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10.11.2009

Obi Wan was right!

Either in vain hope of maintaining an edge to my martial skills or because I find benefit in cognitive expenditure during physical activity, I increasingly believe that the cerebral architecture is much more important than the physical structure. Anecdotally the performance and benefits of my strength training have seemed best when I actively concentrate on the muscles I work, instilling better form and imagining the functional work that they perform. In other words if you can do anything except lift the weight, like talk or eyeball the co-ed next to you, you simply aren't working hard enough physically or mentally. Similarly as I have worked on describing technique in this blog or simply visualized what I wanted to do, I feel I've performed better. These mental exercises or visualization are more commonly called "motor imagery" ( J Physiol Paris. 2006 Jun;99(4-6):386-95).
Doing a light cursory literature search I found an interesting article (Memory & Cognition 2002, 30 (8), 1169-1178) that shows that "expert divers visualized their dives closest to their performance times. Intermediate divers visualized their dives slower than their performance times. Novice divers visualized their dives faster than performance times." This is a fascinating result because it can be extrapolated in many ways. Expert fighters have the best control of range and timing is this due to years of seeing stuff (real or imagined) flying at their head that they mentally have conditioned themselves to their own physical speed? Does the underestimation of physical time necessary to complete a task by a beginner explain why they always try to do things faster? Does this explain why despite excellent physical conditioning beginners become exhausted with the technical level of the skill set needed to fight, i.e. they are driving their minds and bodies faster than they are capable because they think that's how fast it is? This may even explain why intermediately trained folks perceive things as taking longer, their physical capabilities have reached a set point better than what they thought they started with, i.e. they are actually as fast as they thought they were when they started but are still cognitively using their (lack of) experience as a beginner to establish time dependence of what they do? Or am I ranting like a madman again?
It appears that visualizing or "thinking about the problem before attempting it" works better than just the good old college try (Behav Brain Res. 1998 Jan;90(1):95-106). This has a whole host of implications and applications. Before practicing anything, make a movie in your head describing the frame of reference as well as the dynamic evolution of the technique, see if that makes you learn it better and faster. Taking these "movie clips" would allow you to string them together, allowing you to "train" anywhere. Does this power of imagery explain why people can progress technically between practices simply because of conscious or subconscious processing of mental images of a technique? Would combat athletes progress faster if they had "previews" of material to be taught at the next practice because it would stimulate motor cognitive pathways, that could be physically refined later?

2 comments:

Lawrence said...

Your blog rocks!

Thanks for all the gi reviews mate.

Lawrence said...

Your blog rocks!

Thanks for all the gi reviews mate.