Tactile Body Maps

Body maps are one of the primary ways the mind organizes sensory data for the purpose of movement.  Thinking about perception in terms of body maps is a very powerful intellectual tool.  Body maps are also a very powerful tool for kinesthetic learning.  

As far as I know, the theory of body maps emerged to explain strange perceptual-action phenomena among people who suffered strokes and other injuries to the brain.  For example there were people who could only hold themselves up in a lit room, if you turned off the lights they would fall down.  The tension that held their sense of body together was somehow channeled through or embedded in their visual perception.   A person can lose the ability to orient and make movement judgements about the space with in their immediate reach, yet maintain that ability for distances of over 15 feet.  They call lose movement or orientation components of perception for all, half, or a just a single part of their body.  They can lose the ability to use a coffee cup without losing the knowledge of what it is, what’s for, or any other general movement skills.  The theory of body maps goes a long way toward explaining the imagination too.  It turns out that when we imagine shooting a basket ball all the functions of our brain active when we shoot a basket ball are operative, with the addition of the frontal cortex which acts to suppress that movement.  Thus going some way toward explaining people with impulse control problems on the one hand and self-repression on the other.  Child developmental problems have contributed to this theory as well.  There are children who can crawl perfectly on a single floor pattern or texture but when the pattern changes, say from stripes to checks, they can not cross the line on their own. They just get stuck.

A wide range of body maps for specific aspects of smell, hearing, seeing and touch can be lost, but in a normally functioning person all of these maps are overlapping and interacting.  Yet, there are discernible elements of distinct body maps.  When you try to drive and park a car you have never driven before, it becomes obvious that your body is mapping what the functional movement and spatial boundaries of the car are.  

I imagine that in utero two of our first perceptions are fluid balancing and tactile texture differentiation.  I also imagine that these two develop as some sort of base for many body maps which, later on, become essential to moving and seeing.  This is weird stuff.  It seems likely that these perceptions happen long before any differentiation of a social self, even in the spatial sense.  I’m positing here that qi is tactile, it can be understood as a tactile body map, it has a texture which can be differentiated from the texture of air.

So with these explanatory tools I believe we can explain how high level tai chi works.  Tai chi functions by bringing to the forefront of consciousness both tactile body maps and liquid rebalancing body maps.  Because both of these develop before the self, they are completely asocial.  Thus they are a door to certain types of enlightenment where the illusions of social constraint and context turn to dust.  Babies put everything in their mouth because lips and tongue are even better amplifiers of texture than finger tips are.  When you see the world as texture, as tactile feeling, it becomes something to devour, echoing some creation myths .  But I’m not just talking about lips and finger tips, our entire body has the ability to feel out into space.  In fact the experience of feeling out into space does not need to include feeling ones own body.  When this tactile body map is totally active the sense of ones body loses its boundaries and enters the realm of liquid spatial perception.  From there the perception action sequence is marked by feeling the exchange of fluid (yin and yang), the dynamic movement of fluid around the inside of a container.  The container is bounded and altered by the size of our active tactile body maps, not our actual body.

When the opponent is fully incorporated into these body maps, there is no social experience of “me” attacking “him,” just an exchange of yin and yang. Thus, I described it in the previous post as “asocial action without an agenda.”

How does this relate to theater or forms?

Arguing Against Ice

This blog has a great challenge to the whole idea of icing: Motilitywod.

Here is the video, it's long and the sound is a little low but it's good.

I did a bunch of thinking about this issue.  Most of my readers know that Chinese medicine has been against icing but there has been some concession to the idea that inflammation is a problem and improved circulation is part of the solution.  That is now in serious doubt.  

For the last 15 or so years Physical Therapy schools have been teaching that the purpose of icing is to reduce secondary injury from inflammation.  However, there isn't much proof that secondary injury exists in muscular skeletal injuries. It may be a fantasy justification.

The injury is supposed to be caused by hypoxia, lack of oxygen in the cells.  The logic developed such that icing caused blood vessels to constrict but that the warming right after icing caused them to get much fatter via the "hunter" effect, and thus circulation increased.  More circulation, more oxygen available to the cells, less hypoxia.

