Posts Tagged ‘Peter Syckelmoore’

Martial Arts – Unnatural Movements?

Written by Pete. Posted in Black Belt Research Project 2013

  1. For many people learning a martial art, involves someone teaching them to learn unnatural movements is this a contradiction.

I still think that its not a contradiction that we get taught unnatural movements when we get taught martial arts.

My first point is because if we were to be taught by what is natural to us it would mean we would just be repeating what we already know and what feels comfortable to us only ever concentrating on area’s of strength this would ultimately lead us to have massive gaps in our knowledge and skill leaving us vulnerable in the weaker area’s that would become more pronounced as time progressed we have to work on those weak area’s which feel unnatural to us in order to build that foundation block on which to base all are martial art movements, as without that all the time and practice in the world will not make our moves effective for martial art purposes

My second point is every person who comes into the dojo will have different inefficient natural movements, ways of moving and doing things which they have picked up at some point through their lifes, a few examples of negative natural movement for martial art purposes would be someone who when walking: bobs up and down/narrow gap between feet/slouched posture/chest puffed out/head down or up/dragging of feet/ leaning forward or backward etc these are a couple of the natural movements which we might expect people to do when they start their martial arts they must now try to unlearn them when training in order to make their martial art movements more effective, if anyone struggles with these or anything similar tai chi is a great way at looking into depth on this subject as body positioning and a stable balance are the top priority’s.

My example of natural movements is from gymnastics as I have been doing it for 19 years now and it still gets in the way of my progress in the martial arts because what is deemed effective and stylish in gymnastics is not the case in the martial arts so I have had to try and change things like getting rid of excessive tension in most of of my movements and moves like the back knife hand strike where I stretch my fingers and arm ready for a backhand strike currently changing this to be more efficient for martial art purposes I should try curving the structure of the hand into a stronger position for impact purposes this will benefit by reducing injury potential to my hand/fingers, to change this I need to start back at the Cognitive stage of learning and work my repetitions up and down the dojo trying to do maximum repetitions when doing basics or kata in training this ultimately will help me unlearn the ineffective movement and learn the effective one.

Are ultimate goal is to learn effective natural movement in the martial arts but first we have to learn effective movement (natural comes later) this is done through are basics and forms/kata’s and to begin with this feels unnatural, but become less so as we work through the Associative/Autonomous stages of learning.

Also people may just want to do what feels natural to them as this they feel is more effective for the situation unaware of the many flaws with the technique which could be used against them, most of the time especially to begin with it will be something to do with feet position or posture. One of the answers to this is yes relearning the technique the correct way will probably be less effective for you to start with (due to not being able to do things perfectly first go) but with good practice and time relearning the technique in a more effective way will be worth the time and effort. Especially if it is a skill you would consider using in a self defense situation where an effective move(s) are crucial for a positive outcome of the situation.

From what I have learned throughout this project I believe this system describes best are pathway from unnatural movement- natural movement in the martial arts.

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

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

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

Care must be taken especially in the cognitive-associative stages of learning because practice makes permanent not perfect, if you want to work towards making a move more effective practice making a positive change to the movement every time you train and don’t forget the positive changes you’ve already made in the past, if you practice something and have not listened and kept reminding yourself of the key points you are likely to end up performing moves that are full of flaws and bad habits leaving techniques performed either bad for your joints/off target/less powerful than you are capable, this is likely to be because of energy lost some where through the movement due to

1)neglecting using certain muscle’s groups in the chain reaction from toe to fist in a punch.(not using all the energy available)

2)poor posture-positioning (causes energy to disperse in different directions)

3)excessive tension (stopping much of the energy reaching its intended location, causes similar situation of trying to drive with the hand brake on)

These are 3 classic things to consider in the chain reaction of muscle movement from toe to fist in a punch.

Natural movement at a higher level

The high level grades will generally have good basics without having to think about it they would have got rid or made improvement to many of their inefficient ways of moving in there martial art training and learned many efficient principles and techniques which they can say they feel they have grasped and it feels natural to them) however when this stage has been reached they start to add different principles to there strikes including

power sourcing: Heavy punching by pushing through the back heel, light on the toes for quick snappy type techniques/use of hips or waist/shrug of the shoulder/Exhale of breath on impact etc.

Use of internal muscles for example in a punch not holding too much tension especially around the joints as energy must travel up the muscular system from the toes to the fist with excellent timing and coordination, higher grades look at this in deeper detail it may not look a lot different but when these principles have been mastered and applied its not much fun standing in the way of them,

Like an iceberg its deceptive it may not look dangerous from the surface but the dangerous bits underneath where you can’t easily see especially if you haven’t been trained to spot the tail-tail signs, coaches have to learn to spot such small movements it seems almost impossible for me at the moment to grasp how its done to the level of detail we see from our sensei and many other sensei’s around the country.

