Muscle Memory Fact or Fiction by KJN Fred Parks
Fact or Fiction. There is no literal memory in the muscles. The things people call muscle memory exists as a misnomer.
Muscle memory acts as if muscles know when you left off your training. This is the phenomenon we call “muscle memory”. Obviously, memory is not stored in the muscle, but rather memories are stored in the brain. The brain acts as a cache for frequently performed tasks by your muscles. These tasks could be training in martial arts, riding a bicycle, using a hammer or other manipulative skills.
A better name for muscle memory could be subconscious memory, information that is stored in the brain. This information is readily accessible by the brain or accessible by non-conscious means. The non-conscious memory is the brain’s enormous capacity to bring up what might be called substrates that exist outside of our own consciousness. These substrates can do everything except make value judgments. An example of this would be walking. You do not consciously know how to contact your muscles to walk, it happens unconsciously.
Our memory is well adapted to manual manipulation and tool making. We do not need to invent a memory aid to remember complex actions as would be required to remember a series of complex numbers. We do not need a memory aid to remember what to do with our hands. Our brain directs our muscles to perform a task.
Building muscle memory is done by developing new skills through reputative practice. By monitoring neural changes during the learning of new skills researchers have learned that instant replay after each performance of a new skill is critical to performing the new skill. You can practice a new Hapkido technique repeatedly, but the lasting memory to execute the technique, but is not learned till a break is taken from training.
New research has revealed that some neural networks are activated during practice sessions and automatically replay the same sequence of moves mentally during the breaks between reputations. It is very important for the practitioner to learn the techniques properly to prevent misinformation being imprinted. Interspersing short breaks between repetitions encodes skill memories much better than repeating practice sessions back-to-back.
The post-practice mental rehearsal is not obvious to us as we learn new skills. This mental instant replay flashes through the brain 20 times faster than the original experience.
Many people stop being involved with participation in martial arts and other physical activities and stop. They consider returning and do not due to fear of having to start for the very beginning practicing the reputative skills repeatedly. The memory of performing reputative tasks is stored in a cache in the brain. This memory allows the brain to recognize the previously performed task. The brain is not relearning the previously learned but recognizes it. It still requires practice to reach the desired level of efficiency.
Each time we teach our bodies how to perform something new our brain creates a new blueprint referring to muscle memory. The ability of our muscles to perform desired tasks comes from the brain which directs the body to perform the desired task. The muscles do not have a memory center but rely on the brain to train them.
About the author: Grand Master Fred Parks is the Dean of the USA Hapkido Union, Inc Academy https://usahapkidounion.org and a senior consultant for the World Martial Arts Marketing Program https://worldmartialartsmarketing.com . He can be reached through his school website site at https://americandragonkoreanmartialarts.com .
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