The Logic of Movement

movnat-cat I saw the cat picture to the left on Reddit with the title “We actually had to help him down… Idiot”.

This immediately reminded me of the several discussions I had with Josh about movement (motivated by his work with MovNat).

There are many times in jiu jitsu that I have put myself in a position where I felt very much like the cat in the picture, wondering (1) how the hell did I get here and (2) how the hell do I get out of here?

Kinematics of Humanoid Robots

Relevant side note on my work in computer science: While I don’t build humanoid robots myself, a lot of the research I do brushes up against the immense challenges of programming the kinematics of movement. It’s always humbling to learn all the things that the nervous system takes care of without requiring active cognitive input from us. A lot of the stuff you (as a human being) take for granted (in terms of how you, for example, pick up a cup of coffee) is actually accomplished by an incredibly complicated system. Most of the details of voluntary movement are handled just below the level of consciousness. You just think “raise arm” and your arm goes up.

Learning to Walk Again

In jiu jitsu, we have to return to some of the same problems we had as toddlers when learning to walk. You have to once again actually start actively thinking about minute movements. You have to start thinking about where every part of your body is, and how to get from one point to another against a resisting opponent. Of course, if you have to think about it, it probably means you are going to move very awkwardly. After you solved a particular movement problem in your head many times, it starts slowly drifting below the surface of consciousnesses where it becomes more instinctual and less “cognitive”.

So, in the above example, the cat might put itself in that tricky tree situation a few times, and learn either not to go into that position any more or figure out a chain of movements that get it out of that situation in a safe and consistent way.

Practical Movement in Sport

The discussion Josh and I had that was particularly relevant was “arguing” about what sport trained you to be agile in the widest variety of practical movements. Gymnastics was the one we agreed on. I think that in jiu jitsu it can be easy to narrow your range of movement to just your particular “A game” and in so doing makes you less able to deal with tricky situations that your opponent might put you in by exploiting a moment’s error. Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way, if you open up your game (in terms of movement) when drilling and training.

MovNat and Ginastica Natural

I think MovNat is motivated in part by this goal of helping you train a wide range of practical movements that you might not always get to train when focused on a particular aspect of your jiu jitsu game. Of course, it has a few other philosophical underpinnings outside the scope of this post, like keeping the workout fun, interesting, and goal-oriented.

At one of Saulo Ribeiro’s seminars I attended, Saulo emphasized the effectiveness of dynamic movements outside the scope of your jiu jitsu game. His favorite approach was something called Ginastica Natural, but I think there’s probably a lot of different programs of that kind all governed by a focus on a wide range of efficient movement.

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