I'm worried about some of the questions that are being closed. I'm all for closing questions if they merit it but I'd hope we could exercise some caution when closing questions.

I've been a part of other StackExchange betas and this can get pretty nasty. So far there are two questions that have generated a lot of comments discussing their closure and I haven't seen a question about it on meta yet so here it is. The questions that were closed are:

Which martial arts focus on self defense? [closed]

Which muscles do I use to stand? [closed]

The first was closed as being "not constructive" and the second for being "off topic". The first question was one of the defining questions in the definition stage of this site so that's kind of upsetting. It doesn't ask for an opinion or a subjective evaluation. If the question was "Which martial arts focus on grappling?" does it also not belong here? If anything it could be made community wiki.

The second question got pounded for not stating exactly how it relates to martial arts. I have a question: Who cares? Are we so daft that we can't imagine how or why it might relate? I can think of a number of ways. I don't think it's an amazing question but why should people decide to close it?

We can't address these questions without addressing some other questions that are still open and don't have a single vote to close:

What's the best way to sew badges onto a uniform so they don't come off?

Whats the best way to stop a nose bleed quickly?

Whats the best way to get sweat stains out of a Gi?

So we have questions about sewing, nosebleeds, and stain removal that no one seems to have any problem with? Personally I have no problem with these questions myself but it seems a but hypocritical and I can't understand the mentality at play here. IF someone mentions some sort of relation to martial arts its on topic? All 3 of these questions ask "What is the best way to..." which implies that it's a subjective question asking for an opinion.

Side note: All 3 of these questions were asked by the same person which I didn't realize until I put this list together; this is not meant as a personal attack (although this person did vote to close both of the questions in question).

Personally I would hope that we can be more inclusive of questions. If a question is asked that the community here could reasonably be assumed to be able to answer, let's include it. I'd hate for this to be a site where questions have to fit a narrow mold to be allowed. People get very angry when questions they feel are legitimate get closed (as I can attest to). Why create a site that is going to be hostile to its own users? Are we worried that this site will turn in to a haven for fringe kinesiologists? What do we actually gain by closing these kinds of questions?

I propose that we consider things that:

  1. Have no relation to martial arts
  2. Would not be answerable by a martial arts expert

That's about it. I'm all for more questions, not less.

If you agree please vote to reopen the closed questions and reopen other closed questions that don't fit this mold. There is bound to be disagreement but the way the site is set up the active side wins.

  • 6
    You are forgetting an important aspect of SE which is that this site is for Q&A. Open-ended questions are not an acceptable format. Which martial arts is better for self-defense is an open-ended question designed for a debate. Which muscles do I use was not initially phrased for MA, thus I voted to close.
    – user66
    Commented Feb 2, 2012 at 5:48
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    You're adding words to the question - the word "better" was never used. It's not intended for debate. At worse you can saw it is more of a list based question better suited for community wiki (which I have requested). As for the standing question - my point is that we shouldn't require people to explicitly state the correlation if we can make the leap to correlation. That question was also edited to better state the relationship to martial arts for those who could't make that leap. Commented Feb 2, 2012 at 15:20
  • @Ginamin: +1 Well said. I feel it becomes a semantic debate when we're differentiating between literally the differences of "best" and "better" (the former clearly used in the 3rd sentence of the "Which martial arts focus on self-defense" question).
    – stslavik
    Commented Feb 2, 2012 at 16:52
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    I agree @stslavik and Ginamin, in that being a Q&A site we should try and avoid too subjective and open ended questions. But we need to be careful with closing questions that at first glance might not be directly related to martial arts itself, but instead lay in the peripheral, as in the practice of, history of and implementation of the art.
    – Swift
    Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 19:18

6 Answers 6


I would say that both of the topics in the linked questions are ultimately on topic, however the questions are in some respects poorly worded and could do with some tweaking.

Remember that the first few questions set the tone for the site and will be used as a template for future questions. Its really important that not only these questions be on-topic, but that its obvious that they are on topic.

