Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Who is talented?

Oddly, an article on arstechnica got me wondering about judo and other martial arts/ sports.

There is a tendency by some people to run down sports as trivial. When I first won the junior nationals, I was 16 years old and I was very excited. I started judo at 12 and it was my first time at the juniors. My family is very focused on academics and was unimpressed. One person went so far as to say,

"Yes, I guess it's nice to be number one, but really, isn't that like being the best person in the country at biting bricks in half with your teeth? I mean, who cares? What difference does it make?"

There is this assumption among some people that real work, real talent involves making money or publishing scientific articles. Is that true, though? Did Bernie Madoff, who swindled hundreds of millions of dollars from people, did he have talent? Maybe. Was it a more worthwhile talent than being able to throw someone or teach a kid how to do an arm bar? I'd say he did more harm than good while at worst your average judo/ jiu-jitsu/ grappling instructor probably does a little good, helping people be a little healthier and more disciplined.

The article that got me thinking about all of this was about a Japanese anesthesiologist who was caught having simply made up the data in 172 papers published in scientific journals. If you can have made up your data 172 times before anyone notices and, according to the journals, it had no impact because no one paid attention to those articles anyway - how much talent do you really have?

When I review grants, I often see it stated that Dr. Seemingly Important has published over 200 articles in scientific journals. The articles all have titles like, "The understanding of the concept of two plus two by Cameroon toddlers".

Is the ability to write articles like that and get them accepted into the Cross-cultural Journal of Studies of Preschool Mathematics a more important talent than being able to pin someone so they can't get up? If so, why?


Anonymous said...

To throw someone on their head, hold them down and break their arm, not solely with strength but FINESSE...well, to each his own. People these days are so separated from the instinct we're born with, they forget that not so long ago fighting was not only common, but necessary for survival. Average Joes don't practice hand-to-hand combat; people who do are still a rare breed in my book. If society comes apart at the seams, it will be the boots on the ground that determine the survivors. Not Dr. Seemingly Important and his 200 articles. At the end of the day both are still talented. Talent has such a wide spectrum is it really fair to contrast and compare? There are frumpy people like Bill Gates who build impressive machines unmatched by most, and then people like Ronda whose athleticism is beautiful in form and function especially when snapping the limbs of others trying to do her physical harm. Talent is talent.

Clint said...

I'm just totally bummed that someone could look at an accomplishment like winning jr nationals (in anything, really) and just crap all over it like that.

Doubly so that it was someone in your own family.

Anonymous said...

This is sort of the nature of science especially if it was basic bench science. So much disparate work being done in so many different areas. Consider my own paper cited a whopping 3 times.

Anonymous said...

Greetings Dr. De Mars

That is why I'm preparing myself to live here:

I want to see my children choosing whatever they love to do for living. Doing what they enjoy, following their talents, not looking for what pays the most money.

I'm tired to see so many people stepping on each other because of money; tired to see engineers, lawyers and doctors that commit horrible fails all around me, just because they were told that their profession pays well. Not gonna say anything about politicians, cause I don't consider it a profession, it should be a civil obligation without any money reward. Here in Brasil we have professional politicians...this is totally disgusting.

Let me say something about doctors for example...There is more than one case, here in Brasil, that a doctor had made a surgery at the wrong leg or forgot cirurgical materials inside peoples body. This is just some of the absurds in this area. Some other people buy diplomas...Imagine being treated by such person, don't even dare to dream such nightmare...

People have the illusion that if you get more you will be happier, satisfied or relieved. Shame on them!!! They often finish being slaves of their money, not enjoying their lives, their families and the special people they meet along the jorney. I once saw a report about brad pitt and jolie's house...they have everything inside (cinema, beach, bowling, etc...) but... they have to live like animals inside a big cage! When they have to leave their house to do something they have to make one thousand strategies to escape from paparazzi's. That's crazyness in it's most essence. This only reinforce that the more money you get the less free you are LOL totally crazy. Oh let me say one more word about paparazzi's, they earn more money than childrens teachers here in Brasil.

I know that both Angelina and Brad are public people and whatever...but for the non-public people that works and gets a lot of money and get rich by their work the principle is the same, you won't be confortable to ride your lamborghini when people outside your car is hungry. You soon need to live in a more,and more, and more secured appartment or house because of burglary. One solution for the radicals is to live in Luxembourg on a castle with a big pit full of alligators throwing a cauldron of hot oil on burglars heads. LOL

Unfortunatly the majority of people is forced to chose their professions by the wrong reason: the money. That leads people crazy, making then depressed, ansious, with rage of another human beings. I don't want to walk on a street to go to the park with my grandchildren's and get hit by a car driven by a person with a stress like this.

