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12/13/04 2:39 PM
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Subadie
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Edited: 13-Dec-04 02:49 PM
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I am not a fighter. I am a martial artist" --Rickson Gracie This quote cannot really be discussed further without some kind of definition of the "martial arts" that we can mostly agree upon. When GJJ was introduced in the first UFCs was the appeal that it was more effective than the other systems of fighting ? Perhaps winning martial contests against other system ensures that it is a martial art. If so, then what is the distinction with being simply a fighter ? Maybe its that a person with non-exceptional athletic ability is able to dominate powerful opponents ? If so, I have to think of Sakuraba, especially in my introduction to him: the fight against the huge "BJJ artist" Conan. He has "creativity" in his art. Creativity is certainly an important element of what goes into a martial art. Think Picasso, etc. Rickson represents the pinnacle of GJJ, and I think that it is appropriate to call him a martial artist rather than a fighter, but why is that ? In fact I would agree that he appears to be a wonderful embodiment of what a martial artist should be. But why is that ? When people discuss his attributes, creativity is not typically mentioned, so why is he an artist. Is it like pornography (It cannot be defined - but I know when I see it) ? That is not a satisfactory answer to the demand for a definition, as certainly a definition is necessary for the discussion. Well, the definition that I am proposing may be circular, or perhaps no one cares, but it’s a start if anyone wants to continue on this line of thought:. A person who will perform in the manner which is known as “flow with the go” is not in itself a representation of art. Anyone can react without thinking and perform based upon intuition. I can do so myself, however the end product of my reacting based on non-thinking is that I get choked, armbarred, etc. A person’s ability to flow with the go and actually end up anticipating the other’’s flow of movement, react to it, and trump it based upon anticipation rather than strength or athleticism, MAY be a thing of art. A traditional view of art as expressed from Plato down is that the activity of art is based on the fact that a man, receiving through his sense of hearing or sight another man's expression of feeling, is capable of experiencing the emotion which moved the man who expressed it. For example, a man expresses courage and determination or sadness and calmness, and this state of mind passes on to others. Art in this sense needs not only the actions of the person performing, but also the formation of feelings in the watcher which are a result of the performer’s actions. In this sense, we can call a martial artist a person who creates in the feeling of those watching that he is performing a martial art. Since these feelings are evoked by those watching Rickson perform, I think that it is appropriate to call him a martial artist. On the other hand - the best contrasting example would be Vanderlei Silva, who is a hurricane and less of a chess player. He is who Rickson would certainly be referring to. But does Silva's style also not fit the PLato-based definition proposed above - of eliciting emotion based upon action. Rather, in existentialist terminology, it is merely Rickson's pre-reflective dispositions, created by advance thought and experience that permit his seemingly thoughtless action, giving the appearance of art, but which is rather skill and preparation.
12/30/04 3:38 PM
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DonnaTroy
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Edited: 30-Dec-04
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Fighter... Hum... perhaps a person that likes to fight, with or without skills. Martial artist - perhaps a person that trains, with improvement, the skills necessary to master an ability. Art - both terms of creativity and mastering an ability may be used for "martial art". Martial - related with Mars, the roman god of war. I guess martial arts should envolve everything about war - philosophy, estrategy, tactics, weapons, physical ability to fight, in its literal sense, but that´s not how people see it nowadays. Just my single cent.
11/4/09 5:10 PM
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Baki Stout
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 You guys both have great points! Good read
11/10/09 3:41 PM
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Subadie
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Edited: 11/10/09 6:37 PM
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Cool, that jumbled mess was revived !
10/30/10 12:26 AM
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jrv
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Edited: 10/30/10 12:33 AM
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I don't know Rickson or anything, but in watching his fights and watching modern Grapplers with a similar style, I think the "art" in what they do is in using refined technique and physical ability at the perfect moment. Sort of like how a photographer would use technical ability of spacing, light, perspective, etc...combined with a good camera to capture te perfect moment in time with a picture.

