hip check onto the pavement? And you have the audacity to give self-defense advice in a public venue?"

There was definitely some magical thinking going on.

I'm not sure I have a point, but I had to get the story off my chest.

Mary Eastland
09-09-2015, 04:31 PM
That was an interesting read. Thanks for posting.

I am not sure what the Kali guy was thinking there.....

Demetrio Cereijo
09-09-2015, 05:12 PM
At this point, I'm thinking - "SO... You nearly managed to escalate an encounter with a street drunk into a violent encounter - never mind the fact you could have seriously injured the drunk with the hip check onto the pavement? And you have the audacity to give self-defense advice in a public venue?"
Maybe that is what he was taught to do in Krav classes.

kewms
09-09-2015, 05:46 PM
And now people with even less experience than he has will quote him as a Renowned Expert who Cannot be Questioned. *sigh*

Katherine

rugwithlegs
09-09-2015, 06:56 PM
We used to have people brag about who studied on what ancient oriental mountain at the foot of what master. Then, we had people bragging that they were never part of a system but rather were in so many fights that they "know what works and what doesn't."

How does someone brag that they are none of the above?

kewms
09-09-2015, 11:49 PM
There's a difference between skepticism and willful ignorance. The first is certainly appropriate when confronted with people who claim to shoot ki balls out of their finger tips. The second says more about the "skeptic" than about whatever is being scrutinized.

Katherine

Amir Krause
09-10-2015, 05:33 AM
:( :(

How can this be right for "Skeptics",

this is so much in opposite with the what the skeptic mind-set should be

:disgust: :eek:

jonreading
09-10-2015, 11:55 AM
First off, I am not even sure how this could have happened. I am pretty sure the mugging story is BS. I mean, there is a galaxy(ies) full of super-heroes, jedi, mutants and video game legends in Atlanta during Dragon Con - any one of them could easily deal with a homeless guy. I am supposed to believe amongst all that vigilance, truth and justice a panhandler can accost someone? No way.

Second, I am not concerned about the opinions of Dragon Con goers who wish to weigh in on the efficacy of fighting arts - especially considering that conversation probably takes place within a reasonable time of a conversation about how the lightsaber hilt is not functional. Which is isn't. You'd cut off your own hand, or at least impale yourself.

It is a fun weekend, though.

Nick
09-11-2015, 10:59 AM
First off, I am not even sure how this could have happened. I am pretty sure the mugging story is BS. I mean, there is a galaxy(ies) full of super-heroes, jedi, mutants and video game legends in Atlanta during Dragon Con - any one of them could easily deal with a homeless guy. I am supposed to believe amongst all that vigilance, truth and justice a panhandler can accost someone? No way.

Second, I am not concerned about the opinions of Dragon Con goers who wish to weigh in on the efficacy of fighting arts - especially considering that conversation probably takes place within a reasonable time of a conversation about how the lightsaber hilt is not functional. Which is isn't. You'd cut off your own hand, or at least impale yourself.

It is a fun weekend, though.

I was also at Con (also dressed as a Jedi), saw this track, laughed at the description and skipped it.

I can feel the sarcasm dripping from your post, but with 70,000 people while there are a lot of clowns but a few people who are legit martial artists (I made a friend doing some friendly lightsaber duelling with someone who had an escrima background). There is still some amount of crime (I've seen a few fights break out away from Con areas) so, as always, de-escalation and avoidance are important, but you're still in a downtown area with a bunch of drunk people.

Glad I skipped the panel... overall panel lineup at Con this year was weak in general.

JP3
10-18-2015, 10:12 PM
That was an interesting read. Thanks for posting.

I am not sure what the Kali guy was thinking there.....

.... Mary, you assume there WAS thought.

Rupert Atkinson
10-19-2015, 03:21 AM
I once stabbed myself in the thigh when my partner deflected my downblow there. It wasn't too bad, except a few people saw it and thought it funny. It was, I guess.

Derek
10-20-2015, 09:11 AM
You've way too much time on your hands......

mathewjgano
10-20-2015, 02:07 PM
http://www.theskepticsguide.org/about/evan-bernstein
Sounds more like cynicism than skepticism. I can appreciate where it comes from, but babies and bathwater come to mind.

mathewjgano
10-20-2015, 02:55 PM
Another iteration:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lY-dIKU8Vs

ramenboy
10-20-2015, 03:12 PM
.... Mary, you assume there WAS thought.

hahahaha

insert 'like' button here.

mathewjgano
10-20-2015, 03:44 PM
Another iteration:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lY-dIKU8Vs

All in all some pretty good stuff I think.

jurasketu
10-20-2015, 08:42 PM
Seriously, the self-defense portion of the presentation was outrageously bad. And the scaring the homeless drunk away with a "stance" story still makes me laugh. I'm sure an actual "bad" guy would have laughed his ass off at Mr Bernstein and his "scary stance". SMH

mathewjgano
10-20-2015, 09:19 PM
Seriously, the self-defense portion of the presentation was outrageously bad. And the scaring the homeless drunk away with a "stance" story still makes me laugh. I'm sure an actual "bad" guy would have laughed his ass off at Mr Bernstein and his "scary stance". SMH

Well and in the video I found, it was mostly other people talking...people who generally seemed to have quite a bit of experience.

robin_jet_alt
10-20-2015, 09:29 PM
All in all some pretty good stuff I think.

Yeah, the video isn't anything like the description. Maybe a different panel. I actually liked quite a lot of what was said in the video.

jurasketu
10-20-2015, 10:11 PM
I described what was in the panel at DragonCon. The only person on stage who did any talking was Evan Bernstein.

robin_jet_alt
10-20-2015, 10:29 PM
I described what was in the panel at DragonCon. The only person on stage who did any talking was Evan Bernstein.

That explains it.