Obviously these things are not all trained at once that would be impossible to grasp instead they are looked at individually, once a student has good natural movement in a technique, all they need to consciously controlled is the new principle this is a new Cognitive Movement which is hard to grasp at first however with good practice and repetition the new movement/ principle is added to the natural movement of the student making their technique that bit more efficient than it was before, the student would continue down this path of adding more and more effective movements/principles together to produce a way of moving and doing martial art movements with ease and precision. Making them a deceptively dangerous opponent.

Perfection of natural movement in the martial art is something we should visualise and continue to work towards getting as close as possible when practising but is ultimately not something we will ever reach as there are always ways to improve, generally these things start big with the basics and move on to smaller and smaller things to change in the way we move our body to deliver a skill.


What can we learn from Animals being hunted?

Written by Pete. Posted in Black Belt Research Project 2013

3rd report by Peter Syckelmoore

What can we learn from studying animals hunting/being hunted?

Animals Hunting


Animals have come up with hundreds of successful efficient hunting strategies in order to catch their prey, many predators will rely on outrunning, outweighing or out-muscling their prey but there are many ways other than size or speed to get a successful catch. After all, dinner tastes just as good whether you’ve tricked it, tased it, punched it, paralysed it‚ or just spit at it hard enough to knock it over.


Here are a few examples of strange but effective hunting strategies some species have come up with


Archer fish:

To knock insects on low-hanging leaves into the water, the archer fish shoots them with a precisely aimed fountain of spit, then swims over to retrieve the new meal.


Grabs a mountain goat by the leg and pulls it off the cliff to its death

Mantis Shrimp:

Wielding the fastest punch in the animal kingdom‚ its clubbed arms reach speeds of 50 mph‚ the mantis shrimp maims its prey with only a few blows.

Tentacled Water Snake

Fish reflexively turn and swim in the opposite direction when they sense a disturbance in the water. The tentacled water snake positions itself with its tail on one side of a fish and its head on the other. When the snake flicks its tail, the fish swims straight into its mouth.

Trap-Door Spider: 

The trap-door spider hides in a tunnel behind a camouflaged door of twigs and leaves. When an unsuspecting insect walks nearby, the spider reaches out and pulls it into the tunnel to eat.

Killer Whale: 

After driving a shark towards the surface, killer whales stun it with a swift smack. Since sharks enter a state of paralysis when upside down, the whales grab the shark and flip it over, turning a deadly enemy into an easy dinner.


When an enemy is within range, the crane will slap with its wings and stomp with its feet, thereby creating openings for impeccably timed beak strikes. Its long, flexible neck enhances its attacks.


The animal coils its body for speed and power, then strikes without hesitation or fear. It’s a relentless hunter that uses every muscle to push, slide, penetrate, wrap and eventually control its prey


A ferocious meat eater with strong bones and muscles, the tiger is physically gifted for combat. It boasts thick legs, huge paws with sharp claws, and an enormous head with razor-sharp teeth and powerful jaws. Its sturdy mid-section, back and neck help it generate maximum ripping and tearing energy. It hunts with great stealth, instinctively using ninja-type tactics to hit its prey from behind. The tiger’s speed comes from relaxed muscles; the more relaxed they are, the more quickly and silently it can move. Filled with pure power, its thunderous roar induces shock and fear in its enemies.


Other examples can be viewed on you tube under Amazing animal’s moments! Best animal’s moments! The best animal fights! (Part 3) Animals vs. Animals

I especially like this video as its shows a wide variety of hunting strategies with successful and failed attempts (you can see the margin for error is very small between success and failure) many of the strategies shown are similar to one another but with different outcomes due to timing of attacks/ aim of the attack on the preys vulnerable spots, using the environment (drowning prey, knocking running prey into water, taking advantage of distractions e.g. Prey fighting each other), ambushing prey which are fleeing or passing by, getting lucky because the prey makes a mistake e.g. Trips over something, loses balance, fighting multiple opponents, using teamwork to overwhelm larger prey.

The failures we see are a female lion getting too close to the running zebra who bucks the lion in the face. Lesson for the lion, watch your distance from the opponent be aware of any possible dangers prey could inflict at any time, to avoid this incident the lion should run to the side out of line of the zebras back legs, from here it is safer for the lion as it can sweep/claw at the legs with its paws or run alongside the zebra and try get its teeth into the zebras neck bringing the hunt to a quick end.

Another example includes a young Lion getting pushed along the ground by antelope as it made the mistake of not avoiding its horns. This lion looked quite a young hunter I’m guessing it made a big mistake in its attack and its prey took full advantage to counter attack and make its escape, hopefully the lion will realise where it went wrong and not repeat its error or it will soon starve to death.

The behaviour of the antelope here is a very interesting one as it simulates a self-defence situation and shows how we as martial artists would use our skill and training, not to be a predator but to be able to fight off predator’s if the need arises making them regret there foolish attempt followed by a swift escape.

