What is Natural movement and how can it be developed?

Written by Pete. Posted in Black Belt Research Project 2013

natural movement in sport, sports movement

What is Natural movement and how can it be developed

by Peter Syckelmoore 

Introduction

Movement is caused by messages sent from the brain to the muscles via the nervous system these messages tell our muscles to either contract or relax this causes internal movement  when there is no skeletal movement which is difficult to spot with the naked eye, movement becomes more apparent when the muscles work in groups/pairs to move our skeletal structure (arms/legs).

 

I’ll begin this stage with a few ideas of different ideas about what natural movement is, the first is based on the 3 Stages of Learning motor movements which are

1) Cognitive Movements are slow, inconsistent, and inefficient Large parts of the movement are controlled consciously

2) Associative Movements are more fluid, reliable, and efficient Some parts of the movement are controlled consciously, some automatically

3) Autonomous Movements are accurate, consistent, and efficient Movement is largely controlled automatically

 

From this I could say possibly say natural movement is the same thing as Autonomous movement when the performer can produce a movement which is accurate, consistent, and efficient without any or little thought needed to produce the movement performed. What we tend to find in martial arts though is that these autonomous movement are not always efficient especially if we haven’t been practicing the right way, this leads to bad habits which are hard to get rid of because to get rid of them we have to go through the learning process all over again consciously thinking about changing the inefficient movement to a more effective one.

To develop natural movement in martial arts  and reach the top of the Autonomous stage we have to practice and repeat the given exercises over and over and get the moves ingrained into our muscles this will often take thousands if not hundreds of thousands   repetitions before the moves are truly natural even then they won’t be perfect not to mention about time without practicing a movement which will pull you back down the stages of learning, many people’s mistake is that they don’t do enough repetitions they do enough to get to the Associative  stage where they are more fluid and consistent with the moves on the day of training but then come back the next week by which time they have slipped back to the Cognitive stage feeling inconsistent and unsure of the movement again.   

In training we will sometimes be told  to imagine doing natural everyday type movements to help us understand how to quickly learn martial art movements

For example:

  • passing a football when sweeping the legs
  • imagine opening a book in 13 hands, 
  • Imagine touching a hot stove after landing a punch so that the retract is as fast as the punch itself
  • throw a ball to the ground (power hands downward hammer fist or 
  • a pins just pricked your back side to help you spring forward, these learning aids can be an effective way into making us learn the correct type of movement needed for the task at hand.

This concept helps us speed up the learning process of the movements by turning what would have been a Cognitive Movement into a Associative or Autonomous Movement making the movement feel a lot easier and natural to us.

 

Natural reactions

I’ll start with what I believe to be the most Autonomous type of Movements we perform which is our natural reactions (most of which are designed to stop or reduce damage caused to our body)

I will look closely at these movements and try and incorporate these practicing and analye them in the dojo

1) How I use them to help develop the effectiveness of my martial art skills and

2) Use different scenarios where I will analyse if these movements are beneficial or not

 

Pulling back of hand when pain is felt: When I perform kumite I know I need to use this type of response a lot more often as I often find im quick  to make an attack but too slow at retracting and often find after a kick my leg being caught/swept or not being able to respond and block counter attacks due to not retracting my arm and move my body to a safe distance in time.                                                                                              Action plan: telling myself this isn’t enough to make a difference, I need to continually practice applying this when practicing kumite towards making this a Autonomous (natural) movement for myself.

Flinching: shutting eyes and shielding oneself in response to a stimulus   This movement can be a effective way at putting up a quick guard especially against projectiles, shutting eyes could help if liquids are involved however during my training I have tried to get rid of this natural response to speed up my response time at accessing the situation and acting accordingly.

Protecting a limb which is damaged: If we have a injury we will naturally limp or hold a injured arm close to our body’s to protect it from further harm. In most self defence situations I’d would say you’d want to try and hide the fact you have an injury so your opponent can not take advantage of this (only let it show when danger has passed. In training we must be very careful when we have injuries and stop if an injury is hurting as this is our brain telling us we are doing our body further harm.

Curling up in foetal position if on ground getting pummelled by thugs (protecting major organs): When doing our self defence seminar we were in formed that mimicking this position standing up when under threat of a knife attack was an effective position as it covered many of the vital spots (neck, wrist arteries, major internal organs in torso).

 

My third category of natural movements involves looking back in time to when we were cave men were we would have possibly had to use these daily to kill prey in our hunt for food or to escape harm in wild conditions (making the following movements much more natural to them). Many of these methods would be used as a last resort and should only be used in self defence in today’s society

Strangling wringing neck, which came under Gripping onto stationery objects in my briefing. A very effective way at ending life as cutting off the air supply to the lungs or blood supply to the brain.

Lashing out kicking and thumping: this aggressive fast pace attack strategies is often seen in animals and even untrained children they don’t have a great concept on how to perform good effective strikes but use their aggression and speed to there advantage to try and overcome the opposition. The aggression combined with many attacks with speed is what I’d like to take out of this, as people can often defend/resist one attack but not lots in a short space of time leading to becoming quickly overwhelmed

Scratching and biting face/neck: Not one that we practice in martial arts although it is an effective tactic in a desperate situation. In martial arts we would try and become familiar with the soft spots on the body so we would know where to aim our scratch’s/ bites.

Stamping:  A very effective and simple movement, when opponents standing up we can stamp on a foot, angle the stamp to aim for the knee once the prey is down on the ground stamp to the head and neck.

