Saturday, March 15, 2008

"Study From The Comfort of Your Home!"

In the introduction to CAAW, the reader will come across the following:

" In these pages will be formulated a system of defense and attack with the cane which is simple, effective and easily understood, which may be acquired without the necessity of an instructor. A full comprehension of the system alone will be of use, and such practice as can be given to it will greatly increase its value."

That "without the necessity of an instructor" clause was the inspiration for the title of this post, which pops up in the marketing of instructional materials in diverse fields from time to time. Perhaps "Cane for Dummies" might be more current, whatever the case, the idea is that one can learn something , or teach themselves a subject, without recourse to a teacher, instructor or expert. Many approach such claims with healthy skepticism, which is well founded, as most of the time the things being studied are hard enough to learn with the benefit of an instructor.

Then from S&B:

"A military system of fencing should be simple, effective, and quickly and easily learned. Its transmission should be possible without a fencing master, and its principles so simple and correct that even one not greatly skilled can teach others to become skillful."

I don't need a fencing master?
More from S&B: "This system is based on what may be called a natural or instinctive method, and the expansions which would most naturally follow from experience and observation. "

Experience and observation, you mean learn through experience and observation?


From this general description of the proposed system the following manual and explanations will be readily comprehended and mastered by even those who have given no great attention to swordsmanship. "

I don't need to be an expert before I can work on my own?

But what if I start doing something that isn't "in the sytem"?:

The fact should be recognized from the start that the work is of an individual nature and that the perfection of the individual is the object desired. Correct understanding and execution should be the aim rather than entire uniformity and the reduction of the matter to a mere form of drill."

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Approaching the "Style" of CAAW III

After the section on parries, there follows a series of sections on the following topics: return attacks, counter parries, feints, passing the cane and footwork. Each of these sections covers its topic in isolation; there is no discussion of how the topic at hand is integrated with any of the other previously covered topics. Additionally, these sections are relatively abstract as they tend not to discuss a topic in a specific application to a defined situation, but generally, without a context. Essentially ACC lays out the principles, fundamentals or underlying concept of each of the topics covered, without yet presenting the “canon” techniques of his system.

Following the section on footwork, a series of sections are presented, the titles of which suggest that perhaps some concrete technical material is to be revealed: ‘Attack and Defense’, ’Defense to Front’, ‘Defense to Right’, ‘Defense to Left’, ‘Defense to Rear’, ‘Defense in Two or More Directions’. However these sections, far from presenting any specific curricula, discuss the tactical considerations of the three guards (Left, Right and Double), in the directions named in the section titles. Having reviewed the vast majority of the text, there are still no specific lessons, or concrete response sequences to deal with defined attacks.

In fact, there are but two sections left in the text: ‘Special Cases’ and ‘Exercises’. ‘Special Cases’ describes responses to specific situations that ACC felt require detailed consideration: ‘Off Guard, Front or Rear Grapple’, ‘Guard Against a Dog’, and ‘Guard With the Hat’. With each of these special cases ACC comes closest to the “If this happens, respond as follows”, recipe-like approach of a great majority of self-defense texts. In the ‘Exercises’ section ACC finally presents a number (36 or 37) of specific action sequences, which ACC describes as “but a few of the combinations that can be made” , however he does so without context, or much in the way of description of the specific application of the sequences.

It is this final section (‘Exercises’) where it becomes clear that ACC is following the basic structure of a Mathematics or Physics text, where concepts, principles and fundamentals are presented for the student, followed by “problems” or “exercises”, for the student to put into practice the material previously presented to create “solutions”. If we look at the introductory paragraph for this section, there is support for this premise from ACC: “their practice (the exercise) will give a fuller understanding and appreciation of the system.” Consider alsoA reasonable amount of practice will make self-defense with the cane an instinctive matter, should it be needed. “ Taken together with the statement in the beginning of the text that a teacher is “not required,” to acquire defensive skills, we see that ACC expects the student to formulate “solutions” by a study of the principles presented in the text.

It would seem that, analogous to the old parable from western spiritual traditions, ACC is teaching the reader how to “fish”, or think for himself, in order to come up with specific defensive solutions, instead of giving away a few “fish”, specific technical sequences.