We live in the information age, for better or for worse. Those of us born and raised before the whole Internet thing still remember how seeking any information related to martial arts pretty much boiled down to magazines and books, while some of the claims presented in those were pretty much impossible to verify. Most of us dreamed about the universe where the information would be at your fingertips…
And it arrived! And very little has changed! It took me a couple of years to figure out – how is it possible that same old myths and misconceptions are still perpetuated to this day…we are only aware of even more of them. First, the world wide web is loaded with misinformation just as much as it is with good information; but second, even more important, it is now evident more than ever that information is not the same thing as knowledge.
On the most basic level, the information is intellectual, while the knowledge is experiential; the former gained by reading, listening, watching…the latter by doing. These two domains are not exclusive, but not necessarily inclusive either. And there is certain hierarchy here, in the sense that knowledge takes precedence over mere information.
Why? Well, because having true, deep knowledge of something means you already have the necessary information about it, and it has been fully integrated, processed and filtered. In fighting, it means you fully understand the value of certain techniques, tactics, concepts etc, and you can apply them with confidence when called for.
Now, while knowledge entails having information as well, the other way around is not necessarily true. How many times have you met a guy who could be spitting the technical specs about sport cars all days long, and yet utterly unable of driving one? Or, to be “closer to home” here, a fellow harping on who are the best boxers/MMA fighters of the day, without having ever spared for even a minute? Granted, they will gladly support their argument with a lot of information and facts, but we all know it is irrelevant in the end. Ask yourself – would you rather be someone who knows five methods and can use them in a fight, or know about fifty methods but can’t use any? Want to be an artist or an art collector?
Finally, knowledge provides the essential filters and criteria for taking a pool of new information and then separating wheat from the chaff, distinguishing the valuable information from junk, thus further expanding the knowledge. This is why we have the widespread phenomenon of keyboard warriors engaged in the heated debates over nonsense…because they don’t know any better. It is also why the experienced people will keep out of such debates, because they know better.
In the end, it is possible that two persons be experienced, have actual knowledge, and yet be in disagreement. However, there’s a world of difference between disagreeing and missing the boat altogether, i.e. learning from a debate or wasting time on senseless arguments. Be sure to know where things are heading at times…