Sprinting for your life: Very important whether running from a superior opponent to reach safety or chasing prey down to make sure you get the food required to keep your body going and avoid starvation.

 

The next way I will look at natural movement is by looking at the joints of the body and see what movement these allow as natural movements and movements the joints restrict as unnatural ones

For example the elbow is a hinge joint allowing flexion and extension as its natural movements, hyperextension of this joint is a unnatural movement thus pain is felt

Pivot joints allow Rotation of one bone around another as in our neck allowing turning of the head. Its natural to turn the head but as soon as resistance is felt any more movement would be classed as unnatural (no one turns there head 360 degrees)

Ball and Socket allow many movements seen in the shoulder/hip including Flexion/Extension/Adduction/Abduction/Internal & External Rotation

The muscles and tendons around these joints play a roll in determining what is natural or not tight muscles round a joint restrict its range of natural movement, this is seen in many weight lifters were there range of movement is greatly reduced.

A way of increasing natural range of movement is to stretch and lengthen specific muscles tendons and ligaments around effecting a joints movement, however doing this we are having to perform unnatural movement.

From this I can say natural movement is what ever the joints and muscles of the body physically allows us to do without pain being felt or excessive force being applied, I can also state that care needs to be applied involving the amount  muscle workout to stretching ratio to ensure a healthy balance is maintained.

Finally I look at these last two as muscles are what control all movement and the only two things they can do is relax and contract, pretty amazing when you consider the hundreds of thousands of different types of movements which are possible to make.

Positives for Tensing muscles

making oneself feel heavy especially for others to lift up

Helpful to lock our joints and stop or reduce movement through a certain joint of the body: tensing bicep pulling it towards the body if an opponent is attempting a arm bar.

Tensing abdominal muscles helpful in forming a barrier shielding internal organs

Negatives: 

Tensing all or many muscles groups dramatically slows your movement capabilities as to truly make best use of the muscles to help make fast effective moves the muscles need to go from a state of full relaxation to contraction and visa versa. When the muscles are already contracted and you attempt a movement you are pretty much immobilising the muscle and stopping it aid the movement you are attempting, other muscles help make the movement happen instead.

Drains energy very quickly wearing the person out

Allows opponent’s to have greater control of the body as they can move the tense person as one much easier. (this can be tested by getting into pairs one person lies on the floor the other attempts to move this person when they are in a state of complete tension and again with complete relaxation)         Positives for Relaxing muscles

Allows muscles to be ready act quickly and effectively

Conserves energy

Proved fact that if you are hit by a car you are likely to suffer slightly less bodily damage if your relaxed rather than tense.

Relaxed muscles are longer so allow you to stretch into positions a contracted muscle cannot

Negatives

Arms or legs can be pulled into locks more easily

Injuries to hand and wrist if fist is relaxed on punching impacts

 

After completing my own theory on the subject I looked up some other example’s in someone else’s words on natural movements, there was a massive amount to choose from so I have picked out a few different opinions on the matter.

The training creates the natural movement

To me, natural movement is that movement that can happen without thinking about it, once it has become learned and ingrained. Walking is not natural to a toddler but it is natural movement a couple of years later, after much practice.

By extension, natural movement in MA would be that movement you have learned over time that is now ingrained in muscle memory and does not have to be thought about for it to happen. Anybody have problems getting the feet in the right spot when you first started doing fighting stances? How about a couple of years later? My guess is that you don’t really need to think about foot placement anymore, it just happens. Would you now consider that to be natural movement, or not?

In short, natural motions can be anything your body uses for everyday “getting around,” such as walking, running, body twisting, crossing your arms, etc. Everyone understands (beginners) how to move around from their everyday life and they are introduced on how to apply this for martial arts movements.

Examples: Walking motion (in place, raising the knees) is simple, and is the basic foundation of knee strike in front and front kick. Arm-running motion is the foundation for various strikes in front and elbows behind the body. Body twisting, where you raise the opposite heel of the direction you are turning can be used for elbow striking, blocking, striking to the rear of your body and throwing (such as hip throw).

It seems to me that there is a measure of subjectivity to what individuals would “naturally” move like in various situations. Some people are graceful and coordinated, others are not. Different body shapes will yield different levels of effort for different responses and movements. I think natural is pretty hard to define.

 

I think of natural movement differently…. Visualize a toddler who is just beginning to walk. They are not necessarily picking up their feet and putting them down. They are falling at the hips and catching themselves with their feet. To me that is natural movement. Watch people walk, they bounce on their toes, their movement is started by their heads, or their feet, not their hips. That is not balanced.  Natural is balanced. Unnatural is the learned behaviour we have incorporated as we grew. Watch a child just learning how to walk, when they fall, the don’t stiffen up and SMACK the ground, they fall on their bum or sometimes fall forward, but they are relaxed.  

 

Summary

Some very interesting ideas here all valid, At the end of this part of the project I have decided that using the everyday natural movement in martial arts defiantly has its benefits and provides positive aids to our training whether for helping us focus and imagine a situation which would provoke a effective response for the situation, or helping get the right movement through a certain joint to help get a technique working more effectively, I think though as you get more experienced the movements you do have to become so definite and effective in a given situation that you’d need to look deeper into the Feet, Posture, Mind, Breath, internal Power, Wedge, Spiral principles to make sure the movements work bio mechanically and are as effective as possible.

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