PDA

View Full Version : Systema article on learning and reaction time.



JingMerchant!
7/29/2011 6:33pm,
I found this on the RMA_Systema Australia website (http://www.rmasystema-australia.com/topics-of-interest). I thought I'd post it here for the general edification of all!

I broke up some of the paragraphs, to make it less of a wall-of-text.

Enjoy:-

Systema, Neurological Reaction Time and Learning.

By Dr Andrea Bisaz

Systema Instructor Australia

A major factor in fighting arts is the speed of response to a given attack. As we know this is dependant on many different factors. Timely action is crucial for a positive outcome with an adversary.

Different fighting disciplines have implemented various strategies in order to gain a time advantage over their opponent.

A common approach by many professionals such as SWAT Teams, Special Forces etc. is to use just a hand full of very generic applicable techniques based on gross motor skills. The idea behind this approach is:

• One, to decrease decision time of the mind, thus to shorten your reaction time (response time) to a given attack.

• Two, the gross motor skills allow people to still perform under duress.

Whilst the response in our brain to physical attack is very complex and varied, there is an intriguing aspect, which I would like to discuss. It is important in understanding the response time of the subconscious approach (Systema) as opposed to the conscious choice approach mentioned above.

It is relatively unknown that when our brain prepares for a movement, for example in response to an attack on our person, it will always do a dry-run first, without activating our muscle and without our conscious awareness. This means the brain has like an emulator. Before we become aware of our intended movement, our brain will dry-run the movement through its brain maps. This will include hormonal activation, blood pressure changes and all the usual psycho-physiological adaptations. The only thing, which is missing, is the activation of our muscles (and our awareness). Only following this dry-run will our intended movement become conscious and we will perform this action with our muscles activated. To our conscious minds this movement appears spontaneous and original, as we are not aware that in actual fact we have already done it in our brains.

Now here is the difference: if movement is directed by our subconscious mind or as we call it, if movement happens spontaneously, then our conscious response will be the second run through by the brain. However in the example of conscious mind control (SWAT team, Special Forces…), if a technique selection is required, then the brain will repeat the dry-run with the chosen technique, before activating the muscles in a third run through. Whilst a small selection number (of technique choices) decreases selection time, it still remains the third fully performed run through by the brain when applying a conscious mind approach. Systema however relies on a subconscious response, meaning that we can act on the second performed run through. Whilst this advantage represents only a fraction of a second, it is nevertheless very significant.

This however is not the whole story. Where do the brain’s initial ideas for the subconscious response originate? Neurologists refer to these sudden reaction movements as Fixed Action Patterns (FAPs). A FAP is a chosen system by natural selection for a reduction of choice and decision time. In other words, through past experiences the body has learned to react in a certain way under certain circumstances (Trigger Event), and in order to reduce reaction time a quick “movement package” is applied in a coordinated fashion whenever needed, without the brain having to repeatedly invent the wheel again. These patterns are very deeply rooted in our response system. They can range from very simple withdrawal actions to complex movement patterns. That doesn’t however make them the best or most efficient choice under any given circumstance.

Let me give you an example: if you touch a hot object you will withdraw your hand immediately in a FAP, nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, if someone grabs your finger in a finger lock this same FAP will be activated putting you in a much worse situation as you have just increased pressure on your finger lock. How then can we change this situation and how can we change FAPs or any other rapid reaction movement? The answer is training.

Training has the ability to override current FAPs.

Lets look at this a bit closer. The brain has many body maps spread throughout its different areas. The most basic (and famous) are the primary motor and sensory maps also referred to as homunculi. These body maps interact in hierarchical fashion from lower- to higher-grade maps. Information from the body enters the primary sensory map and then rises through complex processing and constant reassessing procedures up to layers of higher maps. The higher up they travel the more information gets incorporated in the processing of an action such as emotions, memories, body images, beliefs, pain patterns etc etc.

On the way up information gets constantly fed down the chain again for reassessment and confirmation with new sensory information just entered. Eventually appropriate action is decided on and emulated, then fed down through the hierarchy and all the way to the primary motor maps, from which muscles are activated and conscious movement arises. Lets bare in mind that these complex procedures and interactions take but split seconds to occur. We also can see that no matter how much we try, every action has an emotional association attached. We might not be consciously aware of it but it is unavoidable!

