Posts Tagged absolute dedication

VIOLENCE IT’S NATURAL LET IT BE.. Part 1

6 VIOLENCE IT’S NATURAL LET IT BE

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956.

Having spoken about the path and life of a warrior, it’s relevant that I include a chapter on violence and aggression, I do not want this to dissolve into a story of evil and the good fight to protect the innocent, however it is important that we at least have a fleeting glance into the dark side of human nature. Ultimately my book Volitional Attention Training is about the ability for humans to fight and behave in a manner that confronts violence and the science involved in training and teaching others to have that same ability. It’s also important that we understand what we are training for, as violence covers a huge and diverse spectrum of human behaviour, just like our own perspectives are different given the experiences that shape them, violence is different depending on the culture and the mechanisms that drive it.

To some, any violence is wrong, any aggression is wrong, evil has to be banished from our lives forever, they sit firmly on the fence that believes God sees all and that one should not do harm. This is certainly not going to be a chapter on religion and violence; instead I will focus a little more on the evolutionary explanations for violence within the species homeo-sapian.

During previous writing within my book, I introduced Hobbs to the reader and his short statement on the nature of man, this helped to set the scene on why man undertakes violence and the reasons for such actions. Violence in itself is a vast subject and one that has had many books dedicated to the subject, what sticks in my mind is a story that was first introduced by Jainism, a religion traditionally known as Jaina dharma, originally from India. Jainism teaches that the path one should follow is one of non-violence and peace towards all living things, the story is about a king who was once trying to understand how people saw things in the world. He invited five blind men to his palace, he then asked each one to touch an elephant and then to describe what they felt based on their experience. The first touched the trunk and said “elephants are like snakes” the second one who grabbed the tail said “no, to me it feels more like a rope” the third felt the side of the elephant and said “it feels like a wall” the forth put his arms around the leg and said “elephants are more like pillars” the last felt the ear and said “elephants are more like winnowing fans” Hardy (2011). This analogy was also used by Rory Miller in his book Meditations on Violence, to put over the simple fact that violence means different things to different people and that it is a vast subject.

The first thing that should be done is to categorize violence, this will enable us to approach the subject from a specific viewpoint. There is no doubt that many may disagree with this, however we have to start somewhere. Violence has two very basic categories that can then be broken down into further subcategories, a project in the making is the categorisation and explanation of these, so I will not dwell too long here. One area that we will need to cover is why? Why do humans kill? Not only do we kill other humans we also kill in some way most other members of the species ‘Animalia’ all creatures great and small, as well as the plant and ecosystems that supports all life.

Category 1 Social Violence.

Social Violence (SV) encompasses all the violence that as a social people we have come to accept as part of the behaviour of humans. In this category we find all types of sport that involves human aggression, boxing and MMA are the most popular due to their media exposure. We have violence within the community in which we live, especially when it involves a fight or aggression towards another individual, and although not a comfortable subject, aggression and violence by the young from very early ages until they reach adulthood. There are some cultural differences that will become apparent but in the main that covers a lot of violence.

Category 2 A Social Violence.

A Social Violence (ASV) is everything that is not in the social category. The type of violence that usually provokes a violent reaction is found in this level, here we find War, murder, rape, sexual abuse, killings that involve mutilation, gross, graphical use of blades, genocide, infanticide, what is interesting is that many of the words that we use to describe killing end with ‘cide’. This word is again taken from Latin, it is used as a suffix that means “a killer of” or “a person or thing that kills”.

Cultural Excuses

As a species, we are undoubtedly violent, however this propensity to violence is within some cultures considered normal, it is only what could be called “civilized society” that considers violence to be unhealthy and immoral. Countries that consider themselves to be civilized are also the very same countries that have, in some cases, the highest amount of recorded crime. The U.S for example has arguably the highest crime rate in the world and although this may have seen a slight drop in some years it still remains high and has started to escalate. People commit all types of violent acts against animals, plant life, property and even themselves, this writing will only be concerned with violence against other members of the human species and let’s not forget that often violence is carried out by more than one individual, it can take the form of organized violence by a group or gang, all the way to violence committed by the state, ‘War’

Depending upon how severe we class violence and also include aggression, we may find that harmful behaviour also falls within this category. If we are destroying the environment we are also, by default, killing other humans as a result, drought, pharmaceutical discharge, unsafe food, are we not all contributing in some way to this type of violence?

Violence regularly features as a bi-product of a game, within football in the UK violent fights often continue well beyond the finishing of the game and into the streets and pubs of the local area. Not a night goes by where the local or national news is not reporting on violence. It pervades our homes through the box in the corner of the room invading like a swarm of locus; it seeks out young and old with no care for the consequences, by portraying violence within children’s cartoons and entertainment in general, which includes video and computer games. Is it no wonder that our society is still a violent one, having said that according to Gardener (2008) in his book the Science of Fear, we are living in the safest times throughout the whole history of mankind?

Evolution

Darwin introduced the concept of evolution by natural selection in 1858 and from this time man has developed theory upon theory as to what processes have enabled humans to become the dominant species on the planet. One of the supporting arguments is that living beings tend to produce more offspring than the environment can effectively support with its natural resources. The result of competition means that violence has its place in providing a means to resolve conflicts between those that have resources necessary for survival and reproduction and those that don’t. This trait for violence would, according to Darwin’s theory, select those that have the capacity for violence over and above those that do not, therefore over thousands of years of evolution stone age man became more and more adapt at bringing violence to bear on his competitors in order to survive and have the resources required for reproduction.

