Critical thinking and martial arts

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Critical thinking and martial arts

Postby Tom on Fri Jan 10, 2020 7:23 pm

Rokas Leonavicius, whom some on the forum know from his "Martial Journey" channel on Youtube, sat down with Peter Boghossian a year ago to discuss critical thinking in the martial arts. Boghossian is a professor of philosophy at Portland State University who trains BJJ at Matt Thornton's Straight Blast Gym, and co-author, with James Lindsay (who is a very competent student of He Jinbao in Yin Style Baguazhang), of the excellent book "How to Have Impossible Conversations" (published in September 2019). It's a casual but very engaging conversation worth listening to:



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gmt2Bz9tqVc
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Re: Critical thinking and martial arts

Postby Bhassler on Sat Jan 11, 2020 12:44 pm

Only 8 minutes in, and I already see huge flaws in Boghossian's thinking-- or if not his thinking, then the "pre-thinking" foundational assumptions with which he approaches the question. Not sure if that's formally part of the study of critical thinking or not, but either way it makes me less interested in hearing what he has to say. I'd rather just listen to someone who's good at the thinking part and doesn't do MA. It's good that a higher grade of philosphical framework and cognitive science is trying to make it's way into MA, though.
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Re: Critical thinking and martial arts

Postby Tom on Sun Jan 12, 2020 1:51 pm

Thanks for responding, Brian. I'd enjoy hearing what flaws you identified in Boghossian's "pre-thinking" foundational assumptions.

I'm not a philosopher, but it seems like Boghossian is trying to expand on the Bertrand Russell quote his teacher Matt Thornton has as a tattoo: "What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite.” Thornton's coaching and training philosophy of "aliveness" is intended to challenge and help people prevent the fear of live partner testing and sparring from creeping into their MA training. It's a perennial debate about "traditional" martial arts, of course.
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Re: Critical thinking and martial arts

Postby marvin8 on Sun Jan 12, 2020 10:58 pm

Tom wrote:Thanks for responding, Brian. I'd enjoy hearing what flaws you identified in Boghossian's "pre-thinking" foundational assumptions.

Me too. Rokas asks Boghossian if a critical thinker wipes his slate clean first. Boghossian says, "no." Boghossian may have come to some conclusions. However, he is willing to revise his beliefs.

At 7:00 - 8:00,
Peter Boghossian wrote:"Maybe you're right. If you have a technique (e.g., internal) that works, great! Come down to the gym and test it out. If it works, I'll adopt it. I am totally open to change my mind provided the evidence. You provide me the evidence, I'll change my mind. It takes only 5 minutes to test it. If they resist, they're not being honest with themselves."
Last edited by marvin8 on Wed Jan 15, 2020 8:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Critical thinking and martial arts

Postby Bhassler on Tue Jan 14, 2020 10:28 am

It's probably more complex than I have time or excess brain power to fully get into at the moment, but the biggest initial flaw I see is what I would call monolithic thinking. He talks as if all violence is the same, or all practitioners/schools of a given art are the same, etc. Those huge assumptions are pretty contrary to the concept of an inquisitive mind. People often talk of intellectual honesty, as if there were some single great truth that was apparent to all if they'd only admit it to themselves. In reality, people mostly just use it as an excuse to be assholes. I prefer the concept of intellectual courage, which speaks to Boghossian's point of being willing to be wrong. But at a certain point, that's really hard to do. In buddhism (and probably other places) there's a saying to the effect that in order to truly change, you have to be willing to die to yourself, first. That can be really uncomfortable and difficult to do.

