Kiss Goodbye to Muscle Theory

Human movement is a very complex event.  The only explanations we have of how human movement works are incomplete  shadows of the truth.

I watched all 30 minutes of a talk by Serge Gracovetsky in three videos in which he makes some funny jokes about how silly the last batch of theories about human movement were.  He stays humble about the likelihood that his theories will soon be obsolete if we keep having intelligent discussions about the subject.

There is a lot of insightful stuff here, I recommend people watch it all the way through if you have the time.  He points out that muscle simply can not account for the amount of lifting force Olympic weightlifters generate.  These guys are lifting 5 times more than what the muscles themselves can lift.  He also points out that it IS POSSIBLE to lift without using muscle, at which point I shouted at the screen, "That should be the goal!  It's time to redefine optimum!"  As I've said elsewhere, weight lifters should train standing up in small boats on the ocean, or like Sherpas do, walking along the edges of cliffs.

Gracovetsky attacked me personally by saying that babies move in the same way that people with back pain move.  He made me think; if  that highly suspicious statement were in fact true, what do they have in common?  He argues that people with back pain have some kind of fascia problem and that babies have yet to develop fascia.  But I would challenge that babies bones can not support much force with out bending, and people with back pain are trying to avoid the compression which happens when the bones are weighted.  So what they have in common is that they are both avoiding putting weight on the bones.

He points out that the periosteum (the thin layer of tissue which surrounds the bone) has the fastest nerve cells in the body.  This explains several martial arts phenomenon.  For instance, in fighting, structure trumps strength.  Why?  Because the fighter who uses structure feels the actions of the fighter who uses strength even before he feels them himself, which allows the structure fighter to change and maneuver to control the fight.

But, of course, liquid mass combined with momentum trumps structure.  When a football player is tackling you the gods of structure start looking for a new home pretty quickly.  Gracovetsky finishes by explaining that instability should be the goal because soft tissue can do amazing things but only for about a third of a second before it starts stretching and deforming.  So we have to keep moving.  He doesn't explain it, but allow me to follow his logic a little further.  The periosteum gives us instant feedback, it tells us the instant we are using bone instead of soft tissue.  When our weight is on the bones some of our muscles are probably already engaging to maintain our structure, even if we don't feel it yet.  This structural tension makes us instantly vulnerable to liquid mass attacks.  So our goal as internal martial artists should be to stay in soft tissue movement.  As Gracovetsky explains, when soft tissue is allowed to rearrange itself it is four times stronger than muscle strength supported by bone.

All this bio-mechanics is fun, but as I said in the last post, there is nothing here about what the mind should be doing.  In a fight, if I can get my opponent's mind to go inside his own body, that is a huge advantage for me.  Because mind lost is time lost.

Keep watching, it stays good all the way through to the end. [hat tip: I-mon]