Muscle Memory Martial Arts
The definition for Muscle Memory in Wiki states: ‘a form of procedural memory that involves consolidating a specific motor task into memory through repetition.’ This is a good definition, but totally inadequate when one considers what the martial arts are designed to do. This article is designed to complete that definition.
There are basically three parts to a human being on planet earth.
There is the body, which is pretty much a meat contrivance of bones and blood and hair and skin and all sorts of things. This is where we find muscle.
There is the mind, which is memory. Memory is not contained in the brain.
And there is the spirit. The great intangible, that awareness which can’t be measured by the physics of this universe.
So somebody figures out a great martial arts move, and he starts practicing it. He is basically telling his muscles to remember, and this is all fine and good.
Now, let’s step outside of muscle and memory-and modern definitions-and consider the ancient concept of mushin no shin, or ‘mind of no mind.’
Take mushin no shin literally, and it is saying that one does not use the mind, including the muscle pattern in the mind, when doing martial arts or other activities which have resulted in this state.
The point is that when one builds Muscle Memory, using muscle and mind, they are building a circuit. This is just like an electrical circuit, energy charges through synapses and the body lumbers about. Saying it is in the neurons of the mind, or the neural connections in the nerve system doesn’t matter. It is just a circuit, and Muscle Memory is the building of a circuit to enhance the operation of body.
But, if one relies only on the circuit one is now limited by the body, so we have to go beyond circuit, we have to figure out what to do with the circuit so that it disappears, and in its place is…intuition, imagination, and all the higher abilities of the human being.
Here we all agree. Practice, practice, practice. Eventually the circuit just goes…poof. It disappears, and the method of motion becomes not muscle and memory, but merely a light thought of the body being moved from one place to another.
We have used Muscle Memory to instill a pattern until we knew the pattern well enough that we didn’t need the the mind and the muscle. We could move the body directly, just by applying a thought, and this is the state of mushin no shin.
This is when the martial arts become a religion. This is when the human being itself, the ‘I am,’ the point of awareness behind eyes and ears and physical perception tools becomes isolate and in charge.
The problem here is not with Muscle Memory, for Muscle Memory is valid…it exists. The problem is how far does the instructor go with the concept. If the instructor uses the Muscle Memory concept to teach fighting to the exclusion of any spiritual reality, then Muscle Memory is not of use. It relegates the human being to the status of animal.
On the other hand, if Muscle Memory leads to mushin no shin, if it leads to a human being who can direct his body without the mind/memory, but just with a thought, then it is a valid martial arts tool.
If Muscle Memory leads to mushin no shin, the student will experience a realization of the self (I am!), and he will understand the true meaning of budo…’to lay down the spear.’
He will give up fighting for the sake of fighting, give up his animalistic nature, and ascend to the reality of art and intuition and imagination and all the things that are the true province of the human being, and which elevates him above all other life forms on this planet.
He will, in short, be using his true abilities, things like thoughts and whims and imagination, and this is the goal of concepts like Muscle Memory in the Martial Arts.
This has been an article about how to use muscle memory in the martial arts.