I think a fundamental question to the future and health of this SE is how we will deal with answers from non-practitioners. I do not think downvoting alone is sufficient.


  • A specifically BJJ-related question is answered by someone who clearly has no significant grappling or BJJ experience.
  • Multiple answers that explicitly ignore the "legal in BJJ" part of the question
  • Answer is from a non-practitioner describing a technique from another style that makes no sense within the context of the style of the question

Every martial artist thinks their experience makes them an expert across styles. Unfortunately that's not true. These answers aren't just wrong, they're antithetical to the entire enterprise. Anti-experts are weighing in and getting upvoted by other anti-experts. On Stack Overflow, Would someone who knows only PHP be upvoted by extensively quoting an irrelevant section of a C# manual? What if their answer is about how the whole application should be in PHP instead?

We have to have some sort of "minimum relevance or experience" requirement if our answers are going to be worth anything.

  • 4
    How about downvoting?
    – user15
    Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 20:49
  • As mentioned, I specifically don't think downvoting is sufficient. It won't stop the answers from happening on nearly every single question. Also, a lot of people will be upvoting from the same anti-expert perspective. Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 20:54
  • Incidentally, I think we have a similar problem with "how does this work in karate" questions. Someone will answer within the context of their ryu-ha, thinking that it applies to all karate (or even all styles). It makes for a low-quality site, not just individual low-quality questions. Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 20:56
  • 5
    How about commenting? For instance, you made numerous incorrect claims about Systema in an answer comparing to Pankration, and in response I made comments alerting you to your errors, which were largely ignored. On a long enough timeline, comments and correct answers should give the question a proper perspective. There is always the (common) case that non-experts throw their two cents in on subjects outside their area (see all of Stack Overflow).
    – stslavik
    Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 21:11
  • @stslavik I'm sorry you feel that way; I modified my answer in an attempt to accommodate your response. In this case I would make the distinction between describing a style and detailing a technical answer within the context of a style. I don't need to train BJJ to know generally that it's about wrestling, choking, and joint locks, that at most schools it involves little to no throwing practice, and that most schools spar hard, in the form of grappling, every class. I believe I made a similar outsider's evaluation of Systema. Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 21:29
  • In contrast, I can't imagine me giving any useful input on a question about how to execute some Systema technique. But downvoting such an answer (if I did) is not sufficient, in my opinion. We may disagree on that point. Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 21:30
  • 2
    "Every martial artist thinks their experience makes them an expert across styles." There's one big logical fallacy right there.
    – user15
    Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 22:04
  • I would say it's an overstatement more than a logical fallacy, but you're right. :) Most martial artists, particularly most instructors and long-time practitioners. Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 22:12
  • 2
    @Dave - this site doesn't face challenges that are any different to the other sites on the network in terms of the proficiency or expert knowledge by the answerers. Bad answers can be adequately addressed by down voting or flagging.
    – slugster Mod
    Commented Mar 24, 2012 at 5:14
  • I find it funny you put in things about programing languages. It just shows how we found this site.
    – Russell
    Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 11:13
  • 1
    You do realize that Stack Overflow and Programmers.SE are made up of peers who happen to have experience dealing with certain problems. The teacher and learner very well may change places often. I think when it comes to things like martial arts and fitness, we want to change the definition of "expert". You are going to get a lot more out of this SE site if you realize that it's going to follow the same model as StackOverflow and Programmers.SE. Commented Apr 1, 2012 at 16:36
  • Request has been changed to status-declined as there's simply no way to enforce same-style answers. As with any answer, the person asking should verify its legitimacy before applying it.
    – stslavik
    Commented Apr 3, 2012 at 17:30

4 Answers 4


You are free to downvote and leave comments on answers that you feel don't address the question properly or are just blatantly wrong or bad. If you know someone who can answer the site, there is nothing stopping you from pulling that person in to answer it.

Stslavik pointed out that you've done the same and you've corrected your answer accordingly. Why not do the same for other answers you don't see as high quality? If you can improve something, then go ahead and take the time to edit the question or answer and make it better rather than dismissing it. Provide your own answer that is better than those if you like.

Just because you don't agree with an answer doesn't mean that it has no value to the person who asked the question or to other people reading it. Learning physical movements combined with experience can translate into other areas and disciplines as well (such as various sports activities). From what I see, people are trying to help each other by sharing their knowledge. I don't think you can fault them for doing this nor claim it is malicious. People might not have expertise, and certainly there are boundaries that should be respected. That doesn't mean that what they know is irrelevant.

I myself feel the same way as you in that I don't feel comfortable in answering questions about martial arts outside the ones I study. However, if there are questions about subjects that is very similar to what I do, I don't see why answering is such a bad thing. That is really a choice and responsibility left to the users, and it sounds like you want to take that right away from them.

You aren't obligated to respond to other users, but you do have the choice to participate in the direction of the site. I'm having a hard time understanding what you want to be done when you say there's an issue (and I'm not even clear on what it is -- is it with specific users or the system) but propose no solution or alternative and claim that the tools in place aren't sufficient enough. There isn't any alternative at the moment so you'll just have to make do with what's available right now. If people are wrong, they're wrong. I wouldn't fixate on that so much and instead focus on promoting and creating quality content.

