How much do you feel technique evaluations are subjective?

OP
A

Acronym

Master of Arts
Joined
Jun 26, 2020
Messages
1,773
Reaction score
41
There's a concept, popularized by biologist Jack Cohen and mathematician Ian Stewart, known as "lies-to-children." The idea is that reality is so inherently complex that when you teach a subject, you are always necessarily presenting an inaccurate oversimplification. The hope is that even though the statements you present are technically false, they can at least be an approximation which leads the student to a more accurate understanding.

Despite the "lies-to-children" label, Cohen and Stewart held that the same principle applies to any explanation that a human mind can grasp. We always start with a grossly, oversimplified model of reality and hopefully can move on to models which are more nuanced, complex, and less inaccurate.

In my experience, this applies to martial arts just as much as it does to science or mathematics. I give my students rules and principles to follow, but I periodically remind them that this is just the way to do things for now, that in time they will learn when to break all the rules I give them.

If you analyze the fights of top boxing champions, you will find that many of them break the "rules" of what most boxing coaches would teach as good form ... or at least what they would teach as good form to beginning/intermediate fighters. In fact, I've seen one top fighter or another break almost every rule of "good technique" that I would teach to a beginner. Does that mean that these champions have bad technique and are just coasting on physical attributes like speed or strength? Not at all. It means that they understand the rules well enough to know how and when to break them.

Every variation of human movement presents a trade-off of one kind of functionality for another in a given context. The standard "good technique" for a given fighting art is generally just a collection of design choices to produce movement patterns where the trade-offs work out pretty well for most practitioners. Most great fighters develop their own movement patterns where the trade-offs of one advantage or disadvantage for another suit their particular body, personality, and skill set. If a great fighter fights with his hands down, it's not because he doesn't know better. It's because he is getting certain advantages from doing so which outweigh the disadvantages. Most likely he will have other modifications to his movement as well which minimize the disadvantages and maximize the benefits from that choice.

Since Ali was mentioned, here are some detailed breakdowns of aspects of his technique:

I wasn't talking about breaking "a rule". Ali broke every rule, including defense. His fundamentals were one big rules break. I guess that's why some argue he was the best since he transcended boxing.
 

drop bear

Sr. Grandmaster
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
20,378
Reaction score
5,318
I wasn't talking about breaking "a rule". Ali broke every rule, including defense. His fundamentals were one big rules break. I guess that's why some argue he was the best since he transcended boxing.

What makes a boxers technique correct?
 
OP
A

Acronym

Master of Arts
Joined
Jun 26, 2020
Messages
1,773
Reaction score
41
What makes a boxers technique correct?

Sitting down on your punches, slipping rather than leaning.. Punching from your toes and leaning back is considered amateurish and suboptimal
 

drop bear

Sr. Grandmaster
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
20,378
Reaction score
5,318
Sitting down on your punches, slipping rather than leaning.. Punching from your toes and leaning back is considered amateurish and suboptimal

Why is that correct over some other method?
 
OP
A

Acronym

Master of Arts
Joined
Jun 26, 2020
Messages
1,773
Reaction score
41
Why is that correct over some other method?

Exactly... Is this really objective.... Well one could argue that getting someone out of the ring in 3 rounds is more effective than having wars with him. That's one thing. Another is that power is an objective measure, and sitting down on your punches increase power.
 

jobo

Grandmaster
Joined
Apr 3, 2017
Messages
9,762
Reaction score
1,494
Location
Manchester UK
Exactly... Is this really objective.... Well one could argue that getting someone out of the ring in 3 rounds is more effective than having wars with him. That's one thing. Another is that power is an objective measure, and sitting down on your punches increase power.
measurement of technique application is reasonably objective, the subjectivity creeps in if that techneque is actualy the best way of dealing with a set of circumstances
.some arts are very resistant to people modifying their fundamentalists fit their limitations or attributes, that generally as there is a disconect between training and fighting
 

wab25

3rd Black Belt
Joined
Sep 22, 2017
Messages
905
Reaction score
692
All technique evaluations are subjective. This forum is full of "discussions" about what qualifications should be required for black belt. There are not two people on this board that agree on what the requirements are for black belt. There are also a ton of threads about kata and forms, and whether they are useful or not. If we can't even agree on whether they are useful, how can we claim to be objective in evaluating them? What does it mean to "learn a kata or form?" Is it just memorizing the list of moves? Is it being able to demonstrate that list perfectly? Is it being able to demonstrate applications? Is it being able to understand principles?