I think that maybe there's no such thing as a martial art, but more like people finding artistic expression in different actions, like fighting and grappling and taking photographs.
11/7/10 5:21 AM
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N5Z
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 I believe the distinction between a fighter and a martial artist is defined in skill alone.  A fighter fights with little to no understanding of why, how or even what he is doing.  A martial artist would have prepared, studied, trained, etc and presumably possess some martial skill with which to perform.  The artist expressing himself in the route chosen to the most efficient victory or steadfast defense.  Aesthetics have zero value in martial arts unless they somehow serve to demoralize the opponent.
8/9/11 9:44 PM
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Atecexa
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Martial: of or relating to war or combat.

Art: the study or practice of something

To say "I am not a fighter I am a martial artist" is tantamount to saying "I'm not a fireman I just put out fires"

He is an elitist arrogant prick who thinks he's better than everyone else
8/14/11 9:18 AM
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N5Z
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Atecexa - Martial: of or relating to war or combat.

Art: the study or practice of something

To say "I am not a fighter I am a martial artist" is tantamount to saying "I'm not a fireman I just put out fires"

He is an elitist arrogant prick who thinks he's better than everyone else
For arguments sake, Id say your analogy would be more true if opposite:

"I am not a martial artist I am a fighter" is tantamount to saying "I'm not a fireman I just put out fires".

Art:  the study or practice of something.  I can put out a fire without ever having trained to do so but this does not make me a fireman.  Likewise I can fight without ever having trained to do so but this does not make me a martial artist.
 
8/15/11 10:42 PM
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Atecexa
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whatever the case may be ... refer to the last line of my response...a phrase often spoke by those who can't (or can no longer) actually fight and just need to sit back a stfu
9/7/11 10:48 PM
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cincibill
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N5Z - 
Atecexa - Martial: of or relating to war or combat.

Art: the study or practice of something

To say "I am not a fighter I am a martial artist" is tantamount to saying "I'm not a fireman I just put out fires"

He is an elitist arrogant prick who thinks he's better than everyone else
For arguments sake, Id say your analogy would be more true if opposite:

"I am not a martial artist I am a fighter" is tantamount to saying "I'm not a fireman I just put out fires".

Art:  the <b>study</b> or <b>practice</b> of something.  I can put out a fire without ever having trained to do so but this does not make me a fireman.  Likewise I can fight without ever having trained to do so but this does not make me a martial artist.
 

It makes you a martial artist with little training or experience in the art.
9/11/11 12:00 AM
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Roly_Poly_Puppy
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Lexical definitions (defining things by their current meaning, usually by dictionaries) are a terrible way to classify things. The strength of a lexical definition is that it somewhat lessens ambiguity, but its weaknesses are that tends not capture the full richness of a phenomenon (at least outside of mathematics), and it narrows the bounds of creative thinking (of what a phenomenon could be, and what new ideas it generates for you). The most powerful weakness of lexical definitions are that they focus on the 'what' (description), and not on 'why' and 'how' (explanation, which needs some level of creative abductive and inductive reasoning). That's not to say that description and 'what' questions are irrelevant, just that lexical-based definitions don't capture all there is and don't open up new vistas for creative thought.

That said, I think some combination of sociological explanation (how martial arts actually are as an interacting system of individuals) and stipulative definitions (unconventional and new meanings/metaphors) are probably better for capturing a phenomenon like martial arts. Mainly for the reasons that they cover how things actually are, and free us from the boredom of resorting to a dictionary. Adding to this, I actually like Subadie's stipulative definition about feeling and the Martial Arts (though I think philosophy of art has a name for this right? Can't remember the concept at the moment). I would like some of you to come up with other unusual ontologies to capture what a martial art is, rather than lexical-based ones. Again, you can use dictionary definitions if you want, but philosophers on some level are idea junkies, and quite frankly the ideas from the dictionary don't really excite me (and the people here are better than that, I know you guys have good ideas that you probably wouldn't discuss elsewhere, so let's hear them). My half-sociological, half-stipulative attempt is below.

