Friday, April 14, 2017

Five levels of intensity

Martial arts can be closer to the "martial" or the "art". Some are almost completely art. Substyles can be radically different too. When someone says they're a black belt in Karate, for instance, they could be a full contact champion, or never have connected a punch in their lives.

I believe that there are five different levels of intensity when practicing a martial art.

  1. Choreographed sequences, or demonstrations. Participants have a sequence of moves to demonstrate. Typically very impressive feats of speed, power, flexibility.
  2. Drilling. Judokas seem to drill the most. A technique is applied full force on a compliant partner. Different from #1, as the same move will be used later, in live training.
  3. Point system fighting. Tae-Kwon-do typically wear full protective gear and interrupt the round when points are awarded.
  4. Full contact fighting. Fighters stop when there's a submission hold, or time runs out.
  5. Competition in full contact fighting. The same as #4, but with the added adrenaline, the unknown of the other player's strengths, and the knowledge that everyone is watching you. Because of the adrenaline, the submissions are resisted for much longer, and might cause injuries, especially at higher levels.

How does this apply to BJJ ? There is obviously an increasing degree of physical and mental exertion as we go down the list. Also, the longer we train at or around level #5, the more we are guaranteed to be able to perform in a surprise situation on the street. Since in BJJ we spend half of our time practicing new moves, I would think drilling with full power is a better time investment than simply "going through the motions".

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Chance -> Events -> [Beliefs -> Emotions -> Actions]

Kids are impressionable. They can be easily tricked. Their minds are developing. They defer their beliefs to authority. Only in adolescence do they start questioning themselves. For example, look at Boko Haram. An army of children led by psychopaths. Kids are convinced they need to shoot at their village members and blow themselves up on demand.

On average, adults are less impressionable than kids. But how does that switch really happen ? Are we perhaps more impressionable that we would like to admit? If so, should we revise the importance we give to how we form beliefs, as well as those which already drive our daily behavior, those beliefs we never question ?

Stoicism is a school of thought from ancient Greece. They put beliefs at the head of the behavior chain.  One of their core tenets is that random events are processed by beliefs, which cause emotions to arise which crystallize into actions. This is rather controversial, since that means emotions can be controlled by reason. This is not evident in daily life, is it ? We just "feel" angry or happy. We don't think : oh yeah, I should suddenly feel happy ? Not only do beliefs precede emotions, but they also precede actions. They are at the root of human behavior. As a thinking animal, we sometimes ask ourselves what is the kind of person do I want to become ? Do I want to be come a great guitar player ? An excellent developer ? A good citizen ?

But think of the Boko Haram case again. That is an example of thoughts leading to behavior. A rather extreme case, but it serves my point.

For my part, I try to refine my understanding of how my own beliefs form. As I get older, I don't trust myself as much as I used to. I make more mistakes, and uncover beliefs I've held for a long time which were just wrong. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Veganism is not a black and white idea.

If a person is both vegan and anti abortion, which do you hear first ? So goes the joke...

The main reason I know for abstaining from meat or animal derived products is harm reduction. This is based on utilitarianism. The view that the pain and suffering the animal goes through from inception to slaughter outweighs the pleasure we derive from consuming it. This conclusion is a bit more intuitive if we factor in the amount of meat we consume as well as how much of it is thrown away or misused. But then, all this is a question of degrees. It doesn't have to be an all or nothing thing. 

I am all for feeling gulity of consuming meat when I could have chosen a nutritionally equivalent plant-based meal. I doubt this position is original, but it nonetheless deserves some thought. For example, in arctic climates, agriculture is impossible, so meat is the only source of nutrition. I can hardly see someone seriously propose veganism to people living like Inuits (used to, or maybe still do). The same for people raising their own pigs and chicken then consuming them once a year. The only time a year they actually do consume meat. It's not unheard of to both enjoy the meat and feel sad at the loss of the animal you hand fed.

Edge cases apart, I also have no beef with occasional consumption of meat, even in modern societies. 

On the "harm spectrum", we have bio and/or organic food. This is not bullshit. For meat products to qualify as organic, there are measurable standards to be enforced. It can be argued that organic grown animals suffer less than non organic ones. 

Then there is the plain distinction between animal products and animal meat. I feel less remorse when eating organic products compared to organic meat. The following are all things to factor in when choosing your next meal.
  1. Animal products vs meat.
  2. Organic vs non organic 
  3. Occasional vs regular consumption
  4. Amount thrown away.
At one end, you have the regular double triple extra meat burger consumer, most of it he throws away, versus the occasional organic egg buyer. None qualify as vegan, but one is much more reasonable than the other.

Far from being an absolutist annoying concept, meat and animal products consumption should be thought of a bit more, in my humble opinion.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Drilling & the meaning of a black belt (to me)

There are black belts and there are Black belts. Trust me. Whereas a few short years ago I couldn't tell the difference between a purple and a back belt, now I can quantify the difference between a black belt and a great one. In addition to regular class time add another 1 to 2 times more drilling time, as well as strength and conditioning.

I can't even imagine how good I could have been by now, had I dedicated serious drilling time to the techniques that work best for me. On top of some 2000 hours of mat time, I could have another 4000 in drilling. But of course, drilling is boring compared to a regular class. Who can seriously dedicate 20-30h a week of their time just in jiujitsu only?

And there are black belt champs. I seriously wonder what their secret is. More drilling ? More rolling ? An even stronger mind ? Talent ?

Regardless, what unites the three black belts is their experience and ability to teach. The least common deniminator of black belts should be, in my opinion, the ability to learn and teach by themselves.

I wonder what my jiujitsu will look like in 5 or 10 years from now ? Some of the athleticism will be gone. I will have to rely even more on technique.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Mind-body problem, emergent property

Even respected neuroscientists, for example Rudolph Tanzi from Harvard, still struggle with the fallacy of division. They look at the brain with the latest tools available, learn all the current theories about how neurons function, find out some new stuff along the way, but still get confused, and that is just sad. They say consciousness cannot be encoded into fat and water and DNA, therefore souls exists, and we have a "life after death". The failure here is understanding what an emergent property is. Allow me to explain, using a simple car analogy, since everybody loves these.

Take an engine and a transmission, and put it on top of a frame with wheels attached to it. Congratulations, you now have a car. One of the car's properties, is that it can move on its own. In short, it has the property called "locomotion". Now take the four pieces apart, and look at them individually. Can the engine lomocote ?Nope. What about the wheels. Neither. What about the chassis ? The transmission ? Nope and nope. None of the COMPONENTS of the 'car' has the property of locomotion, but the CAR ITSELF does. Therefore, locomotion is an emergent property of the system that CANNOT be assigned to any of its components.

The same with the brain. No, you cannot reduce consciousness to individual neurons, or neural nets, or anything else. Consciousness is a property of a well functioning brain. Let's stop the bullshit please.

A second, slightly unrelated and much shorter refutation of the mind-body problem is this : how can something immaterial, that is, completely OUTSIDE of the physical world, outside of the planet system, outside of the galaxy, outside of the universe, outside time and space - how can such a thing ACT upon, take CONTROL of something material such as the brain ? How do you make that connection between what is OUTSIDE the physical world, and make it work with the physical world ? And no, you can't use energy, or dark energy, since both exist in the physical world.