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Disassociated Anatomical Movement

•Excerpts from the Diary of a Mad Kenpo Scientist•
SubLevel Kenpo Concepts™

In Martial Science, much like other sciences, there is a direct cause and effect to all activity. Martial Science draws on many different scientific disciplines, but all are in some way related to one another through the conduit of human anatomy. There exists a significant cause and effect interaction between all the many parts of human anatomy whether static or in motion. In any examination of the many martial postures and their transitions, the efficacy of its many positions is predicated upon, among many factors, weight distribution and an exacting posture relative to the physical activity at hand, and load.

The relative position of the feet to each other, and their movement, also significantly determines whether structural integrity is created or maintained. Let’s discuss for a moment structural integrity in posture, movement, and weight distribution. Any variations in these categories beyond proper anatomical posture can diminish or enhance effectiveness on multiple levels offensively or defensively.

How you move your body in its entirety, the arms, feet, and even the head in particular, in martial science affects the stability of the complete body for a variety of reasons. For many, this probably is not news. However, what is probably “new” information is some of the basic things taught in most “martial arts” fall quite comfortably into the negative and inefficient category. Surprisingly their effectiveness can be demonstrated to be much less than perceived. That is, when these things are tested in the light of reality, they fall well short of their well-intended goals. Let us define efficiency relative to human physical activity in general, and martial science in particular.

Essentially, the “human” machine is a large gelatinous bag punctuated by multiple directionally dedicated and articulated appendages, connected by loose and flexible tissue. This semi-solid shape is supported by an articulated and rigid substructure we call a “skeleton.” This necessary substructure skeleton, supports the human body as the primary load bearing entity, but also simultaneously provides it with mobility and sustains its general shape. It also supplies the major structural frame for anatomical rigidity or solid structure on demand.

This relationship between the sub-structure frame, (skeleton) the connecting tissues (ligaments, muscle, tendons), and the containment vessel epidermis (gelatinous bag), have a constant and perpetually active interactive relationship from one jiffy-second moment to the next.

The “system software” or brain constantly monitors all external stimuli from thousands of body sensors in general, and specific overt ones in particular through the autonomic nervous system. This utilizes a mechanism called Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (1), (which functionally includes the Golgi Organ), and subsequently makes thousands of minute adjustments every millisecond to allow the machine on one level to function intuitively, and on another, to take directed commands from the central processing unit simultaneously.

Proprioception and kinesthesia, the sensation of joint motion and acceleration, are the sensory feedback mechanisms for motor control and posture. Theses mechanisms along with the vestibular system, a fluid filled network within the inner ear that can feel the pull of gravity and helps the body oriented and balanced, are unconsciously utilized by the brain to provide a constant influx of sensory information (2). The brain can then send out immediate and unconscious adjustments to the muscles and joints in order to achieve movement and balance.

Why has the nervous system developed the sense of proprioception, and why is it an unconscious aspect of the sensory system? Proprioception, also often referred to as the sixth sense, was developed by the nervous system as a means to keep track of and control the different parts of the body.

An example that enables one to best understand this sensory system is to examine what happens if this sensory system is no longer there. Ian Waterman lost his sixth sense along with the ability to feel light touch when a virus killed the necessary nerves. The man still had all the nerves to control muscle movement but had no feedback from the outside world about where his limbs were except that obtained by sight.

A normal person is able to move a finger, knowing where and what the finger is doing, with little effort. The normal person could just volunteer the finger to move back and forth and proprioception would make this an easy task. Without proprioception, the brain cannot feel what the finger is doing, and the process must be carried out in more conscious and calculated steps. The person must use vision to compensate for the lost feedback on the progress of the finger. Then the I-function must voluntarily and consciously tell the finger what to do while watching the feedback.
So, by its very evolutionary design the human body unit operates in one of two non-destructive modes, operating either efficiently, or inefficiently. The inefficient mode I have termed “Disassociated Anatomical Movement.” In order to accomplish this, this extremely complex machine has an inherent ability to “disconnect” or create a more loose and flexible relationship between its many articulated parts, expressly for the purpose of performing movements and/or postures not necessarily anatomically structurally sound, but necessary for fluid human movement. Therefore, by the very nature of the body, not all movement is necessarily effective, efficient, or even structurally sound, even though it may be performed quite easily. This is the reason humans do not move like “rigid” robots or automatons.

Most modern martial arts place a heavy emphasis on immediate satisfactory results, and therefore usually are conceptually driven, thus allowing practitioners flexibility to achieve immediate short-term goals of questionable or elementary effectiveness.

Unfortunately, these arts usually have levels of efficiency defined by some ranking process, and they include belts despite the lack of knowledge and quantifiable basic skills. Martial Arts clearly have taken on a business life of their own. A look in any martial arts magazine will yield pages of books and videos for those who believe they can actually learn this way and virtually teach themselves to mastery.

When any physical activity is taught with only an emphasis on conceptual movement or motion with no regard for underlying anatomical structural requirements and physical mandates, than inefficient movement is the most likely results. The reason this can be confusing is that most martial “arts” instructors teach from this aesthetic perspective emphasizing the “look, or even “sound” of a movement over the proper anatomical “execution” to obtain the desired results.

A lack of knowledge has created a plethora of interpretations as numerous as there are “instructors.” Thus, the western term “martial art” is indeed accurate because of this interpretive aesthetic perspective. Art, (in this instance artistic movement and postures much like dancing) is clearly subjective, whereas martial science and its proper anatomical movement and postures are not. This explains why one “martial art” can have so many different interpretations from instructor to instructor, school to school, and even student to student. Some arts even promote aspects of non-conformity for student satisfaction, and commercial viability.

