Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Watching Fights on YouTube

Below is an excerpt from a post at Martial Journal. The author watched a large number of fights on YouTube and tabulated what he saw. The full post may be read here.

In a former life, I was a data analyst at a college. I spent a lot of time combing through huge databases for information. We grappled with big issues of why students drop out, when they are most at risk, etc. This job impressed upon me the fact that data is a powerful argument. I found that people’s assumptions about how our college worked were often completely wrong (one time, I had to explain to a department head that it was mathematically impossible for her students to graduate on time). Sometimes long-standing theories everyone just assumed were true, weren’t. To my frustration, when confronted with hard data that refuted their claims, many people just ignored them. Or worse, they would try and find holes in our data. Despite that, the research findings of our small, but vocal, team started to slowly influence policy decisions on campus. Ultimately, we had the truth on our side. The cold, hard numbers. For the people who never wanted anything to change, no amount of evidence would convince them. But for the people who understood that all organizations have to move forward, they listened.

It’s a trend that is well underway in industries across the world. Politics, Investing, Sports, Gaming, everyone is looking at the numbers.

Like many things, the martial arts seem to be a step behind. We were slow to adapt to the internet, social media, better payment, and student information systems. After all, martial arts predates all those things. We were here before them and we’ll be here after them. That’s often the attitude. In all my years of training on the mats, I’ve never heard anyone cite a legitimate study on fighting behavior. Because they don’t exist.

But they can and they should. The data is there, it just needs to be compiled. Despite us living in one of the safest times in American history, people are still getting in fights. And more than ever before, they are recording and posting them on the internet.

So I took an early pass at gaining some information on how street fights actually unfold. I wouldn’t consider my work scholarly since it isn’t peer-reviewed. But I would consider it far and away more comprehensive than what we have now. And much more verifiable than that one guy in the dojo who has “probably been in a hundred street fights.”

What I Did

I watched 154 fights on YouTube and entered each one into a spreadsheet. I probably watched close to 200, but I had to restart my experiment a few times as I fined tuned what information was worth gathering. As it turns out, fighting is incredibly chaotic and it was difficult to answer what I thought were basic questions. How long does a fight last? Well, that depends on how you define a “start” and “end” The first punch? The first push? How do you define a clinch? How do you define a knockout? For most of these questions I had to come up with a subjective, but reasonable, definition.

Why 154 fights? This is an important point: I basically stopped when it was clear that the data was not going to shift dramatically anymore. I would have loved to have kept going, but I have a day job, too.

All of the fights I entered were real fights, none of them were competitions. All of them had to have been recorded in their entirety. I recorded males and females roughly evenly. Most encounters were males versus males or females versus females. None of them involved on-duty law enforcement, just “normal” people getting in fights. Here were some of my big takeaways:
1) Fights often have no clear winner
2) Knockouts happen in the first ten seconds or not at all
3) Women always clinch
4) Bystanders usually let fights go on
5) Almost all fights will go to the ground and stay there

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