A long time ago, I had a paradigm shift that changed my martial arts and self-defense training forever. To explain this correctly, I need to give you a little bit of background information:
Many years ago, I started reading the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. Though these books take place in a fantasy world, the stories are deeply rooted in our own. If you haven’t read them, go ahead and give them a try. They’re tons of fun. Here’s the reason why I bring this up:
Mr. Pratchett wrote a series of accompanying books called “Science of the Discworld“. These books alternate a story set in the Discworld universe with chapters explaining how science works. In one of these books, he mentions “emergent dynamic systems” and “complex systems”. These concepts are complicated and hard to explain quickly, but I’ll post some resources at the end if you want more in-depth information.
For a layman’s explanation, you can view it like this:
Complex systems examine how the multiple components of a system interact with each other and cause the system to behave a certain way, but also how the system interacts and forms relationships with its environment.
The “emergent” part means that complex systems and patterns are formed out of relatively simple interactions.
When you combine these two, it means you can look at a system and create laws and theories of what you see happening and these may be true.
However, you cannot recreate an outcome from these laws and theories alone.
The specific elements involved and their interactions can give rise to radically new dynamics and behavior, completely unpredictable from previous occurrences. Or put differently, new patterns (and therefor laws and rules) become apparent as the system keeps going, instead of sticking to the previously established rules.
My paradigm shift was viewing fighting and violence as an emergent dynamic system. Here’s why:
We all form a theoretical model of violence when we train for it and after experiencing it. The problems start when we believe our model is the only possible reality. As human beings, that is exactly what we are wired to do, because violence affects us on such a deep level, it creates its own truth. We can easily convince ourselves that our model is universally true, like for instance gravity: we know it’s real, we experience it 24/7 and know that if we drop something, it will fall. We accept the laws of physics as a given.
The issue is that the laws of physics alone aren’t enough to map out violence, let alone predict it or give your model the right structure to handle it. This brings us to emergent dynamic systems.
More on models later, but first, let’s look at how this works?
How does this work in Combat Sports?
Picture an MMA or boxing match:
- You know the rules and allowed techniques upfront.
- You know the strengths and weaknesses of both fighters
- You know their past performances.
- You can even do a statistical analysis of all these factors.
Yet despite all that, you can never predict with 100% accuracy who will win.
Because differences in seemingly insignificant elements or unexpected developments can alter the outcome completely: [Read more…]