Category Archives: Wrestling

More on Affordances

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.

Linked Article: Before Reaching War Zones, Troops Risk Concussions

Considering that concussion risks are compounded by repeated injuries, and that the risks of concussions can include slower reactions, impaired cognition, and even changes in mood this should be something that concerns non-military self defense athletes as well.

A new military study suggests that some soldiers suffer mild traumatic brain injuries even before they go to war. These concussions, as they’re also called, can come from taking “combatives” classes that teach hand-to-hand fighting during the soldiers’ training…

The study looks, in part, at soldiers at sprawling Fort Hood, Texas, one of the Army’s main centers for basic training. The preliminary findings, which NPR and ProPublica have obtained, suggest that a soldier got a concussion in those classes every other day, on average, over nine months.

“The more hits your brain takes, the less likely it will be that you will have a full recovery,” said Dr. Alex Dromerick, director of neuroscience research at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, D.C. Dromerick, who has studied brain injuries with the military, didn’t work on this new study on concussions. But he says that based on our description of the findings, they raise a troubling scenario.

Click here to read the article.

Link: Frank Gotch’s 1908 “Wrestling and How to Train”

Follow the link for a transcript of Gotch’s classic wrestling manual, Wrestling and How to Train.

Specificity of Conditioning in Fight Activities: Basic Concepts & Application

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.

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4/21 VA class: Fun With Shoulder Locks

Last Saturday’s class featured an introduction to kneeling shoulder locks. After class, I was going through some of the pictures taken for review purposes, and noticed this uncanny (but unintentional) resemblance to Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam.” During semi-open randori, both students threw their partner in the same direction, and applied the lock at the same time, resulting in the visual pun. Next weekend, we’ll try for da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man” out of juji gatame.

FSRI Video: Throws, Pins & Escapes

The Virginia FSRI group has been learning this throw (basic hip spiral/o-goshi) and reviewing falling skills for the last few weeks. The clip shows some different semi-open randori exchanges designed to integrate it with related pin/escape skills.  Continual role switching makes it a bit more challenging and dynamic, but within an environment that’s still conducive to some experimentation (from the 4/7 VA class).

Random Training Notes 18

Regarding historical or traditional training practices:

Within physical culture, old practices or concepts aren’t necessarily good or better than modern ones just because they’ve been around awhile. There is belief in martial arts circles, especially in “traditional” groups, that something which has been passed down for decades is unquestionably valuable, or even superior to modern evidence-based understandings. A common defense is “do you think technique x would still be around it if it wasn’t battle tested?” Another is “look at practitioner x- if it worked for him, and he had no fancy research.”

The plain and unglamorous truth is that sometimes techniques or training practices got passed down simply because no one knew any better, or it fulfilled a cultural function (particularly in Confucian-influenced societies)  or because they maintained a certain personal prestige or power structure within a group. A technique may have never actually been used in a fight;  a conditioning activity may routinely cause joint damage that actually weakens a student over time, but the status of the originator serves to enshrine it. Old can be good; old is not automatically good.