What the Prey has to do well in order to avoid becoming dinner


1) Detect presence of predator:


By sight/fresh scent/sounds/feeling vibrations

2) Avoiding Predators:

Assess situation and plan response to avoid detection, being silent seeking refuge, camouflage self, the prey try to avoid encountering the predators in the first place by avoiding known habitats occupied by predators and by being active at different times in the day to the predators. some examples include decorator crabs they can attach external objects including plant matter or stones, to their bodies to allow them to better match their background, Behavioral postures and movement can also allow animals to disguise themselves; chameleons and walking stick insects mimic the motion of plants in the wind to avoid detection, and the mimic octopus takes on the shape of dangerous or unpalatable animals to deter predators. Animals can also camouflage their scent cues. Squirrels do this by chewing up shed rattlesnake skin and spread it on their fur, thereby masking their scent and identity as potential prey”.


3) Surviving an encounter:

If the above has failed the prey has to make a decision whether to take flight, use deception by intimidating using scare tactics or fight back to deter predator from attempting to kill and eat them or most likely to create an opening to be able to escape.


4) Choose the correct response:

Prey can work out successful responses to specific predators by understanding there tactics, motives and behaviours (predators however do the same thing working out the preys tactics and behaviours so both prey and predators have a tough time outwitting the other). The prey also need to judge the potential risk to themselves and decide an action plan, the risk maybe very minimal and not even need time and energy being wasted which could be put towards finding food or mates.


The above can become useful and be put into context for humans as there are nasty people out there, being prepared to act with an effective plan of action to detect them/avoid/survive encounters could be crucial for us to avoid or minimise dangerous situations before or as they arise. The context of potential threat comes into play too as running away or avoiding every possible potential threat is no way of living and would lead to a very boring lifestyle and lead to many unfulfilment’s in life.


Predators should be cautious the hunters can turn into the hunted one wrong move could be their last


Crocodile attempts to eat an anaconda snake, the snake is killed but the crocodile dies soon after as it’s unable to escape the snake which has coiled around it. Lesson avoid dangerous situations, assess each situation before you plan a response and don’t get involved especially if the risk for danger is high or you’re not adequately prepared for the task.


The hunters start their training from a very young age through play and learn through trial and error a kitten’s, for example, mother will often (if given the opportunity) bring an injured mouse for the kittens to practice their fundamental hunting skills, letting it go and re-catching it, effective holds to immobilise prey, effective areas to claw/bite to weaken, tire, maim and eventually kill,  this often goes on for over an hour with a single mouse cruel but fundamental for the kitten to practice its skills as a hunter as it will become a lot harder to catch and kill fully fit prey so it must know what its dong, they will also watch their mother stalk and hunt, which they then copy and practice for themselves, to begin with this nearly always ends up with failure not even getting anywhere near the prey before it spots the danger and flees however with practice they improve and learn to hunt more realistically choosing types of prey within their ability to catch and kill.


All species have different strength and ability’s which make these hunting methods work for them, any hunting strategy no matter how effective will not work 100% of the time as the prey also has methods of their own to escape.
We can use this method of using any means necessary to accomplish our goals, as long as there’s no major side effects e.g. damage to our joints, leaving ourselves vulnerable, breaking the law/breaking the rules in competition etc.


There are things out of the ordinary we see at competition which give the individual the upper hand in the fight, e.g. Bryan’s scare tactics leaving the victim wanting to either defend/flee or freeze and get whacked. Marks Nevola’s throwing the Gyaku Zuki as soon as the match begins, many opponents are not ready to defend quickly enough at this time. In a pro MMA cage fight a fighter uses the cage as a wall to run across before delivering a knock out roundhouse kick to his opponent risky but practiced enough by the individual to make it consistent and effective enough to use in a competition.


Everybody has different strength’s we as martial artist have to experiment and find those strength’s and work on training and improving the techniques which work best for us, it’s also handy to have a few tricks under our belt (as above) to give us the edge in a tight situation, most of the time however it is our fundamental skills which must be correct in order to fight effectively feet/posture/mindset/ power sourcing, as without these none of our actions will work as well as they should and will give the opponent easy opportunities to turn our mistake against us.


From analyzing hunters and the hunted I have learned that animals do many of the things we strive to learn and work towards in our martial art training and that we too could get to a similar level of skill if we did martial arts every day of our life’s and our life’s depended on it as is the case for wild animals who have to either fight for every meal or fight to avoid being eaten on a daily basis, having this mental approach of a hunter I feel would motivate us to train to the best of our ability’s and helping us to train with controlled aggression  /unpredictability (being relaxed springing quickly into moves) /focus (being smart conserving energy making moves effective/using strategy choosing the right response for the situation and finally just remember be positive belief in yourself this is the first step to success.

Martial Arts Standards Agency British Judo British Council for Chinese Martial Arts – National Governing Body The World Union of Karate Federations Shi Kon Martial Arts British Council for Chinese Martial Arts – National Governing Body

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