My motivation for this endeavour is that I just finished reading Russell's Mysticism and Logic. After that (and Gellner, and more importantly Deleuze's ideas about how each reading should generate new ideas to you personally) I'm fairly convinced that philosophy (at least the analytic side, and I say this as a fairly hard core analytic guy who is also doing a math degree) has gone down the conceptual rabbit hole and has moved away from explaining ideas and concepts in new ways, to grammatical and logical nitpicking (even Russell in the book above saw the problems with this, alas his predecessors like Wittgenstein did not).
9/11/11 12:01 AM
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Roly_Poly_Puppy
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So, one random taxonomy for Martial Arts that hasn't been mentioned:

(1) Martial Arts as the interplay between chaos and order. Martial Arts are an attempt to control the chaos of fighting. In a sense, this isn't a new idea. Bruce Lee alluded to this in the Tao of JKD. In this way, fighting exhibits the phenomenon of combinatorial explosion i.e, the number of possible combinations and situations in a fight grow very, very fast. Take a fight that starts standing up, without any background context. Anything could happen. A fighter could shoot in for a double leg, he could pull a gun or knife, he could run away call his buddies to come back and deliver a beat down, he could engage the opponent with boxing after a referee starts the fight. Then after each of these (and more) situations, there are OTHER situations building on top of these, and more contexts and situations again, thus making a very large tree-like path. Take a more specific and limited case like the mount in BJJ in a strictly grappling context. There is still combinatorial explosion for two untrained persons, as they just react and do. But for a seasoned BJJ player there is less of an explosion, because he forces certain situations to occur and not occur. The top guy takes the time to get his posture right, and control his opponent's posture and escapes. He may also be looking for a transition to high mount, s-mount, or the back, or to submit. He knows the many tree-like paths on which the combinatorial explosion are most likely to follow because he has trained this before, and trained counters-to-counters and so on. He is trying to control the many paths in an inherently chaotic system to follow a certain path (and even then, take the fighter into a new system with different rules, like MMA, and his system opens up a ton of more paths for him to deal with). If you have read Nassim Taleb's Black Swan, Martial Arts are an epistemic attempt to control the black swan of getting your ass beatdown. Of course, that's a limited view, as there are other good reasons for doing the martial arts (because they are fun!), but I think it captures an important aspect.

I was going to write a second or third taxonomy (martial arts as rival memetic and complex adaptive systems), but I need to go study.

Come up with something wacky, what are your views on what it is?
9/12/11 12:41 PM
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vermonter
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Edited: 09/12/11 12:43 PM
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RPP,

It seemed after writing your taxonomy, you perhaps were beginning to realize it wasn't actually possible to capture in words the full scope of such a complex and changing system, whether your explanation is sociological, stipulative, or lexical. I think you'll also find that most people do not use lexical definitions proper, but rather intuition to get a grip on something as nebulous as "martial arts" (insofar as intuition is something other than your listed methods of explanation).

This problem exists even in things much simpler, like objects (e.g. if my yellow lab lost all of her fur permanently, is she still a yellow lab?). Attempting to put a complex system into words is probably folly, unless you want an ambiguous definition... A better approach to figuring out what a martial artist is, is probably trying to determine why it's not possible to possess sufficient resolution through my words to describe apparent objects, events, and systems with clarity. The best approach to figuring out what Rickson meant, is probably more colloquial an intuitive, as i suspect he was probably using personal definitions of the terms referenced in the OP.

I disagree about the direction of philosophy, btw.
9/13/11 12:36 AM
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Roly_Poly_Puppy
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Edited: 09/13/11 12:48 AM
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vermonter, re-reading my first post, it would seem that some of my words might have been poorly chosen.