Which martial arts focus on self defense? [closed]

This question has a very well written accepted answer which most importantly is useful for someone wishing to learn to defend themselves. With the assumption that the question of "how do I learn to defend myself" is on topic (which I believe it should be - a number of people will be attracted to the site for this reason), I propose that the question be re-worded to focus on the topic of the accepted answer (which is on topic) rather than being another martial art recommendation question.

Related meta discussion - Topicality of “What martial art should I practice” (and similar suggestion questions)

Which muscles do I use to stand? [closed]

From the title and first 3 paragraphs it would appear that this question is completely unrelated to martial arts - if this had opened with the 4th paragraph I think this question would have fared much better.

I think this question should be re-worde to emphasise the application to martial arts both in the title and early on in the question.

The reason why the other questions linked have remained open is because its obvious that these questions are related to martial arts and useful to someone practicing martial arts.

Ultimately I think that these questions were closed because of the way that they were worded, not because of the topic of the question, and in this respect we should err on the side of caution - if a question is on topic then there is no reason why it can't be an awesomely written on topic question :)

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    I for one would MUCH rather see my question get edited than closed. Perhaps that's the direction we try for - if a question can be edited to better fit with the specific format we are going for then take that approach before just closing. Commented Feb 2, 2012 at 15:45
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    Frequently editing a question to ensure topicality requires highly substantive edits that may change the question away from what the author was actually looking for. Usually it is going to be better to close and then the author can edit/flag for reopen/ask a different question as appropriate. Commented Feb 2, 2012 at 15:56
  • Closing a question and asking the person to rewrite it as a new questions means that you lose all the previous answers, clutter up the board with more questions, and still don't guarantee that your new version is good enough to avoid being closed, repeating the entire process. There is no easy way to ask people who voted to close to reopen. You would have to edit and hope someone pays attention. I'm asking is that we be slow to close (as opposed to quick). Instead of voting to close and giving a reason, ask the author to edit the question. If they refuse to then vote to close. Commented Feb 2, 2012 at 23:05
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    @RyanElkins: I think that a few of us are trying to take an approach that suggests the same thing reversed – That we be slower to ask, and quicker to close. That is, that the asker ensure that their question is a good fit for the community, and, if not, trust the community to moderate it appropriately. The end result is pinpointing higher quality questions, rather than scattershot hoping one question just happens to hit.
    – stslavik
    Commented Feb 2, 2012 at 23:20
  • Well, it will be interesting to see which approach wins out. I can understand your viewpoint, I just disagree with it. I would prefer the community to be more inclusive rather than exclusive. I feel this approach tends to alienate users. Commented Feb 2, 2012 at 23:31
  • And that's entirely fine. Personally I just want a place to ask and answer questions of substance. For the record, I think your question would have been a great question with editing. I just felt the level of editing it required to remove subjectivity and redefine scope would have been excessive, and would have led to this same disagreement, only over how much editing is too much.
    – stslavik
    Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 0:06

A lot of these questions are going to come out at a later time anyway, if they come out now they can be easily handled and answered in a controlled way. If the community decides later they are off topic then they can be closed but still left as references for the sure-to-come duplicates. I think we can afford to be a bit less strict to begin with because we won't have the same volume of noise that StackOverflow (and possibly some other beta sites) received.

We should start to build a FAQ before the site leaves private beta, and the guidelines and topicality rules for the site can be included in that FAQ. As a starting point we could incorporate some of the sample questions that were proposed during the Area 51 definition phase, and then flesh them out as the direction of the site solidifies.

Having said that, I wouldn't want to see a sudden rash of sample questions taken from Area 51 and posted here - our job is to post good quality answers rather than rep whoring and hoovering up all the easy questions (if those questions are transplanted over here then they should at least be CW).

  • Just as a side note: While the self defense question was one of the original defining questions I was the one that proposed it there in the first place. I do kind of wish they would automatically import those questions over to give a site a base to start from. Commented Feb 2, 2012 at 15:43

This is a good question.

My view is this:

A question can and should be voted to be closed based on the bare minimum StackExchange requirements. That is, if the question appear to be written in a way to draw opinion, is unclear, are overly localized, etc. then they have a problem in the format.

