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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

Dunning and Kruger, Call Your Office

I posted this meme recently on the Stick Chick Blog Facebook page, and it was one of the most popular things I've posted in a long time.

It got shared a bunch of times, and I'll admit, I kind of expected it to hit some nerves.

It did.

I fully expected anybody who studies weapons, but especially knives, to commiserate. Serious weapons training is rare, versus dancing around with a weapon, which is very common. There's a lot - a LOT - of bad information out there about it.

Frankly, even the best information depends on a very small population of people who have direct experience - the rest of us, luckily, haven't had to face off with someone with the intent of killing us with a weapon of any sort. We can't reasonably test it out in training in a way that's 100% realistic, either. I wrote about this problem and why it vexes me HERE.

A few people took exception.

I can understand that.

Look, it's hard to be nuanced in a meme.

I posted that to be funny, and to poke a little fun at my grappling friends. Grappling (especially BJJ) has a reputation of their practitioners believing it's the only thing you need, and that being good at it trumps all other martial arts study.

The truth is that most grapplers don't actually think that and understand where the weaknesses are in their game when taken out of their specific context. Also, I have plenty of grappling friends who can and do study weapons seriously and absolutely, I would listen to their opinions on the subject.

I'm making fun of that small but loud contingent of grapplers who spam martial arts forums with the superiority of what they study and the inferiority of everything else (well, maybe boxing is okay sometimes...)

When asked "What if the opponent has a knife?", the loudmouth guy will claim that he knows how knife attacks always happen and that grappling has all the solutions you need to deal with it.

He says this, never having tested it, never having studied how knives even work at all.

I know it seems simple from the outside, and yeah, any idiot can stab or kill you with a knife. But wow, what you know intuitively and what you end up knowing when you train it are two different things.

That is my favorite "Simpsons" quote of all time, by the way.

Anyway, you don't know that until you study it seriously.

And THAT exact attitude is what I was aiming to make fun of when I posted that meme.

I am directly attacking the idea that martial artists - in this case, grapplers - who don't study knives seriously or even in a significant part of their training can lecture me, a person who DOES study knives seriously as a significant part of my training, about knife fighting.

If you are offended by this, you're probably exactly who I meant when I posted that meme. I'm glad you're offended, because you need to get off your arrogant high-horse.

Thinking that expertise or knowledge in one area transfers to others is a symptom of the Dunning-Kruger effect. This is the same sort of thing when a person who is well trained in one scientific discipline - say, astronomy - thinks that expertise automatically transfers to other subjects, like engineering or economics, on the same level as engineers and economists.

Or in this case, knowledge of one area of the martial arts (grappling) confers expertise on another (weapons), to the point that they think they are EQUALS to the people who are in that other area full-time.

I'm here to tell you, you're not. You're just not.

I do NOT claim to be an expert in this subject (knife fighting). However, it's not an afterthought that I picked up in some weekend seminar, either. I just study it as much as I can as part of my primary martial arts training.

I don't have to be an expert, however, to tell you that a person who studies knife - or any weapon for that matter - at little as 5-10% of their training has zero business lecturing the rest of us about knives and how knife fighting works.

Look, as a part of my training, I do study some grappling (very little). I do enjoy grappling videos from time to time. I grew up in a wrestling family - my Uncle was a collegiate wrestling coach - so I've had quite a bit of exposure at a high level to grappling concepts.

I do not presume to lecture people who study that stuff full-time how grappling should be done.

Maybe you guys who maybe train knife a couple of times a year at most and watch some videos on YouTube should do the same...?

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