Bruce Lee is the man. I was cleaning up my external hard drive and I found a bunch of Bruce Lee videos I had downloaded a while ago and rather than do the work I was supposed to be doing I re watched them. In particular I remembered watching the video below for the first time years ago and thinking about its applications to debate. For those with short attention spans you can skip ahead to the 3 minute mark.
No style is how I approached debate when I was competing. It was completely un-ideological: whatever I thought would win (stylistically, argument wise etc) I would do it. This arose out of competitive, not philosophical, concerns. If your goal in debate is to win, then no style is probably the approach for you. If you do debate for misguided quasi political reasons, I don't know why you are reading this blog, but you can probably stop.
Even people who inherently understand the theory of this often are blinded by ideology. In the dartmouth podcasts on itunes there is one of John Turner talking about framework. In it he advises you to read the other sides cards to know their arguments so you can defeat them. I agree. Then he talks about how people who never go for politics have a hard time answering it because they don't know the tricks. Preach on brother. Then someone asks him what theory arguments you could make for why the plan should be the focus of the debate... This is where the turner train derails. He says it is difficult for him to do that because during his debate career he was so against it and it bothered him so much that people would make that argument. Cognitive dissonance to table 3. How is it possible that an argument you are unable to explain could bother you so much? Rigid style.
I judged a team whose coaches had "banned" them from going for conditionality bad because they did it too much. In this debate the other side dropped it in the block, but they didn't go for it because their coaches told them not to. Rigid style.
Many 2NC's take what they plan on going for in the 2NC. A smart 1AR then undercovers the 1NR arguments to spend more time on the 2NC, and the 2NC goes for those arguments anyway. Rigid style.
Many purely policy teams read a K in the 1NC and then don't go for it when the other team makes only 2 or 3 bad answers. Likewise K teams sometimes don't go for disads that are poorly answered because they have their heart set on going for fear of death. Rigid style.
These examples are fairly obvious, and I think in the abstract few people would argue that they are "mistakes". Mistakes that could be easily corrected, and yet they happen frequently.
"I have not invented a "new style," composite, modified or otherwise that is set within distinct form as apart from "this" method or "that" method. On the contrary, I hope to free my followers from clinging to styles, patterns, or molds. Remember that Jeet Kune Do is merely a name used, a mirror in which to see "ourselves". . . Jeet Kune Do is not an organized institution that one can be a member of. Either you understand or you don't, and that is that.
There is no mystery about my style. My movements are simple, direct and non-classical. The extraordinary part of it lies in its simplicity. Every movement in Jeet Kune-Do is being so of itself. There is nothing artificial about it. I always believe that the easy way is the right way. Jeet Kune-Do is simply the direct expression of one's feelings with the minimum of movements and energy. The closer to the true way of Kung Fu, the less wastage of expression there is.
Finally, a Jeet Kune Do man who says Jeet Kune Do is exclusively Jeet Kune Do is simply not with it. He is still hung up on his self-closing resistance, in this case anchored down to reactionary pattern, and naturally is still bound by another modified pattern and can move within its limits. He has not digested the simple fact that truth exists outside all molds; pattern and awareness is never exclusive.
Again let me remind you Jeet Kune Do is just a name used, a boat to get one across, and once across it is to be discarded and not to be carried on one's back."
While the above examples are the most prominent, there are many others that are as if not more egregious. The most obvious is insane counterplans, something like an agent CP combined with 4 or 5 advantage counterplans that is also partially plan inclusive. Every time I see one of these debates the aff spends a lot of time on UNWINNABLE solvency deficit arguments. Their only chance to beat these arguments are to
-go for theory- which they are either hesitant to do because they don't think the judge will vote on theory or because they are to lazy to write out answers to the 25 bs reasons the neg gave for why they needed international fiat, conditionality, and plan inclusiveness to balance out the first and last speech...
-impact turn the net benefit- more often than not politics- an argument they should have lots of impact turns to, but are afraid that since the neg gets the block they won't be able to win on them.