Through regular training we can teach our body to behave with chosen patterned responses to particular situations. The interesting point here is that we can learn specific patterns (techniques) or we can teach our body principled responses such as relaxed generalised movement patterns. The difference being that we allow our bodies to come up with its own solutions to problems as long as it adheres to chosen principles such as relaxed, efficient, natural movements as in the case of Systema. In order to allow for this wide range of body applications we have to understand that the nervous system works via what we call facilitation. In simple terms this means; the more we use an action the more likely the same action will be chosen the next time. Now if we use a mirror action over and over again we will eventually reinforce this action in a specific way as a FAP to be used by what’s deemed as relevant situations (Trigger Event).

However if we continually vary the specific movements, whilst keeping the modus operandi more constant, this being a calm, relaxed way of movement, then the quality of this habit will start to instill itself as a FAP response without a specific hyper-facilitated movement pattern attached. The brain will then pair up it’s own choice of movement pattern, which it regards as most appropriate. It will draw from familiar movement patterns that have been trained, however more ‘freedom’ exists, which will be advantageous in adapting precisely to individual situations.

Once the initial subconscious response has taken place we can include a consciously directed action if necessary, as we can perform it concurrently with the already happening responses, thus we don’t suffer an apparent time delay. In simple terms the brain is multitasking (although strictly speaking due to the on/off nature of the nervous system it is actually an alternating action).

A subconscious approach requires a certain level of faith, as we teach ourselves principles, hoping that the best response will be chosen subconsciously at a time of need. It is a very different approach to training specific names and techniques for specific situations. An advantage of the ‘principle approach’ versus the ‘technique approach’ is that the brain does not get bored through endless repetitions of the same movements, as every movement is slightly different and somehow novel.

Once the principles have established themselves though a marvelous thing occurs: Instead of a limited set of technique responses, we now have an unlimited array of ‘principle responses’ available. We have trained our bodies to come up with its own creative solutions to a given situation. Of course the body will always develop its favorite idiosyncrasies, largely due to neurological facilitation, individual body parameters and individual abilities.

It is also very important to mention that RELAXATION is absolutely imperative in order to work subconsciously. When afflicted by tension (fear, aggression etc) our brains will lose their ability to be creative, to multitask and eventually to function efficiently altogether. Much has been written about the debilitating effects of tension on our performance, especially in the flight-fight situation. It is not the purpose of this article to discuss this, but I simply would like to stress that it is crucial to instill a relaxed manner of working, if we want work efficiently subconsciously.

It is also important when training for conflict situations to incorporated regular human-to-human interaction with significant contact such as strikes, aggressive behavior and the like. This will assist in providing proper trigger events and help in reconditioning specific ‘approach and avoidance behaviours’ already present in FAPs. If done properly, it will also assist in reducing fear and pain based tension.

An additional interesting point is that research has shown slow training of complex movements to significantly shorten the learning time required for those movements…sounds familiar?

Now the more we train the lower down on the brain-map-hierarchy we move the processing. This means that after many years of training our principled responses can be processed mostly in our primary motor maps. At this point we have made the system our own and we will instinctively and spontaneously respond with FAPs according to our training. In other words our subconscious mind will now start to respond spontaneously to attacks in a smooth, creative and intelligent way just like in training, instead of in a rushed, abrupt and tense fashion. With appropriate training we will also be able to work with much less emotional involvement and less disruptive fear based tension.

Obviously technique based training can override the spontaneous FAP response too, however if we continue to involve our conscious mind for technique choices we will still react with the third brain run through only. Alternatively if Systema practitioners miss this point of subconscious action either through faulty training or lack of faith/trust, then they too will respond to the third run through only. This is particularly apparent in new students and will only change after considerable training.

As mentioned, it is very acceptable, even advisable to use conscious decisions during a physical conflict but the trick is not to initiate with a conscious action if spontaneously challenged. Rather intermingle it sparingly amongst plenty of subconscious work. This will minimise interference and allow your work to be fast fluid and natural, whilst still maintaining some conscious strategic control.

As simple as this all may sounds and as easy and natural as a competent Systema practitioner can look in motion, this is actually very difficult to achieve. Difficult inasmuch, as it takes dedication and years of mindful training in order to acquire this natural and efficient subconscious/conscious response process when under attack or duress. A good dose of playfulness, dedication and faith can make this journey however spectacularly joyful and satisfying. Not to mention the insight into our persona and our emotions, which we can gain through introspection and through feeling during training.

It is Fake
7/29/2011 6:42pm,
I am glad that he at least went to medical school unlike many of the other article writers.

baby_cart
7/30/2011 10:43am,
This however is not the whole story. Where do the brain’s initial ideas for the subconscious response originate? Neurologists refer to these sudden reaction movements as Fixed Action Patterns (FAPs). A FAP is a chosen system by natural selection for a reduction of choice and decision time. In other words, through past experiences the body has learned to react in a certain way under certain circumstances (Trigger Event), and in order to reduce reaction time a quick “movement package” is applied in a coordinated fashion whenever needed, without the brain having to repeatedly invent the wheel again. These patterns are very deeply rooted in our response system. They can range from very simple withdrawal actions to complex movement patterns. That doesn’t however make them the best or most efficient choice under any given circumstance.