In his book Selfish Gene, Dawkins (1976) describes the individual, as a selfish machine programmed to do whatever is best for its genes as a whole. He puts it in very clear language, to a survival machine, another survival machine which is not its own child or another close relative, is part of its environment, like a rock or a river or a lump of food, it is something that gets in the way, or it is something that can be exploited, it differs from a rock or a river in one important respect, it is inclined to hit back, because it too is a survival machine that holds its immortal genes in trust for the future and it to will stop at nothing to preserve them. Natural selection favours genes that control their survival machines in such a way that they make the best use of their environment, this includes making the best use of other survival machines, both of the same and of different species. With this in mind it is no wonder that mankind became so adapt at the tool of violence, as in its simplest form this is exactly what it is, you can also now begin to see how this behaviour begins to show itself in our very young children, this I cover in more depth both later in my book and within this blog.

Before I move on, it’s important that violence in children is put into perspective as it would seem that this wiring for violence is inherent in every child and begins to show itself very early during the terrible twos. According to Pincker (2012) the psychologist Richard Tremblay has measured rates of violence throughout the normal lifespan of humans, rather concerning is his conclusion that the most violent period in an individual’s life is that time when they are two, we may have expected this period to be in adolescence or young adult hood, but no, it was when we were hardly old enough to even talk. The usual behaviour shows itself as hitting, biting, kicking and general moody behaviour, this trend of violent behaviour then begins to slowly decrease throughout the infant’s early years. It is therefore of little comfort that these typical children are not capable of wielding any physical tool of violence or else we could see a high number of two year old, on two year old, killings.

The process of natural selection has to also have the ability to pass traits on to future generations, if this were not the case, we would never have adapted to our environment. What this means is that there has to be a mechanism to pass genes on with, this is achieved through heritability and first shows itself during that all too well known stage of the terrible twos.

The blank slate theory was once popular, it was originally believed that parents or any significant caregiver could harm their children by mistreating them, which of course is absolutely true. It was the philosopher John Locke who first proposed the idea that any child could be molded into whatever person he desired, politician, soldier, scholar, this theory became known as the “Educationalists” view and considered that every child born was a “blank slate” and as such they were intellectually and morally clean with no preconceived ideas or knowledge.

This understanding that a child was neither good or bad was at opposite ends to the popular religious views at the time who considered that a child was born inherently bad and that their sins had to be beaten out of them, subduing them to the rod and will power of their masters. A child’s nature therefore is easily manipulated during its early years and those that are close to them have the ability to affect intelligence, social skills, mental abilities and personality. This has been discovered to be not true, however due to later studies that researched separated and adopted children, it was found that they mirrored their peers in values and social identities, indicating that social interaction helped develop these children according to the doctrines and culture of their caregivers, not of their parents. Pincker (2012) states that studies of adopted children showed that they ended up with personalities and iQ scores that are correlated with those of their biological siblings but un-correlated with those of their adopted siblings, this confirms that adult personality and intelligence are more a result of genes than of social environment. What has this got to do with violence? Well there is a theory that violence has a genetic marker and that it is inherited rather than learned.

The above is a short extract from my book Volitional Attention Training.

References

Dawkins, R. (1976) The Selfish Gene. Publishers, Oxford University Press.

Gardener, D. (2008). The science of fear. Published July 17th 2008 by Dutton Adult.

Hardy, G. Great minds of the Eastern Intellectual Tradition. The Great Courses. University of North Carolina at Ashville, Yale University. Downloaded 2014. Publisher The Teaching company (2011).

Pinker, S. (2012) The Better Angles of our Nature. Why Violence has Declined. Published by Penguin Books 2012.

Solzhenitsyn, A, I. (1973). The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956. An Experiment in Literary Investigation. Published by Harper and Row Publishers Inc. (1974).

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Breathing for Life and Combat

A short extract from my last book Volitional Attention Training, hope you enjoy.