Getting back to the more prosaic topic of MA, I'll give one example contrary to the idea that this stuff is all easily tested in any MMA gym, as indicated in Marvin's quote above (thanks, Marvin!). Below are two videos featuring Rory Miller. I know there are folks who dislike Rory or what he teaches, so ignore the specifics of the content for the moment. The point is that here is a person with real world experience who trains for specific things that do not occur in MMA. Other people with real world experience say they like what Rory does. That doesn't make it the only view or the best, but does indicate that there's enough substance there that it warrants examination and thought.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHovZEjmSKI


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hLRbaCUcn0

The skills being trained are not useful in MMA. In addition there are things that are designed to actually injure an opponent. It's not that those things are "too deadly" to train or test, but they have to be trained and tested differently than gloving up and sparring with someone you don't know.

So, if you agree with any of the above and can say that not all violence is the same, what other flaws come up when you also consider that there may be equally large or larger variations between training methods within a style, or intent within a style, or individual wants, needs, or circumstances?

Once you get past monolithic thinking, you still have to address the breadth and quality of observations from which arguments are being made, as well as the overall context and ability of a person to understand what they're seeing based on experience, education, etc. So that's a start, but not thorough or all that well considered, just spitballing some things...
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Re: Critical thinking and martial arts

Postby Tom on Tue Jan 14, 2020 11:44 am

Just quoting your post in its entirety, because I think you're spot-on about "monolithic" thinking, and Boghossian does exhibit monolithic thinking in this casual conversation, at least initially. I also think that a more balanced and nuanced perspective would acknowledge the variations in what a given person trains for, and the more serious variations are simply not amenable to casual testing in a gym or dojo environment. Rory Miller is someone well worth considering, regardless of what one's training objectives with martial arts and combatives may be.

Bhassler wrote:It's probably more complex than I have time or excess brain power to fully get into at the moment, but the biggest initial flaw I see is what I would call monolithic thinking. He talks as if all violence is the same, or all practitioners/schools of a given art are the same, etc. Those huge assumptions are pretty contrary to the concept of an inquisitive mind. People often talk of intellectual honesty, as if there were some single great truth that was apparent to all if they'd only admit it to themselves. In reality, people mostly just use it as an excuse to be assholes. I prefer the concept of intellectual courage, which speaks to Boghossian's point of being willing to be wrong. But at a certain point, that's really hard to do. In buddhism (and probably other places) there's a saying to the effect that in order to truly change, you have to be willing to die to yourself, first. That can be really uncomfortable and difficult to do.

Getting back to the more prosaic topic of MA, I'll give one example contrary to the idea that this stuff is all easily tested in any MMA gym, as indicated in Marvin's quote above (thanks, Marvin!). Below are two videos featuring Rory Miller. I know there are folks who dislike Rory or what he teaches, so ignore the specifics of the content for the moment. The point is that here is a person with real world experience who trains for specific things that do not occur in MMA. Other people with real world experience say they like what Rory does. That doesn't make it the only view or the best, but does indicate that there's enough substance there that it warrants examination and thought.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHovZEjmSKI


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hLRbaCUcn0

The skills being trained are not useful in MMA. In addition there are things that are designed to actually injure an opponent. It's not that those things are "too deadly" to train or test, but they have to be trained and tested differently than gloving up and sparring with someone you don't know.

So, if you agree with any of the above and can say that not all violence is the same, what other flaws come up when you also consider that there may be equally large or larger variations between training methods within a style, or intent within a style, or individual wants, needs, or circumstances?

Once you get past monolithic thinking, you still have to address the breadth and quality of observations from which arguments are being made, as well as the overall context and ability of a person to understand what they're seeing based on experience, education, etc. So that's a start, but not thorough or all that well considered, just spitballing some things...
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Re: Critical thinking and martial arts

Postby GrahamB on Tue Jan 14, 2020 3:30 pm

I like the point about "monolithic thinking" too, Brian.

