Tuesday, April 2, 2013

She blinded me with science

Tactile sense and / or just play.

A new G.I. Joe movie just came out.  Faithful readers of the Budo blog now I love the Joes so you know a Joe themed blog had to be in the works.

There are a few things I have been knocking around in my head and discussing with other trainers I wanted to blog about for awhile.  The G.I. Joe movie is a good excuse / spring board to discuss them this week.

One of my favorite characters from the G.I. Joe comic book back in the day was the Blind Master

In the book - Sensei Moore (the Blind Master) is an honorary member of the Arashi Kage Ninja clan who was taken in and trained by the Hard Master. He later opened a Dojo in Denver, Colorado.

{Interesting side note my first Aikido Sensei was Sensei Moore who received his training at the Nippon Kan Dojo in Denver Colorado}

When The Hard Master was assassinated by Zartan, Sensei Moore continued his master's practices and trained Jinx.

That is the Blind Master and Jinx from the film

Because Jinx was trained by the Blind Master, she actually fought better blind and would wear a blindfold into combat.

Sounds silly right, but that brings me to the first Idea I've been kicking around…

Tactile sensory perception.

Information received tactilely is perceived faster / reacted on quicker, than information received visually

The somatosensory system is a diverse sensory system comprising the receptors and processing centres to produce the sensory modalities such as touch, temperature, proprioception (body position), and nociception (pain).

The sensory receptors cover the skin andepithelia, skeletal muscles, bones and joints, internal organs, and the cardiovascular system.

While touch[1] is considered one of the five traditional senses, the impression of touch is formed from several modalities. In medicine, the colloquial term "touch" is usually replaced with "somatic senses" to better reflect the variety of mechanisms involved.

Somatic senses are sometimes referred to as somesthetic senses, with the understanding that somesthesis includes touch, proprioception and (depending on usage) also haptic perception.[2]

The system reacts to diverse stimuli using different receptors: thermoreceptors, nociceptors, mechanoreceptors and chemoreceptors. Transmission of information from the receptors passes via sensory nerves through tracts in the spinal cord and into the brain. Processing primarily occurs in the primary somatosensory area in the parietal lobe of the cerebral cortex.

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The cortical homunculus was devised byWilder Penfield.
At its simplest, the system works when activity in a sensory neuron is triggered by a specific stimulus such as heat; this signal eventually passes to an area in the brain uniquely attributed to that area on the body—this allows the processed stimulus to be felt at the correct location. The point-to-point mapping of the body surfaces in the brain is called a homunculus and is essential in the creation of a body image.

Reaction Time
by Kyle Shannon, a neuroscience undergraduate student at UC-San Diego.
The speed of your reactions play a large part in your everyday life. Fast reaction times can produce big rewards, for example, like saving a blistering soccer ball from entering the goal. Slow reaction times may come with consequences.

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Reaction time is a measure of the quickness an organism responds to some sort of stimulus. You also have “reflexes” too. Reflexes and reactions, while seeming similar, are quite different. Reflexes are involuntary, used to protect the body, and are faster than a reaction. Reflexes are usually a negative feedback loop and act to help return the body to its normal functioning stability, or homeostasis. The classic example of a reflex is one you have seen at your doctor’s office: the patellar reflex.