But things turn out to be a lot more complex.  For one, we don't have a definition of inflammation, this article explains that at the moment we know of 9 different mechanisms that fall under the general heading, inflammation.  I suspect that as this debate continues we will discover there are things ice is great for, burns perhaps, but at the moment it is being way over used.  

The video suggests using compression bands (like Voodoo Bands) or electrical stimulation for muscle skeletal trauma.  I'm a fan of both but I have a different explanation.  When you use electrical stimulation or compression bands with external manipulation, you are making your external body empty (xu) of intent (yi), yet active (ling)!  This frees the mind to go outside the body and also frees the internal body from the external body so that it can move around and make spontaneous adjustments to the whole system.  Qigong and Standing Meditation (Zhanzhuang) can also do the trick.  Lymphatic vessels, which clear out inflammation, do not require impulsive muscle tension to drain, they just require movement.  With practice a student can learn to open and move fluid through the lymphatic vessels very easily.  

The Cat Walk

Tanka Tanka

It was raining hard the other morning so I did my practice inside and I really got into working on the cat walk.  I've got these walks down: the dog, the bunny, the monkey, the phoenix, the crab, the dragon and probably a bunch of others I'm not thinking of right now.  But the cat has been tough.  This is the Paulie Zink Daoyin I'm talking about here, and he showed me the scared cat, the cat licking, and the stretching cat but not the walking cat.  It's hard to walk like a cat!  But it's only a matter of time and deduction before I get it.  After all I have Xinyi cat-washes-his-face practice to help me.  So I was doing some experimenting and I realized that the cat prowling is different than the cat walking, and the prowl started happen for me.  Cats have a narrow ribcage and they walk with a really narrow base.

After practice I went on-line looking for videos of cats walking and I found this amazing study, "Whole Body Mechanics of Stealthy Walking in Cats," comparing the way cats and dogs walk!  Here is a summary, but check out the study link it's got so much juicy content and equations too.  Make sure you watch the videos.  (I couldn't figure out how to embed them, but I used a program I have called VLC to watch them with out any trouble.)

Here is what I got from the article.  Dogs (and by inference, humans) walk in an very efficient way. (Wolves must be even more efficient, George Xu told me to practice like a wolf running in the sky!  --One movement, three hours, not get tired!)  Prowling cats on the other hand are 100% inefficient!  They use absolutely no forward momentum.  Well, that's what happens when you practice xinyi, taijiquan or baguazhang walking with whole-body shrinking-expanding emptiness too.  The momentum happens when you pounce or strike, not in the walk.

The article poses "a tradeoff between stealthy walking and economy of locomotion."  My opinion, as far as humans go, is that we can master both if we return to the source of walking.  Walking is a trance, an extremely complex trance.  When we walk we are doing something on the order of the mental complexity required for visualizing a Tibetain Tanka in perfect detail and animating ourselves in it! This is what Daoyin, real Daoyin, is supposed to do.  It takes you all the way back to the origins of movement, where all movement inspirations come from.

Stanford Ortho 22

I blogged about this six months ago but I didn't notice the video at that time.  There is a class at Stanford called Anatomy of Movement Ortho 22 that works with the Motion and Gait Analysis Labratory.  Last Winter they worked with Taijiquan master Chen Xiang.  The results in the video are funny.  They seem to have zeroed in on 0.05% of Taijiquan and have succeeded in saying almost nothing.  Hey, that's good science, don't get me wrong.  We have to start somewhere.

Here is the problem for you my dear readers.  What hypothesis about Taijiquan can be tested with this equipment?  Can you propose a better test, or a more relevant hypothesis? What other questions does this inquiry raise?  What evidence would disprove their hypothesis?

I'll get you started:Mass

--Can this much force be generated by this much mass using another method?

--Is his force easier to inhibit at certain locations?  Or is his force continuous despite the fact that his speed is changing?

--If he carries a weight in the non-striking hand will it increase his force in the striking hand?  (Fluid dynamics hypothesis).

--Does this sort of power require uniformity of muscle relaxation/tension?  Can it be inhibited by electrically stimulating a random muscle while he is in motion?  Can we get some sensors on a range of muscle groups to see to what degree they are "firing" and in what order?

Note:  I am available for scientific evaluation.