---------------PART 1---------------------

Anonymous said...

----------------PART 2--------
More about money...There is, for example, a one hit wonder singer here in brasil that makes 25 shows by month and earns US$ 120,000 by show. It's a slap on the face of each person struggling to study and make his living as honest as possible. If the quality of his musics where like an Adele I woudn't blame, but it is the same and well know formula: sex, sex and sex (cheap to sell, not hard to make...). Stupidity squared !!! And with such an brainwashed melody that I sincerely would love to see some researchers studing the effect of those musics on human brains through an functional RMI. LOL, I'm not kidding! I think it would change the industry, could serve to make laws that regulates such atrocities. This paper could be published on Nature. Ok now I'm kidding...ROFL

Well.. let me conclude... Maybe one day I'll make the place I live better, I don't know, but as soon as my forces and will are I'll try to learn the most positive things from other cultures because in the country I live, and much others I've visited, I saw that no one cares if we live or not on a better world. My conclusion is that is up to us to choose were and how do we want to live if we don't have powers to change it...

What can I say to me? What a shame!! But what can I do alone??? The size of my world are the people that I can reach with my hands and words, and I'm trying to, but as I can see it takes lifetimes to change things...
The quote below retracts the situation on my country. Hope it's different on yours.

"But government in which the majority rule in all cases can not be based on justice, even as far as men understand it." - Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

God bless you and your family.

Sorry for my bad english.

Luiz H N Lorena - Brasil

plam said...

I'd say that it's about making the world a better place. That can include gaining more skill at, for instance, sports. It is true that sports have arbitrary rules and winning involves optimizing with respect to those rules, so that it sometimes ends up being sort of like biting bricks. But it's the rules that make comparisons possible and hence inspire people to become better.

It's also very hard to compare between different fields. I don't claim to be able to evaluate quality of anyone in a different field. Some people believe in bibliometrics, but they're also gamable. For research, it comes down to the ideas, and you have to know the field to evaluate the ideas. Sports have the advantage that you don't have to know the field to understand who won.

Making up fake data is not making the world a better place.

Anonymous said...

In regards to academic talent, there is something called the h-index, which tries to measure academic productivity. Productivity is measured by the number of papers published by an academic, and how many times it is cited by others. In that way, they hope to capture the impact research has on the scientific community. I suppose you could measure one's impact on the judo community by the use of a champion's/teacher's specific technique, or by the number of college degrees attained by one's pupils and/or their incomes, etc.


Anonymous said...

Ryan Bingham: You know why kids love athletes?
Bob: Because they screw lingerie models.
Ryan Bingham: No, that's why we love athletes. Kids love them because they follow their dreams.

dsimon3387 said...

Thats just wrong of anyone to speak to you like that Ann. My family always disrespected my accomplishments by not knowing my art...but even they would not speak like that!

Intelligence involves our body movement skills as much as cerebral actions...Kids grow neurons from things like Judo and other things which turn them upside down and around.

me phi me said...

Oh wow.... Ronda called out another person and had to flap her gums about someone else she doesn't like.
This time Phelps.

I like how she bashes that Kim Kardasian (sp) for being a bad role model and then Ronda repeatedly bad mouths people left and right. Giggles while telling stories about beating people up in movie theaters.

What a terrible role model.

me phi me said...

"My family always disrespected my accomplishments by not knowing my art"...
boo hoo.
So they don't like judo. Most people could care less about judo. "my art", sure, from your vantage it's "art" but most will say it's not art it's just some goofy grappling.

"Kids grow neurons from things like Judo".
Oh you know this? Impressive. You were able to track neural activity and growth. You were able to successfully map out neural patterns, then taught a child judo, went back and checked those patterns and discovered extra neural growth. Amazing!!

I love coming here just to watch people swoon over moon-face, brag up judo, and make silly claims like neuron growth because of training judo.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking of making a (half-joking) comment about how when you ask about the value of martial arts in a judo blog, you're appealing to a biased sample . . . then I read the comments and found that there is apparently at least one person who doesn't like judo but still takes the time to come here, read the blog, and make derogatory comments. So perhaps it's not as biased as I would have thought.

Personally, I think that the idea of working hard to achieve a goal has value for kids whether it's judo, programming, or pretty much any other (non-harmful) activity.

Anonymous said...

Ronda is not the face of judo, me phi.