  • I think an alternative would be a sitewide policy that would consider technical answers from nonpractitioners to generally be ill-advised or even verboten. It sounds like we just disagree on the applicability of one style's technical knowledge to another. Cheers! Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 22:15

As I see it, no.

After reading your comments, this is my view:

The Q&A system on Martial Arts Stack Exchange allows for a person, whether familiar or not, to ask a question requiring some level of experience to answer. The answers are community moderated, voted up and down over time to show how the community at large views that answer. Comments are available as a means for those voting one way or another to express their views as to whether or not the answer meets the standards of the community.

If you feel that the question is not receiving attention from a qualified expert, you may, if you've received the privilege, cast a bounty on that question to express why you feel it needs more attention. In adding that bounty, you can offer your reason as "Not enough experienced BJJ Practitioners answering."

The combination of down voting and commenting will draw likeminded, experienced answerers to similar conclusions, or to contrary conclusions. Overall, the majority will win out.

Finally, if an answer is completely horrible, and is irredeemable in its wording or content, you can flag to delete it as a low-quality answer. If the moderators can't determine why it's low quality, the flag may be ignored or marked as unhelpful; but likely if it's clear it may be removed.

Note that someone prefacing an answer with, "I'm not a practitioner of XYZ style but this may help" does not automatically make the answer useless; that's up to the determination of the asker as to whether the answer meets his criteria. For example, see the disagreement between Trevoke and I on "When Should I Run Away?". My answer was born out of my experience, but he did not agree with some of my premises; therefore, the answer was not suitable for him.

  • I think that your assertion that the site format will attract experienced practitioners is an empirical one. I predict that it will be proved wrong, much like on Fitness.SE, which has a dearth of fitness experts (though I think it's a swell site). Further, I'm proposing that the "standards of the community" that you reference be changed such that we generally devalue technical answers from non-practitioners. Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 22:19
  • 1
    And how do you propose to moderate it?
    – stslavik
    Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 22:24
  • Actually, I would argue that it's a systemic flaw in SE. In martial arts more than elsewhere, it's harder to evaluate claims (as discussed here: PDF) on their own merit. I would argue that we need to know the background of the person answering the question. (We, of course, have few good ways of verifying their background claims.) Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 22:28
  • But the short answer is, we make "experience in the same or a similar art" a standard for technical questions, and we ask people to follow the standard. Community expectations will go a long way. Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 22:30
  • As I see it, you have an overall problem with the way Stack Exchange works, correct?
    – stslavik
    Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 22:39
  • No, I am saying that the SE model is probably poorly suited to the topic of martial arts. Without community guidelines like the kind I'm proposing--"stick to your purview"--I think the site will not be productive. Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 22:41
  • 1
    I think "stick to your purview" is a poor idea. I compete in a regional cross-martial art competition. You learn a lot about martial arts in general observing the forms, one-steps, and sparring with people from other schools and disciplines. Putting blinders on and ignoring other martial arts is equally detrimental to you. Now, if you have questions regarding competition where there are legal moves and illegal moves, then make it clear in the question. Commented Apr 1, 2012 at 12:42

Fundamentally, I feel that there are only so many ways for a human body to move, and so the experience and background in one art can frequently provide assistance to someone who is operating in another martial art. This doesn't mean that it will automatically be applicable, but it is up to the answerer to try and translate between contexts if such is necessary to create an exceptional answer.

What's more, sometimes an answer from a different context–especially if it is labeled as such–can be valuable to the asker. I wouldn't want to chill that effect simply because of the odd low quality post.

When there is a problematic answer, SE provides five tools to help address it:

  • Downvoting. Particularly appropriate where the answer totally ignores the context of the question or is not particularly high quality. Preferably also combined with:
  • Commenting on a post. This provides the person some feedback on why you believe that it is not applicable to the question, or why you believe it is not a very good answer.
  • Providing a higher quality answer, if you are sufficiently familiar to do.
  • Proposing an edit, to try and improve the answer (or the question, to make the criteria more explicit).
  • Flagging, if it is a violation of the rules in some way or is bad in an unrecoverable sense.

As one of my answers was linked in the OP question, let me say this much:

  • Several days went by with no-one providing even a hint of an answer. The second answer was provided after I offered my advice.
  • I clearly identified myself as someone who does not practice BJJ, but practice another art.
  • After looking at the examples of the positions referred to in the question, I answered based on the knowledge that I have.

Now, as to my own personal opinion on a Q&A site, unless it is centered specifically around one style of martial arts, it would be out of character for this SE site to require people to only answer if they practiced the same style as the OP.

I can understand the concept of legal moves in any competition based martial art. If the goal of the art is to perform in a ring that has judges and a list of legal and illegal moves, then that confines the list of usable answers. If the goal of an art, or of the question, is for self defense, then you would be stupid to limit yourself to answers from only one art. There are several different martial arts, and the techniques and stances used are many times dictated by the environment and constraints where the art grew up. If what you are interested in is limited by the concept of legal moves state so in your question.

Even if there are things that you philosophically disagree with from one art to another, you still can learn from them.

So, if you believe the answer doesn't apply then:

  • Downvote, but please provide an explanation. It's a courtesy that allows the person who answered the question to revise their answer in light of the response. If the revision is OK with you, undo your downvote.

Believe it or not, some people do want to help and provide the best answer they can. Particularly when no-one else is stepping up to the plate.

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