Saturday, October 9, 2010

Power Psychology

Reading this blog post (about this study) an assertion caught my eye that has some relevance to Krav Maga, I think:

Which guy appears more powerful? They guy with leaning back in a chair, feet up, hands behind his head? Or the guy hunched forward, hands together in his lap?

Which guy do you think feels more powerful?

The study found that assuming the 2 power positions (vs. non-power) for 1 min each had three results:

1. Subjects rated themselves as more powerful (2.84 vs. 1.87 on a 1 to 4 scale)

2. When offered a choice of keeping $2 versus betting it all on dice, 86% of the power group chose to gamble, vs. 60% of the non-power

3a. Their testosterone went up about 15% or down 10% from baseline, respectively:

3b. Power position also significantly lowered cortisol levels by about 15%, while adopting the low-power position had a limited, but upwards effect. Cortisol is usually secreted during acute stress.

All this, from two minutes of a posture change. True for men and women equally.



This isn't anything new, it's long been known that forcing a physical maneuver can alter mood. Forced smiling can make you happier; clenching the fist makes men more aggressive and women feel less in control; method actors key off of physical movements to get their head in gear. And yoga exists.

(my bold)

There are many women students at my Krav Maga school who are much further advanced in the discipline than I am yet. Even so, I think I see some evidence in support of the contention in bold above. I can't think of a single woman who doesn't strike harder/smoother with the palm than she does with a clenched fist (after taking the differential in wrist strength into account). Since the more advanced levels require traditional boxing gloves (for training partner protection if nothing else), I wonder if this seemingly minor psychological observation ought to be pointed out as a regular part of training?

UPDATE: 2:30 PM, 10/09/10:

I should make clear that I'm talking about the in-class training environment here and not during an actual defense. Then it all comes down to the very simple formula: 1) hit as hard as you can, any way and place that you can; 2) survive to escape your attacker. In training though we ought to consider utilizing whatever techniques we can that offer seeming benefit for the training experience. As my pseudonymous source observed elsewhere in the same post:

It should also be obvious that this shouldn't work. How out of touch with our own bodies must we be if we can unconsciously change our mood by accidentally sitting a certain kind of way?


Some readers will come back with a notion of a mind-body feedback loop, fine, no argument from me; but if these principles are so well known, why don't people do them more often?

Indeed, why don't we? Neutral stance ought to be expressly about attaining this bio-physical response for our own advantage. We don't have to know the precise physiological chemical process that triggers the demonstrated bio-chemical reaction, we only need to recognise it's utility in countering the overwhelming impact the adrenal flood that accompanies any violent encounter can impose on us. I don't think we should count on the influence such a physical display is asserted to have on an observer, but we shouldn't just dismiss it either - the attacker isn't the only observer of an altercation often enough.

This is a bit farther out on the limb of possibility, but I think the whole "method actor" reference made above has potential training utility too. Developing specific mental/physical associations to stimulate increased aggressiveness of response during training (don't just throw that number 4, 6, 1, 7 elbow combination, snap it) will almost certainly carry over when it's dark and noisy and this guy's just not going to stop ....

Needs follow up with somebody who knows much more about the realities involved, but there's something to this, I think.

One final thing; since this is all about training, via this very NSFW site (really, don't click on the link if female nudity offends you) comes awareness of this post that is quite work safe other than the letter arrangement within the URL.

Seems that most everything your high school gym teacher told you is wrong. Well, at least when it comes to all that start-of-the-class stretching.

A recent spate of studies shows that when it comes to warming up before exercising, phys ed instructors didn’t do us any favors by having us to go through a series of calf extensions, hurdler’s stretches and the like.

The latest salvo against stretching comes from a study published in the September issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, which found that static stretching before a workout lowered runners’ endurance and made their body less efficient. While previous studies have illustrated the effects of stretching on anaerobic activities[1], this was the first one to show the effects on runners.

I think that stretching generally, and range-of-motion extension specifically, ought to be an intrinsic part of any Krav Maga training routine. It isn't "warm up", it's a fundamental contribution to our total training effort. Unlike other athletes, Krav Maga trains us for an "event" we can never warm up for; you're physically and mentally relaxed and then it's on, full-tilt-boogy! If you're lucky you might have time to take a basic foot stance, but not for much more than that.

Static stretching's limitation of performance is actually a benefit within the Krav Maga training environment, I think, as it more realistically contributes to simulating the physical stress and fatigue we experience during a violent confrontation. In any case, something further to consider before the next class session.

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