Sensory Acuity

Sensory acuity Acuity occurs when individuals train certain senses and behaviour to a degree of expertise, defining what makes an expert in a certain activity is difficult as the parameters for measuring expertise are vague. Time and experience, might be one measure, however I have already discussed the possible errors that can occur in teaching and training behaviours that could be seen as maladaptive to your field of expertise. In general, sensory acuity requires training in a particular field and can involve all five basic senses within the human body. A chef hones his ability to define taste and can distinguish the difference between many different ingredients; a perfumer has the nose to sniff nuanced fragrances and a superlative sense of smell, providing the individual with the ability to identify scents with precision. A musician has the ear to create orchestral masterpieces; a blind person the ability to decipher a closely arranged multitude of dots on the surface of paper and interpret them into words, and an artist has the ability to see colours and composition, to create a visual masterpiece. Today, modern scientific understanding of the human body and the 5 basic senses has expanded the number of senses within the body, there is now no longer just the big 5 and depending upon what you read, the new number of senses range from the standard list of 5 senses to 14 and 20 different senses. A short definition needs to be understood in order to provide us with an understanding of why this number has now been significantly increased. To be able to sense something both within our bodies and in our environment requires a sensor of some description and depending upon its function, will mean it has either one specific job to do or it gathers a multitude of incoming stimuli. For example, your eyes detect light through two different types of sensors, ‘rods’ work in low-light and detect light intensity ‘cones’ require intense light and detect colours, there are three types of cones, one for each of the prime colours. So although sight falls under one category, there are two senses that make up the one and one of those is subdivided into three. Our skin is the barrier between ourselves and the world around us and as such is one of the main sensors to incoming stimuli and has five different types of nerve endings that are independently sensitive to heat, pain, itch, cold and pressure, they are responsible for providing us with a sense of temperature, pain, touch and itch. Our sense of smell can bring on a flood of memories that effect our emotions and moods also known as our olfactory system and is part of the brain’s limbic system, an area associated with memory and feeling. Smells can evoke strong and vivid memories that are capable of activating the body’s reflex system to protect itself, it’s just like the wild cat with its nose in the air detecting its prey and any potential danger from smelly humans. Within your muscles and joints, there are sensors that provide you with awareness information as to where your body parts are within space and time. These sensors also allow control of movement and tension that enables complex locomotion and co-ordination skills, this internal sensor system is discussed in greater detail within the chapter on Neuromuscular Programming. Having the ability to be mindful of your internal and external states will provide a degree of self-regulation over your body, training particular sensory acuities will also allow for a heightened awareness in certain situations. As a professional, either in the field of security, police or the military, training a heightened sensory acuity that enables faster responses to potentially life threatening situations should be on the list of required skills to perform your job effectively. This method of training will help enhance your ability when exposed to real time encounters. Volitional Mindful Attention is a skill that should be trained alongside any practical skill set, the difference is that you need to pay attention to sensory acuity to help you survive and respond to violent and aggressive encounters and not, as with most meditation practices, relax you to a state of stillness within the mind and your body, although this is not a bad thing, as long as it’s done within the correct context, going into a relaxed state may not be ideal when having to deal with an armed aggressor.

Training our attention

There are specific regions of the brain that research has shown to be active during meditation. “Buddhist monks who do compassion meditation have been shown to modulate their Amygdala, along with their Temporoparietal junction and Insula, during their practice. In an FMRI study, more intensive Insula activity was found in expert meditators than in novices. Increased activity in the Amygdala following compassion-orientated meditation may contribute to social connectedness” Wikipedia (2013) Amygdale. Here we find evidence that science has been able to bridge the gap between mystic meditation by monks and the actual effects that this type of self-regulation has on the brain, let’s look at some of the practical methods of meditation. Methods of Practice, Pranayama. Certain types of meditation and yoga practices use Pranayama breathing; they advocate the practice of volitional breath control. This type of breathing requires a practitioner to inhale, retain and exhale quickly or slowly. Yoga experts consider this type of breathing to be an “intermediary between the mind and body”. Previously I identified the word ‘prana’ and referred to it as the ‘life force’ or energy that all humans and indeed many would argue, all living organisms have. Breath is responsible for the intake of oxygen, which then via the blood stream disseminates this energy containing substance to all parts of the body, depending on the consumption requirement. The brain requires approximately 20% of the total energy of the human body which compared to its size is a very large amount. There is a direct connection between the ‘prana’ or energy of breathing and its effects on energy in the body. Cellular metabolism (reactions in the cell to produce energy) for example, is regulated by oxygen provided during breathing”. Yoga practices a slow control over the breathing process in order to generate a greater feeling of energy and relaxation throughout the body, to control the body states, to focus and clear the mind and to become aware of the internal working of the mind and body. “Pranayamic breathing, defined as a manipulation of breath movement, has been shown to contribute to a physiologic response characterized by the presence of decreased oxygen consumption, decreased heart rate, and decreased blood pressure, as well as increased theta wave amplitude in EEG recordings, and increased parasympathetic activity accompanied by the experience of alertness and reinvigoration” Jerath (2006). Jerath also states that pranayama breathing has been shown to positively affect immune function, hypertension, asthma, autonomic nervous system imbalances, and psychological or stress-related disorders. Investigations regarding stress and psychological improvements support evidence that pranayama breathing alters the brain’s information processing, making it an intervention that improves a person’s psychological profile. This evidence points to a clear process that can be trained, enabling individuals who are exposed to difficult fear producing situations, to control both psychological and body states that could severely impact on performance.

Tactical Breathing

This method of breathing is not unlike any other, its name however “tactical breathing” is synonymous with combat and high stress situations, Asken (2010) talks about tactical breathing as being useful in managing the arousal or stress of a mission, he cites Siddle (1995) ‘ we would argue that breath control should be a mandatory component of survival stress management”, powerful support for the activity of mindful meditation. There is no real big secret here, it’s just paying attention to breath, meditating, being aware of your own body and mental state. One method of tactical breathing is described by Grossman in his book On Combat (2004), this he describes as the ‘four count’. Begin by breathing in through your nose to a slow count of 4, which expands your belly like a balloon. Hold for a count of 4, and then slowly exhale through your lips to a count of 4, as your belly collapses like a balloon with its air released. Hold empty for a count of 4 and then repeat the process. Remember that part of this whole process is to create a more focused mindful state, to control any stress or fear that may well be beginning to take hold of your thought process. This is not about taking five minutes to calm yourself and relax, it’s about creating an anchor mechanism attached to a thought process that allows you to manage the high emotional situation you find yourself in and do not think for a moment that this can be done ‘just like that’! It’s going to take some time and effort on your part to train this type of mindful breathing. It’s important that we remember that what we are doing here is taking control of our autonomic nervous system and using this control to self regulate our mind and body states, for the majority of the time our bodies are on auto pilot, the reason for bringing meditation into this subject is due to the fact that you cannot be at your best unless you have control over your self, breathing is your bridge between the somatic and autonomic nervous system, Grossman (2004) puts it well “ Tactical breathing is a leash on the puppy. The more you practice the breathing technique, the quicker the effects kick in, as a result of powerful operant and classical conditioning mechanisms” One thing is for sure no longer is meditation relegated to the realms of the Buddhist monks. 