My taxonomy definitely doesn't capture all there is, hence why I said it captures an important aspect. One aspect that may be missed from using dictionary definitions, which some of the others above seem to be using (Subadie was the only person in this thread that appeared to be skeptical about lexical definitions, well to a point anyway, I think he probably realised the limits of such definitions even while he was trying to define it). I don't think it would be possible to enumerate every single aspect of the Martial Arts. I just think sociological explanations, and stipulative definitions, are better at getting to the heart of what a lexical definition is striving for (the intuition of what Martial Arts are). Lexical definitions may be a stepping stone to better intuition, but sociological explanations give a much richer account, and stipulative definitions offer new ways of thinking about the phenomenon. Rickson is the case in point here, the people in this thread so far have been stripping Rickson's words down into what the dictionary says about them, not as you say, what he personally meant, which can be better explained by the sociological milieu Rickson was brought up in, or thinking about his statement in new ways.

I guess what I'm getting at is, yes we probably cannot capture the full richness of some phenomenon in words, but if we were to try capture that phenomenon, it would be better to go down the road of explaining the phenomenon, or alternatively, coming up with new ways to think about it.
9/13/11 1:10 AM
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Roly_Poly_Puppy
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Edited: 09/13/11 1:18 AM
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Also, thinking about it now from other people's positions here in this thread (playing devil's advocate to my own views) ...

(1) Let's take Rickson's statement as it is. Obviously we don't have access to the full background context of the statement is made, or a rich qualitative and quantitative dataset of Rickson's life history, nor the same for BJJ's institutional history (beyond popular accounts). So, perhaps an argument could be made that the best we could do for the moment is with dictionary definitions, but that does not rule out personal interpretations and new definitions of the statement.

(2) Thinking about stipulative definitions some more from a devil's advocate to my view, perhaps if you were concerned literally with what he was saying, perhaps a person wanted to stay away from new interpretations and really break down the statement in some analytic manner.

I could probably be swayed by (1), but I would have reservations about (2). That said, at some level there might be a circular form of concept going on here as well (from my own thinking). It would seem that disregarding other's dictionary definitions at some level is also disregarding their own personal interpretations (perhaps they love dictionary definitions and find them useful!), which would leave me in a conundrum.
9/13/11 1:30 PM
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vermonter
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RPP,

No you made it clear that your taxonomy doesn't capture all of martial arts, i'm just curious what the benefit of actually making the attempt would be. You mention trying to capture a phenomenon that may not be capturable in words. I guess my point is, wouldn't time be better spent figuring out why phenomena in general can't be captured with rich resolution in words, than simply making the attempt for each one until you reach the point of failure?

Also you make several points about what types of explanations are better than others, but wouldn't we need all of them for the most complete explanation possible if such a thing were worth endeavoring? Also, i doubt the strength of stipulative definitions as importantly different from lexical ones anyway... It seems the only difference is popularity level (i.e. if the context with which the stipulation is used reaches enough people). Stipulative definitions enter the lexicon all the time(e.g. medical definitions). The advantage might be that we agree within a discussion, but isn't that point of subadie's post? To come up with a definition we can agree on in an effort to discuss Rickson's quote?

Anyway, definitely rambling now, but i always enjoy a discussion :)

"or alternatively, coming up with new ways to think about it"

This is, in effect, what i was getting at. Words do not have sufficient resolution to capture complex systems, or even objects. Why would that be?
9/13/11 2:06 PM
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vermonter
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For your second post:

1. Right. If he's defining it in a particular way, the best we have is to: A. guess what he meant; B. figure out a way that it makes sense to us; or C. decide that there is no important difference between the two outside of Rickson's personal definition.

2. I am not concerned with what he is literally saying. I'd guess he just thinks there are strata to being a person engaged in martial activity, and that he is not on a low rung. This conforms to my intuition, so i'm content to accept his statement and move on.

