Thursday, November 27, 2008

The doctor is in

Marc Rowe found this information and it's related to a tennis stroke but certainly applies to any motion.

Technique: The Kinetic Chain
10/12/04 6:57 PM
(The information in this article was taken or adapted from the High
Performance Coaching Program Study Guide.)
The parts of the body act as a system of chain links, whereby the
energy or force generated by one link (or part of the body) can be
transferred successively to the next link. The link system in the service
action, which starts from the ground, can be explained in the following way
(Elliott and Saviano, 2001; Elliott & Kilderry, 1983):
a.. Leg drive
b.. Trunk rotation
c.. Upper arm elevation
d.. Forearm extension, upper arm internal rotation and forearm
e.. Hand flexion
The optimum coordination (timing) of these body segments and their
movements will allow for the efficient transfer of energy and power up
through the body, moving from one body segment to the next. Each movement
in the sequence builds upon the previous motion and they all contribute to
the generations of racket speed.
This transfer of energy in sequential coordination is also enhanced by
the stretch-shortening cycle of muscle action. The stretch-shortening cycle
involves the active stretching (the muscle is activated but is elongated by
another force) of a muscle in a countermovement immediately followed by a
more forceful shortening of the muscle in the desired direction. In the
forehand, for example, the chest and shoulder muscles are actively stretched
(coaches often use the cue "loading" here) as the trunk rotates into the
shot and the inertia of the arm and racket cause them to lag behind.
The active stretch of the muscle stores energy in the elastic elements
of muscle and associated tissues such as tendons, which is reused as the
muscle begins to shorten. This sequence of muscular coordination tends to be
chosen naturally by the brain, but sometimes this must be coached in players
who develop pauses, that in turn lead to missed segment rotations or
problems in sequencing segments.
The most effective tennis strokes begin with leg drive generating
ground reaction forces that can be transferred up the segments of the
kinetic chain to the racket. Proper timing of the segments in the kinematic
chain and stretch-shortening cycle muscle actions maximize the transfer of
energy to generate the greatest racket speed.
Example-One-handed backhands tend typically involve five kinematic
links that the player has to coordinate (Groppel, 1992). In most cases the
one-handed backhand is based on a sequential summing of the motions of the
legs, trunk, arm, forearm, and wrist/hand. Two-handed backhands during
early learning use fewer body segments, so many young players find this
stroke easier to coordinate. In the modern two-handed stroke a similar
number of segments are rotated as for the on-handed stroke.

Happy Thanksgiving

I want to wish everyone a happy holiday!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The doctor is in

The following article sent by Marc Rowe essentially says that if you use imagery of doing something after you've physically practiced it well, it's more efficient when you execute it.

Nov 22, 2008
Motor Representations and Practice Affect Brain Systems Underlying Imagery:
An fMRI Study of Internal Imagery in Novices and Active High Jumpers.

Open Neuroimag J. 2008;2:5-13

Authors: Olsson CJ, Jonsson B, Larsson A, Nyberg L

This study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate
differences in brain activity between one group of active high jumpers and
one group of high jumping novices (controls) when performing motor imagery
of a high jump. It was also investigated how internal imagery training
affects neural activity. The results showed that active high jumpers
primarily activated motor areas, e.g. pre-motor cortex and cerebellum.
Novices activated visual areas, e.g. superior occipital cortex. Imagery
training resulted in a reduction of activity in parietal cortex. These
results indicate that in order to use an internal perspective during motor
imagery of a complex skill, one must have well established motor
representations of the skill which then translates into a motor/internal
pattern of brain activity. If not, an external perspective will be used and
the corresponding brain activation will be a visual/external pattern.
Moreover, the findings imply that imagery training reduces the activity in
parietal cortex suggesting that imagery is performed more automatic and
results in a more efficient motor representation more easily accessed during
motor performance.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tucson, AZ and other thoughts

I'm going to Arizona for the first time in two weeks to teach at Shawn Knight's camp there the first weekend of December. Ed Parker Jr and Steve LaBounty will be on staff, too, so I'm looking forward to that. I'm also looking forward to seeing Carole Wolken, my first Judo instructor, who is retired there. Carole lost her husband last year but she's doing well and we're going to have some time to hang out during my visit. If it hadn't been for Carole I'd have likely decided martial arts were not for me.
Just recently I was told some stories about initial experiences in the arts that defined perspectives on what the arts are about. I had a bad Judo teacher at the YMCA when I took my first few lessons. My mom thought I really liked it so she enrolled me at a full-time school, which is where I met Carole. She corrected my mistakes and I found that learning to fall and roll was fun, not painful. That may literally have been a meeting that changed my life.
A few days ago I took a flight check with an US Air Force officer/check airman, Major Carlos Salinas. He'd heard I'm a "karate guy" and I asked him if he'd ever taken it. He had when he was a teenager living on the US Marine base at Parris Island. He told me the first or second lesson he had with his friends and a Marine who taught the class they were learning to spar and the instructor broke his buddies nose with a spin kick. He decided that studying the arts was not for him.
That same day when my deputy director for Standards and Evaluation here in Florida Wing called me to see how my ride went we got to talking karate. Alan was US Army and kick-boxed in the service. He told me about how his first lessons with a military instructor when he was a teen were complete with kicks in the solar plexus when he or his friends were caught talking in class. It didn't stop him from continuing but he remembers it well as a negative experience.
I don't want you to think this is limited to military instructors. Lots of instructors think it's OK to hit their students in such manners. Maybe less today since people started to sue karate teachers but it's still happening.
A student I had in Ft. Myers had her nose broken in her first college Tae Kwon Do class. She quit but came back to it many years later with me, with a lot of encouragement (and courage). She's now approaching black belt with Mike Squatrito at Gulf Coast Kenpo.
Yes, we have to hit students when teaching techniques to show the physical effects to some degree. I've been hit plenty hard many times. I've have the chipped teeth, scars, and pains to show for it. But I don't hit kids and new students hard. I don't even hit the black belts too hard anymore though they tell me that even soft feels hard.
And my flight check? Successful. Major Salinas was very happy with me and my program here in FL. He told us at the hangar that he is inspired by the volunteers we have in the Civil Air Patrol. And I didn't even have to break his nose.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pray Now

The snowbirds are coming back to SW Florida and the majority of them are older people. I was in traffic today and the car in front of me had license plates that said "Pray Now". I have to wonder if the owner is very religious or a really bad driver.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cabrera seminars

Ed Cabrera did two nice seminars at Gulf Coast kenpo in north Cape Coral last weekend. He taught the kids class Friday evening the basics of boxing and power generation. On Saturday he did what he calls a boxing infusion. Ed has created a series of techniques using both Kenpo and western boxing principles. He used Raking Mace as his main example. You can see how he does it if you look for him on You Tube.

My next book

It's almost done! Lessons with Ed Parker is almost ready to go to print. It's close to 200 pages of his concepts, stories, ideas, insights into his personality, my experiences with him, and photos. I'm hoping to get it out by Christmas. The cover was done by Ed Parker Jr.

Watch this spot and my website for updates.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The doctor is in

Dr. Rowe sent this along. While some of it may not seem important, the information on how dancing helps can easily be related to martial arts instruction, showing further benefit to what we do.

HEALTH & SCIENCESteps to a nimble mind: Physical and mental exercise help keep the brain fitNeuroscience is uncovering techniques to prevent cognitive decline.By Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli, AMNews correspondent.
Nov. 17, 2008.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------The brain -- containing 100 billion neurons, 900 billion glial cells, 100 trillion branches and 1,000 trillion receptors -- reacts to stimuli in a series of electrical bursts, spanning a complex map of connections. Whether calculating an algorithmic equation or learning the tango, our brain continuously changes in response to our ideas, actions and activities.Each time a dance step is learned, for instance, new pathways are formed. "Dancing is excellent for the brain and body," says Vincent Fortanasce, MD, clinical professor of neurology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He wrote the Anti-Alzheimer's Prescription. "Not only are you moving around more, your brain is in constant motion as it recalls steps and movements."It's an example that highlights a wave of new thinking about the importance of brain fitness.
Until recently, conventional wisdom held that our brains were intractable, hard-wired computers. What we were born with was all we got. Age wore down memory and the ability to understand, and few interventions could reverse this process. But increasingly, evidence suggests that physical and mental exercise can alter specific brain regions, making radical improvements in cognitive function. "When you challenge the brain with new skills and new ways of doing things, it increases connections in the brain," says Ericka P. Simpson, MD, a neurologist who co-directs the MDA Neuromuscular Clinics and directs the ALS clinical research division at the Methodist Hospital System Neurological Institute in Houston. "It increases synaptic density."With nearly 72 million Americans turning 65 over the next two decades, physicians need the tools to handle growing patient concerns about how to best maintain brain health. Armed with this new brand of science, frontline physicians will be better equipped to address the needs of aging baby boomers, already in the throes of the brain fitness revolution. "They are the gatekeepers of information, and people listen," says Eduardo Locatelli, MD, MPH, a neurologist and medical director of the Florida Neuroscience Center in Fort Lauderdale. Dr. Locatelli implements brain fitness techniques for his postsurgery epilepsy patients as well as patients who present with mild- to moderate-stage Alzheimer's and dementia. "Encourage new experiences.
... Use it or lose it. Challenge it and gain.
"The plastic brainWithin the brain, the pathways and regions that are most utilized generally grow and become stronger while other parts shrink. "The brain is very Darwinian, it's survival of the fittest," says Edward Taub, PhD, a behavioral neuroscientist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who has researched neuroplasticity since the 1970s. "At one time it was believed we did not use 90% of our brain. That is false. The brain is a zero sum game. Every part of the brain is used. It has enormous plasticity."Thus, by challenging the brain and forcing the use of different pathways, brain maps can be altered. And such changes offer young and old -- even brain-injured individuals -- an opportunity to learn or re-learn things. "Vocabulary can increase into age 90," says Gary J. Kennedy, MD, a professor in the Dept. of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He also directs the geriatric psychiatry division at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y. "As people age they may be slower, but they are capable of more and more complex projects."
Brain volume shrinks up to 1% every year after age 65.To best illustrate neuroplasticity, consider stroke patients with damaged limbs. Contrary to traditional therapy, which works to strengthen the good limb, Taub restrains the uncompromised limb, forcing patients to use the damaged arm or leg. The therapy, constraint-induced movement therapy, also known as CI therapy, helps to rewire the brain."The more you use it, more neurons are available ... the more demand for cortical space and the more the patient is able to use the [damaged] arm," Taub said. Over time, small steps lead to improvements in activities of daily living. Ultimately, the damaged limb, at least in part, recovers because, although the brain does not regrow damaged areas, it re-routes around them.When the brains of CI patients were examined, a tremendous increase in grey matter was detected, and interestingly, Taub says, the healthy part of the brain was recruited for the task. Some of Taub's research was published in the Nov. 1, 2006, Journal of the American Medical Association.CI applications are now being explored for other forms of brain injury.
Young brains, old brains?
Mental agility begins declining around age 24, says Dr. Fortanasce. But there is a big difference between agility and capacity. "I may be slower, but what I know now far outweighs what I knew at 24," he says. "Some individuals perform their greatest creative work in late life. Verdi, for example, composed Othello at 73 and Falstaff at 79."Greg Jicha, MD, PhD, assistant professor of neurology at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, shares related stories, such as that of an 82-year-old who learned to play the trumpet. "I've heard people say, 'You can't teach an old dog new tricks.' That can't be further from the truth," says Dr. Jicha, who also heads the healthy brain aging research group at the university's Sanders-Brown Center on Aging. "When you look at the plasticity of the adult brain, it is amazing."Mental agility, but not capacity, begins declining around age 24.But age also brings anatomic changes. Brain weight and blood flow to the brain decrease by 20%. The number of fibers and nerves decrease by 37%. And brain volume shrinks up to 1% every year after age 65. Dr. Fortanasce also points to hormonal shifts, with the presence of dopamine and serotonin diminishing as cortisol, an aging hormone, increases. "Between age 20 and 70, we lose nearly 90% of youth hormones."So what keeps some brains younger than their chronology? Experts point to a prescription of neurobics. This concept includes life-long learning, trying new things, a healthy diet, social interactions, sleep and physical activity. "Exercise can actually increase neurogenesis and increase the size of the hippocampus," says Dr. Fortanasce, who promotes isometrics and weight-bearing exercise. "Exercise also increases youth hormones. And novelty, doing new things, builds branches."In a 2006 study in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, Brandeis University researchers found that strength training increased the participants' working memory span. The higher the level of resistance, the more memory improved, suggesting that strength training benefits not only the muscles but also the mind.Dr. Locatelli suggests reversing daily patterns. People who take the same route to work every day need to push themselves beyond their comfort zones. A person can try to eat using his or her weaker hand, for instance. Or someone could listen to another type of music than the type usually favored. Activate unfamiliar areas of the brain, Dr. Locatelli says. The key is new places, socializing with different people, and reading new things.And primary care physicians can help communicate this message."When a patient expresses concern about memory loss, never cast it off as associated with age," says Tom Perls, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine at Boston University Medical Center. Dr. Perls also heads the New England Centenarian Study. "This is an incredibly serious issue. Losing brain function is devastating." Ask about memory. And rule out other conditions like depression or low thyroid first. "Encourage them to exercise the brain in novel and complex ways," he says.
Exercising new connections
So what about dance steps? At McGill University in Montreal, researchers found that the tango may be better than walking for improving execution of complex tasks because it incorporates elements found in standard neurological rehabilitation programs. It's also fun and social.Participants, ages 62 to 90, were randomly assigned to a walking group or a tango dancing group, meeting two hours twice a week for 10 weeks. The tango group improved in balance, posture and motor coordination, as well as cognition.Physical and mental exercise improve cognitive function. According to new research published in the October issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience, University College London scientists say complex brain processes that enable the memorization and replication of activities such as playing the piano or riding a bicycle require the execution of complicated sequences of movements involving dozens of muscles. According to their research, pianists who learned and practiced their art from an early age had elevated amounts of myelin. This finding suggests that when people learn new skills, myelination might occur. Earlier studies indicated that brains of patients diagnosed with senile dementia had lowered amounts of myelin.The emphasis, though, is the importance of embracing the complex and novel. And Joe Hardy, PhD, a cognition neuroscientist who develops brain plasticity training programs, says some common-sense advice from physicians is not based on good evidence. "They often recommend doing crossword puzzles," he says. "But evidence suggests that crossword puzzles are not helpful."Hardy has been developing brain games for the San Francisco-based company Posit Science. The games -- the Brain Fitness Program and Insight -- have been tested in several randomized clinical trials funded by the National Institutes of Health. The results indicate that the brain age clock can roll back 10 years. "The key thing in terms of exercise for the brain: You need to do new things, thus forming new paths," he says.Some have even compared this new era in brain health to the 1950s, when heart health came to the fore. "New things are coming out all the time, and we are going to see a revolution in brain health," Hardy says. "I think this is going to change the way people age."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I have a set of three boxes of Hibben production knives I want to sell. Two are throwing knives and one is a claw. The set of three boxes are $100. Get them thru my website store. Gone in less than 12 hours!

In addition I have a hand-made Huk knife to sell for $400. It's marked with his name and "New Orleans". Contact me at or thru the website if you're interested. I'm told it's worth about $500 or so.

Fresno seminars

I was hosted by Graham and Jaydean Lelliott at their Central Valley Karate Club in Fresno, CA last weekend. As always, it was a good time. All the seminars were well-attended. The Friday kids were a blast. The Saturday sessions went well, with one for mixed ranks and a family groupings seminar for the brown/black class. Sunday I did a lecture section on instructing for instructors. Afterwards we went to Fred and Julie Bell's home to have dinner with them and Marty and his wife Sheri, and Armen George. Fred has opened a class in his home in the west Fresno area, with his garage converted to a nice studio. We took a ride down the road to Madera to see Pete Valdez's new studio there, called The Dojo. ( Very nice facility; matted and they have an undersize boxing ring, too. The studio has a great look to it and I think they'll do well. His brother, Trini, was working hard when we were there and he'll be part of the success story.
Thanks to Fred and Kent for the t-shirts they gave me. Amy Long was there from Sacramento, too. Always good to see her and everyone out there.
The Lelliott's are holding their bi-annual camp in May on Memorial Day weekend at Wonder Valley. See for info.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Super underwear

I started teaching Kenpo in 1973. One thing that is an absolute must for the guys to have and wear is a groin cup. Kids, too. In today's legal climate it's even more important. With having many a single mom bring their son in for lessons I found that many of them were not sure how to approach the subject with their boy about wearing a cup. After all, most of them had little or no experience with such apparel. (However, I did meet a woman in a Chicago school who wore one since it was a bit rough there and I found that many of the women in the school in Sweden I visited often used them, too.) Often the moms would want me to explain it to their son but one mom told me that she told her little karate master that it was "super-underwear". 'Nuff said.