References

Asken, M, J. PhD & Grossman, D Lt. Warrior’s mindset (2010) Warrior science publications.

Wikipedia (2013). Amygdala. Accessed on 09/07/2013 @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amygdala

Grossman, D. Lt. (2004). On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of deadly conflict in war and in peace. Millstadt, Il: PPCT research publications.

Jerath, R. (2006). Paranyama breathing. Published online at PubMed.gov. Accessed on 01/10/2013 @ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16624497

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Why your child should train in a Martial Art

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As a Martial Arts instructor for the last 35 years I have seen a great many children walk through the doors of our studio. Some come through with no idea of what they are coming into, their parents have heard that Martial Arts training will be good for their child and in they come. Quite often we get children turn up and crumple in a heap of nerves, never getting close to walking on the mat, where five minutes before they have been all up for starting to train, the idea being more powerful than the actual act of doing.

So what is it about training in the Martial Arts that parents find so appealing?

Well the reasons are varied and apart from the obvious of wanting them to be able to defend themselves, it could be that their child is very shy and timid and needs to gain confidence and self esteem, they may need to learn how to be more socially active and engaging with other children. It could be that the child is unruly and mis-behaves and in need of discipline and respect. Or maybe they are a little lazy and unfit, too much TV and/or X-Box/Play Station in their lives. Whatever the reason, one of the base effects of martial arts training on a child is an increase in confidence and self-esteem. It has been said that confidence is a child’s first weapon.

Of course we must not forget that one of the common reasons, that unfortunately we see way too often,  is that age-old problem of bullying and to understand this subject in a lot more detail please refer to my earlier blog on this site, which delves a little deeper into this complex subject.

In our organisation, we know the benefits and how to achieve these aims, our motto is “BUILDING CHARACTER THROUGH MARTIAL ARTS” as good character contains everything that the majority of parents strive to embed in their child’s life. Having respect for themselves and others and discipline in all areas of their lives, including self discipline. Being thoughtful and caring to others, helping others, having fun, but knowing when to be serious. Ensuring a child is confident and socially active ensures a good transition into adulthood and sets them up for a lifetime.

This brings me to one of the most critical and pivotal points in any child’s training and that’s the relationship and interaction between all three parties involved and yes, have no doubt about it, there are three! The instructor, the student and the parent, without all three working together it’s all too easy for apathy to set in and a child’s training to drop off. Once this sets in the child begins to fall behind others in his group and ultimately loses interest, but really this is just an excuse, as without support from their parents in bringing them regularly to training and keeping them on that path, they are not able to keep up with their peers and so begin to hide behind excuses as to why they do not want to train anymore, so parental support is an absolute crucial element and must not be undertaken lightly when deciding to start your child learning any martial arts discipline.

It could be argued that the two most important qualities taught within the Martial arts is respect and discipline and the two things that are lacking in many of our mainstream Schools in today’s age is exactly that!     Every child needs to have an understanding of these qualities, without them they are heading down a path that we have all too often seen. You know the one! the one that bullies, uses profanities, stays out late, never listens to authority, starts smoking & drinking at an early age and don’t think for a minute that your child is too young for some of these. The really fortunate thing is that once set on this path, changing it is not as hard as you think, they just need the right motivation and support. 

Notice that up to now the one thing that I have not mentioned is that Martial Art training teaches a child to “fight” and that’s because fighting is the very last thing that we want our young students doing. In our organisation, if we find out that any of our students are misusing their skills, then they enter a strict warning schedule, with the 3 strike rule ending in them being asked to leave.   Having said that, our aim is to teach a very efficient and effective method of fighting that can hold its own with and exceed any other Martial Art, if the need arises,  this results in a very confident and socially aware child. We teach every child to become aware using the color codes of awareness. This Code of Awareness has its origins in the U.S. Military, it was adapted by the late Jeff Cooper, USMC(ret) and founder of Gunsite and is used in many martial art schools today. Condition White, for instance, is  where you are completely self absorbed with your own thoughts, you may be engaged in a phone call, listening to music on your earphones while walking down the street, this is when you will get taken by surprise. The last thing that most people would do is walk across a busy road with no regard for the danger it possesses, yet so many walk the streets today oblivious to the dangers that surround us. Avoiding this state could be the difference between getting home or not.

There are so many different martial arts out there today, that makes choosing one to achieves a parent’s aims a lottery, so a word of advice, research what you are entering into. Make sure that you are happy with what could be one of the most important decisions you make in your child’s life. There are many martial arts organisations out there with Instructors of limited experience with no lineage,  that have no defined syllabi for different ages, choosing to teach the same material to every age group, including adults!!  That’s like sending your child to school where there is only one class room and everyone gets taught the same thing! It is so important to ensure that each child achieves within their group, has goals to work for, yet is not in over their heads. Most parents and even some martial arts instructors themselves have no idea what damage can occur when maladaptive behaviour is taught to children, it is therefore so important that whatever martial art you choose has the necessary knowledge and experienced established Instructors to not only teach your child to protect themselves, but to do so in a safe and effective manner with attention paid to correct biomechanical movement as well as having a sense of respect, self-esteem and confidence to live their lives fully.

