Posted by on January 29, 2020

Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors…Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better. This property is behind everything that has changed with time: evolution ,culture, ideas…  Prologue Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder.

Nassim Taleb offers a fascinating study of how stressors (including randomness, volatility etc…) impact what he describes as three categories.

The Fragile.  Does not like randomness, volatility, and is harmed by these forces. The delicate china tea set.

The Robust/ Resilient.  Resists shocks, stays the same.  The legendary Phoenix that rises from the ashes the same. 

The Antifragile. Improves with stressors. The Hydra in Greek legend whose lost head are replaced by two.

Besides mythology, Taleb utilizes numerous examples to illustrate these differences – economic systems, parenting styles, vocations, business, political systems etc…

One topic he covers is how we approach (and often fear) making mistakes.  Mistakes happen when we take risks (e.g. business and venture capital) but we also can grow.  Without risk, without some randomness and surprise, we don’t grow.  In fact, we regress.  The Fragile hates mistakes, the robust resists mistakes and persists, and the antifragile embraces mistakes, thrives and develops. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

So how does this relate to Krav Maga self-defense training?

In many ways. For this blog let’s focus on randomness as it pertains to self-defense.

An assailant can attack in many ways, in various environments and circumstances. They are very difficult to predict and can be quite random. A predator might happen upon someone walking alone and decides to attack. An angry man, drunk at a pub, takes offense to a look or a comment and starts a fight. There are many examples. How do they attack? Do they grab, punch, threaten? Do they have a weapon? We don’t know. The variables are innumerable.

This can be unsettling for students who want a predictable scenario such as:

Defense vs straight punch = deflection + body defense +4 counterpunches +move off the line of attack and scan.

This is memorization – predictable defense vs a predictable attack – a Fragile approach. Also fragile is the instructor who demonstrates against predictable attacks but doesn’t include the unpredictable in their training. There are many instances of martial artists losing fights to street fighters who are well seasoned in messy unpredictability.

When you train, you need to embrace the opportunity to deal with the random nature of attacks. You will make many mistakes but you will improve.

Hence, our stress drills.

During our Krav Maga classes students defend against various attacks. They might close their eyes as their partner imposes various holds to escape. Your partner might strike from various directions and angles. Of course, this is all done in a safe manner that reflects the students’ level.

In all cases, you need to go outside your comfort zone and embrace the mistakes as you improve and develop your “antifragility”.

In future blogs (as I slowly get through the book), we will explore more implications of antifragility and krav maga training.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder.  New York: Random House Paperbacks, 2012

Posted in: Training Tips


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