Sound bite - or resource?

Evening discussions after a long day of training -
I see this blog as analogous in its function.
Okay, so in recent times I've written some pretty long articles.  As a matter of fact, I'm going to start splitting some of them up (at least, where they deal with discreet issues permitting such a split). [For example, you'll notice I just split up the very long "There are no blocks" article, creating the new article "There are no blocks in MMA?".]

This brings me to the whole issue of "length".  What length should a blog post be?

I suppose the answer to that depends on what you think a blog should be about.

I incline to the general view that people read blogs (of the technical sort mine is!) principally for two reasons:
  • to gain information they do not already have; or
  • because it puts into words that which they already think but haven't fully analysed or been able to rationalise or explain to others.
One thing is for sure: people don't generally read blogs to change their minds - and bloggers shouldn't realistically entertain the notion that they will be "converting" people to their way of thinking.  Sure, I've read blog articles that have changed my mind on a particular topic.  But mostly I read stuff that intrigues and informs me ("I haven't considered / heard of this before") or that already matches my ideas ("I have been thinking generally along those lines, but I have never been able to express it so well").

I suspect the second  of these is really the one that has the greatest impact on us as readers.  Let's be frank.  If it expands our knowledge to some extent, so much the better.  But our primary motivator in reading something is simply this:
I know this is going to make some readers uncomfortable, but it is still the truth.  We repost memes on social media because they confirm our existing mindsets - not because they have persuaded us of a position to which we were formerly opposed.  Memes don't get created or reposted to "argue", but rather to confirm.

So, with that in mind, what is my goal in this blog?  Well, I have already had plenty of feedback that it confirms.  I get this often, and I won't deny that it is gratifying.  Who doesn't like the idea of hearing from others who share your thoughts?

But I never set out to write a blog of this scope and detail for such feedback.  If I had, the blog would comprise short posts of one or two paragraphs, memes and other "soundbites".  Obviously, mine is not a "soundbite blog".

No, the primary goal of my blog was, is and will remain, the first of the reasons previously mentioned: to inform, not confirm.

Initially, I started writing articles entirely for the students of our Academy.  Then my brother and I decided to make almost all our information publicly available.  Then I realised that the "articles on a website" format just didn't fit.  For one thing, updating the website was a lot more complex than posting on a dedicated blog interface.

So  I created this blog back in 2008 as a resource.  This means I purposely set out to be exhaustive in my treatment of different subject matters.  I wanted something our students could come back to and review at their leisure.  I wanted something that answered all the inevitable follow-up questions.  I wanted it to be the resource I never had as a younger student, hungry for technical, historical and philosophical detail.  I wanted it to be objective, well-researched, thorough and consistent.  And I wanted it to be about the subject that I love most: traditional civilian defence arts.

In a dialogue, issues can addressed as they arise.
On the net, you need to address them in advance!
Whether I have achieved this goal is for you to judge.  What I can say is that in attempting to do so, I have discovered the capacity of the internet to throw up every possible challenge to every single point one could possibly make.  That is okay if the challenges are logical; this is something for which I was prepared.  But it is a different story when you factor in every possible irrational challenge that can be made.  These are as unpredictable as they are flawed.  Yet often they can seem to be persuasive.  So you can't ignore them.  You have to address them - if for no other reason than to give your students a more complete understanding of the issues (and the flawed questions).

The challenges of which I speak are the internet equivalent of the lawyer's question: "When did you stop beating your wife?"  They assume so many variables so quickly that you scarcely know where to begin.  And just as you do, you get bombarded with another unexpected - indeed random - challenge of the same ilk: "And why is your penchant for fraud restricted to ebay sales?"

We can laugh, but this is really the calibre of argument.  Except that I have to deal with arguments like: "If "blocks" really existed, why don't you see them in MMA?  Ha - checkmate dude!"

The problems with this challenge should be obvious.  Like the fictitious lawyer, the question assumes many variables - from simple things like "blocks don't occur in MMA" and "MMA is the sort of fighting for which blocks were invented", through to an assumption that we are even talking about the same thing when we refer to "blocks". For example, do you mean the literal basics, and if so, aren't you forgetting that they are formal training methods for beginners?  And so on.

So forgive me if my essays get quite long.  They have to be to address all the arguments - from the plausible to the simplistic and spurious (yet seemingly plausible and highly attractive).

[There is also the small issue of Blaise Pascal's quote:
"I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter." 
as I discussed in my article "A sense of perspective: why (and how) I write this blog".]

Will my articles address the concerns of the "MMA generation"?  Probably not.  I'm not attempting to "convert" anyone to traditional martial arts.  But if someone interested in such arts wants to know the answers to the common, simplistic criticisms levelled at them, then I hope my articles are of interest.  And even if someone doesn't give a hoot about MMA but just wants to know more about the science behind traditional martial technique, I want them to give them the benefit of whatever I know on the subject.

If, along the way, these folks have their own thoughts/suspicions/theories confirmed, then so much the better.  But this will never be a "meme site".  It is intended as a resource.  The articles are intended to fit together like a giant jigsaw to create one, hopefully informative, picture.  Will the picture ever be complete?  Of course not.  Will it ever be entirely correct?  How can it?  But that won't stop me trying to achieve these things.

All this means is that the articles aren't going to be "soundbites".  They aren't "light reading".  They aren't going to be short "tweets" or "memes".  They are meant as a resource for traditional martial artists to come back to from time to time for detailed analysis.  Whether or not they meet this objective is not for me to say.

Copyright © 2013 Dejan Djurdjevic


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