MMA has attracted a kind of miasma about itself - by which I mean a set of unrecognised foundational assumptions - that it's important to be aware of. But then, so have most things, like the self defence industry, or internal martial arts, for example. They all have their own miasma.
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Re: Critical thinking and martial arts

Postby marvin8 on Tue Jan 14, 2020 8:33 pm

Bhassler wrote:It's probably more complex than I have time or excess brain power to fully get into at the moment, but the biggest initial flaw I see is what I would call monolithic thinking. He talks as if all violence is the same, or all practitioners/schools of a given art are the same, etc. Those huge assumptions are pretty contrary to the concept of an inquisitive mind. People often talk of intellectual honesty, as if there were some single great truth that was apparent to all if they'd only admit it to themselves. In reality, people mostly just use it as an excuse to be assholes. I prefer the concept of intellectual courage, which speaks to Boghossian's point of being willing to be wrong. But at a certain point, that's really hard to do. In buddhism (and probably other places) there's a saying to the effect that in order to truly change, you have to be willing to die to yourself, first. That can be really uncomfortable and difficult to do.

If it makes a difference in the way Boghossian comes across, the context of the interview is Rokas was attending a Matt Thornton course (SBG Portland), Boghossian was familiar with Rokas' MA youtube channel and Rokas asked Boghossian how to use critical thinking when addressing "fantasy" martial arts.

Excerpt from "Profile - Peter Boghossian:"
Portland State University wrote:Dr. Peter Boghossian's main focus is bringing the tools of professional philosophers to people in a wide variety of contexts. Peter has a teaching pedigree spanning more than 25 years and 30 thousand students - in prisons, hospitals, public and private schools, seminaries, colleges and universities, Fortune 100 companies, and small businesses. His fundamental objective is to teach people how to think through what often seem to be intractable problems.

Peter's primary research areas are critical thinking and moral reasoning. His doctoral research studies, funded by the State of Oregon and supported by the Oregon Department of Corrections, consisted of using the Socratic method to help prison inmates to increase their critical thinking and moral reasoning abilities and to increase their desistance to criminal behavior.


Bhassler wrote:Getting back to the more prosaic topic of MA, I'll give one example contrary to the idea that this stuff is all easily tested in any MMA gym, as indicated in Marvin's quote above (thanks, Marvin!). Below are two videos featuring Rory Miller. I know there are folks who dislike Rory or what he teaches, so ignore the specifics of the content for the moment. The point is that here is a person with real world experience who trains for specific things that do not occur in MMA. Other people with real world experience say they like what Rory does. That doesn't make it the only view or the best, but does indicate that there's enough substance there that it warrants examination and thought.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHovZEjmSKI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hLRbaCUcn0

The skills being trained are not useful in MMA. In addition there are things that are designed to actually injure an opponent. It's not that those things are "too deadly" to train or test, but they have to be trained and tested differently than gloving up and sparring with someone you don't know.

Why do you feel Rory's techniques (e.g., osoto gari, inside leg trip, hip throw, slip/punch, etc.) "couldn't be easily tested in a gym?"

Some of the techniques in the video are useful and do occur in MMA. It's understood one will be attacked in a different environment. But, it doesn't change the fundamental mechanics of throws. punches, slips, timing, distance, rhythm, fighting, etc (Matt Thornton sayings).

In a Matt Thornton interview, Matt says at least 3 people came in to take privates from him to prepare for a Krav Maga or RBSD test. Matt has this 7 year RBSD person preparing for his upper level instructor's course go through the parameters of the course. Matt's 2-3 year blue belt students would just dominate this guy—control him on the ground, clinch, at a distance with strikes, take him down at will, submitting him at will, totally dominating him in scenarios or in the ring. There is a lot of work here. Because, there are a lot of fundamentals of stand up, ground and clinch that this guy is missing ...
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Re: Critical thinking and martial arts

Postby Bhassler on Tue Jan 14, 2020 9:16 pm

Re: context
The whole term "fantasy" martial arts already presupposes a lot of things and categorizes a lot of things very broadly that are not the same. If nothing else, if Boghossian is presenting himself as some kind of expert on critical thinking he should either challenge the assumptions outright or get the questioner to specify very specifically what he means by "fantasy martial arts." It's a very different conversation if Rokas is talking about Klingon martial arts and Bartitsu (actual fantasy martial arts) vs. if he's using that term to categorize all asian-derived martial arts that employ some sort of form or kata training. It's not a convincing presentation that someone is a critical thinker if they fail to even identify clearly what they are thinking about.

