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Creativity versus reactivity in martial arts and combat sports: the 3 generations of combat

Action versus Reaction

Creativity versus reactivity in martial arts and combat sports

In a real confrontation situation (a full-contact fight or a physical or verbal confrontation), in your opinion, is a spontaneous direct action faster and more natural than a conscious reaction? Is the one who acts spontaneously more likely to win than the one who reacts through cognitive analysis?

In this blog, we will explore the three generations of fighting practice. The fight where we think about our actions, the one where we respond automatically and the third generation fight: the creative and generative fight.

Thinking before acting: first generation combat

In martial arts and combat sports, the first step is to memorize a certain number of techniques, the second step is to learn tactics, i.e. to respond to an attack or a series of attacks in a particular way.

This essential process is linked to our memorization process. We ask ourselves, "If he applies this technique, what is the best tactic to counter him?" Our cognitive mind activates to search for information in our memory and brings it to our mind. Then we use our body to execute it. This is the first generation of combat: action-analysis-reaction. With a lot of practice, we can do this very quickly.

But when faced with a second level expert, before you can even respond, chances are you've already been kicked, punched, and they are choking you.

The goal of the first generation is to repeat techniques and tactics until they become somatized in our bodies and become conditioned reflexes. Then it is the unconscious process linked to our somatic center that takes over the direction. This is the second generation of combat: action-reaction. The cognitive center sees an action and the somatic center responds to it.

If the memorization process is essential to learn and perfect our art, in a real combat situation, we must above all act with our somatic center and limit to the maximum any intervention of internal dialogue.

The limits of memorization in a real situation where everything is chaotic and spontaneous

According to scientific studies undertaken with magnetic resonance imaging devices, when we study or execute memorized tactics, we use the part of the brain responsible for self-inhibition and control, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.

But if we stay at this second level, we become predictable and will have difficulty winning battles with someone more experienced. This happens when a second generation person meets a creative, third generation fighter.

The fighter using reaction and memory does not have the tools to deal with a creative fighter. Why not? The creative fighter acts spontaneously and unconventionally, he does not know in advance what he is going to do. He fights improvisationally and according to his opponent's style. The second level fighter can't read the other's plan, because he doesn't have one. Do you understand?

We are entering the third generation of combat: creative and generative combat. The person relates to his three centers: cognitive-somatic-relational.

Improvisation or creativity is the best answer to chaos (and K.O)

Creativity, self-awareness, and intuition (hara-gei) manifest themselves with the union of the 3 centers. Our somatic center has the natural ability to connect to relational fields, from which it draws its information (the opponent's movements, the terrain where the confrontation occurs, the context, the obstacles, the resources, etc.). In psychoverbal self-defense, we talk about the second attention.

We are in the field of improvisation and creativity. According to the same scientific research, it is the medial prefrontal cortex that comes into play.

This may sound a bit philosophical or very "esoteric" to some. But all top athletes, such as those who participate in the Olympics or other elite competitions, experience this creative experience that is called "flow" or "being in the zone".

Compare the movements or actions of a top performer in his or her discipline with those of an average or lower level

The expert's movements are fluid; his offense and defense come out of the "middle of nowhere". He is unpredictable, seems to have fun and has a vision of the fight that allows him to see his opponent coming from miles away. He is in problem-solving mode. He knows how to take advantage of the opponent's weaknesses and counter his strengths.

In other words, to improvise successfully, elite fighters must turn off the part of their brain responsible for self-monitoring, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and make way for the medial prefrontal cortex. This is what happens in the second attention.

In other words, "If you're too self-conscious (in first attention), it's very difficult to be creatively free." Because you are plugged into the wrong network. The network of creativity is elsewhere.

Tapping into the network of the present moment through a mindfulness state

When you are plugged into the 3G network, you are not thinking with an internal dialogue, sequentially, as in the first generation fight. You are in the position of a kinesthetic observer (you see and feel simultaneously), you act in the present moment, because that is what happens when you are in full awareness. You have access to the collective unconscious and all the information of the relational field.

Contrast this with the one who is just starting out in combat

He has to think about what actions to take while his opponent is punching him. He tries to guess his opponent's actions to place his favorite technique. Inexperienced fighters wait for the other to finish his attacks before starting their own series of actions.

Their movements are jerky, not adapted to the other, and their reactions are inconsistent. He is far from fluid, as he mainly uses his cognitive center, the same one he uses when he practices his techniques and tactics. At this level, he is more or less aware of his somatic center and the relational field in which he unconsciously immerses himself.

He analyzes the other's technique to apply a counter-tactic. If this is fine when we are in a learning phase, it is less so in a real situation where we have to improvise using all the advantages on the ground.

In a forthcoming article on the creative and generative part of the martial path, we will explain how to balance this complementarity between learning and acting in the present moment. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (memorization) and the medial prefrontal cortex (improvisation). Think of it as the yin part and the yang part. Now we have to put it in the circle that represents the relational field. This circle is the context or the battlefield where we are in action and reaction. In the next article, we will suggest practices that allow us to put into practice the creative and generative part of our inner warrior.

Gaetan Sauve

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