This research project is about creativity in combat sports. We study creativity from an ecological dynamics approach. Our basic argument is that creative actions emerge during an athlete’s varying attempts to satisfy the dynamic constraints. The larger the variability in the resulting movement repertoire, the greater the likelihood that the athlete produces creative actions.


Georgii Zantaraia, creatively escaping a throw

Bernstein [1], one of the pioneers of movement science, described motor skill as the ability to find adaptive solutions across circumstances that are never exactly the same. In fact, we all know that some athletes learn to successfully handle a wider range of problems across a wider range of circumstances than others; they are more dexterous problem solvers and tend to adopt not only more appropriate but also more creative solutions. We investigate motor creativity from an ecological dynamics approach [2], where it is argued that creative actions emerge from dynamic interaction between individual, task and environment. We understand creative motor actions as functional movement patterns that are new to the individual and/or group and adapted to satisfy the constraints at hand. In kickboxing, when hitting forcefully with the hands or feet, performance involves adapting to changes in conditions. For instance, with varying distances between athlete and opponent (or boxing bag), maintaining performance (e.g., high impact force) requires variability in the movements supporting a given technique. We argue that it is this increased movement variability from which new, creative actions emerge. In our research, we investigate striking and kicking actions in combat sports to examine how creative motor solutions emerge in the act.

  1. Bernstein, N. A. (1996). On dexterity and its development. In M.L. Latash & M.T. Turvey (Eds.), Dexterity and its development (pp. 1-236). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  2. Hristovski, R., Davids, K., Araújo, D., and Passos, P. (2011). Constraints-induced emergence of functional novelty in complex neurobiological systems: a basis for creativity in sport. Nonlinear Dynamics Psychology and Life Sciences, 15, 175–206. [full text]