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This reflex is called a stretch reflex and is initiated by tapping the tendon below the patella, or kneecap. It was first independently described in 1875 by two German neurologists, Wilhelm Heinrich Erb and Carl Friedrich Otto Westphal. In their original papers Erb referred to the reflex as the “Patellarsehnenreflex” while Westphal denoted it as the “Unterschenkelphanomen”. Thankfully, we now refer to it as the patellar reflex.
This reflex is also known as a “reflex arc”. It is a negative feedback circuit that is comprised of three main components:
·         A sensory component or afferent neuron. These neurons take in information and translate it to an electrical signal that gets sent to the central nervous system, much like the spikes you hear when doing the cockroach leg experiments.
·         Integrating center or interneuron. These neurons act as sensory processing centers that determine the magnitude of the response to the incoming stimulus. They are located in the central nervous system (your spinal cord).
·         The efferent portion or motor neuron takes the information from the interneuron and sends it to the effectors which activate a response. The effectors are usually muscle fibers as in the patellar reflex or a gland such as the salivary gland.
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The knee reflex arc is a spinal reflex, and the circuit is drawn above. This picture shows how the sensory (afferent) neuron sends information through the dorsal root ganglion into the spinal cord; where the signal splits into two different paths. The first is the motor neuron (efferent) leading back to the quadriceps. When your quad muscle’s motor neuron receives the information it fires and causes your lower leg to spring forward up in the air. The second signal from the sensory neuron travels to an interneuron which sends a signal to the motor neuron (efferent) leading to the hamstring. This signal tells your hamstring to relax so there is no negative force acting on the quadriceps muscle when it contracts. Both signals work together and all of this happens in the spinal cord without going to the brain. It never needs the brain.
You may be asking how a knee reflex arc and a soccer player dealing with an oncoming ball are different. Are both not reflexes? While it may seem that a soccer player negotiating an oncoming ball is a simple fast reflex, it is actually a symphony of hundreds of thousands of neurons working together to produce a conscious decision. Does the player catch, dodge, or bat away the ball? This choice is what makes a reaction.

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When a soccer player realizes the ball is blistering towards him, there is visual information that has to be processed and decisions regarding a correct course of action. The brain then needs to send many signals to various muscles. Feet begin to move, hands might travel in front of the face, and eyes may close shut, along with many more processes. This is the work of many neurons as well as numerous systems and circuits in the brain, and what’s more, and you can train and enhance your skill through practice. This is how you get better at sports over time.
Like all science, the history of the reaction time discovery is peculiar. Dutch physiologist F.C. Donders in 1865 began to think about human reaction time and if it was measurable. Prior to his studies scientists thought that human mental processes were too fast to be measured. This assumption was proved incorrect with the help of Charles Wheatstone, an English scientist and inventor. In 1840 Wheatstone invented a device, much like his early telegraph system invention, that recorded the velocity of artillery shells. Donders used that device to measure the time it took from when a shock occurred on a patient’s foot until when that patient pressed a button. The button had to be pressed by the left or right hand matching the left or right foot that was shocked. His study tested 2 conditions: in the first, the patient knew in advance which foot was to be shocked; in the other condition, the patient did not know. Donders discovered a 1/15 second delay between patients who knew which foot was to be shocked versus patients that did not know. Notably, this was the first account of the human mind being measured!

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These efforts continue today, with the improvement of “non-invasive” imaging technologies like fMRI, PET, EEG, etc... You may have had one of these scans in the hospital.

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How quickly neurons move information is called the “speed of neural transmission”; we studied it in experiment 11 when we measured the conduction speed of axons in earthworms. This is only one of the speed bottlenecks though. You also have to deal with the synapse (which we studied in experiment 8). Furthermore, the quickness of reaction times can differ depending upon what type of stimulus you are reacting to and what kind of task you are doing.
In this experiment you and a friend will be testing each other’s reaction times using a simple 12 inch ruler. You will be testing not only visual stimulus, but also auditory and tactile stimuli.
·         Eye Shades
·         12 inches wooden ruler, two of these
·         Seat and desk
This experiment will be broken into two phases. The first test will use one ruler, while the second test will use two.
Experiment 1: In this phase you and your partner will test visual, auditory, and tactile reaction times using one ruler.

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1.      Have your friend sit at a table with their dominant hand over the edge.
2.      First we will test visual response. Hold the ruler at the 30 cm mark so that the 0 cm end is just at your friend’s index finger.
3.      Tell your friend that when you release the ruler they are to grab it as fast as possible. Do not make any sounds or gestures that you are releasing the ruler. They have to react to the visual stimulus of seeing the ruler being released. Record the centimeter mark.
4.      Repeat the experiment three more times. Then switch places with your partner and redo it.
5.      Now you will record auditory reactions. Have your partner sit at the table as before, also be sure your partner puts on the eye shades.
6.      Again testing the dominant hand, tell your partner that you will say the word “Release” as you release the ruler. Once they grab it record the centimeter mark and repeat 3 times. Switch places with your partner again.
7.      For the last test, have your partner sit at the table wearing the eye shades again. This time you will test the tactile response. Tell your partner that you will touch the shoulder of their non dominant arm as you release the ruler.
8.      Give you partner no auditory cue that you are releasing, just a simple touch. Record the measurement and like before, repeat three times, then switch places and redo.
Here is the table for the first experiment:

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Experiment 2: In this phase you and your partner will test visual and auditory reaction times using two rulers.
1.      For the Visual portion of this experiment have your partner sit as the table, like before, but have both of their hands over the edge.
2.      You will hold both rulers this time instead of just one.
3.      Tell your partner that you will release just one ruler and they must pick the correct one and grab it as fast as possible…Tell them they must not squeeze both hands, only one.
4.      When you are ready to begin, randomly decide one ruler to drop. It does not matter which one, you will perform this test 3 more times, but never tell your partner which ruler you will drop.
5.      Again as before switch roles and redo.
6.      Finally, we will test the auditory reaction again. This time using both rulers.
7.      Get in the same position as before with both rulers. Make sure your partner has the eye shades on.
8.      You will then proceed to say “left” or “right”. As you say it you will drop the corresponding left or right ruler. Your partner must decide which ruler to grasp based on the auditory cue you give: “left” or “right”. As before, your partner must only squeeze one hand.
9.      Record the measurement and repeat 3 more times, remember to randomly decide which ruler to drop. Switch roles and repeat.
Here is the table for the second experiment:
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In your chart above you are going to take all the centimeter measurements you have collected and convert the measurement in centimeters to seconds. This will tell you how long it takes, in seconds, an object (the ruler) to fall a certain distance. The formula below is comprised of three variables.
·         Y = the distance you measured in centimeters
·         g0 = the acceleration due to gravity constant (980 cm/sec2 )
·         t = time in seconds

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Here is an example of the equation being used:
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It may seem tedious to convert by hand each number you recorded so instead you will be provided with a quick chart to convert your centimeter measurement to seconds. However, there are several values missing in the table. You will need to fill them out to complete the table. Use the equation above to fill out the remainder of the chart. If you are savvy you can also design a computer program to do this.

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After using the chart and converting your centimeter measurements into seconds you will have your ruler reaction time in seconds. Looking at your data you might be thinking how you compare to the human average reaction time. Here it is! The average reaction time for humans is 0.25 seconds to a visual stimulus, 0.17 for an audio stimulus, and 0.15 seconds for a touch stimulus.
Questions to Consider
1.      Why do you think touch and audio stimuli have a faster reaction time on average?
2.      Do your results match the averages mentioned above?
3.      Would you expect a difference in the average reaction times between a male and female? What about a more athletic person compared to a more sedentary person?
4.      Do you think it’s OK to average two people like we did? What might be the problem?
5.      Why did we not test the “tactile” reaction time in the choice task? How could you redesign the experimental setup to test tactile reaction times in the choice task?
6.      As you know, you have a dominant vs. a non-dominant hand. With only four trials, it is too hard to see a difference. Perhaps you should repeat the experiment 10-20 times to see if there is any difference between dominant and non-dominant hands.
7.      The average conduction velocity speed is approximately 20-80 m/s. It takes approximately 1 ms for a neurotransmitter to cross the synapses. Calculate the lower limit for your patella reflex vs. the patellar reflex of a giraffe.

Comic books and neuro-science, Kasey you must be a killer with the ladies

How is this information useful to Operators?
OK, any time I talk about tactics I need to be careful because a public blog is open source intel to the enemy (did that sound cool, it sounded cool in my head).
So with out giving away the farm for free let me say that operationally you must read off your teammates quickly and pick up any area of responsibility your partner vacates.  Also the only cover you can count on in a structure is the armor you are wearing.  You must move to protect the weaknesses in your partner’s armor with the strength of yours and vice versa.

Not too long ago we put on a new operator orientation class for the team.  Working on these basics I notices a long (dangerous) gap between the movement of one operator and the reaction of his partner among new operators.

I would grab one of the instructors and we would demonstrate how we would like the motion or technique done.  Seamless (c’mon guys it’s me what did you expect, less than perfection?).  The new guys would try it again.  The technique or tactic would be correct, but there would still be that dangerous lag or gap.

