Sunday, 4 February 2018

Very Stable Genius Week 5: January 29 - February 4, 2018


“You are only entitled to the action, never to its fruits."
—Bhagavad Gita


I’m starting to put together an outline for the Digital version of the ALTIS Performance Therapy Program (hopefully ready by April 1, BTW), and came across this brief primer I wrote in 2010:

‘Functional Movement’ can be defined as the unique movement repertoire of an individual performed in its normal state. Relating this definition to sport, and applying it to the treatment of athletes, functional movement therapy (or ‘Performance Therapy’) can be described as an attempt to normalize function by building a ‘grid’ and integrating the therapeutic intervention into the athlete’s sporting movement.

This is accomplished through a ‘triage system’; first identifying the most likely barrier to ‘normal function’. Once this has been eliminated, other obstructions are exposed and we continue in this fashion until satisfactory function is attained. By maintaining this process of intervention, we sequentially remove obstacles to function, and the focus graduates to the optimization of the particular movement. By integrating mobility and stability intervention (‘the treatment’) into the training environment, we can positively affect motor learning and control, and thus lend increased stability to the intervention that would not exist if these were treated separately.

The identification of ‘dysfunction’ is built into the training program; and in fact, this ‘movement screen’ is inseparable from the technical observation, diagnosis, and reaction to the athlete’s movement. While traditional movement screens may focus on moments in movements, the minutiae of movement, and movements that are outside the athlete’s normal sporting experience, we prefer to use the actual sporting movement itself to screen our athletes. In this way, the movement screen, the therapeutic intervention, and the training process are necessarily linked.

The screening process continues through time and across circumstance (different environments, tasks, and competitive experiences), as only when we begin to understand an athlete’s individual and specific movement patterns, their general movement repertoires, and the manner in which their musculoskeletal system interacts with the other systems in their body, can we begin to confidently and consistently understand how our intervention is going to be accepted.

The difference between ‘mechanical-movement dysfunction’ and ‘technical fault’ is often difficult to observe; the distinction between the two is the driver of any intervention: a technical cue for a mechanical-movement dysfunction can only lead to further compensatory patterning; while an acute therapeutic intervention of a technical fault may affect an otherwise finely-balanced mobility-stability equilibrium – each increasing any injury risk.

A keyword in the definition of functional movement is ‘normal’; it is imperative that the coach-therapist understand what is normal for each individual athlete - for perhaps what is being deemed ‘abnormal’ in an athlete is merely an adaptive response to the specifics of a movement pattern particular to that athlete’s system. The body is a self-organizing, dynamical system; athletes are not machines - they are all different, and it is part of the role of the coach and therapist to understand these differences, and to perhaps identify an acceptable ‘range of normal movement’ - or ‘bandwidth’ - for that particular athlete. These bandwidths can be of varying sizes according to individual athlete differences. My good friend, Dr. Matt Jordan expands on this theme calling for a re-visit of movement screens, and adopting what he calls the ‘Quotidian Movement Screen’.


My thoughts have slightly matured since I wrote the above, by the way.  'Functional Movement Therapy' is a stupid way to describe it, for example.  The Jordan QMS is still excellent though. 


As it relates to last week's discussion around what is most important for an athlete:

"Interestingly, Pat Henry always says the biggest determining factor of an athlete to succeed isn’t their talent, but their ability to adapt to ever-changing situations and challenges." - Andreas Behm

There is so much we can do if we focus on anti-knowledge - what we do not know

It's not ideology that has folks grasping tightly to their tribes; it’s three fundamental human needs: 

  • identity, 
  • community, and 
  • purpose


Rely less on top-down planning, and more on tinkering and recognizing opportunities when they present themselves. 

The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic, long-term learning process, and not to live in a shell of static, safe mediocrity. 

Growth comes at the expense of comfort. 

The coach is a fox. 
The support staff are hedgehogs

(read Berlin’s Hedgehog and Fox)

Speaking of, I enjoyed this from Richard Martin, one of the writers of The Neo-Generalist:

- