A major focus of mine in both Movement Science and fighting/self-protection skills training is the concept of affordances. Below is an excerpt from the book that first introduced me to the concept, which contains a great introduction to the concept as it applies to fighting skills:
“The theory was put forth in the 1960s by an unorthodox psychologist names James Jerome Gibson at Cornell University. Gibson, who died in 1979, said animals and people view their environments not in terms of objectively defined shapes and volumes but in terms of their own behavioral potential. In other words, you immediately apprehend what you see in terms of how you think you can interact with that you see. You see affordances. Affordances make possible and facilitate certain actions. So, handles afford grasping. Stairs afford stepping. Knobs afford turning. Doors afford passage. Hammers afford smashing…
Martial artists see a different set of affordances than people untrained in hand-to-hand combat. Lapels and shoulder fabric are gripping points that afford all sorts of leverage. Elbows and wrists afford a variety of locks and twists. Highly trained martial artists see these affordances directly, as inherent parts of the concept of the body, just as an accomplished pianist sees not just individual keys but whole interrelated harmonic complexes brimming with possible melodies that can be extracted from it’s wholes, not as individual finger and hand movements (Blakeslee & Blakeslee, 2007).”
Blakeslee, S., & Blakeslee, M. (2007). The Body Has a Mind of it’s Own. New York: Random House, p. 106-108.
Posted in Combat Psychology, Fight Sciences Research Institute, Fighting, Fighting Arts, Judo, karate, MMA, Muay Thai, Pedagogy, self defense, Self Protection, Sports Science, Wrestling
Tagged Affordances, fighting arts, James Gibson, martial arts, motor learning, pugnosis, self defense, self protection
When considering upper body striking, martial artists tend to focus on the pectoral, triceps and deltoid muscle groups, and the glenohumeral (GH) joint, which is the most obvious shoulder joint. The GH joint consists of the humerus and the glenoid fossa of the scapula (the “socket” of the shoulder blade). Since this joint is essentially like a ball resting on a shallow dish, and not a deep socket like the hip joint, ligaments and the attached muscles provide most of the stability. There are also three other joints in the shoulder complex that play important roles in maintaining stability for the GH joint, with the scapulothoracic being most prone to abuse in combative training. This joint is formed by the fibrous connection of the scapula to the posterior torso wall, which allows the scapula to glide and rotate as the GH joint requires.
The serratus anterior and the trapezius provide the ability to adduct (pull close to the ribcage), retract, depress, and upwardly or downwardly rotate the scapulae. They maintain alignment of the glenoid fossa with the head of the humerus. A strong, reasonably flexible rotator cuff group is important, but the trapezius needs to be able to provide rotation and stabilization so that the GH joint stays centered and the rotator cuff isn’t impinged. The trapezius and serratus need to work synergistically with the GH joint movers. Striking in general requires the same coupling of scapular and humeral actions that has been reported for other overhand actions (Kibler, et. al., 2007) such as the tennis serve.
Posted in Anatomy, Boxing, Combat Sports, Conditioning, Fight Sciences Research Institute, Fighting Arts, Health, karate, MMA, Muay Thai, Resources, Sports Science, strength training
Tagged boxing, combat sports, fighting arts, karate, martial arts, MMA, movement impairment, Muay Thai, punching, scapula, scapulohumeral, serratus, striking, trapezius
Specificity of training is the basis on which all modern physical training rests. Briefly, to produce a desired physiological adaptation, a training program must place sufficient stress on the physiological systems in question (Willmore & Costill, 2004). In training environments this is commonly referred to as Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands (SAID). Adaptations to training are limited to the physiological system overloaded by the program. This includes neuromotor, morphological, hormonal and metabolic elements. Fighting activities (encompassing both combat sports and fighting/self protection scenarios) present a unique programming challenge, requiring a range of adaptations to all systems.