Let me give you an example: if you touch a hot object you will withdraw your hand immediately in a FAP, nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, if someone grabs your finger in a finger lock this same FAP will be activated putting you in a much worse situation as you have just increased pressure on your finger lock. How then can we change this situation and how can we change FAPs or any other rapid reaction movement? The answer is training.

Training has the ability to override current FAPs.



they should have made a different acronym than that one...

Petter
7/30/2011 10:59am,
It is relatively unknown that when our brain prepares for a movement, for example in response to an attack on our person, it will always do a dry-run first, without activating our muscle and without our conscious awareness. This means the brain has like an emulator. Before we become aware of our intended movement, our brain will dry-run the movement through its brain maps. This will include hormonal activation, blood pressure changes and all the usual psycho-physiological adaptations. The only thing, which is missing, is the activation of our muscles (and our awareness). Only following this dry-run will our intended movement become conscious and we will perform this action with our muscles activated. To our conscious minds this movement appears spontaneous and original, as we are not aware that in actual fact we have already done it in our brains.
[citation needed]

Rzero
7/30/2011 11:21am,
FAP. Hehehe.

:PFFFTCCHCHCHHFFFTTT

100xobm
7/31/2011 3:41am,
Psychobabble...

Rzero
7/31/2011 5:41am,
The only knowledge I have about systema is how my krav maga instructor described it: "**** done by fat russians".

Correct description or just some weird RBSD rivalry?

DdlR
8/02/2011 4:04am,
The only knowledge I have about systema is how my krav maga instructor described it: "**** done by fat russians".

Correct description or just some weird RBSD rivalry?

I've been training in Systema for the past three years. I don't generally recommend it to people who don't already have considerable MA cross-training experience, but for those who do, IMO it's an excellent "think and move outside the box" training program.

I just skimmed the article, but the gist of Systema training is that you are continually put in very difficult situations and challenged to improvise your way out of them. There's very little emphasis on specific techniques or pre-set combinations, and a lot of emphasis on conditioning, good combat movement and "martial creativity" drills. You quickly learn that it works to be very relaxed and not to try to anticipate anything.

IMO the big problem in *some* Systema training is that compliancy, which is often the aim of the drill/exercise (in the sense of rolling with punches, moving partially with a takedown attempt to stifle/evade it, etc.) is taken to unrealistic extremes and/or applied in ways that don't make sense. If you're "role-playing" as the attacker in a self defense drill and you're either subconsciously programmed or just willing to collapse at the slightest pressure from the "defender", then you're not really doing your job. There's now a breakaway movement among some senior Systema instructors who are instituting more structured training methods, the use of protective equipment to make certain types of sparring drill more safely practical, etc.

All that said, IMO it's an great self defense-oriented training method when it's approached realistically.

orb
8/25/2011 10:37am,
I trained in Systema for 3 months with a guy that was an officer in the russian spetznaz for 7 years. All I can say is that I am very convinced now that Systema cannot be used as a martial art if you don't combine it with smth else. By itself it has just about as much applicability as let's say the taichi taught at the local recreational center.

That doesn't mean that it's a bad exercise. Not at all. You do learn how to relax and also question and rethink certain combat habits, but you cannot use it against a: boxer, kickboxer, judoka, wrestler, grappler etc....

The genteleman that was training me was lifting weights and had a wrestling background as well and yet didn't manage to impress me in anyway whenever we would start rolling a little bit more serious.

Also all these "difficult situations and challenges" that they talk about are addressed way more in depth by my bjj teacher.

So as a conclusion I would definitely recommend Systema as an exercise (minus all the BS theories and stories that it comes with) but I cannot call it a full blown martial art by any means.

Zod
8/25/2011 10:51am,
I just skimmed the article, but the gist of Systema training is that you are continually put in very difficult situations and challenged to improvise your way out of them.


