Friday, October 03, 2008

Minimally acceptable outcomes

How hard is it in your art to obtain a minimally acceptable outcome? Is it ok for you to push an attacker off and run away or do you think that the least you can do and still be successful is to claw his eyes out, break his leg, or kill him?

Don’t read me wrong – I'm not talking about some hippie love ideal.  This is not only a moral issue but also a pragmatic one. If you define your minimally acceptable outcome more broadly, your art will be more robust and technically easier to execute. If you define your minimally acceptable outcome more narrowly, it will be less reliable and more technically difficult to obtain that objective.

Take for example, any throw in aikido. If you decide that in order for that throw to be a success uke must fall through the air a certain way, it will be very hard to create a successful outcome unless you have a compliant partner. But if you are willing to call it a success for uke to stumble away from you and maybe hit the ground, this objective is much easier to succeed at.
Look at judo kata competition as another example.  If the judges didn't especially care how uke falls from each throw, there would be much more variability in the performances.  One could reasonably demonstrate the concepts of the kata in many different ways and it would be impossible to judge.  Lack of specificity would make the competition too easy and the judging too hard.  So, for official kata competitions, uke must take a fall that looks exactly so, or points are deducted.  This specificity forces the competitors to be more skilled and makes the judging easier.

This same idea goes for karate – what is the minimal acceptable effect that a punch or kick will have?

Same goes for weapon arts – what is the minimum you can do with them and still be reasonably assured of obtaining a good outcome?

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