Posted in Anatomy, Boxing, Combat Sports, Conditioning, Fight Sciences Research Institute, Fighting, Judo, karate, MMA, Muay Thai, Resources, Self Protection, Sports Science, strength training, Wrestling
Tagged boxing, combat sports, conditioning, fighting arts, karate, martial arts, MMA, Muay Thai, SAID, specificity, wrestling
One of our VA students exploring the utility of the elbows at close range to strike upwards and/or cover, then strike downwards into the throat or clavicles on the return. The collar tie can come out of the strike or cover, or from the other arm, and gives her the ability to create a force couple between elbow and target.
Posted in Fight Sciences Research Institute, Fighting Arts, General Musings, karate, MMA, Muay Thai, Photos and Images, self defense, Self Protection
Tagged elbow strikes, elbows, Fight Sciences Research Institute, fighting arts, fighting skills, martial arts, self protection
The actions of fighting arts (including combatives and self-defense systems) and combat sports place regular high stresses on the spinal column. I’ve previously mentioned the anterior-posterior compressive and shear forces that affect the lumbar spine, but not the transverse rotational (torsional) and lateral compressive forces that actions like punching, kicking, throwing and falling places on the thoracic spine. Basic fighting postures, such as a standing guard or striking can encourage thoracic kyphosis and lateral asymmetry. Left unchecked, torso actions can become plagued by dominant muscular patterns of imbalance to one side or the other, as a result of a favored limb or ingrained movement compensations due to faulty stabilization or movement system activity. Over time these muscular imbalances can lead to vertebral facet degradation and arthritis, disk herniations and ruptures, nerve entrapment and bone spurs (typically in the direction of excessive muscular tension), all of which translate to reduced performance.
Curvature of a healthy spinal column. Note the lateral symmetry.
Posted in Anatomy, Boxing, Combat Sports, Conditioning, conditioning, Fight Sciences Research Institute, Health, Judo, MMA, Muay Thai, Resources, Safety, self defense, Self Protection, Sports Science, training
Tagged boxing, combat sports, Corrective exercise, fighting arts, judo, karate, kyphosis, MMA, Muay Thai, thoracic spine
Ed. Note: while the examples used in the piece below relate to punching and recreational/athletic MA training, the concepts can easily be applied to all other fighting skills and situations in which they might be used.
How many ways are there to skin a cat? Or in this case, throw a punch? Among both novice and experts (and “experts”), it can seem as if there is a “right” way to perform a fighting skill, yet variations are to be found from style to style, from individual to individual, and even from moment to moment within the same encounter. The Q & A below came out of a discussion with martial artist and CSCS Daniel Ramos (fellow ATSU Human Movement Science alum).
Posted in Anatomy, Boxing, Combat Sports, Conditioning, Fight Sciences Research Institute, General Musings, Health, karate, MMA, Muay Thai, Pedagogy, Resources, Self Protection, training
Tagged boxing, combat sports, cross, hitting, karate, kinematics, martial arts, MMA, Muay Thai, punching, striking
The overhead squat assessment promoted by NASM (Clark & Lucett, 2011) provides a useful evaluation of the functional status of the latissimus dorsi during a common movement (video example here). The OHS requires that both trunk extension and shoulder flexion occur simultaneously, either or both of which may be altered if the muscle has become chronically shortened and tight. When the lats are hypertonic, shoulder range or motion (ROM) is altered due to excessive internal rotation and depression of the humerus, which further affects the actions of the scapula. This can be seen when an individual’s arms habitually fall forward past the line of the torso during the eccentric phase of the squat in an OHS evaluation, which is an indication of the arthrokinematic (joint movement) compensations needed to accommodate functional ROM as the muscle attempts to maintain a shorter distance between origin and insertion (for an excellent visual of how this occurs, take a look here).
Rear view of the latissimus dorsi. Note the broad connection to the pelvis, and the insertion on the humerus. An overactive (hypertonic) lat will cause alterations in shoulder and hip function, impairing good technique by reducing strength and mobility, while increasing the chances of an avoidable chronic injury.
Posted in Anatomy, Boxing, Combat Sports, Conditioning, conditioning, Fight Sciences Research Institute, Fighting Arts, Health, Judo, karate, MMA, Muay Thai, Resources, Sports Science, strength training
Tagged combat sports, kinematics, martial arts, NASM, OHS, overhead squat assessment, punching, shoulder injury