For my science friends, you probably don’t have any idea of what Brazilian Jujitsu (BJJ) is or how it’s related to conducting science. My BJJ friends on the other hand, you have a clear understanding of what BJJ is, but you might not realise its connection to science.
In this short blog I want to explore the similarities between science and BJJ.
Throughout my life, I’ve seen people fall for bullshit and be tricked into believing things like the earth being flat, or that climate change is a lie that’s propagated by the illuminati to control the masses. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve fallen for some of these as well, for instance, when I was younger, I was legitimately convinced that we hadn’t gone to the moon. And of course, I used to believe that climate change was total bullshit made up by people like Al gore to make money of the rest of us.
In retrospect, the reason why I fell for these beliefs was not because I was stupid, but instead, I lacked the skill of deciphering bullshit from truth. This is similar to what I was like before starting BJJ. I used to think that martial arts experts could kill you with their Chi or touch down on certain parts of your body (pressure points) to dismantle you without any effort.
I remember as a kid watching Kung Fu movies and thinking that if I focused hard enough I could probably fly and fight in the sky like the people in the movies. This sounds ridiculous now, but at the time it felt like it was totally legit.
Once I started training BJJ everything changed. Bjj was different from all the other traditional martial arts, in that it was testable and falsifiable. In other martial arts, you would usually expect minimal sparring with the instructor or with other students. This was especially apparent in traditional striking martial arts such as Kung Fu. Consequently, there was no way of determining if a technique was actually effective or completely useless. It was all based on what people thought would happen.
Conversely, in BJJ no matter how old the instructor, students readily spar against their professor. Because of this, it becomes very easy to find out if someone is full of shit. A person in BJJ claiming that they have some magical deadly technique that can never be used because of its effectiveness, will always be met with scepticism.
Practitioners of BJJ would require a demonstration, and try to test it in many ways to find any weakness or error. They wouldn’t take it at face value. This is what I love about BJJ; it’s different from all the other martial arts because it’s testable and falsifiable.
Science is very much like BJJ. It separates what we want to believe to be true from what is actually true. Very much like how BJJ is an effective tool for combat, science is an effective tool for discovering truths. The scientific method is like BJJ, it enables us to find out what is effective (true) and what is ineffective (false).
Just like there are fundamental truths in BJJ (for e.g. mount is a superior position than guard), there are also fundamental truths in science (e.g. the universe is expanding, and the earth is not flat). We only come to realise these truths by testing what we think might work. Again and again!
The only way to ensure that you don’t fall for bullshit is to only believe what you can demonstrate and test. Without testing our beliefs, we will always be prone to falling for nonsense.
So the moral of the story is: “Check yourself before you wreck yourself, because false beliefs ain't good for your health”