The value of Martial Arts training and your child’s future and confidence is so often never seen, hopefully this will help parents appreciate how important the decision is to start your child on their Martial Arts path of learning and the level of commitment that is required.

 

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Choice Reaction Time – are we really that simple ? Part 2

Part 2

Following on from February’s blog here is part two, what I have attempted to do here is convey the understanding that some ideas should be thoroughly examined before we take them as fact.

 

If the above was not enough evidence there are some that take the basic idea of CRT and expand it to use a doubling rule.   In citing this rule they believe that every decision over and above your first choice will double the time taken to react.   A simple piece of mathematics will help us here.  Choosing between two choices takes approximately 300 milliseconds (ms), add another choice and we get 600ms, another 900ms, another 1 second, 200ms etc – you get the concept I’m sure.    What we have is 1.5 seconds to choose between 6 choices, if this were the case, then not only would we see a fantastic staggering effect when it comes to most highly skilled sports like motor racing, MMA, tennis, football, the list can go on and on, we would also in all probability not be the dominant animal on the planet today, as those 1.5 seconds to make a choice between 6 strategies and actions would have made us food rather than the hunter.

After Hick’s Law came the Power Law of Practice (“PLP”).   In 1980, Newell, Allen and Rosenbloom published a paper that explored the subject of practice and the performance improvements that it creates along with the supporting mechanisms that allow the improvement to become embedded in the behaviour of the individual.  This research considered the chucking theory of learning as a means to explain some of the outcomes of performance that relies on practice. They wanted to confirm the empirical reality that this law was applicable to learning in general rather than just being restricted to skill. The PLP is usually associated with perceptual-motor skills. Before I move on with their research it’s important to understand a little more about the processes involved in learning skills.

The development of perceptual-motor skills begins early in childhood and continues throughout life, providing that the adult individual continues to expand their skill set. There are three stages to this process of development.

  1. Cognitive
  2. Associative
  3. Autonomous

The first stage looks at what is needed to perform a move or task.   This stage requires a certain understanding of the action that is to be learned.

At the second stage, practice is required; another term for this could be “training”, where an individual trains a move or sequence of moves over and over again.

The final stage is embedding the moves into the subconscious so that they can be performed without having to pay attention to any procedures that need to occur. The aim here is to produce speed and accuracy, anything other than this would revert itself back to stage two.

 

Any hand eye coordinated movements fall into the category perceptual-motor skills, other examples would be body movement and control, which includes bilateral movement, postural formation and control, auditory language skills, visual-auditory skills and any martial based activity would fit into this category. Before any of the higher skill levels can be achieved or worked on an infant must first acquire the basics, which include rolling, crawling, standing, walking, running and so on until they have a good overall control of their body. Once this has been achieved, more advanced skills can emerge, such as running and jumping, catching and writing, these all involve motor skill practice. The next explanation needs to focus on the perceptual side of this equation. Perception is harder to define, as it’s the knowing of how to do something rather than the performance of the skill. Perception skill also has to be separated from intellectual skills, these are generally skills that can be written and defined to allow others to follow the instructions and gain an understanding of how a particular skill is performed.  For example, a person could after some explanation write a manual on how to play chess.   Now imagine trying to write a manual on how to ride a bike, the general principles could be written down, but the ‘how’ could not.   It’s the performance of the ‘how’ part that relates to perceptional-motor skills which cannot be gained by simply reading a description of the act. Once these types of skills are internalized they become part of natural behaviour, in other words the skill becomes an ability, which is performed spontaneously without input from the conscious mind and it’s these highly developed perceptional-motor skills that can be learnt and developed with enough volitional practice.   Here we can see the link between the PLP and the perceptional-motor skill ability as over extended periods of time the ability is learned and transferred from a simple motor skill into a perceptional-motor skill. The transference occurs and performance speed increase when practice becomes a habit and not just something that is trained a few times a week and that’s the biggest difference, if an individual is practicing as a result of habitual processes then the behaviour will soon become ingrained, becoming a perception-motor skill.

The research conducted by Newell, Allen and Rosenbloom (1980) into the ubiquity of the Power Law of Practice theory did not fit the simple power law. They concluded that there were systematic shape deviations in the log-log space, in their words “ There exists a ubiquitous quantitative law of practice, it appears to follow a power law. That is plotting the logarithm of the time to perform a task against the logarithm of die trial number always yields a straight line, more or less. We will refer to this law variously as the log-log linear learning law or the power law of practice”.  To summarize their research they found that the law holds for performance measured as the time to achieve a fixed task.   They looked at three learning curves; exponential, hyperbolic and power law. They found that there was a mechanism that was slowing down the rate of learning and those errors in practice decreased with practice and accuracy increased with practice. This was true for different types of learning, which included perceptual-motor skills, perception, motor behaviour, memory and complex routines. This provides evidence that simple basic responses like those that were tested in Hick’s Law, will, along with complex movements, all fall into the category of PLP.  It is therefore a mistake to focus on simple movements to the exclusion of complex ones as both have the same learning capacity according to the law of power learning.

What is evident from the above is that humans have a capacity to learn complex movements and have protracted capability to remember data. This will help to explain the complicated skills that are involved in sports that have complicated routines like playing tennis, boxing, self-defence systems, or actions like typing, playing chess all involve the ability to learn, memories, practice and over time internalise so that the activity becomes a part of the perceptual-motor skill, no longer requiring complex thought processes to maintain the behaviour.

