Adapted From: Frank, M.A. (2002). Martial Arts: A Review, Physical Training, April 2002.
Expertise and performance
Several research studies have examined the differences between experts and novices in the martial arts to determine the factors that contribute to peak performance. A number of personality traits have been found to differentiate between superior and average martial artists. A 1978 study, Duthie, et. al., found superior martial artists were higher on the scales on defensiveness, self-confidence, achievement, dominance, endurance, affiliation, heterosexuality, exhibitionism, and autonomy. They were lower on the scales of willingness to help, being humble, and counseling readiness. The study concluded that the differences imply that martial arts training changed the personal characteristics rather than being a product of self-selection.
Williams and Elliott’s review (1999) of visual search strategy indicated that the most efficient search pattern during sparring is one with fewer fixations of longer durations. They found that during sparring matches, the more expert fighter’s primary fixation was on the opponent’s head and central body while using peripheral scanning of extremities, the hands and feet. The results indicated that the anxiety of competition caused an increase in search rate and an increase in the amount of time spent fixating on the periphery. The competition anxiety caused a decrease in viewing time overall and an increase in response accuracy. Under anxiety conditions, novices reduced fixation duration whereas experts increased the duration. Novices also tended toward more fixations and the number of fixation locations, which indicates that novices were more affected by the anxiety of competition than were the experts. The study concluded that perceptual skill in karate seems to depend on task-specific skills acquired through experience and that the skills are developed by exposure to the same conditions as those experienced during competition. Martial artists need to be taught to focus attention on central areas and use their peripheral vision to pick up on arm and leg movement. In addition, they need to learn to cope with anxiety.
Ferrari (1999) observed how karate students learned a new task. Ratings of their final performance showed that experts and novices remembered the same amount of new material. However, the experts' performance was rated higher, they were better at judging how well they learned the material, and they used the learning material in a more sophisticated and efficient manner. The author also found that 75% of the novices focused on the difficulty of the task as opposed to 40% of the experts and the experts focused more on learning strategies.
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