Daily Failures, Part 1

You take movement failures for granted in your life. If you fail to grab a bottle, then you try again. If you stumble, then your body will rebalance you. The big number of mistakes and their continuous appearance leave you dulled. It becomes quite normal to just accept these things. The distinction between “everything is going well” and “something is going wrong” is abandoned. At this point, it is worth taking a closer look. It is the same thing in martial arts. The kick ends up too far away from the opponent. The punch is too weak. The joint lock fails due to a sudden counterforce.

For a starter, martial arts is very complicated as a learning environment for motor control. I recommend taking a closer look at simple daily failures. These give better answers about internal processes. These failures happen more often and you don’t need a partner, just increased attentiveness.

In the following examples, I will only briefly address the causes. There are usually other possible explanations. It is important that all the examples can be tracked back to insufficient modelling of the environment. Furthermore, you should bear in mind that every person in these videos was convinced about their actions. They considered them to be the “right” ones. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have done them. Nobody is spared from these things. These are systematic failures, which can happen to anybody.


An Example of an incorrect motor program

New York City Subway stairs

In this example, exactly one of the steps is slightly higher. This is enough for a systematic stumbling. Climbing the stairs is a highly automated process. It is extremely optimized. Who would lift their feet higher then needed? The internal model of the steps excludes higher steps. A collision cannot be prevented because no sense can detect the variance. At this point, reflexes start up against the fall. Some people don’t even seem to recognize they´re stumbling.


An example for incorrect environmental perception

Girl runs into a wall

At this point, she excluded the wall from her motor program of running away. The consequences for incorrect environmental modelling are obvious. It is important here, that her emotional reaction and her running away seem to be a kind of “standard program”. It is indicated by her step and simultaneously grasping her dress. This “unwinding” of the movement prevents the necessary adjustment even more. She is simply “trapped” in it.


Example for inappropriate reflexes

The handrail of an escalator runs slower

This example has a very special charm. An automatism is responsible for a firm stance on the escalator. Grasping the handrail provides additional protection. If you rely on those facts here, then you are out of luck. The handrail runs slower. An inattentive person is slowly pulled back out of their balance. The loss of balance will trigger a grab reflex. This reflex makes things worse. The hand is coupled firmer to the handrail. The tension of the body against the fall is inappropriate as a motor program. A backward step on the lower level is needed. Try going downstairs, backwards, and fast. This is hardly possible without practice. Overall, this is a very good example of an incorrect reflex in a certain environment.

The post was published 5. December 2013 related to the category Miscellaneous.