[Ansteorra-archery] Archery Discussion

Ken Theriot kentheriot at ravenboymusic.com
Sat Oct 4 15:40:06 PDT 2008


You were in a better position than most to see things from a birds-eye view.
So if you say there were official reports of archers hitting bystanders, I
believe you.  I apologize for the following, but I'm going to get a little

I was in the Air Force for 24 years.  Safety is a HUGE concern, so I saw
some good things in the name of safety, but I also see some really whacky
things not based at all on reality.  Living with that for all those years,
combined with the fact that I was simultaneously teaching the proper use of
"metrics" to all ranks (using the scientific method...everyone's favorite
thing...probability and statistics:)) for better decision-making, led me to
an inescapable conclusion.  Humans are really quick to see patterns and make
judgments.  It was what kept us alive for centuries.  If we have to THINK
when a tiger is running at us, we die.  But it was also why women were burnt
to death when the neighboring farm's crops failed just a few hundred years
ago.  The town thought the woman must have caused the plight because the
same year she moved in, the crops failed.  In order to fill in the logic
gap, they had to make her a "witch."  If I could give one piece of
life-advice to every child, it would be this: "understand the difference
between correlation and causation."  THAT (relatively) simple concept, more
than any other, can change the world.

Humans in general have more of a tendency to see patterns where they DON'T
exist, than to recognize them when they do.  And when it comes to
safety...well you'd better not argue!  There were many times in the AF when
formal reports would say "safety incidents are "up" so we must act," but the
real data did not show that safety incidents were actually trending in
EITHER direction.  There was almost never any actual probabilistic data to
support saying "people are less safe this year than they were last year."
So any action to "correct" the problem was not likely to address any root
causes.  Frequently the "action" actually made things worse for the
organization as a system (increasing costs for extra training, less
available time for value-added activities due to mandatory safety days,
etc.)  but action there must be, even without a "statistically significant"
shift in the average number of incidents.  It sure as heck made a lot of
people feel good inside to "act," especially if the action happened to
correspond to a random (i.e. without cause...not indicative of a systemic
change) down-swing in the number of safety incidents.  

If anyone dared suggest that the "corrective action" was ineffective
(probably even harmful), they were immediately painted with the "he doesn't
care about safety" brush.  And that turns very quickly into "he can't be
trusted to look out for anyone's well-being," "he is unsafe," or worse.  

My point here is that people aren't very good at the whole
"cause-and-effect" analysis thing at the best of times.  But bring the
entire equation into the realm of "safety" and "liability," and whatever
logic may still be in the mix goes out the window, and cries for the use of
simple analysis are met with "don't you dare suggest inaction in the face of
danger...regardless of the fact that it will solve NOTHING, and will
probably make other things worse!  It makes us feel good, darn it.  We DID
something.  We ACTED."

All I'm looking for is some reason to do what we do.  Any one person can see
a pattern in, say, 4 or 5 people (the influence of the tiger again), that
will make them believe those folks are better archers BECAUSE we gave them
extra training.  But there is literally NO WAY to prove that.  Those people
may have been just as good/safe without the extra training.  One would need
to set up blind trials with random samples large enough to make results
statistically significant in order to make any pronouncements based on

We run the risk of damaging or destroying the "system" (in this case Combat
Archery) by taking action well-beyond what is truly needed, all in the name
of safety.  The systemic risk would be the reduction of interest in CA,
hence the reduction in archer-count, and eventual collapse of CA altogether,
due to unrealistically high barriers-to-entry.  It may be that the barriers
are NOT too high, and even seem too low for some.  But we won't know, we
CAN'T know, without proper data.

So...if we're going to fly blind anyway, why not hit the "reset" button, and
set the bar where it SEEMS to strike a good balance between safety and the
encouragement of CA?  Then we can adjust our methods....but only when based
on real evidence.


-----Original Message-----
From: Eadric Anstapa [mailto:eadric at scabrewer.com] 
Sent: Friday, October 03, 2008 12:27 PM
To: Archery within the Kingdom of Ansteorra
Subject: Re: [Ansteorra-archery] Archery Discussion

Sir Kenneth, there have been official reports of archers shooting out of 
the battlefield.  But mostly they don't get reported unless they hit 
bystanders.  The have been official reports of folks shooting off the 
battlefield and hitting bystanders and  I have personally had to revoke 
authorizations for archers who repeatedly did this and have had sit 
through more than one marshals court where we addressed the issue.  
Every time it happens it adds much fuel to the folks who are fanning the 
fire to do away with CA completely.

There has never been any work that I am aware of to try and equate the 
offenders and the structure of the authorization process they went 
through.  I can tell you that in my experience the repeat offenders tend 
to be less experienced combatants.

While we need not "require" a buddy system while authorizing folks I 
have found it to be one of the most effective ways of training and 
authorizing new archers.  If I buddy them up with an experienced archer 
on the field there is somebody right there watching them that can 
hopefully keep them from doing anything dangerous and I believe that the 
best way of learning most skills is experientially.  While they are 
paired up with an experienced archer that I know I can trust to watch 
over then and give me good feedback  that give me as the authorizing 
marshal the freedom to stand back at watch them at a distance and see 
how they act and react to the overall battle which is not something I 
might not necessarily see if I was personally right here in armor 
shooting with them.



Ken Theriot wrote:
> I honestly don't think there is any data on correlations between
> where a bystander was hit, and the "strictness" of the shooter's
> authorization process.  In fact, I'd like to see "official" data (as in
> officially filed SCA reports) where a bystander in a legal area was hit.
> I'm not saying it doesn't exist, I'd just like to see it if it does.  Then
> we can act from a position of real knowledge.  If there is no correlation,
> then there is no logic to the presupposition that "more training and
> observation prior to authorization will reduce safety incidents."
> Will bystanders sometimes get hit by a stray combat arrow?  Probably.  The
> question we NEED answered before we assume it only (or even usually)
> because the archer was not properly trained, is whether there is any data
> support that assertion.
> I'd be willing to bet large sums of cash that we would see no change in
> number of spectators hit if we err a little LESS on the side of caution.
> I'm absolutely not suggesting that we turn someone loose on the field whom
> we have not seen demonstrate the minimum requirements (as described
> Both Eadric and I are saying that it needn't require participation in
> multiple melee/archery "wars," it needn't require a "buddy" separate from
> the authorizing marshal to observe all day, etc.  Those are restrictions
> some have assumed are mandatory.  
> If I have spent enough time talking to the candidate to ensure they can
> repeat the rules back to me and understand them, and observing their
> in a few melee scenarios (enough to allow me to see if they can control
> their shots, not poke someone in the eye with their bow, and not shoot
> arrows toward the onlookers, etc.), then I'm gonna authorize.
> Reasonable assurance using logical procedures based on actual evidence is
> what we need.  Any more than that and we DO make it too hard, especially
> it is merely a response to perceived political pressure.
> YIS,
> Kenneth

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