Our inner Fight: Mind Divided

27 Dec 2016 by gebhard, No Comments »

Duke Guillaume (SirGuillaume.com) authored a book “Here Comes the Reign” that serves a light hearted tale of his adventures as the King of Caid. In his book, he makes a joke that he was never any good at adapting to his opponent, so he needed to travel the kingdom to fight everyone in order to learn what everyone does, so he could beat them.

I actually like this explanation. It touches on the core principle of how we learn as humans (as well as the need to get out of your local area and fight everyone throughout the kingdom). The human mind is an amazing thing. It comes with an innate desire to learn and adapt, and it’s exceptional at it.

How did you learn your very first skills? For example, how did you know how to move your limbs, grab a cup, crawl, walk or talk? It was done by observing others, then experimenting yourself until you got it right.
You didn’t need to attend a class on “How to close your hand” or “How to make a sound come out of your larynx”. You figured it out.

Did you need a coach to follow you around and say “You’ve got it, now move the left foot a little more… little more to the left, good. Now the right… little more…little more.” Of course not. Yet, we got this walking thing figured out.

You learned everything early in life by seeing someone do it and/or personal experimentation.

How do we tap into this rudimentary form of learning? This is where, as adults, things start to get complex.

Our minds in two parts

Our minds, at least for the scope of these articles, are broken into two parts: higher logical function and lower muscle control.

Your higher logical mind is a great to have. It wants to analyze, pattern match, explore, justify and rationalize all the things that happen.

Your muscle control wants to do things like take your hand away from that really hot pan or duck when something is coming at your head.

The problem is that these two parts are often at odds with each other, and have role overlap. You can control your limbs but it’s slower.

An example of how this works, let’s say you really want to beat your friend and you don’t mind doing something completely underhanded to throw off their game at fight practice. Spar a couple times, then say something like “Hey Bob, you’re doing great today! What is it you’re doing differently?”

Bob’s game will now tank. He’s busying thinking about what he’s doing, using his higher logical mind, instead of doing what he has been doing naturally.

I’m sure each of us has felt this way when some misguided advice giver interrupted your fight to tell you make some change to what you were doing.

“When there is an opportunity, “I” do not hit, “It” hits all by itself.” – bruce lee.

This quote is one I heard early on in the SCA. I didn’t buy into it at the time. I like to think. I do it all the time, often about 2-8 different things at once. I’ve always considered this to be an advantage. However, one thing I liked about fighting, was that it caused me to focus. It was abnormal to think about only one thing.

As much fun is it to think that thinking all the time is an advantage, I learned it really isn’t.

For the first several years, and even once in a while now, I’ll pause in a fight in order to process new information. My logical center is overloaded, and it takes a moment to process what is going on. In a fight, this looks like I’m literally frozen for a second (or less), but pausing in a fight has a bad and predictable outcome.

Fighting is extremely complex. Not only do you need to know where all of your limbs are, but also your opponent’s limbs, the trajectory of their weapon and so on… in short, it takes a lot of work mentally for your logical brain to keep up with it all.

Over time, this problem fades away and motions become muscle memory. The muscle control center can take over most functions of the fight: blocking, swinging, stepping and so on. I’m sure everyone one of us, at some point, has been surprised when a shot was coming in and our body just blocked it out of reflex. I remember the night it first happened. I was so shocked to discover I didn’t need to think about something in order to get it to happen. (I had minimal sports experience before the SCA.)

How do we build up our automated responses (lower muscle control) and what is the place of the higher logic function in our fight? I’ll dig more into this in the next entry.

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