Skilled performance requires adapting to the surroundings. In this book chapter, we address this adaptability by examining the role of movement variability in maintaining performance in combat sports, and particularly, for strikes with hands and feet. We provide research directions toward how performance optimization may be achieved by learning design that increases functional movement variability.

When conditions change maintaining performance (e.g., high peak impact force) can involve variability in the kinematics and kinetics (i.e., mechanics) of movements supporting a given technique or changing which technique is used. Thus, so long as performance objectives are achieved, increased variability at levels within and between techniques can be indicative of skill in combat sports and, indeed, physical activities and sports in general. In this chapter, we: a) discuss how movement system variability can be identified as a skilled response to variation in constraints (in particular to changes in the distance between individual and target prior to execution), and; b) address implications for experimental and practice design. In doing so, we develop a framework for addressing individual differences, including body dimensions and prior experience. We then integrate evidence that variability, both within and between techniques, helps the individual to maintain performance as conditions change.

Orth. D., Rein, R., & van der Kamp, J. (2018). Optimization as adaptability: How movement variability supports performance in striking actions used in combat sports. In: P. Morouço, H. Takagi, & R.J. Fernandes (Eds.), Sport science: Current and future trends for performance optimization (pp. 295-316). ESECS/Instituto Politécnico de Leiria. [full text]