Consider for a moment that expertise is represented by a wheel. In combat training, when a student learns a new martial art, they are adding new spokes to their wheel with each one representing a collection of techniques and their investment. Each spoke further strengthens the wheel.
The wheel is also a representation of expertise. Each spoke reflects the knowledge accumulated in a given style. The thickness of each spoke is represented by the time invested in that style, as a representation of the 100-1000-10000 rule.
This analogy can be translated to any academic discipline, trade, or sport – to explain an individual’s breadth and depth of knowledge. This can explain expertise in medicine, information technology, law, engineering, etc. It also helps to identify weaknesses that should be addressed to strengthen an individual’s wheel of expertise.
To round out this analogy, it’s important to mention the center of the wheel. This hub represents talent or natural instincts. A strong hub sets the groundwork for strong beginnings, but spokes are still needed to grow the wheel.
When applied to MMA spokes represent different martial arts. The main pillars of MMA are boxing, Muay Thai, wrestling and Brazilian jiu jitsu. The thickness shows the investment in perfecting the style’s techniques. The length of each spoke is the number of techniques acquired, otherwise known as degrees of freedom. The goal is to grow the wheel in equal measure, so that it’s balanced and strong. For example, if too many techniques are learned without traversing the 100-1000-10000 rule, then the spoke will be long yet thin. Investment in repetition will thicken the spoke. Likewise, focusing on only a few spokes (only one or two martial arts) will result in an uneven and unbalanced wheel.
Mixed Martial Arts is about building a strong wheel. If a spoke is missing then the strength of the wheel is compromised – meaning that there is a vulnerability in the student’s portfolio that needs to be addressed because a future opponent could exploit such weaknesses.
A master of the arts can be represented by many thick spokes and a large wheel – reflecting years of experience. When a student asks a question it’s up to the teacher to understand the student’s perspective and answer from that point of view. A master can see the wheel from the inside-out as well as outside-in, and reflect on the wheel in its entirety. A master can take a question from any perspective, and guide the student to an answer they are most likely to understand and absorb. A master has the ability to answer the student’s question from any vantage point.
Missing spokes are only weaknesses when exposed to an external force that identifies the vulnerability.
The wheel of expertise gives students
a 360° perspective
For example, wrestlers in their domain have weaknesses specific to their style, but this is only one spoke of the wheel. If a wrestler encounters a boxer, then their missing spokes will be revealed. Seen from a different angle – if a wrestler doesn’t even know the existence of boxing as an alternative fighting style, they will be oblivious to the strengths of that style, or the contrasting weaknesses of their own style. This awareness also allows the wrestler to “fight their fight”, meaning that in the absence of a boxing spoke they need to avoid strikes and manipulate the fight into a wrestling match. Mixed Martial Arts looks at combat in its entirety, and strengthen their wheel spoke by spoke.
Each spoke add to a teacher’s arsenal of knowledge. More importantly, it brings a more colorful range of perspectives to their students. The visibility of inter-comparison between styles helps to explain why one technique is inferior or superior to another.
About the Author
Gabriel Dusil has been a practitioner of Martial Arts for over twenty years. Originally he trained in the traditional style of Shotokan Karate. Gabriel has also trained under Sensei Martin “Sonic” Langley in the United Kingdom and currently trains with Karel Ferus in Prague at the Ferus Fitness Fight Club, fffc.cz. More recently he focuses on circuit training, strength & conditioning, and kickboxing.
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Martial Arts • Fighting Science Series
If you would like to read more articles in this “Yin Yang of Fighting Science” series, check out these posts:
• 1 • Yin Yang of Technique vs. Power
• 2 • Yin Yang of Speed vs. Timing
• 3 • Yin Yang of Fighting Styles
• 4 • Yin Yang of Technique vs. Instinct
• 5 • Yin Yang of Empty vs. Full Cups
• 6 • Yin Yang of Slow vs. Fast
• 7 • Yin Yang of Perception vs. Reality
• 8 • Yin Yang of Fear vs. Confidence
• 9 • Yin Yang of Threes
• 10 • Yin Yang of Burden vs. Privilege
• 11 • Yin Yang of Anticipation vs. Surprise
• 12 • Yin Yang of Compliance vs. Resistance
• 13 • Yin Yang of Attacking vs. Defending