"It would seem that disregarding other's dictionary definitions at some level is also disregarding their own personal interpretations"

Most definitions, even lexical ones, describe concepts not things. Because concepts are discrete, we can frequently run into road blocks when we are trying to discuss complex and nebulous ideas like martial arts. The Ship of Theseus problem further shows that this problem extends to pretty much everything. For this reason, i personally think its a huge waste of time trying to define concepts outside of intuition, the latter being the most useful method in communication (e.g. my dog is still a yellow lab even if she loses all her fur, simply because she seems to be, not because i need to allow for hairless dogs in my definition of yellow labs). I'm happy to leave uselessly confining definitions to self-important high-school english teachers.

Yeah.... rambling again.
9/16/11 10:06 AM
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Roly_Poly_Puppy
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SO MANY QUESTIONS, lol.

Vermonter, I think we are probably on the same page here on our views on intuition, perhaps I've just misread you, or I'm not making myself clear enough.

I think the other issue that we are not in agreement about is vagueness (not just ambiguity, ambiguity would certainly apply to the stipulative definitions, due to the nature of multiple meanings. But it would seem the problem with explanations is a vagueness issue, it is not interpretation that is the problem, it is the concepts themselves). Am I right in saying you want to commit vague concepts to the flames? And when you are implying vagueness, are you saying vague concepts, or does the world itself exhibit vagueness? Because in your first post you stated (a) the phenomenon can't be captured in words. But in the second post you make the claim that (b) the concepts themselves are vague, which are both different accounts of vagueness. (a) is an ontological claim about the world, and (b) is a semantic claim about language.

I am not sure where I stand on (a). Typically, the way to defuse vagueness problems is (i) the epistemic approach (by stating that vagueness is just ignorance and epistemic error due to sense data), and; (ii) the supervaluation approach (vagueness stems from language). There are others I think, but those are the ones I'm aware of (from reading Sainsbury's Paradoxes, chapter 3). Not sure I'd use (ii) (see below for why), but (i) would seem to be compatible with (a), insofar the world appears vague, not because it is vague, but because of our ignorance, and this is part of the motivation to use some form of social scientific endeavour, i.e, to overcome our own biases (but of course this opens up a whole can of worms to do with philosophy of science). Also for (a), vagueness depends upon borderline cases. But in my explanations I'm not trying to capture every single aspect of a Martial Art (and I know I've already stated this), and I'm not sure if I'm introducing borderline cases for trying to capture a single aspect. I will grant that you might find vagueness *within* an explanation (for instance in my own explanation, what is 'chaos', what do you mean by 'order'?), but even then, I'm not sure I agree with your stance on (b), and here's why ...

9/16/11 10:06 AM
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Roly_Poly_Puppy
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If you are committed to (b), then surely this accounts for the very language you are using in the discussion? There is extensive discussion in the literature on Sorites paradoxes and Vagueness that makes attacks on the very notion of vagueness in this manner, by stating that the conceptual web around vagueness is vague itself (the supervaluationist approach is notorious for being undermined by this, as they use vague concepts like 'sharpening' to bolster their arguments). Take your statement about the Ship of Theseus, can you give a full account of the Ship of Theseus problem without vagueness, and can you enumerate every single situation that instantiates the vague phrasing of "pretty much everything"? I mean, this is the problem with wanting to cast things into the flames a'la Hume, and torch anything and everything in an analytical manner. You end up torching the very foundations you stand on.

Of course, when it comes down to it, you don't really have to worry about this, because the burden of proof is on me, as I kickstarted the discussion (in more explicit terms, just because your argument may or may not be undermined, doesn't mean that my argument isn't, as that would be some combination of bad reasons and tu quoque fallacy on my behalf). Just something for others to think about. I will think some more about my response to the other questions, as I'm not happy with my reply to (a), and I don't think I've fully fleshed out what I'm trying to get across.

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