Lets take a look at some more up to date evidence that relates to this work, research by Silva, Cid, Ferreira and Marques (2011) into the attention and reaction time in Shotokan Athletes produced some interesting results. The aim of their study was to analyze the attention capacity and reaction time in Portuguese karate Shotokan athletes.  The participants were physically characterised into weight, height, body mass index and body fat mass percentage and evaluated on Simple Reaction Time (SRT), Choice Reaction Time (CRT), Decision Time (DT) and Distributed Attention (DA).   What they found was that both female and male participants, when tested for SRT, reacted near to the 300 ms mark and that there was no significant difference between the two gender groups. However both the CRT and the DT indicated a significant difference, which was higher in the Dan and 35+-year group than in any other group.  The Dan 35+ group also showed a lower percentage of mistakes. The athletes who had more years of practice and were higher in grade needed more time to react to the stimulus than the younger less qualified individuals, however they made far fewer mistakes in their choices than the other group.

Reaction times have been the subject of study for many years, they were first studied by Donders (1868), the results that were obtained showed that a simple reaction time is shorter than a recognition reaction time, and that the choice reaction time is longest of all and it’s this CRT that Hick studied.

This brings me all the way back to those that blindly quote a small part of Hick’s Law to justify their simplistic approach to human movement and reaction times, knowing how the human body works and how psychology has helped to explain very complex abilities within the brain enables a logical system to be built. One that allows for the complex ability of the human brain and the highly coordinated ability of the body to move in space and time.   Let’s not just sit back and pull the wool over people’s eyes. I have not touched too much on attention, fear or startle reactions that can, in the right circumstances and with the proper training, increase the body’s reaction speed, let alone symmetry or arousal based reactions.  So it’s fair to say that we have come a long way since the early tests of Hick and certainly Ockham in the 14th century. Ultimately, simplicity will always be a part of any system, but it does not have to stop there, correct training on stimulus based reactions will get results, scenario based systems will get results, simple techniques, will get results, what matters is how they are trained and what mental processes are engaged in the practice. So let’s not try to rubbish other arts for the sake of another student and another pound, let’s push the boundaries instead and convey knowledge and skill the best we can.

References

Jefferys, W H. and Berger, j O. (1992) Ockham’s razor and Bayisean analysis. American Scientist. Vol. 80. No 1 (January-February 1992), pp. 64-72. Published by Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society.

Cohen, N. Poldrack, R. Eichenbaum (1997) Memory for items and Memory for relations in the Procedural/Declarative memory framework. Psychology press, an imprint of Erlbaum (UK) Taylor & Francis Ltd.

Darryl W. Schneider, John R. Anderson Cogn Psychol. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2012 May 1. Published in final edited form as: Cogn Psychol. 2011 May 1; 62(3): 193–222. doi: 10.1016/j.cogpsych.2010.11.001

Newell, Allen and Rosenbloom, Paul S., “Mechanisms of skill acquisition and the law of practice” (1980). Computer Science

Department. Paper 2387. http://repository.cmu.edu/compsci/2387

Kosinski, R, J. (2010) A Literature review on Reaction Time. Updated September 2013,. Accessed on 17-02-2014 @ http://biae.clemson.edu/bpc/bp/lab/110/reaction.htm

Silva, C. Cid, L. Ferreira, D. and Marques, A. (2011) Attention and Reaction time in Shotokan Athletes. Published Revista de Artes Marciales Asiaticas (2011), vol, 6 issue 1, p141 16p. accessed on 17-02-2014 @ http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/eds/detail?vid=6&sid=389cb1f5-4638-440e-93a6-9a977afa7678%40sessionmgr4003&hid=4203&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#db=s3h&AN=62829617

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Mental Force Training

Short extract from the material used as a structure for Volitional Attention Training, this provides information on memory, attention and the pitfalls that should be avoided at all cost.

 

Evolution also plays a part in our understanding of mental force and the benefits derived from possessing it, with a direct link to Darwin and survival of the fittest. Imagine a history where humans did not possess these types of abilities, would we have ever dragged ourselves out of the primeval world that we occupied? There are mental processes that have to be overcome in order for any individual to live a life, to find a mate, reproduce, to survive! To enable this process, not only does the mind have to be mentally fit, also the physical body has to be healthy and fit. As humans we are constantly under threat from our mind’s activity, we therefore have to understand what is happening when certain moods take over the dominance of our minds, or when we create thoughts that are not congruent with our mental direction. Maintaining the physical body has to form part of this process, if an individual suffers from a physical impairment, is obese, sleep deprived, lacks nutritional balance, inputs substances into the body (drugs), then the consequences of this, result in a human organism that is not in balance, the body and mind do not work as one. If the mind was mentally tough and capable of survival and the body was not, it would not take long for one to adversely affect the other, or vice-versa. Therefore physical conditioning should be equally as important as mental conditioning.