Both of these views are rigid and misguided. Lets quickly deconstruct each
A. Judges don't vote on theory- false. This belief comes from a few prominent judges over the last 2 decades being neg leaning on theory- meaning if the neg had a sweet case specific pic and didn't mess up pics bad they wouldn't vote on it. It doesn't mean that every judge in the country will refuse to vote on consult bad. A few short years ago a team won the Glenbrooks on Dispo bad, this year at that tournament almost every debate I saw involved the neg reading 2 CP's and a K all conditional. Now its possible that judges have radically changed in like 5 years, but I doubt it. Neg leaning on theory means judges give the neg a reasonable amount of leeway. Most judges do not think 2 counterplans and a K is reasonable leeway. (obvi there are exceptions)
B. Impact turning is hard- also false. If done correctly, impact turning is the easiest way to win on the aff because it allows you to strategically collapse the debate. Usually affs adopt the following strategy: win the case, win solvency deficit to CP, win defense on DA hoping to win the solvency deficit outweighs. Lets say the neg also extended T and you spend 1 minute on T in the 1AR, that gives you 4 minutes. Whats easier to do in 4 minutes:
-concede the CP solves the case, spend 4 minutes reading impact turns on politics
-Win the case, win a big solvency deficit, win a lot of defense on politics
Correct answer: impact turns. Even if you disagree with that example, the second strategy assumes you theoretically CAN win a solvency deficit. Against an insane counterplan (IC) this is just not possible. Accept it. Move on.
Here is the SP rule of thumb for dealing with IC's- if the CP text takes longer than 20 seconds to read, or includes 2 or more agents one of which is your agent, its time to go for theory or impact turn something.
"To reach the masses, some sort of big organization (whether) domestic and foreign branch affiliation, is not necessary. To reach the growing number of students, some sort of pre-conformed set must be established as standards for the branch to follow. As a result all members will be conditioned according to the prescribed system. Many will probably end up as a prisoner of a systematized drill.
Styles tend to not only separate men - because they have their own doctrines and then the doctrine became the gospel truth that you cannot change. But if you do not have a style, if you just say: Well, here I am as a human being, how can I express myself totally and completely? Now, that way you won't create a style, because style is a crystallization. That way, it's a process of continuing growth.
To me totality is very important in sparring. Many styles claim this totality. They say that they can cope with all types of attacks; that their structures cover all the possible lines and angles, and are capable of retaliation from all angles and lines. If this is true, then how did all the different styles come about? If they are in totality, why do some use only the straight lines, others the round lines, some only kicks, and why do still others who want to be different just flap and flick their hands? To me a system that clings to one small aspect of combat is actually in bondage.
This statement expresses my feelings perfectly: 'In memory of a once fluid man, crammed and distorted by the classical mess.'"
In the dogmatic thinking post I talked about people doing things over and over again because of habit and not critical thought. Another reason people do the same thing over and over again despite poor results is ideological: you will hear someone say something like "I went for T out of principle" or some such similar nonsense. At a basic level you need to decide are you in debate to win or make "principled" ideological stands. Most often this is self deception- you went for T because you were not prepared to go for something else, or because you didn't put the work in ahead of time to make your other strategy viable. Either way, your "fooling" only negatively affects you and your partner.
The last thing I would like to talk about is taking risks. Many people avoid doing something different because they think it is "risky". The problem is that their conception of risk is messed up. An example:
A friend of mine buys about 400 dollars worth of lottery tickets every year. He only spends a few dollars on them a week, but over time that adds up. When I suggested he just put 400 on black at a casino he scoffed at what a ludcirous idea that was.
In gambling (the only real use for math) the concept of expected value is discussed frequently. Expected value can be thought of simplisitically as the amount of money you should expect to win on a bet. If you flip a coin for 10 dollars a flip, your expected value for each flip is 5$, or .5(10) , your odds multiplied by your bet. This doesn't mean every time you flip the coin you get 5 dollars (how could it), it means that is your expected value.
In the lottery example , there is no lottery in the world where betting 400 dollars over the course of the year would give you a higher EV than putting it on black. But since it is only a few dollars at a time the risk is diffused over time, and it seems "less risky", though mathematically it is nonsensical.
Similarly, in debate I think people perceive a change from the normal course of affairs as "too risky". They would rather they keep betting 1 or 2 dollars a tournament as is their habit, then "risk" it on a new strategy. This approach may have some merit in the abstract- instead of deciding to go for the K for the first time in an elim, you may want to go for something you know. However, there are instances where the "habit" approach makes no sense at all (see above), at which point no matter how risky a change is, it has to have a higher EV than staying the course.