I know from experience that most judo players are not violent people. It's a sport we enjoy.
The way Ronda's acts is not indicitive of the mindset of judo players in particular. You must remember, there just happens to be some mean and violent people in the world. I'm sure you can think of many mean and violent people that never once did judo in their life. See?

Enjoy the sport and ignore Ronda. My comment is in no way justifying the way Ronda acts at all.

Yes, she says some very vicious things. Case in point when she was on that video game show and she was quoted as saying:

"I think I am the most dangerous unarmed woman on the planet. [Looks to audience] I could literally kill every single person in this room with my bare hands if I had them one at a time. I wouldn’t do that, but I’m just saying, I could do it."

Any reasonable person can admit that is the comment of a messed up mind. But the fact that she does judo and says that stuff doesn't mean that one causes the other.


Anonymous said...

Jeez give the girl a break, she's 25 years old!

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that people still adhere to the Cartesian mind-body dualism that separates out physical accomplishment from intellectual accomplishment. Both rely on increasingly hard work for success, but both are intrinsically enjoyable due to the efforts exerted. While extrinsic rewards (medals, publications, letters behind one's name, fame, money) are certainly valuable in both combat sports and intellectual efforts (such as academe) - what is truly valuable is the residue of the effort (pride in having pushed ones boundaries, the respect of others).

Indeed, a very strong argument could be made for the importance of combat sports (which is a from of rough-and-tumble play) for the intellectual development of individuals. From coaching high level college rugby for nearly a decade, I saw these driven individuals move on to advanced degrees and professional success at disproportionate rates compared with those students I was an advisor for at the graduate level. I also saw them act like idiots as they were kids in their late teens and early to mid-twenties (as I did when I was their age). But they certainly were not thugs, and they certainly were not idiots.

I would venture that combat arts such as judo (and rugby) lead to intellectual excellence in many people due not only to the hard work (talent is hard work + potential) but also due to its nature. Many activities in the educational arena, and far too many sports, involve knowing highly constrained roles/activities and implementing them. Combat sports such as judo (and rugby) involve not just basic skill sets, but also being able to recognize and process information and alter behavior appropriately. In other words, it is a higher order activity physically and intellectually. And it is the best way to learn - by playing.


S.S.J said...

"Jeez give the girl a break, she's 25 years old!"

Let's not give a me phi me any reason to confirm his/her bias. Ronda's actions are nothing to be proud of. You can appreciate the sport and her accomplishments without acting like her outside-ring behavior is no big deal.
In that interview she should be lucky that no further charges were pressed with her thumbing her nose comment "oh yeah, my attorney told me to say I was in fear of my life" after she admitted to grabbing one of the boys and punching him in the face repeatedly. She told the whole story with a nasty sneer on her face.
I thought Johnny was joking about the "I could kill everyone in the audience" comment but there it was, popping up on website after website.

I'm sorry I don't want it to seem like I'm siding with me phi me. His/her actions on this blog have been disgusting. But a bully is a bully. My son is in 3rd grade and he has to deal with a bully of his own. I had a chance to confront that bully after school and he acts with the same "what are you going to do about it" attitude that I see Ronda with.

Why is it so wrong to call a spade a spade?

Ronda said she wants her sister to have a good role model but I'm sorry - you can't act the way she acts and then wonder where all of the role models went.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Oh come on. You're just saying that she said she could kill everyone in the audience? I smell BS. You didn't post any link supporting this.
Now one would say that 'umm hey, just so you all know I could kill you all in a fight'.
That is just too laughably stupid. We get it!! You don't like Ronda. So much so that you'd spread lies. Now you tell me. Which one of you is the weird one?

me phi me said...

Don't say "Oh come on" when you don't seem to have a clue.

If you doubt it just youtube "rousey" and "attack of the show".
She looks at the audience and says:

"I think I am the most dangerous unarmed woman on the planet. I could literally kill every single person in this room with my bare hands if I had them one at a time. I wouldn’t do that, but I’m just saying, I could do it."

That's demented. She wasn't joking around, she said it very "as a matter of factly".

And now her mom makes a blog post saying "judo isn't appreciated enough... waaah waaaaaaaah". Well, when you churn out people who are as emotionally messed up as Ronda you really can't blame people for thinking your craft isn't as important as that Dr. who makes research papers.
And then for you people to swoon over her finesse of hurting other people by snapping their arms.... you're all just as warped in the mind.

Sylver said...

Nice post. I also find it funny that people consider medicine to be hugely important and yet dismiss sports as being something for people who have nothing better to do with their time.