 

Bringing these ideas into attention earlier in this discourse creates an understanding that attention has to be thought about. A stimulus input into the brain creates a mechanism of mental processes, that in turn leads to an amount of mental attention being applied to that stimulus, how long attention is maintained will depend upon the amount of mental force that the individual is capable of bringing to bear upon the stimulus. A stimulus that brings forth an episodic memory will also bring with it the ability for the mind to pay more detailed attention to that particular thought. Episodic memories are those that are encoded into the mind, through an emotional experience, these experiences are capable of coding in the time, place, feelings and details of the event.  They are far more real to the mind than attempting to memorize an event to which you are just a passive observer. Semantic memory is generally concerned with knowledge of the world that we live in, there is a difference between knowledge that is factual and personal experiences that have encoded knowledge and understanding with a greater grounding and meaning.   Both semantic and episodic memory deals with long-term, rather than short-term memory, a key difference is that episodic memories encode the actual acquisition experience and the context in which the memory occurred.   For any combative or martial art technique to become efficient and effective, the coding process will need to support the intended action, techniques will have to become linked to procedural memory.  Declarative memory deals with facts and data gained from learning “declarative memory serves to “chunk” or “bind” together the converging processing outcomes reflecting the learning event, providing a solution to the “binding problem” for memory, Cohen, N. Poldrack, R. Eichenbaum (1975). The sea is wet and the sun is hot are example of long-term declarative memories. Procedural memory is concerned with long-term memory including complex motor skills. These skills are first coded into the brain and over time become second nature; you do not have to use a cognitive thought process to access the skills.   Playing a musical instrument, driving a car, or combative, martial art techniques, are all examples of procedural memory, “procedural memory enables organisms to retain learned connections between stimuli and responses, including those involving complex stimulus patters and response chains, and to respond adaptively to the environment” Tulving (1985). There is no defined limit to long-term memory, providing that the correct coding procedure occurs then complex motor skills that involve, combative and martial art techniques can be built up. Continued repetition of these movements will lead to a stable procedural memory, which ultimately leads to spontaneous movement, this is arguably the aim of any person engaged in this type of activity.   It is important to remember here that any human movement can be learnt in a manner that is not congruent with natural movement, it is maladaptive.   Continual repetition of techniques that do not follow this premise will eventually cause damage to the organism.   Occupations that involve high stress and the potential for deadly force encounters are particularly exposed to incorrect episodic memory imput, and again, if continued exposure to this type of maladaptive behaviour, could have disastrous consequences, “in the blink of an eye, the officer snatched the gun away, shocking the gunman with his speed and finesse. No doubt this criminal was surprised and confused even more when the officer handed the gun back to him, just as he had practiced hundreds of times before” Grossman, D. (2004). This is a good example of incorrect coding of a maladaptive procedural memory, the officer involved continually practiced this disarm, until he had coded it into his mind, in doing so creating a spontaneous response, it had become second nature to him, I term this “negative loop coding” (NLC) which should be avoided for obvious reasons. The disarm in itself was never the problem, in fact over time several episodic events could have occurred in this officer’s life, for example he may have already been associated with lethal force encounters, he may have had colleagues die in the line of duty, any of these high emotional states would have led to an episodic memory. Once the officer had started to pay attention to this training loop and began to practice the disarm in all sorts of situations, both at work and at home, he had started to encode procedural memory, the only problem with the training was the handing back of the weapon! to do it again and again, and again!   A key point in this behavioural pattern is volition used to pay attention. Once attention on the training pattern had begun his brain would have been firing neurons at a fast pace, to start the encoding, drawing with it greater amounts of mental force, enabling focused thoughts on the reasons for the practice to be thought about, in other words the officer was undertaking, mindful attention.

 

References

Cohen, N. Poldrack, R. Eichenbaum (1997) Memory for items and Memory for relations in the Procedural/Declarative memory framework. Psychology press, an imprint of Erlbaum (UK) Taylor & Francis Ltd

Tulving, E. (1985), How many memory systems are there? American psychologist, vol. 40, April 1985. Printed in USA.

Grossman, D. Lt. (2004). On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of deadly conflict in war and in peace. Millstadt, Il: PPCT research publications.

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Psychological Speed

 

By exploring the theory of psychological speed, I do not mean speed of thought, however that is a symbiont part of the theory. What I want to explore here is how an understanding of speed can help with a physical application of movement. The key to moving fast is to understand how the human body engages itself in this process.  In previous writings I have looked at Bilateral asymmetrical movement, now I want to introduce the thought process, that which is termed psychological speed.

The first determining part of any movement is the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain and the spinal cord,  from these all human movement is initiated, controlled and monitored. The next step in controlling movement is the peripheral nervous system, which constitutes every nerve outside of the central nervous system. This system itself has several sub-systems; the one that I am concerned with here is the autonomic nervous system. This system is the one humans use every second of every day of their lives and without any cognitive thought. It controls functions such as heart beat, breathing and initiates many of our reflexes. It is used when we run, drive, swim and many other normal everyday activities, this is the one system that takes an effort to become aware of. The control of this system and movement undertaken by it can all be categorised as spontaneous actions. When we use our minds to interact with this system, introducing a conscious thought process, the moves produced by this interaction are faster than any other conscious movement, as they are embedded in the subconscious mind and controlled by the automatic nervous system.

Can you recall a time when a stressful situation occurred and time seemed to slow down? Your mind is working so fast that you are able to think many moves in front of the next. This is the same type of experience that I am exploring here. The body and mind can be trained with certain moves in such a way that speed of movement can be increased. The key here is the ability to take a specific movement out of your subconscious, put it into your conscious mind, analyse it, practice it slowly, and then over time return in back into your subconscious, so that it becomes spontaneous. This type of spontaneous movement is the highest skill level of any martial artist, regardless of style. This is where the essence of true psychological speed exists.