Re: Dr. Boghossian's credentials
That's useful information in that it suggests it might be worthwhile to not write him off outright based on the 8 minutes or so that I watched. His credentials to do not, however, mean that he is not making cognitive errors in what he's saying. To use a rather appropriate analogy, no one cares what your MA pedigree is if you can't fight.

Re: Rory Miller's stuff
You're misreading what I'm saying. The skills being worked in the videos are not the techniques you listed. The skills being worked are awareness of how non-consensual violence happens, and then things like slaving another body to your movement and using that person as a shield while you address a second threat, or recovering mentally when you are emotionally overwhelmed, or using environmental weapons, or finding avenues of escape, etc. There are skills in sport MA that have good crossover to self defense, but those specific things are not what's typically being worked in an MMA gym. I also didn't say that the videos were showing things that couldn't easily be tested in a gym, I said that there were things that some people trained that couldn't easily be tested in a gym. Things like eye gouges, various flesh ripping techniques, limb breaks, etc. Those things can and should be trained and even tested in non-cooperative ways, but the ways to test those things are not the same as the ways to test MMA skills. Also, the two are not mutually exclusive. There are a ton of skills from MMA that cross over beautifully, and sport fighting as a whole trains a lot of things more consistently across the board than the majority of RBSD or TMA. But most is not all, and if there are some exceptions, then it's an indicator that the flaws are not necessarily inherent in the underlying systems, but may be a result of how those systems are applied either correctly or incorrectly for the desired goals. That's where we get to monolithic thinking, and a link I've posted before about what Wim Demeere calls Randy's Law, which basically states that the differences are just as important as the similarities when you go to look at these things: https://www.wimsblog.com/2018/04/how-to ... -training/

And to re-iterate, the larger point has nothing to do with RBSD vs. MMA, it's just illustrating that there is another valid viewpoint that is not consistent with Dr. Boghossian's assumptions about the totality of what constitutes martial arts and/or interpersonal violence.
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Re: Critical thinking and martial arts

Postby GrahamB on Tue Jan 14, 2020 11:10 pm

Why is Bartitsu a fantasy martial art?
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Re: Critical thinking and martial arts

Postby marvin8 on Wed Jan 15, 2020 8:20 am

Bhassler wrote:Re: context
The whole term "fantasy" martial arts already presupposes a lot of things and categorizes a lot of things very broadly that are not the same. If nothing else, if Boghossian is presenting himself as some kind of expert on critical thinking he should either challenge the assumptions outright or ]get the questioner to specify very specifically what he means by "fantasy martial arts." It's a very different conversation if Rokas is talking about Klingon martial arts and Bartitsu (actual fantasy martial arts) vs. if he's using that term to categorize all asian-derived martial arts that employ some sort of form or kata training. It's not a convincing presentation that someone is a critical thinker if they fail to even identify clearly what they are thinking about.

That's not the conversation. Rokas "specifically" asks how would one use critical thinking to question whether a fantasy technique, aikido wrist grab throw, really works? There's no ambiguity in the question.

Bhassler wrote:Re: Dr. Boghossian's credentials
That's useful information in that it suggests it might be worthwhile to not write him off outright based on the 8 minutes or so that I watched. His credentials to do not, however, mean that he is not making cognitive errors in what he's saying. To use a rather appropriate analogy, no one cares what your MA pedigree is if you can't fight.

He's simply saying critical thinking is being willing to revise your beliefs and test. Being able to critically think has nothing to do with one's fighting ability.

