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High Flyers Flight

Into The


by Hans Jansen op de Haar

What you see..
�You only judge what you see� sounds like sound advice for judges. But the rays of light that hit your eyes, and the brain concluding a "wobbly straight line" are different realities that will never meet! Actually �reality�does not exist either. Already the retina is abstracting, and your brain goes as far as only recognizing what has been seen before. It is simply impossible to avoid these abstracting processes.

This may look like a philosophical problem that has no meaning for judging sport kite flying, but it is closer than you think. If you take judging seriously, and most pilots do, then you should know what you know, and how that relates to what you think you see, otherwise judging is nothing else than reacting to some of the things happening!

Ain�t what you judge!
It is the third time you have seen this wobbly straight line in the same routine, but as soon as your neighbor judge says, �Those waves were far better the other day,� you will see it differently! Abstractions will take the place of what you observed; your brain will compare that with what you have seen before. You will judge what you know (or think you know). At best you will not have given your abstractions any names yet.  Very few people are able to retain in their memory five minutes of flying instead of a list of moves.

On the other hand, sometimes judging what you know (or judging based on your knowledge) is both unavoidable as well as necessary. You will never stand on the same spot as the flier, and only your knowledge about perspective makes it possible to judge a "straight" horizontal or vertical flight. Only your knowledge about a grid -- an abstraction of an abstraction -- makes it possible to compare "flying" with "flying a compulsory".

The first time I saw somebody fly a set of movements that later was named an Axel I could not follow every move the kite was making; things simply went too quickly. Now that the whole set is named it is possible, even for me, to distinguish between good and better performed ones. Without abstracting, or maybe even without a name, this would be impossible. But this means, of course, that a new (set of) move(s) will not, and cannot be recognized the first time.

The subject is ..
So how real is it to assume an "open mind"?
To assess what you "see" or have "seen", knowledge should be disregarded while looking -- as far as humanly possible. Whatever you have seen before in routines or compulsories, and whatever you can fly, or would like to be able to fly yourself, is of no importance. Even comparing the flying with a grid, or a held-up pencil should be avoided; comparing must wait until you re-see (rethink) what you have seen. Only then you might come close to having an open mind. It sounds impossible, and it is. But if you take judging seriously it is a goal to strive for.  At least the direction you are �looking� in might be better.

Not only is your brain limiting you in how to judge, sometimes the rulebooks do too. To judge �a kite touching the ground during flight� and conclude that the touching was unintentional and hence a �crash� requires more than looking at the kite! Sometimes only the waving for help by the pilot convinces the judges this really was �unintentional� -- so much for judging what you see!

Judging �originality� is solely based on knowledge; judging �daring maneuvers� needs at least knowledge of the peculiarities of the kite used, the weather and the ability of the pilot(s). If the wind picks up seriously during a competition, �daring� will mean something different at the end of it. The same goes for �taking risks� and both should not be a part of judging. But of course strong winds might give the pilot more opportunity to show how well s/he controls the kite, not by daring, risky maneuvers, but by flying well!

To be objective...
One should not forget the goal of the competition: to decide who is the best pilot. To do so, the way to compare pilots should be based on an agreement by pilots, and applied by judges (as long as fliers cannot or will not do that themselves). Pilots aren�t out there to please the judges! They have the right to be treated as the unique fliers they are (just like all the others), whether you like them or not.

The criteria set for competition may have changed over time; only good communication between judges and pilots can keep the two groups walking along the same line. Currently the main parts of the criteria are degree of difficulty, control (over kite and flying), solving the technical difficulties in compulsory figures, and using all technical means to show or at least suggest a unity between parts of the routine, or between music and routine. Nationality, friendship, family relations, etc., aren�t of course valid criteria.

If pilots want to use different kites and fly in different weather circumstances in front of different judges, judges should �filter out� the consequences of it, to maintain a fair competition. Keeping the circumstances as equal as possible, keeping things on the field as simple, predictable and efficient as possible goes without saying.

The goal...
To be objective as a judge is impossible, and every judge should be aware of the philosophical pitfalls. If knowing is so important, it might be important to know as much as possible. Judging often, not only sport kite flying, will help. Discussing what you have seen with judges and pilots might give a broader view. Watching pilots train and practice will show you the real difficulties (for that pilot, that kite, those winds). If you are a pilot too, forget flying when you judge, and forget judging while you fly. Flying and judging are two totally different talents!

A surprise is nice, but being surprised very often, as a judge judging kite flying, means you probably are presuming too much, since the surprise is most likely to be caused by the difference between what you expect and what you see. If �brainless� looking is so important, train your memory in keeping images, movements, whole routines. Try to postpone replacing the "picture" with the "abstraction" and try not to discuss anything on the field before you finalize your conclusions.

To have only winners...
Flying is fun, judging can be too. Participating in competition as a judge is by no means easy; taking it seriously most likely is the best way to seriously enjoy it.

Next time: scoring!

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