This study examined how feedback about the impact force of striking and kicking actions structures a workout in elite karate athletes. It shows that feedback guides the athletes toward optimizing their strikes and kicks by inducing more persistent exploration. The study illustrates how coaches can use feedback to stimulate the occurrence of creative actions in martial arts.

Three different coordination solutions for the same limb; Mawashi Geri (A), Mae Geri (B) and an Ura Mawashi (C). 

High skilled martial artists execute a large variety of functional movements, amongst which are also creative actions. The emergence of creative actions requires exploration, which either can be flexible (searching different techniques, or coordination solutions) or persistent (variants within a technique, or control solutions). This study examined how augmented feedback structures exploration and the variability and creativity of actions. To this end, 15 elite karate athletes performed two training sessions with a boxing bag that provides feedback about impact force. Feedback was available in one session only. Analyses of video-recordings showed that the athletes tended to repeat coordination solutions but increased variability in control solutions when feedback was available, and showed twice as many creative actions than without feedback. Retrospective self-confrontation interviews suggested that availability of feedback increased focused on optimizing their strikes. It is concluded that feedback on impact force guides the athlete toward optimizing their strikes and induces more persistent exploration. This result in increased control solution variability and creativity. These findings can help coaches interested in evidenced-based methods to enhance their athletes’ creativity and performance.

Van Woersem, N. (2019). Stimulating persistent exploration behaviour and creativity with augmented feedback in martial arts. Msc-thesis Human Movement Sciences. Amsterdam: Vrije Universiteit. [on request]