Assume that you find yourself in a position where you are able to hammer-fist strike an attacker’s groin. Your next move from the hammer-fist is a rising elbow to underneath their jaw. The first consideration here is the reaction of your attacker after the hit to the groin. assume that your strike is perfect and it has caught them in the ideal spot, they are now entering a reflex action.  If we study the action caused by the strike to the groin in this manner, what we will find is that the body does not travel backwards, also the hips are not forced backwards. What happens when a true reflex occurs to this stimulus? – the body collapses upon itself, the knees give way, and depending upon the amount of force, the body will drop to the ground. The initial strike and your attackers reaction are what is known as the ideal phase, everything is working perfectly. Your next planned move is the rising elbow, it’s simple to believe that this can be executed without any problem, however this is not the case if your attacker has innately entered a reflex to pain. They will be moving spontaneously and at a very high-speed. Your next planned move has to be equal to or faster than the attacker’s reflex reaction. At this point psychological speed can be employed. You have to know your next move, your attackers reaction to the move and already be thinking ahead of it. This is achieved by focusing not on the elbow rising or on the elbow returning down from the strike, but on the position of the hand before the move has even began. The point of origin of the elbow is the position at the point of contact to the groin. The elbow needs to move up and then down, returning to its original position in a split second. If you can train this thought process into the execution of the move, you will be able to move at a lightning speed, which is as fast as your attacker’s pain reflex. As the elbow is lower than the jaw they will meet and collide quickly. This type of collision can be termed an initiated collision. You are causing the attacker to move in such a way that they collide with your strike. The key here is that you understand how speed is developed. By inserting into the above move another asymmetrical movement with the other moving limb, bilateral symmetry will be achieved, imagine how fast you will be able to move!

There are a wide diversity of situations when psychological speed can be used, within the context of a martial application, my intention from the above is to introduce some ideas that will help the student discover circumstances when this can apply.

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That’s wrong! This is the correct way!

 

How many times have you heard this? “Thats wrong! this is the correct way” it can be packaged up whatever way you like, in the end it comes down to an instructor stating that they know the way that it should be done and you are the student, so your role is to follow and mimic the moves exactly!

I often ask the question during seminars, or of new students that have a degree of experience, “why do you do the move that way”?

All too often the reply is, “because that’s the way my instructor taught me”. On the face of it this is not a problem, you may think to yourself maybe he will give me the answers later.

You put complete trust in your instructor and the Art that you have chosen to partake in, how many of us students and I include myself as a student, ask ourselves why we started the art we did?   New students are what keeps any Martial Arts school running and they are attracted through the door in a great many ways, drawn to the mysticism of the arts.

There is absolutely no problem  training in any art, just as long as you are aware of the reasons for your choice and the goals and direction that your chosen art follows. You may have chosen a traditional art which requires hours and hours of focus on one move, with an absolute dedication to the historical application of your moves, or maybe one that has a focus on spiritual understanding, traditional Chinese or Japanese weapons, street self-protection, the list goes on. What’s important is that your instructors are clear with regard to the arts application. The one thing you do not want is an art designed for the ancient battlefield trying to cope with the yob down the local Hostelry.  All I am saying is be clear on the reasons for starting the art you choose, keep an open mind and always ask questions.

If we understand the reasons behind the teaching, it makes it easier to accept being told “that’s wrong, this is the correct way” when practicing a more traditional art.    The essence of the art itself is the discipline and the self-control needed to emerge yourself completely in mastering the exact movement required. This type of practise is arguably the hardest of all especially in today’s environment of quick fix sensory input where students quickly become bored and want to move on to the next part of the technique. Being continually corrected on the smallest of detail soon tests the patience of the student.

The point with regard to the title of this Blog comes into question when the subject of the art is self-protection in today’s environment, especially if you have been told by your instructor that what he is teaching you is the answer to all the problems that you will ever encounter on the street today!    I have heard instructors say “this is the way it happens, and this is what you have to do, if anyone says anything different then it’s just BS”! They are the complete authority on the subject and what they say is written in stone. We all have egos but this type of statement speaks volumes as to how large theirs are. Keeping a check on ourselves is maybe the hardest thing in the world, that’s when you need a balancing element to yourself and your teaching. One size does not fit all especially when it comes to protecting yourself. In any street encounter the one thing you can guarantee is that the violence and the moves required to survive have no set path. Those few techniques that you were told would fit suddenly abandon you and you find yourself in an unpredictable constantly changing situation, which you have to meet with spontaneous movement and a mental attitude that ensures your survival.     Being manipulated and controlled within a set perimeter of techniques, without the room to alter or adapt might not be the best way to achieve this.    Remember the statement by Bruce Lee “learn what is useful and discard the rest” how do we know what is useful and what should be discarded? Especially if we are constantly told that the way we are moving is wrong and this is the right way.

What do you think are the reasons that some instructors want to be so controlling? Is it a power thing or maybe insecurity?. Who knows, the important thing is to be aware of the potential problems. That way you can avoid being in a class where the above statement occurs and then find yourself in a situation that you are not equipped to deal with, both physically and mentally.

Arguably your mental skills should be better than your physical skills, you should first seek a path of peace and not war.

What should be gained from the above, is how lucky you are if you find an open secure instructor, one that encourages learning, not just from his own art but from others as well. Always be mindful of the reasons why instructors preach that what they do is better than everything else out there. None of us have all the answers and we can all help each other. The Martial Science University, headed by Dr R Chapel has the motto “integrity through excellence”, walking the path of integrity and honesty should go hand in hand with instructors values, especially when you are in the responsible position of teaching others a Martial Art that is designed to potentially one day save your students or one of their family member’s life.

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