Here is my fear: people hide behind English because they do not understand the question being asked. How do you teach someone to do a technique? You might say "Now I'm going to teach you the small elbow wrap", but you DEFINITELY say "Grab my wrist".

LANGUAGE IS SUBJECTIVE. English is not a good language to describe martial arts. There are no good languages to discuss martial arts, because everyone has their own expression, every language has their own description, every school talks about something different.

What does 'stacking' mean to you? I've encountered at least three meanings that I can quote off the top of my head, two of them martial-arts-related, and they are vastly different one from the other.

I asked a question about Daito-Ryu which illustrated my point so elegantly and so beautifully that I feel it stands on its own. If you read the chain of comments, you will see that not only have I narrowed down the topic of my question multiple times, but I have in fact narrowed it so much that a moderator insisted that it became subjective, which is exactly the problem I want to avoid. I tried to play nice by reusing the language that was given to me, and suddenly that language became too narrow because it was one person's definition.

In addition, some of us learn martial arts from Russia, France, Japan, China... We may not even know the same word for "open hand with fingers all together and straight out and thumb tucked in", and someone may tell us that is an incorrect definition of shuto because I forgot to mention that you pull back on the thumb and extend on the pinky finger to obtain the right kind of tension.

Assuming that someone cannot understand what is in a video is exactly the same as assuming that someone cannot understand the English in someone's question.

Do we need to know what Mikhail or Vlad are saying, when they are speaking Russian and explaining the concepts of the Systema strike? Sure, that'd be nice. Do we need to know what Mikhail or Vlad are saying, when they're not saying anything and -showing on multiple people- how the strike works? We don't. Because we can see it.

Did people learn from teachers who SPOKE to them? No. Traditionally, they were SHOWN something, and practiced it. Then they were corrected.

The ideal solution is for me to post this kind of video. It's an instructional video. It shows a few applications based on the opening technique of Isshinryu's version of Chinto kata. It has the WONDERFUL advantages of being by an American and having English as well as a demonstration of every part of the movement being explained, so I can point at a single part and ask what that movement does. It has the disadvantage of containing the answers, so there's no point in asking the question.

Are we also going to insist that people who do not speak English well (English is my fourth language, and only because I don't count Latin) must pass the TOEFL, or prove in some way their ability to communicate in English, before we can ask questions? (I am referring here to the following quote from an answer: Dismissing the idea of using words shows bad communication skills, and not even trying is much worse.) Yes. Not trying is bad. But dismissing the idea of using words does not necessarily show bad communication skill. That is a conclusion you can only take if you don't take into account what we are trying to communicate.

Let's take a simple example of when English (or Japanese) fails, which is taken from the Bubishi. Yes, I am cheating, because I am talking about potentially spiritual concepts. Wait.. Am I cheating? Well, I don't think it's relevant to this question.

A person's heart is the same as heaven and earth.

The blood circulating is the same as the moon and sun.

You can read more about it here. If you press the link, you will notice I did not give you the translations given in the website. Because they're translations. And because the concepts are spiritual and indicate things that words cannot describe, things that even the Chinese, with their extremely imageful language, could not pin down. Other examples: non-action, or The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.. Actually, as it turns out, the West has a very similar concept, with the god that is bigger than you can comprehend (which means words cannot explain it).. But now I am REALLY digressing off the main topic, though I am certainly still making my point.

Now, let's be fair. sometimes you don't need a video. This video is a great example of something you can explain without a video. Let me tell you, so you don't have to click. And when you click, you'll know exactly what you're watching, because I told you. This is a video that shows at multiple speeds low, middle and high blocks in a fairly culturally traditional karate style. It says that first when the strike comes, you move off the line and back, then you parry with a hand, then you counter with something (many examples are shown).

On the other hand, sometimes you need a video. Because describing the earlier example of DaitoRyu as "Okamoto-sensei is kneeling. An uke grabs his wrist. Okamoto-sensei lifts his hands, then the uke writhes in pain. Okamoto-sensei brings his hands down, then the uke falls to the side and rolls" will unfortunately lead to the "They're faking it" answer, which is incorrect. And the video CLEARLY did not help, but NEITHER WOULD HAVE THE WORDS, because the person answering clearly is not familiar with this particular technique. Unfortunately, the words would not have tipped off anyone to what technique I meant unless they were familiar with Daito-Ryu, but with the video, someone who has the right training can understand, see and put some words that will satisfy the question and qualify as an answer.

TL;DR Video is sometimes a better medium than words.