Being closed is not the end of the world, and not even the end of that question. Since the reason that it's closed is written below the closed question, the author has an opportunity to address the perceived problem and correct it, then vote for it to be reopened. If the community as a whole feels that the problem has been corrected, then the question should be reopened.

Setting good foundations help to build a strong community. Voting and commenting about reasons for a closure are not a personal attack, and should not be considered personal by any means. We do, however, need to keep a strict eye on what should and should not be acceptable so we don't end up like Yahoo!Answers's Martial Arts board with 90% of the questions being "Who would win a fight of X vs Y?"

Edit: To address the second point, you'll notice that these questions are being addressed on Meta – are these topics appropriate? We should leave discussions of these issues to those threads, and address the topicality of closed questions (the new topic) here.

Edit: I feel as though I'm not being very specific, so I believe I should address the individual questions brought up:

Which martial arts focus on self defense? [closed]

I voted to close this question because I felt that the wording invited and was clearly engendering the solicitation of opinion, rather than fact. This is one of the criteria of a question being constructive. I know this is going to be a tricky and touchy subject for this board, but so long as the rules explicitly state that questions of comparison without any basis in fact should be closed, I will continue to vote to close questions that I feel are engendering this sort of response. I will, however, always attempt to (as time permits) post my reasoning for voting such that the OP has the information available to him to make corrections necessary to get the question back to the proposed level. Even if, however, the question removes the subjectivity of the use of "best", we're still left with an extremely open ended question asking for an evaluation of thousands of different forms of martial arts.

Which muscles do I use to stand? [closed]

I did not vote to close this question; it was closed by the time I got to it. I did offer in comment a proposition in which walking and standing might relate back to martial arts (specifically the study of Nanba). I do agree that the way that it was written and organized made the question inappropriate for this Q&A.

What's the best way to sew badges onto a uniform so they don't come off?

This question is explicit to the martial arts community, and one that tends to be a problem in many organizations – attaching badges that an organization requires that just keep coming off. I see no problem with this being asked.

Whats the best way to stop a nose bleed quickly?

This has been discussed on meta: Are Questions About Treating Injuries Off Topic?

I will not rehash the discussion here.

Whats the best way to get sweat stains out of a Gi?

I feel this is a low quality question, and did propose some edits to it this morning that I felt removed the subjectivity without changing the overall spirit of the question.

  • The problem is that it can be tough to get a question reopened. People seem much more likely to vote to close than they do to reopen. For that reason I think we have to be cautious about what we close in the first place, especially if we feel they could be good questions with and edit. I prefer the idea of editing questions instead of closing them. If no amount of editing could get the original question across while being in the format of the site, then vote to close. Commented Feb 2, 2012 at 15:47
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    I feel it should be tough to get a question reopened. The question has significant problems if it was closed. It doesn't mean it can't be asked again in a way that clears up those problems either, exposing it potentially to an entirely new audience. This is a win-win. There often becomes a problem of editing and rolling-back when the edits required make too significant a change to the question; it's no longer the same question, and may be going in a completely different direction. In these cases, close.
    – stslavik
    Commented Feb 2, 2012 at 16:43
  • A question does not have significant problems it if it was closed - it only means 5 people thought it should be closed. You lose a lot of good information by closing a question and expecting it to be reasked with different wording (i.e. an edited version) - just think of all the answers/comments that get lost. Commented Feb 2, 2012 at 23:11
  • I'm beginning to feel like the argument sketch from Monty Python here. I say yes, you say no... Perhaps I miss-phrased: a question is closed because the voters felt that it had significant problems. Being closed does not mean the question is deleted. It means it's closed until those who feel the question has enough merit to be reopened organize as successfully as those who voted to have it closed. It's the organization and effectiveness of community management at work – the very reason this site takes the format it does!
    – stslavik
    Commented Feb 2, 2012 at 23:15

I don't feel picked on, I don't mind too much what happens with the questions, I'm just asking questions I feel are related to training, as these questions come about from my training and I'd love some good answers on them!