Some drug that might help someone feel a bit less bad (at the expense of disrupting a number of normal bodily functions) is considered a "serious" matter, whereas sports which shape your body, greatly improve overall health and fitness to enjoy life tend to be looked down as a somewhat frivolous pursuit.

Of course some things are more important than others, but to excel in any domain is worthy of praise.

@Me phi: One has to wonder why you spend time reading this blog, given that you apparently have no respect/interest in judo and consider the blog author to be barely sane... yet you come here, read and spend the time to comment... Trolling much?

Al B Here said...

I had considered crafting a response of some sort after reading the nonsense written by some of those commenting about Ronda, but then I remembered a solid piece of advice:

"Don't feed the trolls."

Anonymous said...


What you don't seem to realize is that Ronda WAS bullied. When I say give the girl a break, it means just that. Realize this, she is growing up, people make mistakes as they do this. It's called living. she is no bully and frankly I'd love it if my sister looked up to her. she makes her own way and that's what is important. She is building herself the best way she can.

Anonymous said...

Ronda was bullied so she gets to act like a bigger one back? How does that make any sense? She threatened to kill innocent people in an audience because she said "I could".

25 isn't young. If she's acting this way at 25 then there's little hope she'll ever grow up.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, Ronda is a wonderful role model. Tells olympians to "bring condoms" to the Olympics in the same breath she criticized Kim K for the same thing: .hypocrite.

She tells an audience she could kill all of them one on one if she wanted to.

Is hypersensitive during interviews if anyone say something she interprets as an insult. Gets bitter that Phelps didn't want to hang out with such a violent person as herself.

Comments about past opponents should be thankful she didn't ignore the tap and snapped their arm "because I easily could".

Yeah, one he'll of a role model there.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Very interesting comments. It was not my point to say that "judo does not get enough respect" but rather to question why some accomplishments are considered greater than others.

I think the definition of talent is far more subjective than objective.

As for Ronda saying she could beat up everybody in the room - she was merely stating a fact. I work with a lot of computer programmers and developers. I have a lot of respect for my colleagues, but they would not be, as a general rule, that tough to beat up. They would be the first to agree.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Very interesting comments. It was not my point to say that "judo does not get enough respect" but rather to question why some accomplishments are considered greater than others.

I think the definition of talent is far more subjective than objective.

As for Ronda saying she could beat up everybody in the room - she was merely stating a fact. I work with a lot of computer programmers and developers. I have a lot of respect for my colleagues, but they would not be, as a general rule, that tough to beat up. They would be the first to agree.

Anonymous said...

No "Dr", she said she could, if she so wished, to KILL everyone in the room. Warped minds think that way.

But I am seeing where she gets it from.

Its odd to see an adult man talk about "oh yeah, bro...I could totally beat up or kill, with my bare hands, everyone in the room." to see a woman act that way?

Well maybe you can appreciate why some think your "art" lacks the worth of those who use their mind. If it spawns people like Ronda bragging about beating people up in theaters, saying her opponents should be thankful she didn't ignore their tap, or saying she could kill innocent people with her bare hands...then I don't see how that's a good thing.
But again, I might be blaming the wrong thing. I'm sure judo by itself doesn't warp a person's mind. That explanation probably hits closer to home.

Anonymous said...

Haterz gonna hate.

jcp said...

Society certainly doesn't reward advancement of different strains of skills equally even given the an equal amount of effort put in to developing them. Also, how society rewards those skills has little to do with what actually benefits and advances society. I'm sure there are actors that make 10 times as much as some brain surgeons.
As to who is talented or skillful, I think that a measure of how skillful someone is at something could be how many learning hours it would take the average person to replicate that mastery.

As to Ronda's interview. I went and looked up up online. It was light hearted, full of bravado and funny. That's what it was supposed to be.

Al B Here said...

Like I said before: "Don't feed the trolls."

Dr. AnnMaria said...

You, Mr. B Here, are a very wise person.

Anonymous said...

Because of MMA popularity, Ronda has now a great chance to teach people about judo. She's already taught a lot about the physical side which is great. Now that shes earned the ears of the audience she should start teaching about the values too: being tough enoug that you can respect your opponents, be friends with them and still win them in a fight, practising and competing for the mutual good for all of us etc. Judo is built on good values. I'd be thankful if Ronda paid it back to judo now by living and teaching those values.

Anonymous said...

And say congrats to Kayla if you see her! I don't know her but I feel a little part of her joy now.

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