Karate Confirmation Bias

Browsing through the vast amount of articles, clips and conversations on forums and Facebook groups about martial arts I have noticed that a significant amount of the material covered is influenced by confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is a fault in our thinking process. It makes us find and accept favourable information to confirm our pre-existing beliefs. Usually it is a belief that our [insert your style or system here] of martial art is superior to all of the others.


We have three major camps trying to discredit others – the traditional camp, the self defence / combat camp and the sport camp. There are as well cross overs and mixes between these camps all claiming that their stuff is the best. I have noticed only a handful of people who use critical thinking and accept facts as they are and do not try to stretch them to fit a pre-existing belief.

Martial artists display this behaviour when they research or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The bias is stronger for desired outcomes, emotionally loaded issues and for deep beliefs.

All of the camps tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their techniques or methodology. For example, selective biased searching, interpretation and memory have been used to explain opposing views and belief perseverance even when evidence for them is shown not to be true.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Due to the fact that we all have a similar physique – two arms and legs, there are a lot of similarities between martial arts. Yet  instead of finding a common ground practitioners often prefer to close their mind and look for “evidence” to support their superiority. In response to evidence provided to the contrary they discard given information. “I don’t trust books.” “I have never seen it happen therefore it does not exist.” “My master said this and that…”

New Microsoft PowerPoint PresentationI’m fortunate that at the beginning of my career in martial arts my teachers introduced us students to the concept of keeping an open mind and exploring other styles. Encouraging us to test, search and implement evidence from different martial arts. This has resulted in modifications in my Karate, where I’m constantly searching for better ways and implementing them. These modifications have come about as a result of influences from Wrestling, BJJ (sports camp) to law enforcement (combat camp) and obviously Karate (traditional camp) to improve my own efficacy.

I don’t see differences between martial artists but commonality and prefer to think about us as one Tribe rather than separate camps fighting each other.


About the author: Les Bubka is an experienced martial artist, personal trainer and therapist who specialises in posture, mobility and Karate.  Les works with a wide variety of clients including martial artists and athletes as well as those suffering with postural dysfunction or those who wish to improve their fitness and wellbeing

Categories: Philosophy

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