As I processed this further I noticed that the experienced operators, in this case the instructors had developed a “tactile sense”

We weren't blind like the Blind Master, or wearing a blindfold like Jinx, but we rarely looked at each other.  Our eyes were occupied looking for threats in our areas of responsibility.  We were much closer together in the stack “nuts to butts” if you will.  We could feel each other move.  Whatever our partner did we would move at the same time to cover with weapons and protect with armor.  No gap, no lag.

The newer guys would watch their partner move then try to figure out where to go, the speed of information coming through the eyes, that information going through the OODA (observe, orient, decide, act) process was slow and caused that gap.

Going off that hypothesis I forced them to touch each other (wow that sounded way less gay in my head).  Getting the information faster and cutting the orient, and decide portions out of the OODA process.  The instant you feel your partner moving you fill the gap he left (ok, make your own easy sexual preference joke here).  Stimulus coming faster and conditioned response resulted in the removal of the gap / lag and made the new guys flow much smoother.  It’s been said millions of times but slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

I feel by drilling that tactile sense early on in their operational career we helped the new guys become much better faster.  Giving them skills that may take years to develop by themselves in the field.

How is this useful for martial artists?

The following quote I stole from Rory Miller, where he got it from I don’t recall, regardless the information is worthwhile…

In order for a technique to be valid it must have four elements:

  1. It must have a tactical use.

  1. It must work moving or standing still. If you can’t hit hard when both you and the threat are moving, you can’t hit hard. If you can’t put a bullet on target on a moving target while you, yourself are moving, for all tactical purposes you can’t shoot.

  1. It must work whether you can see or not

  1. It must work when you are scared, under an adrenaline dump. If the technique needs a clear head and pinpoint precision to work, it doesn't work.

So if you are not The Blind Master, or if you haven’t been trained by him how do you address #3  It must work whether you can see or not?

How do you develop  / use this tactile sense to your benefit?

You are going to have to get close.  Becoming comfortable, uncomfortable close is a valuable attribute.

I touched on this a bit in an older blog

Here are the relevant points:

Because violence happens closer than most dojo training we should all work closer than most dojo training.  Close in fighting or “grappling range” fighting can be used when you can’t see. 

Watch the video on this link

Could you tell the Judoka were blind?
Here are some more links to blind judo:

I can here you saying that is great for sport, but isn’t this site about practical application?

Yes, yes it is.  Here is an example of practical application (and poetic justice, which apparently is also blind)

Here is the link –

But for the lazy I have included the article here:
Mugger attacks blind man... who turns out to be a judo world champion
Last updated at 16:53 11 September 2007
The blind beggar was actually a one-time judo world champion
When a German mugger spotted a blind beggar at a train station in Germany, he must have thought it would be the easiest mugging of his career.
The teenage mugger spotted the 33-year-old beggar sitting outside a train station in the south-western town of Giessen and thought he would be easy prey, police said.
Intending to steal his cigarettes, the 17-year-old  threatened the blind man and then punched him in the face.
Unfortunately for the mugger, what he didn't know was that his would-be victim was Michael Esser, a former world champion in judo for blind people.
Before he knew what was happening he had been flipped over and put in a stranglehold.
The blind martial artist then pinned him down until police arrived.

Herr Esser need to choke a bitch?

Ok, so that is great for grappling what about striking?  Well if you train at “sparring” range not a damn thing.  But if you have strikes you can do up close at grappling / in fighting range the same principles that make blind Judo work make blind striking work.

Try this drill:
Cover your eyes with something (make sure you can’t see)
Have a partner strike you (correct form – slow motion)
Recover (counter ambush)– you should be close enough to touch your partner [I know that might sound ridiculous but I’ve seen enough Karate classes “spar” so far away from each other that actual contact much less delivering force into your opponent is impossible]
What strikes are available to you, what targets are open, where are they?  Your tactile senses are faster than your eyes you will be able to feel (almost “sees”) how they are standing and where all their parts are.  Again comic nerd it’s kind of like Dare Devil only minus Ben Aflec, so way cooler
Counter strike (correct form – slow motion) Not only is pulling punches a great way to develop bad habits its impossible to do if you can’t see.  So hit as hard as you can - slowly

Once you get the hang of it there many variations you can play with just remember keep it simple, keep it safe.