Okay, so we take the other way, and try to be objective in the evaluation. Does it work? Well... we just, in this thread, see examples of technique that works for one guy and the opposite technique also works for the other guy. (punching on the toes or sitting down on the punches) Now that we established that they both "work" we are talking about which worked "better." Thats back to being subjective. Or we could take measurements... those are objective... but which things to measure, and how to compare the measurements is subjective again.

All technique evaluations are subjective.
 
OP
A

Acronym

Master of Arts
Joined
Jun 26, 2020
Messages
1,773
Reaction score
41
All technique evaluations are subjective. This forum is full of "discussions" about what qualifications should be required for black belt. There are not two people on this board that agree on what the requirements are for black belt. There are also a ton of threads about kata and forms, and whether they are useful or not. If we can't even agree on whether they are useful, how can we claim to be objective in evaluating them? What does it mean to "learn a kata or form?" Is it just memorizing the list of moves? Is it being able to demonstrate that list perfectly? Is it being able to demonstrate applications? Is it being able to understand principles?

Okay, so we take the other way, and try to be objective in the evaluation. Does it work? Well... we just, in this thread, see examples of technique that works for one guy and the opposite technique also works for the other guy. (punching on the toes or sitting down on the punches) Now that we established that they both "work" we are talking about which worked "better." Thats back to being subjective. Or we could take measurements... those are objective... but which things to measure, and how to compare the measurements is subjective again.

All technique evaluations are subjective.

Disagreeing on somethings doesn't mean disagreeing on everything, (highest ideal) . But yeah, so far it seems there is always someone who disagrees.
 

wab25

3rd Black Belt
Joined
Sep 22, 2017
Messages
905
Reaction score
692
Disagreeing on somethings doesn't mean disagreeing on everything, (highest ideal) . But yeah, so far it seems there is always someone who disagrees.
Disagreement is not bad. It means we are seeing things differently. We value different bits. Which goes to my point that all evaluations are subjective.
 

Flying Crane

Sr. Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 21, 2005
Messages
13,514
Reaction score
2,940
Location
San Francisco
All people see all things through the lens of their education and their experiences. No two people have identical experiences nor education. So there is a lot of subjectivity in evaluating something as nebulous as human movement under chaotic conditions.
 

WaterGal

Master of Arts
Joined
Jul 16, 2012
Messages
1,696
Reaction score
514
In order to evaluate a performance objectively, you need to have agreed-upon standards of what a successful technique is, what things are critical to do and what things are critical to avoid. If we're talking about martial arts in general, across all styles and organizations, then no such standard exists. So there can't be any objective evaluation. On the other hand, if your organization has a comprehensive rubric of what constitutes a successful execution of a technique in your style/group, then a relatively objective evaluation is possible.
 

Steve

Mostly Harmless
Joined
Jul 9, 2008
Messages
18,276
Reaction score
3,896
Location
Covington, WA
If the outcomes are subjective, the evaluation will be subjective. If the outcomes are objective, the evaluations will be objective. It really isn't any more complicated than that.

Observable, measurable standards result in objective evaluation of skill.
 

JowGaWolf

Grandmaster
Joined
Aug 3, 2015
Messages
9,890
Reaction score
3,149
Yeah. If it knocks people out. Then it works.

Mohamed Ali isn't exactly text book on a bag. But what he does works.

Subjective.


Objective.
I think he's the exception. People like him I would label them as "fighting system developers" so to speak. You have those who follow what is there, and then you have those who understand a system to the point where they contribute to the development of the system. People like that actually write the "text book" on the system.

TMA's are often focus on preserving instead of developing for fighting. They also compete in ways that other fighting system do not. There's no form performance for boxing. There's no tag point sparring for boxing either. The development for TMA is more along the ling of forms performance and point sparring (that tag stuff). We have seen a lot of development in those areas. TKD tricking and gymnastics Kung Fu speaks volume to how much it developed in those areas.

But in the areas of fighting, the thawing of polar ice caps make more progress.
 

JowGaWolf

Grandmaster
Joined
Aug 3, 2015
Messages
9,890
Reaction score
3,149
If you analyze the fights of top boxing champions, you will find that many of them break the "rules" of what most boxing coaches would teach as good form ... or at least what they would teach as good form to beginning/intermediate fighters.
They don't break the rules so much as develop the system as their work becomes the standard.
 