  • Video embed is enabled on a site-by-site basis, per meta.stackexchange.com/a/104189/168108 If you explain clearly why and how videos would suit MA.SE perhaps you could convince The Powers That Be to do so here as well. Commented May 14, 2012 at 18:34
  • @DaveLiepmann what does "clearly" mean? One paragraph? An essay? I'll fight tooth and nail for this to happen, but I'd prefer making sure I'm not being sent with a flower and an ideal against machineguns.
    – Anon
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 19:19
  • 1
    "Clearly" means revising that second paragraph to make an argument using facts, assertions, examples, logic and persuasion, instead of its current stream-of-consciousness. Commented May 14, 2012 at 20:07
  • @DaveLiepmann I shall do so. Thank you.
    – Anon
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 20:18
  • 1
    You have thoroughly lost me in a sea of words. Further, I think that your penultimate paragraph is 180 degrees from correct: your text description is superior in all ways to the video. (Quasi-related: I don't have to be familiar with the 5-point-palm exploding heart technique to know it's bullshido, just like the Daito parlor trick. I do have to be familiar with that type of parlor trick, which I am.) Commented May 15, 2012 at 3:09
  • @DaveLiepmann I thought you wanted me to make an argument using facts, assertions, examples, logic and persuasion.
    – Anon
    Commented May 15, 2012 at 3:11
  • 1
    Yup. Whenever you're ready. This is just longer and more rambling. By "make an argument" I meant, "clearly and concisely get your point across without tangential detours". Commented May 15, 2012 at 3:13
  • @DaveLiepmann I think everything I've said relates to my point. Would you be able to point me at one (just one, I should be able to extrapolate the others) place where I've made a detour?
    – Anon
    Commented May 15, 2012 at 3:16
  • Since I don't know what we're discussing at this point, my faculties are insufficiently capable to do so. Commented May 15, 2012 at 3:19
  • @DaveLiepmann please let me know if the title of the question is not helpful in explaining what I am asking.
    – Anon
    Commented May 15, 2012 at 3:32
  • 1
    For those who are interested in YouTube embedding, please make a new meta post and a list of questions that would benefit it. Bicycles just had it turned on, and I would look at this answer as an example. Remember the caveats that come with it which I pointed out (and linked) in my answer.
    – user15
    Commented May 15, 2012 at 18:03

4 Answers 4


I am not against having videos embedded or linked in a question on this site, but I also want to see good communication here. While videos and images can help demonstrate or convey an idea, they are not by themselves easily searchable or discoverable. They should be used to complement what you are trying to describe in words.

A video link by itself also creates an extra step for a user to gather the information necessary for an answer. It would be due diligence to put more effort into a question that otherwise might be viewed and flagged as a "low quality contribution." You don't want to encapsulate the entirety of the question's context within the image or video or you could result in a problem similar to what Japanese Language and Usage has.

A still photograph can be set up in a way to convey a certain meaning or idea or can be left open to interpretation. The same can be done of film and video. Captioning a set of illustrative actions or poses better communicates the ideas of to other people so that we all have a mutual understanding as we do this by using a common written/verbal language. Movement can be a "language" in itself but isn't universally acknowledged (think about beginners new to martial arts or something physical) versus using English across the globe.

Dismissing the idea of using words shows bad communication skills, and not even trying is much worse. Without the framing of verbal or written constructs, these things are not as accessible, and you would alienate people who might be interested. I also noted in a comment on the original question that this would also help prevent linkrot (in the case the video is removed) or if users do not have access to YouTube (like at work, geographic restrictions, etc.).

For a site like Musical Practice and Performance, having SoundCloud and YouTube embedding makes sense in the place where text (barring hand-notation) cannot sustain itself. Over on Fitness, there is no YouTube embedding. Robert Cartaino posted a concern about video embedding (not necessarily saying "yes" or "no"), and Fitness has done fine without it so far. Bicycles has also requested video embedding which has also met the same response, but now has video embedding after a good and convincing argument was made about how it would benefit the community.

If you would like to make an argument for video embedding, you are welcome to do so. In that regard, I would gather as much community support you can for it so it doesn't look like a single-user request. The basis of having video embedding should benefit the larger community in general and should address a substantiality that text cannot provide. For Martial Arts so far, I'm leaning on it as not being a necessity.