Striking drill - I like to use a B.O.B. (body opponent bag) for anatomical targets but you can do this drill on any bag.
Hands on BOB’s shoulders or against the bag
Close Eyes
Hit BOB as hard as you can in places that hurt

Side effects – besides learning how to strike effectively from close range, and when you can’t see you will learn how to move while dizzy (bell rung) and lots of sneaky little strike that don’t look like strikes which set up your throws and locks (dirty Judo)

"...but my teacher Morihei Ueshiba sensei always had stated that in real fighting occasions 70% of aikido is atemi, and 30% is throwing" Shioda G.

"Atemi accounts for 99% of aikido." was a remark once uttered by the Founder" Saito M.

Counter Ambush drill – If you have a wing chung dummy or something similar this is fun
Hands on the wing chung dummy’s arms or at shoulder level
Close Eyes
Work your counter ambush as hard as you can tolerate

“The board should fear your hand not the other way around”

That picture brings me to the other thing bouncing around in my head…..Just play

I took my older daughters to the G.I.Joe movie with me.  Between going to the Dojo with me, the character of Jinx from the movie and Yao Fei's daughter Shado from the CW series “Arrow” (very cool show btw) my oldest daughter has shown a renewed interest in the martial arts.

In the past I have tried to teach my daughter with limited success.  Usually we both left frustrated.  What I teach isn't really “for kids”, I have high standards, and to be honest I probably expect far too much from my oldest daughter.

So I was very happy when my oldest asked – hey you wanna play ninja school? 

Hell yeah I do!

In the Arashi Kage there is a:
Hard Master
Soft Master
Old Master
Young Master

Snake Eyes can’t talk so he is the Silent Master.  I love to talk and I am loud so following the balance of opposites, I took for myself the title of the Resonant Master.

Balance of opposites Fire and Water

Like a scene from any decent 80’s action flick my basement is a combination of Dojo, weight room, gun range, and laundry room.  We decided this would be a perfect Arashi Kage Dojo.

I have been working on using low kicks (lower body) along with blocking structure (upper body) to enter into "close in / in fighting"  range (crash in) myself so I figured I just let her play with it.  

Just let her play with it would become a key concept for me.

I started playing by saying the Arashi Kage train in “golden movement”
For a move to be gold it must:
Improve your position
Worsen the their position
Protect you from damage
Allows you to damage them.

It secures your perimeter (keeps you covered)
Disrupts his ability to attack you (stuns him, unbalances him, changes his orientation, undermines what he needs in order to attack you)
Sets up your next move.

This happens with EVERY move you make, not every technique, but every move within that technique.

Sounds pretty good right?  I kick ass at playing Ninja school.

That isn't from any Arashi Kage ninja scroll.  You may recognize it as  Rory Miller’s Golden Standard and Marc MacYoung’s standard of effective technique.

Hmmm, I guess I made them defacto Arashi Kage masters.  Marc can be the Fuzzy Master and Jimerfield Sensei can be the Bald Master

Rory can be the Cerebral Master – does that mean we need a dumb ass master?  Naw, sadly the world is full of enough dumb ass ninja masters we don’t need any more. 

But in playing with these Arashi Kage secret golden techniques my daughter was instinctively picking up

Motion – Drop step
Power generation

And having fun while she did it.  I have the bruises to prove it!

Just let her play with it

Playing ingrains things faster. 

How long does it take to pick up a video game?  Did you read the book first or just start dicking around with the game?  Did the book even help?

Also hitting on point #4 

- It must work when you are scared, under an adrenaline dump. If the technique needs a clear head and pinpoint precision to work, it doesn’t work. – 

Under adrenal stress your cognitive function is diminished.  The part of your brain that understood the directions for the video game you read before you started playing gets harder to access as adrenalin rises and other parts of your brain take over.

Playing also trains the parts of the brain that are taking over under stress.

An example of this can be seen in learning a language.  It is useful for troops to be able to speak the native language of their theater of operation.  Learning language traditionally is difficult and lengthy for adults.

The military has developed a  1st person shooter in which you must pick up conversational Farsi to advance in the game.  Troops just playing picked up Farsi much faster than by traditional language training.

How is this useful to Operators and/or Martial Artists?

Allow yourself, allow your students the freedom to just play

Now you know…
And knowing is half the battle
(The other half involves guns and blowing shit up)

Train hard – Train Smart – Be safe

Yo Joe!

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