JowGaWolf

Grandmaster
Joined
Aug 3, 2015
Messages
9,890
Reaction score
3,149
some arts are very resistant to people modifying their fundamentalists fit their limitations or attributes, that generally as there is a disconect between training and fighting
yep. Can't develop what you don't use. If the system isn't used for fighting or in fighting, then there won't be any development in the context of fighting. Things begin to shift and techniques begin to be evolve into something that is used in a non fighting context.
 

JowGaWolf

Grandmaster
Joined
Aug 3, 2015
Messages
9,890
Reaction score
3,149
All people see all things through the lens of their education and their experiences. No two people have identical experiences nor education. So there is a lot of subjectivity in evaluating something as nebulous as human movement under chaotic conditions.
Totally agree. I'm really big on footwork. I think it's more important than kicking and punching. So any evaluation that I look at will wight footwork heavier. A punch could be a really strong punch, but if it grinds the footwork to a " turtles pace" then it's not going to make it into what I would consider standards. For punching.

For example, me punching from a grappler's stance is not a standard for punching. It's a standard for grappling because of how it limits the footwork. Grappling becomes primary and punching is secondary.
 

Flying Crane

Sr. Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 21, 2005
Messages
13,514
Reaction score
2,940
Location
San Francisco
Totally agree. I'm really big on footwork. I think it's more important than kicking and punching. So any evaluation that I look at will wight footwork heavier. A punch could be a really strong punch, but if it grinds the footwork to a " turtles pace" then it's not going to make it into what I would consider standards. For punching.

For example, me punching from a grappler's stance is not a standard for punching. It's a standard for grappling because of how it limits the footwork. Grappling becomes primary and punching is secondary.
Yup, it depends on what functional foundation you intend to operate from. Evaluations are held against that foundation and the standards Assumed of it. If you are operating from a different foundation than I am, then how we evaluate a technique will be potentially vastly different right from the starting line.
 

Buka

Sr. Grandmaster
MT Mentor
Joined
Jun 27, 2011
Messages
11,226
Reaction score
7,535
Location
Maui
Everything is subjective. All you have to do is spend a few years on this forum to see that. :)

I'm a huge Ali fan. Huge. But I rate him behind Sugar Ray Robinson, Harry Grab and Hank Armstrong as the greatest of all time. That, too, is subjective.

And I sure as hell wouldn't want to fight any of them. Would have loved to work out with them, though.
 

Steve

Mostly Harmless
Joined
Jul 9, 2008
Messages
18,276
Reaction score
3,896
Location
Covington, WA
I think he's the exception. People like him I would label them as "fighting system developers" so to speak. You have those who follow what is there, and then you have those who understand a system to the point where they contribute to the development of the system. People like that actually write the "text book" on the system.

TMA's are often focus on preserving instead of developing for fighting. They also compete in ways that other fighting system do not. There's no form performance for boxing. There's no tag point sparring for boxing either. The development for TMA is more along the ling of forms performance and point sparring (that tag stuff). We have seen a lot of development in those areas. TKD tricking and gymnastics Kung Fu speaks volume to how much it developed in those areas.

But in the areas of fighting, the thawing of polar ice caps make more progress.
I'd say this is intrinsic to competition. In other words, what you describe above is the result of applying skills in context, and is exactly the difference between what we generally consider to be "traditional" arts and those that are "sport" or non-traditional.

TMA focuses on preserving the art as much as possible over maintaining efficacy of the techniques. Not to say that the techniques are ineffective. Rather, that it's more important to do it the same way your instructor does it than to making any improvements or modifications to the style to adapt to changes in the world.

A non-traditional art, such as a competitive art, is focused on results and outcomes, and so it's more important for each practitioner to apply the techniques effectively than for them to do the techniques exactly as their instructor does them. And as folks improve and see better results, they will naturally innovate, as you say Ali did. While you seem to reserve that for the elite practitioners, I believe that it's happening at every level. Even novice practitioners are adapting technique to their own unique situation, much as @Tony Dismukes outlines in his post.

For what it's worth, I think that this is a much more practical and objective way to measure progress, too, as it focuses on outcomes. This allows room for people with impairments of various kinds to be successful without compromising any objective standards that the style may have.
 

Latest Discussions

Top