ISAI The Martial Art of Formless Flow: What is a difference between WHAT and HOW in motion?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

What is a difference between WHAT and HOW in motion?

In my conversations with practitioners and coaches of all kinds of practices, systems and arts based on motion I often see misunderstanding of the difference between what I call “what” and “how”. These two words reveal our reference to the physical motion. We intuitively fell that every motion has both “what” and “how”, but there is a need to define and analyze it in more formal way.

So what do we mean when we say “what” about motion in general and locomotor motion (motion in space like walking or running) in particular? “What” means what to do, the set of motions with specific target, mostly oriented and connected to the space around us. We can say “rise you hand” or “rotate your palm clockwise” or “touch this spot on the wall”. All these belong to “what”. Usually locomotor task can be divided into locomotor sub-tasks. For example we say “To climb the tree first catch this branch with your left hand and after that put your right foot here”. Climbing the tree is a main locomotor task here, catching the branch with left hand and putting right foot on the spot are locomotor tasks by themselves. We see that all these actions have specific target, unique locomotor meaning and connected to the space. 

“How” is a different matter, it is about internal structure of the “what” motions, their internal motor and biomechanical composition. What do I mean? Consider the lizard that just now came out of the egg. It perfectly walks around from the very first moment of its life and its motion hardly will change during its life span. This is almost completely inborn locomotor motion. The lizard, with its very limited ability to learn, relies completely on inborn reflexes. The Central Nerve System (CNS) of the lizard provides control over the motion, called Motor Control. It includes activation, coordination and synchronization of the different parts of the body like trunk, 4 legs, neck and head and tail. Motor Control includes not only the orders that CNS sends to the different parts of the body, from the center out to the periphery, called efferent signals. It also includes receiving the signals that come from the ends of the body to the CNS, from periphery to the center, called afferent signals. Then, after receiving “account” by means of afferent signals, CNS analyses the data and sends efferent signals with corrections. All this produces loops of signals. This process is almost completely inborn for the lizard.

For more advanced animals inborn locomotor reflexes are weaker. The animal must learn motion. More advanced animal, more complicated its CNS, more it can learn and greater its motor possibilities when it grows up  - more helpless it at the first period of its life and more time it needs to achieve good level of Motor Control. The antelope baby needs just minutes to stand on its legs and shortly it can run. The cat and dog born blind and completely helpless first weeks of their life. The monkey needs much more time and man needs years.  

The reason for that is that during the evolution in the palette of motions the inborn part becomes relatively much smaller while the learned or so called conditioned reflexes, become more prominent and important. On the other hand the motions themselves become much more sophisticated, their combinations can form incredibly rich palette of skills and possibilities. Just compare the dry, restricted motion of the lizard with rich, vigorous motion of the cat.

For the animals conditioned reflexes naturally developing on the basis of inborn or unconditioned reflexes. Inborn and conditioned reflexes combine harmoniously, without contradictions and conflicts between them. The only deviation from this harmony can be restrictions resulting from wounds or tricks and unnatural movements as a result of animal training.

The situation is quite different with us, people. We train ourselves as we train our animals, but we learn much more and much faster. We have inborn ability to copy others, their behavior and their manner to stand, to seat and to move. We do it consciously and unconsciously. As a result we create a lot of conflicts between all kinds of reflexes - inborn and conditioned as well as between conditioned reflexes only. We lost our naturalness, the harmony of our motion and as a result we lost the harmony in our souls or, may be, we lost the harmony of our motion after we lost it in our souls? May be both are wright.     

How does the level of harmony in our motions influence us?

During the situations with stress level higher than usual, conditioned one, the conditioned reflexes and movements will “refuse to work”. This explains well known fact that well trained martial artists so often find themselves helpless in the street.

Inborn reflexes are most energetically effective. Internal harmony between inborn and conditioned ingredients will produce most energetically efficient motion. These motions cooperate and make efficient usage of inertial and reactive forces and this fact alone provide tremendous advantage.

Internal harmony reinforces motions and make them very fast and nimble looking in the same time. The lack of harmony will often cause the motion to look more powerful but less nimble and swift. The combinations of motions suffering deficiency of harmony will be the chain of forceful starts and stops rather then one fluent seemingly effortless stream. These motions, even looking externally very powerful actually are much less powerful than harmonious and nimble movements. The reason for that is that the lack of harmony causes to the body to spend a lot of additional energy just to keep the body integrated and to neutralize inertial and reactive forces instead of to use them. Therefore these motions result in long and stressful trainings on one hand and excessive tiring on the other hand.     

The God or evolution created our bodies and inborn reflexes completely fit each other. The lack of internal harmony between inborn and conditioned reflexes will harm the body. The harmony will make the body and soul stronger. Harmonious motions are safest and healthiest, minimizing the wear at the same time.

The motions with internal harmony look naturally aesthetic, light and effortless.

Permanent lack of harmony develops chronic stress, difficulties during daily and sport activities and numerous diseases.

Most of the people in our world suffer from the permanent lack of harmony in motions. Their conditioned reflexes permanently struggles inborn reflexes and body. The need in improvement the quality of the motion, harmonizing it, is real and great. Unfortunately the systems that try to treat this problem are “what” systems. These “what” systems don’t correct the “how” aspect of motion and bad habits and locomotor patterns don’t disappear. We see a lot of the well trained people lacking natural gracefulness and lightness in motion, many of them have easily distinguishable postural defects.

I believe that the only way to harmonize our motion is to study, understand and practice our inborn reflexes, the general form of inborn natural motions and their Motor Control and biomechanical laws. This study, understanding and practice must be the general common basis for any practical method and system striving to achieve harmony or use it. This way every motion, every activity, even the most ordinary daily activity, becomes a part of our training program.
ISAI or Israeli Art of Integrity and its practical system NMTS (Natural Motion Training System) concentrate on the theory of harmony of the motion and on the practical method to achieve it. In can be applied to all “what” systems with different shape and aroma every time. The years of experience proves that such a cooperation of “what” and “how” can result in considerable, sometimes looking unbelievable, improvement in every “what” system like running, swimming, jumping, ball playing, Martial Arts and more.        

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