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JKD For The Brain

wing chun chi saoAll movements between two or more individuals engaged in a physical confrontation are interrelated.

Pushing, punching, kicking, pulling are felt in both people. The person who punches either misses and has to deal with the possible loss of balance after the swing or hits and has to deal with the rebound effect of hitting a solid mass, teeth, bone of the forehead, etc.

It’s never a clean, zero-effect, effort on the person executing the strike. There is always the follow-thru response, the “what happens if I hit?” physical reaction.

If one isn’t trained for this physical interaction and reaction response, then that person is less likely to perform well in the encounter.

This reaction isn’t just a physical reaction, it can extend into the mind firing emotions like fear, regret, and the experience of pain.

All movements between individuals and their environment are interrelated.

hip throw on grass

People sometimes forget that the environment is as much a weapon or a defense as anything issuing from your mouth or fists.

Recognizing and knowing how to use the environment as a tool—and how to use this tool efficiently—is paramount to increasing your ability to survive an encounter where otherwise you may be at a loss physically. The equalizer here is not just having the weapons of life at hand but being trained to use them.

Stumbling into a dip in the grass or over the edge of a sidewalk may happen in a fight regardless whether or not you are trained, but proper training will minimize this by increasing your awareness of your environment. 

Training will also increase your ability to stabilize after a trip or stumble. It will increase and speed your ability to recover to your feet should you fall—with proper cover that minimizes damage from the fall itself and the continued striking that doesn’t always stop just because you fell down in front of your attacker.

When the attacker confronting you is dynamic and adaptive, your environment is often a more stable part of the equation. I’m not referring to cars that are moving in a parking lot, but the parking lot itself. Trees that remain where they are regardless of your attempts to smash into them, parked cars, door frames, desks, edges of tables, glass windows, etc.—all the things that can be relied on to some degree for the purpose of survivability.

These elements and more readily avail themselves to one who is trained versus the untrained.

All movements in an individual’s body are interrelated with other movements in the body.

If I were to push on your shoulder, you would have a response to it. Most humans respond by pushing back at the source. They engage a series of muscle contractions, tendon and bone articulations that—with the vestibular system—allow for a fairly accurate redirected application of force.

If you didn’t respond with counterforce, you most likely ended up engaging those same internal components to prevent your falling into or onto something harmful.

This internal response is an often unconscious coordination of events that, with proper training, can make the exchange a simple absorbing or redirecting of the energy of the initial push, rather than a bumbling orchestration of random awkwardness fueled from emotional upset. 

Again, properly trained, the emotional response is downplayed against the trained physical response, and survivability is increased. As we know, even a simple push can end up killing someone should they stumble and hit their head.

All of these interactions listed above have a singular component processing the various associations between them: the human brain.

human brain

Memory, trained and untrained movements, fear, hormone release, blood flow regulation, sight, hearing, touch, balance and more all occur in the human brain.

Through the interconnection of approximately 86 billion neurons, our brains process all stimuli received through our body’s extensive nervous system.

Everything we take for granted in our actions and reactions, our memories and future anxieties all come from a change of about 110 millivolts across a brain axon’s membranes.

The brain itself, weighing about 3 pounds, gets about 20% of our body’s oxygen and blood flow. For something so small, it uses a lot of resources. 

Physical exercise has been shown to increase our brain’s volume. It’s actual size increases, even in older age. Exercise has also been shown to reverse shrinkage of the hippocampus, which is a brain region essential for learning and memory.

New memories are formed through associations of other memories and experiences that form memories. Physical action, scent, emotions, and tactile stimuli can all strengthen our connection to memories as well as strengthen specific memories.

Training in CoreJKD is associative. While I have a specific end goal for my students—that of being able to survive life-threatening confrontations versus single or multiple opponents with or without weapons in a variety of environments—the pathways toward that end are many. 

And the fact that each individual has a unique experience and memory structure associating their 86 billion neurons in their head to their nervous system, my training for them has to take this into account.

I use a lot of different stimuli that are associated at a root level. This way, the end result of their training for any particular day enforces the associations that have to form in the brain from the stimuli received from their sensory system.

A simple example, perhaps not so simple when you see it written here, is from my mentioning of someone pushing on your shoulder:

I take the associations from the action itself into account with how the brain best absorbs information (for the individual, though most are similar in this aspect). 

  • From the visual periphery, auditory, then tactile and potential emotional awareness and reactions (and training) comes the understanding of the underlying physics of where the foot meets the ground (opposite the push) and where the nearest foot to action potentially leaves the ground.
  • The speed of the recovery system has to override the emotional system that might derail pure involvement in the physics of the situation. So, repeated stimuli to desensitize the emotional elevation may have to come first.
  • Footwork placement and speed increase directly relating to recovery from shoulder pressure from many different angles. Varying amounts of force are trained.
  • Footwork and/or body stabilization or redirection of body movement onto or around pillars, benches, other people is trained. One cannot assume lack of obstacles in any potential training.
  • Recovery to proper head protection, squaring up with the initial threat and peripheral potential threats, is also trained.

This was a small example of a simple action where the subsequently trained responses help lay an associative groundwork for larger opponents, different environments, different number of attackers, etc.

Holistic approach to engage the whole body and mind

Physically engaging in activities that may seem unrelated in the moment, become relevant when brought together during a series of training progressions. And these progressions, like the brain itself in its association-strengthening capacity, reinforce different elements in ways they otherwise wouldn’t have been stimulated through traditional methods. These methods being the rote repetition of movements that may or may not have a basis in real-world threat engagements.

The avenues for approaching the training and specific Core JKD goals are many. They are used in a manner that stimulates a well-roundedness that emerges into actions later that are fully present and functional against a variety of threats. The students aren’t often exactly sure how they got so good at what they are doing. They don’t have to worry about that.

That’s my job. (And the instructors I train)

—Ming

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