But if the community as a whole tends towards thinking they are off topic, that's fine too. We are carefully trying to find the boundaries. Martial Arts is such a dicey topic as it could/does cover MANY things.

and potentially the first question should of been community wiki. But then it gets a bit hairy about what constitutes self defense, and for different people some people think whatever art they are doing is good for self deference. That's a very broad question and I'm not sure you can get terribly good answers to it ( maybe )

The second question, probably shouldn't of been closed in hindsight, if it was what muscles are employed when throwing a punch, it would seem more relevant. But standing is relevant too.... I guess.

When stackoverflow started, there were tons and tons of questions that would be regarded as offtopic now but were very popular questions at the time. Most are community wiki now. We probably do need to tread a lot more lightly for starters rather than being too rigid.


Topicality is a huge thing, and especially now when the site is first starting to take shape, "is this relevant to the core mission of the site, and what is that core mission" is a very important question. There's going to be disagreement over what constitutes on-topic, but that's not a bad thing: The discussion is of paramount important. Something that we don't want is a topic that is too narrow or too broad, as both are bad in different ways.

So discussion is good (and this is the appropriate place for it, not in the thread), marking things closed that you think should be closed (or to reopen) is also good. A few of the questions that you bring up that don't have close votes yet have already been brought up on the meta as well, so despite the lack of a close vote the topicality is still under discussion.

My thoughts on each of these:

  • Which martial arts focus on self defense? [closed]

This feels very broad. Significantly so, and the sort of thing that illicits continued discussion rather something with any sort of definite answer. There's just too many martial arts out there to make a realistic stab at this, though Community Wiki may have been an appropriate solution.

I have mixed feelings on it being closed. I answered it and thought it was a mostly reasonable question, but it was a challenging question to answer appropriately simply because it was so broad and there's no categorical list. One of the first self defense martial arts I studied… involved a rapier, and you won't see it advertised as a self defense martial art anywhere.

It feels about one step from the level of "what martial art should I practice," the form of which a lot of other SE sites have struggled with and which the jury is still out for here. Actually, that would be a good separate point to bring up for a meta discussion.

  • Which muscles do I use to stand? [closed]

This feels a little too far from the question of "martial arts." It isn't that it can't relate–I can tie just about anything back to martial arts eventually–it is that it is more of a peripheral question. They aren't asking how those muscles change when you move into a stance, nor how to target those muscles for a purpose, they are simply asking… which ones get used for standing. Something that is neither core to the topic of the site nor the sort of thing I'd expect a trained martial artist who didn't study this topic independently to know. Rephrasing it or making it more targeted (which I would argue most of the other questions you mentioned are) could very well fix the topicality problem.

I'd similarly argue that a question that says "what muscles stabilize the patella" can be tied back to the question of martial arts (enough of us have or have had knee problems), but it isn't directly connected and can (and should) be made more topical by the asker to fit in with the theme of the site.


My .02 pennies...

  • Which martial arts focus on self defense? [closed]

As a person who voted to close the question, I feel it makes no sense (aka too broad and unclear), is erroneous in its foundations and dangerous from a self defence, safety and legal ways. If you could write a book about it, it is not a suitable question.

  • Which muscles do I use to stand? [closed]

As it stands, this should remain closed or be moved to biology.stackexchange.com as it's link to martial arts is tenuous at best. Yes, it is about semantics. Thus rephrasing the question to draw its link to martial arts in the foreground is needed. I vehemently object to the veracity of the first paragraph, but that is a different matter.

  • If you don't like a question then vote it down, don't vote to close. I think you're reading way too much in to my self-defense question, personally. It's pretty straightforward. Commented Feb 2, 2012 at 15:52
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    @RyanElkins: I feel that you're making this far too personal. Voting to close is based on the structures outlined in the FAQ. These two questions had problems that needed to be addressed and were closed. If you simply feel that a question is a poor question (which, arguably, removing stains from a gi might well be) then it's appropriate to vote it down. Often times, I do both to demonstrate both low quality and a problem in the question's structure.
    – stslavik
    Commented Feb 2, 2012 at 16:47

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