Bhassler wrote:Re: Rory Miller's stuff
You're misreading what I'm saying. The skills being worked in the videos are not the techniques you listed. The skills being worked are awareness of how non-consensual violence happens, and then things like slaving another body to your movement and using that person as a shield while you address a second threat, or recovering mentally when you are emotionally overwhelmed, or using environmental weapons, or finding avenues of escape, etc. There are skills in sport MA that have good crossover to self defense, but those specific things are not what's typically being worked in an MMA gym. I also didn't say that the videos were showing things that couldn't easily be tested in a gym, I said that there were things that some people trained that couldn't easily be tested in a gym. Things like eye gouges, various flesh ripping techniques, limb breaks, etc. Those things can and should be trained and even tested in non-cooperative ways, but the ways to test those things are not the same as the ways to test MMA skills. Also, the two are not mutually exclusive. There are a ton of skills from MMA that cross over beautifully, and sport fighting as a whole trains a lot of things more consistently across the board than the majority of RBSD or TMA. But most is not all, and if there are some exceptions, then it's an indicator that the flaws are not necessarily inherent in the underlying systems, but may be a result of how those systems are applied either correctly or incorrectly for the desired goals. That's where we get to monolithic thinking, and a link I've posted before about what Wim Demeere calls Randy's Law, which basically states that the differences are just as important as the similarities when you go to look at these things: https://www.wimsblog.com/2018/04/how-to ... -training/

Some of Rory's skills/tactics and MMA skills can both be scenario tested in a gym as Matt Thornton did at SBG.

Bhassler wrote:And to re-iterate, the larger point has nothing to do with RBSD vs. MMA, it's just illustrating that there is another valid viewpoint that is not consistent with Dr. Boghossian's assumptions about the totality of what constitutes martial arts and/or interpersonal violence.

The interview is about using critical thinking in evaluating martial arts/skills/techniques. Boghossian did not give his viewpoint on "what constitutes martial arts and/or interpersonal violence." Boghossian's or anyone else's beliefs have nothing to do with their ability to critically think, as long as they are willing to revise those beliefs.
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Re: Critical thinking and martial arts

Postby Bhassler on Wed Jan 15, 2020 8:40 am

GrahamB wrote:Why is Bartitsu a fantasy martial art?


My mistake-- I thought Arthur Conan Doyle invented it for Sherlock Holmes, and the physical art was developed after the fact as a sort of amusement, but according to the internets it's a real thing that was merely popularized by Sir Doyle. I hope the erstwhile practitioners of Bartitsu can forgive me.

So I guess I'm down to Klingon as my only example of a fantasy martial art. I'm probably gonna get some guy in a Star Trek outfit showing up at my door to kick my ass, now...
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Re: Critical thinking and martial arts

Postby GrahamB on Wed Jan 15, 2020 8:46 am

You Sir are a cad and a bounder!



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gT5lVWPjyqk
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Re: Critical thinking and martial arts

Postby Bhassler on Wed Jan 15, 2020 8:47 am

marvin8 wrote:
Bhassler wrote:Re: Dr. Boghossian's credentials
That's useful information in that it suggests it might be worthwhile to not write him off outright based on the 8 minutes or so that I watched. His credentials to do not, however, mean that he is not making cognitive errors in what he's saying. To use a rather appropriate analogy, no one cares what your MA pedigree is if you can't fight.

He's simply saying critical thinking is being willing to revise your beliefs and test. Being able to critically think has nothing to do with one's fighting ability.


You do know what an analogy is, don't you?

I'm not interested in talking in circles. I'll let my statements stand as they are, and other people can consider them, or not, as they will.
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Re: Critical thinking and martial arts

Postby Bhassler on Wed Jan 15, 2020 8:48 am

GrahamB wrote:You Sir are a cad and a bounder!



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gT5lVWPjyqk


I am going to Google those words, Sir, and I must warn you that as soon as I understand them, I shall be deeply offended!
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