Movement Patterns

Steve Morris talks about the inherent movement patterns underlying human action, and importantly how these should form the basis for all martial arts movement. In fact not just martial arts movement but movement in all sports. He is referring to the successful actions that occur across a variety of sports and physical activities. An obvious one is running,  one arm pulls as the other pushes or as Steve might say, one part zigs as the other zags.

Another is jumping, a natural hardwired action that we all have access to. I am not referring to the Frosby flop, although that is likely to be an adaptation of some inherent movement pattern. Rather just a standard jump, bend at the ankles drop and power up pushing against the floor. If you want to adapt this to a backward flip in gymnastics, throw the head back to direct your movement and with practise this flip will be accomplished. Now if you take this backflipp action attach a person to yourself, by way of holding them tight to you, add a twist, with the head leading, the body will follow, and as if by magic you have a suplex. Ta da!

Here’s a clip og a gymnast doing a backflip, without jumping, the slo mo clearly show him leading the action with the head.

This next clip shows a woman using a suplex to prevent her handbag being snatched in a lift, not sure if its real. Note she leaves out the twist and dumps the thief on his head!

It all sounds very sensible but it tends to be absent in my experience of martial arts, at least to some degree. This means that often optimal movement is curtailed at best or at worst completely negated. Take for example, the rather peculiar stances that are often contained in karate kata. In Seyunchin kata from Goju there is “bow and arrow” posture in shiko dachi, which I was taught to perform in a slow and deliberate manner when doing the kata and to use is as a rather convoluted takedown off a kick and a punch. While this could work with compliance its a long way off practical.

Hanshi Meitoku Yagi performing Seiunchin

Hanshi Meitoku Yagi performing Seiunchin

Steve Morris provides another explanation of this and similar karate postures. In his recent blog post he discusses the use of primative reflexes in martial arts, and at Primal yesterday he showed us some. The above picture is anexample of the asymmetric tonic neck reflex, would you believe. Sounds complicated but its not, taken from a reference provided in Steve’s blog entry, when the reflex is still aparent in babies with certain diseases if

the head is twisted in one direction, both the arm and the leg extend on the side toward which the head is pointing and flex on the opposite side

Admitedly, the reflex action in seiunchin kata is only occurring in the arms but it is there, as clear as day. Actually, it isn’t there because the movement is being performed in a manner that inhibits the reflex action, reflex movements by definition are quick. The point is that by using the head in a certain way these reflexs can be accessed, leading to improved striking. It adds up and given the historical representations (see below) of the asymmetric tonic neck reflex there’s at the very least a chance that this, accessing primitive reflexes, was what was meant by these postures in kata.

Rajin, God of Thunder

Rajin, God of Thunder

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