I’ve been listening to Iain Abernethy’s podcasts about practical Karate for a few years now. He says a lot of sensible things in his (admittedly non-speleological) field of expertise.
In a recent podcast he talked about re-inventing violence. There are some forms of karate which describe themselves as being practical defensive disciplines; but, the scenarios in which their techniques would be wholly effective turn out to be elaborately unrealistic (attackers coming at you one at a time is a classic you may have seen in films). What has happened is that a martial art has evolved – moving away from its roots in conflict management, into the arena of a points-scoring contact sport.The point is, this is fine, as long as you don’t then take this highly refined sporting technique and say that it still works as a defensive strategy. The context is wrong. The fact that, in order for the strategy to work, violence has to be re-imagined into something other than its messy reality, suggests that while practitioners describe their karate as a valid defence technique, it is actually something entirely different. These highly-skilled sporting karateka are so in love with their own expertise that they cannot appreciate its limitations; rather, they (possibly unconsciously) create the types of problems that best fit their own capacity to solve them.
A few of us – back in the world of caving, now – are beginning to experiment with the approach of swapping “here is a rope rescue technique, let us find the situation that fits it” for ” if ‘x’ happens, what is the resulting situation, and how can we solve it?”
In an advanced SRT practice last week, we had fun dealing with an array of unconscious casualties, on both Racks and Simples, who had slid into the loop of a rebelay. The rationale was, if an abseiler loses consciousness on these devices, they either hit the deck – traumatic but no longer a mid rope rescue – or their flight is interrupted by rigging, which *is* a pick-off. It was fascinating, and if you’ve never tried dealing with it before (we hadn’t) I recommend giving it a go.
But play safely, go carefully. Once you start tackling problems rather than practicing techniques, it’s all a bit more unpredictable. Much like life, in fact.