Saturday, 3 July 2010

Keep It Simple

Did you know the average reading age for the Sun newspaper is 5 years old?
I didn’t know that until I attended a report writing course several years ago.
We were discussing the benefits of keeping the language in our reports simple, clear, concise and straight to the point, when this fact was highlighted.As you move your way up through the more mature and professional journals, so the reading age increases, until you get up to documents such as legal journals, or terms and conditions for contracts, where the reading age can be anything over 21.


You know the sort of documents when you have to read each sentence several times before you can hope to begin to understand what on earth their gibbering on about with their “forthwith’s”, and “aforementioned’s”, and “hereinafter’s”.

What impressed me most though was the fact that, whilst reading something as kindergarten as the Red Top Newspapers is very simple and easy to do, the process of writing at this level is actually very difficult.

I mean, just copy and paste some of my own articles into the Flesch Kincaid scale and you’ll be shocked at how much I needlessly extend my sentences with more words and more syllables. (e.g. this paragraph was 13.2 – I still have much to learn)

To illustrate, here’s a story that I heard about.
The newspaper article was written by the reporter and submitted to his editor for final approval. It was a story about a bungled burglary where the criminals had climbed upon to a corrugated iron roof of a marmalade factory.

When the final draft was received back from the editor it read, “the burglars fell through the TIN roof of the JAM factory”

Little changes to shorten the words used and thus reduce the reading age of the story, making it easier for the end user to read and digest.

If we consider for a moment that the purpose of writing a low reading aged editorial is to deliver your message as efficiently, as deliberately and clearly as possible, then we can start to understand the importance of “Keeping it Simple”.
To be effective with your words, it helps to keep them short, direct and cut out all the unwanted, fluffy, elaborate and flashy grammar. This is particularly important when you want your words to be hard hitting.

I used that last phrase because it ties in nicely with my main interest of self protection.In my humble opinion, this rule translates into any form of physical self defence you wish to employ in the worst case scenario of having to deliver some whoop-ass to an attacker.

If you want your self defence techniques to be hard hitting, effective, direct, and get the message across as efficiently and powerfully as possible, then you need to keep it simple.

“People love chopping wood. In this simple activity, one immediately sees results”
Albert Einstein

I also want to have basic techniques that are going to be applicable to the majority of situations, that way I almost have a one-size-fits-all philosophy. When we compare back to the newspaper analogy, the easy to read Sun has over 3m readers per day whereas your Guardian only has 1 tenth of that.Quite a worrying thought in more ways than one but we’ll stick with my main theme for this article for now.

If you’re truly training with only the thought of fighting in real life situations in mind, then you need to keep your syllabus extremely small and simple. The moment you start to elaborate on your core basic techniques with fancy moves, flashy kicks, long drawn out combinations, and set sequences to fit the prescribed responses of your attacker, is the moment you are no longer training for reality.

A controversial comment to a lot of people who have built entire systems around real life self defence perhaps, but it is the truth.

Once you grow a system beyond the basics, if it’s only for self defence then you are starting guild the lily and create a system out of something that should remain very very simple.However, if you are training with far more in mind than just the fisticuffs on the street, then it all becomes totally relevant and applicable again.

What’s important to note is that, whilst delivering simple techniques may be the most effective option, learning and honing those simple techniques can be anything but simple.

It takes far more commitment and dedication to continue to focus on the basics.

It takes far more self analysis and self control to work on the finite details that turn those basics from being good to being great, and from being remembered to being instinctive.

And it takes far more patience and discipline to continue working on the basics when the temptation to introduce more exotic and outwardly impressive moves is ever present.

Therein lies the lesson. Face the difficult option of learning the basics, for, while it may be a challenge, you will guarantee yourself the best successes.As someone once said – don’t practice a thousand different techniques once, practice one technique a thousand times.

Now take this analogy, as I always suggest in every article, and apply it to everything else you wish to develop. Often the simplest option provides the best results.

A simple unselfish act of charity;
A simple caring gesture;
A simple “Yes or No”;
A simple “I Love You”

Stay Safe and Have Fun

Al x

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