What Is The Dunning-Kruger Effect?

As defined and modified for the Kung Fu community: The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people wrongly overestimate their knowledge or ability regarding the effectiveness of their Kung Fu in a real fighting scenario.

This tends to occur because of the general Kung Fu practitioners' lack of self-awareness, which comes from the lack of real, non-compliant sparring training, which prevents some Kung Fu practitioners from accurately assessing their own skills.

Why Do Some People Think They Know More Than They Do?

Dunning Kruger Effect Chart

One type of overconfidence, called "my 師父 Sifu says", occurs when someone is exaggeratedly certain that their answers are correct, only because the Sifu they are learning from, said so - but have no concrete, scientific, or empirical evidence otherwise.

These individuals may seem highly competent and persuasive due to their apparent confidence. They are often driven by a desire for status and power and the need to appear smarter than the people around them.


Why Do Some People Overestimate Their Competence?

Ip Man Moy Yat Chi Sao

Chi Sao training is a semi-compliant drill, not a real fight.

Chi Sao culture in Wing Chun Kung Fu, for example, has overtaken Wing Chun training methods and has become the de facto judgment of one's Kung Fu skills, rather than actual full-contact sparring.

Chi Sao or sticky hands training when applied in other martial arts terms is simply the act of drilling pummeling such as in wrestling or jiu-jitsu.

Becoming a "master" at Chi Sao is equivalent to saying you are a master at pummeling over or under someone's arms or shoulders.

Being good at Chi Sao is a kind of overconfidence, and refers to the discrepancy between someone’s skills and their perception of those skills.

People who overestimate themselves frequently engage in wishful thinking (LARPing - Live Action Role Playing) with harmful consequences.

If someone overestimates their capabilities, they may take dangerous risks and overextend themselves beyond their limits, like thinking Chi Sao experience equals fighting experience, instead of actual full-contact fighting experience against competitive, non-compliant opponents.

Why Do Some People Believe They Are Better Than Others?

Xu Xiao Dong knocks out Tai Chi Master Lei Lei


Anytime someone believes they are more skilled or knowledgeable than others, they are engaging in overplacement.

This form of overconfidence can lead a person to take unnecessary risks (e.g., challenge real fighters who have competitive fighting experience) because they believe they possess superior knowledge of Kung Fu forms or Chi Sao skills, but not actual fighting skills.

Overplacement occurs most frequently in people with low abilities who lack the competence to judge their skill level accurately; it is associated with an egocentric perspective and narcissism.

Self Awareness

On the flipside, true martial artists or masters of the styles they've studied, know that even with many years of dedicated training, sparring, competing, etc. - it doesn't automatically mean that they are invincible or unbeatable in every single fighting or self defense scenario.

Truly skilled martial artists have self awareness, thus they know that even with great fighting skills, if they had a choice, they would avoid fighting or violent confrontations altogether.

This is because they understand their own skills, have spent decades working on their crafts, and have nothing to prove.

How To Avoid The Dunning-Kruger Effect in Kung Fu

To avoid falling prey to the Dunning-Kruger effect, Kung Fu practitioners should honestly and routinely question their knowledge base and the conclusions they draw, rather than blindly accepting them.

They can challenge themselves and start to spar full contact with other Kung Fu practitioners as well as Boxers, Sanda Kung Fu practitioners, Muay Thai fighters, Jiu-Jitsu fighters, and Mixed Martial Arts fighters to pressure test their skills.

Individuals could also escape the trap by seeking others whose expertise can help cover their own blind spots, such as turning to a non-Kung Fu practitioner for advice, sparring, or constructive criticism.

- Dynasty Team


January 17, 2021 — Dynasty Team


Eddie said:

Actually the far right end of the DK effect should be a sharp slope downward, where you say “Holy cow. I can’t believe I thought t knew anything.”

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