Kinaesthesis and Proprioception 1 – describing the feeling



The present and two related posts are an expansion on one from last week. This post will briefly explain why kinaesthetic and proprioceptive perception is important, but first a definition of these two key processes involved with human movement. The perception derived from various sensors (receptors) within the body allows

  1. Proprioception – an awareness of the position, location and orientation and movement of the body and its parts.

  1. Kinaesthesis – an awareness of the muscular movements of the limbs and body.

Largely unconscious kinaesthetic and proprioceptive awareness allows us to manage everyday tasks comfortably, without which we would be unable to control our movements. This awareness is at least partly responsible for enabling a driver to search for something on the passenger seat while still attending to the road, a magician can manipulate playing cards during a trick without looking at them, a person is able to adjust the level of force applied when lifting an object which is lighter (or heavier) than anticipated, or a fan can wriggle his way through a busy crowd to get to the front at a gig. Obviously, if this persecption needed to be consciously controlled there’d be little conscious capacity available for making any manner of important decisions. For instance when cooking dinner, we’d be too busy controlling the movements in the kitchen to be able to follow the recipe.

In a lot of Martial Arts there are training methodologies devoted to developing heightened kinaesthetic and proprioceptive perception. Variously known as push hands, sticky hands, knocking hands, kakie etc. the aim of these activities is to develop sensitivity to another person’s movement, which can then be exploited. Heightened kinaesthetic and proprioceptive perception of oneself when joined to an opponent allows us to sense the others movements. Clearly this sensitivity can be very useful in a clinch or when grappling, whereas a developed sense of kinaesthetic and proprioceptive perception when not joined to another person can assist us when learning new skills or developing established ones.

Sean on Gisoku Budo managed to develop his walking ability through karate training. As an above knee amputee, to be able to manage many of the complicated kicking actions, for example, Sean has had to develop greater balance in his fake leg. In another post Sean says that continual minute adjustment in the striving for perfect form was a key ingredient in this process. By concentrating on minor adjustments Sean has achieved a heightened kinaesthetic and proprioceptive perception enabling karate participation and learning in addition to improved walking.

Some people are kinaesthetic learners (are you Sean?), they favour learning by doing and so may already possess heightened kinaesthetic and proprioceptive perception. Nevertheless, those that favour different learning styles could benefit from developing their kinaesthetic and proprioceptive perception, as could natural kinaesthetic learners by developing their ability further. Potentially, Martial Arts training could facilitate this process, as it has done in Sean’s case, but the question is, whether this is a natural outcome of the training, or does the training have to be directed specifically to enable kinaesthetic and proprioceptive perception development? Then when developed how useful is this heightened sense in terms of the fight?

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