This methodology is also inherent in cultural-based martial discipline “do” (way) type “arts” that choose to emphasize a cultural and artistic methodology over an efficient anatomical results-driven perspective. It is also, an unintentional byproduct of modern, eclectic, commercial, self-defense arts that lack sufficient foundation material beyond their conceptual design, as well. At least the traditional “way” arts emphasize consistency of movement and execution from student to student, and conformity is the norm.

Oddly enough some of the most effective of these modern types “arts” are “stripped down” bare bones courses that at minimum allow participants to be “attacked” and retaliate against a person dressed in protective armor for a more realistic assessment of perceived skill development. This methodology also has the effect of introducing a level of “Adrenal Stress” to training that is also missing from most martial arts self-defense instruction.

Subsequently, training in improper movements like stepping rearwards into any stance as an example, is an “inefficient” methodology that is readily revealed in realistic practice and application. Using this most basic of footwork to obtain a stance causes the body to go into its loose “disassociated“ mode to achieve the objective. The architectural human frame is designed to locomote forward partly deriving its balance from the swinging of the arm opposite the forward moving leg. Although the body can walk and move rearward, it does so inefficiently and in a definite disassociated mode.

As an example, when you walk backward your arms do not swing naturally and balance is more difficult as a result. Additionally, moving forward aggressively without the ability to move your arms creates the same “disassociated” condition. The principle area affected in all of these situations begins with the “Primary Disconnect Mechanism,” the pelvic ring. The same holds true in any lateral movement as well.

However, the converse of stepping rearwards to meet resistance moving in the same direction as you’re stepping is stepping forward when you are being pulled forward. Both of these movements are inefficient and must have correcting mechanisms to regain structural integrity.

Stepping rearward without the mechanism makes alignment impossible. Stepping forward however because the body functions to locomote forward naturally may create alignment, but only predicated on either how far or how many times you step, or if an additional correcting mechanism is involved.

Therefore to teach any execution that by necessity requires inefficient movement forward rearward or laterally, first there must be recognition of these absolute anatomical facts, and secondly a mechanism must be designed to compensate, re-connect, or re-associate the body unit into singular structural integrity for efficient transference of power, or to resist body mass driven assaults. Additionally as previously stated, proper weight distribution and postures are also mandated based on anatomical parameters, not aesthetics.

Other good examples can be found in various forms of footwork taught in most traditional and non-traditional arts alike. Lateral and forward movements where feet move toward one another create similar results of instability and structural disassociation as “stepping rearward.” Although all of these activities are a staple of most arts, anatomically speaking, such maneuvers lack structural stability, absent a necessary compensating mechanism.

You may conduct an experiment to determine if you have the stability you believe you have:

Beginning with feet even, step back and settle into your strongest “fighting stance and posture,” making yourself as stable as possible. Have someone slowly push on your shoulders from the front toward the rear or 6:00 (Presumably the direction with the most stability) to simulate a bodily assault or grapple attack to the upper torso from the front.

You’ll notice that the top part of your body is easily pushed backward until the angle is extreme enough to cause the front foot to lift from the floor, and subsequently the rear foot will be forced to adjust backward to retain balance. The torso seems to be “disconnected” from the feet and lower part of the anatomy. The feet only remain in place until the torso is moved sufficiently to pull the feet from their position.

This is why “street grapplers” entertain a measure of success against those unprepared or unknowledgeable. Many are always taught to “step back” in preparation to defend themselves, and without the requisite skills to counter our own inefficient body mechanics, our chances of success are diminished significantly. Although there is nothing inherently incorrect about stepping rearwards, it is how you step, and what immediately follows the stepping that can be a determining factor in effectiveness, and in combat interaction, survival.

What has happened is the step rearward has created the “Disassociated Anatomical Condition,” at the hips separating the lower platform (hips to the floor) from the upper (Hips to the shoulders) platform, causing them to work semi independently of each other with no shared structural integrity. Thus, there is no significant stability to counter any realistic physical pressure from any angle, and specifically from the front.

This relationship of the hips to the rest of the body can be explored in another simple observation. When walking in a normal manner, if a decision is made to change the gait or stride significantly, before one can jog or run, a “skipping action” must be made to change the relationship of the hips to the torso. This is done naturally without conscious thought but never the less it must be done to run efficiently. This action I have termed a “Platform Aligning Skip.”

In true Martial Science Applications we must teach a variety of mechanisms to counter every Disassociated Anatomical Movement we may be forced, by necessity to perform. Some of These mechanisms are known as PAM’s, (Platform Aligning Mechanisms), and/or BAM’s (Body Alignment Mechanisms), and PAS for Platform Aligning Skip. Because of their variety and complexity, they are explored in detail in the physical curriculum and are taught situationally within the context of specific interaction techniques.

The important thing to remember is that all rules of martial science are specific, and therefore apply to specific circumstances. Any variation of any portion of the body, no matter how minute, may cause a complete breakdown of structural integrity, as well as other anatomical properties for later discussion. This means all methodologies have “correcting mechanisms” to compensate for inefficient movement or improper posture, associated with forced improper utilization of “Proprioceptive” body mechanisms.

Also, in martial science posture, there are rules relative to weight distribution. As an example, whenever the feet are parallel, weight distribution (absent a correcting mechanism) must be 50/50. This is the overriding base for the beginning of understanding correct postures and corresponds with the traditional “horse” stance found in most arts for a reason.

However, stances and their associated weight distribution do not function independently. The position and manner of the hands, wrists, head, shoulders, fingers, muscle tension, etc. in addition to weight distribution will ultimately determine whether you are correct structurally or not. Unless and until martial artist come to grips with this reality, they will never move into the realm of martial science.

(1) Proprioception is “the process by which the body can vary muscle contraction in immediate response to incoming information regarding external forces,” by utilizing stretch receptors in the muscles to keep track of the joint position in the body.


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