Isn't this basically the same thing as 'alive training', though? If not, how does it substantially differ?

ranger joe
8/25/2011 9:03pm,
My own personal experience with SYSTEMA was so-so. I stopped by a few martial arts schools when I first moved to NC to see what was offered. I really wanted BJJ but only found the TKD/KENPO/AKIDO schools within driving distance. I walked into an AKIDO school and was talking to the instructor who was very friendly. I asked about grappling and he told me he was also teaching SYSTEMA. I was unfamiliar what this was and he told me all about it. He told me all about how deadly the Russian Spetnaz were and how they were so much better than every other Special Operations units out there. I found this hard to believe but let it go. Hard to argue with someone who has ZERO experience in the military let alone SOF. He was sold on SYSTEMA and all things Russian so there was no arguing. I told him during this friendly conversation that I thought grappling was a better base art. Then he offered to allow me to grapple with one of his instructors so I jumped on the chance. I am forgetting his name now but it was the former Kenpo guy from CA that was one of his instructors (he has been mentioned during many of these SYSTEMA threads-Martin???). Anyway I grappled a little with him. Since it was not my school I did not really try anything other than positional dominance which I was able to pull off but did not apply any sub’s. Apparently this proved how superior SYSTEMA was. Fast forward a few months later the Aikido instructor was now almost exclusively SYSTEMA and he invited me to join for free. Free training….cool. The classes only ever dealt with concepts and no technique. Noodle arms, Noodle punches, Noodle thinking…..weird. Never once was I able to get a single answer on how this applies to me arresting a resisting suspect. Just weird concepts and the chance to buy Russian camo pants, shirts, and bayonets. Oh and go to Russia to train at a SPETNAZ base and run around with an AK (for a few $1000). Then I attended a seminar with “Sonny” a Spetz guy that teaches in Florida. He was fast, struck hard and moved well. When he asked for grapplers to try and submit him, a rather brash guy from the class with basic BJJ skills took a hard hit from Sonny (which he later said dazed him) then took Sonny down and tapped him with a choke. Sonny said that the punch would have knocked him out….ok, maybe. I left with the distinct impression that if you were born, raised, and trained in Russia as a Spetz guy totally indoctrinated and brutally trained the way they tend to do, then YES: Systema works. If your not and you attend 3-4 classes a week from your local instructor, then NO: It does not. Not for the masses like other effective arts (wrestling, Judo, BJJ, etc etc). Bottom line in my opinion, why take years and years and years to learn how to effectively this art. Why not use the above mentioned arts that have tangible results, fast. I put it like this: Why learn to shoot a pistol off handed and gangster style when the two handed weaver stance has been proven time and time again. Simple, proven, effective. It’s that simple. I don’t have time to learn fancy, I want to learn fast and effective. Just my opinion.

DdlR
8/26/2011 3:30am,
Isn't this basically the same thing as 'alive training', though? If not, how does it substantially differ?

It is substantially the same thing, in the sense of working against resistance and pressure testing. Systema training elaborates that into calisthenics - for example, you're challenged to do things like keep to a specific breathing pattern during slow motion push-ups, while being punched or having the action of the push-ups blocked in various ways. As with sparring exercises, the object is to relax as much as possible and intuitively figure out a way to complete the task.

Zod
8/26/2011 9:00am,
It is substantially the same thing, in the sense of working against resistance and pressure testing. Systema training elaborates that into calisthenics - for example, you're challenged to do things like keep to a specific breathing pattern during slow motion push-ups, while being punched or having the action of the push-ups blocked in various ways. As with sparring exercises, the object is to relax as much as possible and intuitively figure out a way to complete the task.


That's interesting but I must admit, that seems a little odd to me. So other than 'expecting the unexpected' or learning to deal with adversity that's the benefit in fighting? I have to admit, seems a little hokey to me and I don't see the stimulus / response mechanics and reflexes learned by doing weird push ups and being really all that similiar to those acquired by fighting. It's a little 'Wax on, wax off' but I must admit I'm very uninformed about Systema outside of BS pop culture references and some goofy videos.

DdlR
8/26/2011 5:03pm,
That's interesting but I must admit, that seems a little odd to me. So other than 'expecting the unexpected' or learning to deal with adversity that's the benefit in fighting? I have to admit, seems a little hokey to me and I don't see the stimulus / response mechanics and reflexes learned by doing weird push ups and being really all that similiar to those acquired by fighting. It's a little 'Wax on, wax off' but I must admit I'm very uninformed about Systema outside of BS pop culture references and some goofy videos.

It is a little wax on, wax off. The premise is that most of Systema training is in improvisation via efficient combat movement, rather than "learning moves" per se. The mechanics etc. do translate from the more abstract exercises into sparring exercises, especially well (IMO) for people who already have significant cross-training experience in other styles. This is part of why I don't generally recommend Systema to martial arts newbs, nor to people who want to develop concrete fighting skills quickly. The payoff of the "scenic route" is a perhaps better than average ability to adapt on the spot, assuming those basic skills (relaxation, use of weight, etc.) have been taught and learned well.