  • +1 for "an extra step for a user to gather the information necessary for an answer". In most cases, questioners should have done the basic research of finding a name for the technique they want to ask about. Commented May 14, 2012 at 20:05
  • "Movement can be a "language" in itself but isn't universally acknowledged (think about beginners new to martial arts or something physical) versus using English across the globe." --- Isn't this a website for experts?
    – Anon
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 20:19
  • Matt - attempting to explain the technique is hard. It relies on someone else knowing what I am talking about and being able to fill in the gaps in my understanding. If I could explain the technique, I would not have to ask the question. Please, feel free to convince me that the previous sentence is wrong, because if you do, I will have learned something of great value about myself and my art.
    – Anon
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 20:21
  • @Trevoke You can only go so far in explaining what happens as you mention so it would end up being high-level. Sometimes that's all you can do, and I wouldn't expect anyone to dig more deeply when trying to learn something. That doesn't mean what you ask isn't valuable, but some critical thought might make someone realize something and prompt a better response than just relying on a pure visual. Don't get too hung up on being too detailed in your question. It helps for sure, but my response was to say that words, not video, is what should be used for communication on Stack Exchange.
    – user15
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 20:50
  • 1
    @Trevoke Your question now is better than it originally was. The other mods have already commented on it, and the guidance was meant to narrow down that specificity in the video and how you could improve asking your question as stslavik has enumerated.
    – user15
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 20:57
  • 1
    @Trevoke Yes, we do want to be a site for experts, but communication on Stack Exchange shouldn't have to resort to videos. Again, I will repeat that it can help in conveying your question, but you don't want to lose the context entirely in a video by itself. Doing only the latter would set a precedent that wouldn't be better than other Q&A websites or resources.
    – user15
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 21:07
  • @MattChan Ah, I see your point. You just took it to the extreme. I understand now. Well, listen, can you humor me and give me an example of how you would ask the Daito-Ryu question without the video, since you say we should not have to resort to videos? It'll help me figure out how to relay these kinds of ideas.
    – Anon
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 21:09
  • @Trevoke I'll get to it when I can since I have some things to attend to at the moment. I may just edit your original question instead of cluttering up the comments here.
    – user15
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 21:13
  • @MattChan Thank you. As far as embedding, it's now been completely removed from the question, as I also do not see it as a necessity. The focus has now been changed to using videos as a medium to support an argument and convey information.
    – Anon
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 21:20
  • let us continue this discussion in chat
    – Anon
    Commented May 15, 2012 at 2:15
  • @Trevoke What's the point of talking about using videos? Does that require action or CPU cycles on anyone's part, or are we just bloviating? Commented May 15, 2012 at 3:11
  • @DaveLiepmann Maybe you're right.
    – Anon
    Commented May 15, 2012 at 3:12

Given that most marital arts are expressions of motion, then video is one of the best representation of motion in a digital medium.

Though words make a good backup for the things that are hard to see, the subtitles, things that might be obscured, like a subtle movement where the person open up their hip joint just a fraction to make another move easier, etc etc.

It would be great to include it, it would be good if it was embedded without having to go off to another page.


@MattChan has a very strong answer to this question, and I'm with @DaveLiepmann in that I could take or leave it, so this isn't an agreement or disagreement, but rather a concern (unrelated to @RobertCartaino's concerns).

Using video embedding as a question or answer tells the answerers very little. In the original case (@Trevoke's question about Daito-ryu), the question accompanying the 10-minute-long video amounted to little more than "What's going on here?" (Granted, this was altered into a smaller section and a much more friendly question, for which I'm greatly appreciative).

There is an abundance of video material out there, some of it decent, most of it absolute garbage (occasionally even purposely so).

If we are to answer questions based on videos, the asker must be compelled to offer us insight into what he already knows or is assuming so we have something from which to draw some basic commonalities – If I respond to a question of a wrist lock from my point of view, it is unlikely to mesh with your understanding, since I have an experience of feeling the unique strain on my body parts that you may not have ever felt. If I start listing anatomical resources, then, while accurate, I may not be writing to the best of your understanding.

Each day we have new users viewing your question for the first time. Even if I knew you, and I gave you an answer to your skill level, what good does that answer do the new user? Being able to express your views and receive correction on them is a much more user-friendly way to ask and answer questions.

Ultimately, even if video embedding is to be allowed, this does not change the fact that the question or answer must be able to stand on its own without the video – they should act as statues, not as pillars.

  • I agree, and would want this enshrined formally, similar to the policy against raw links. We should enforce either a quote or a summary, lest the post be deleted as low-content. Commented May 21, 2012 at 21:24

I could be convinced to allow video embed. I could also be convinced not to.

Either way, I see absolutely no need for SE to implement video storage of its own. Linking to Vimeo/YouTube/whatever is plenty.

  • Video embedding could be useful if we (the community) make a good argument for it. See my comment on the original question.
    – user15
    Commented May 15, 2012 at 18:19

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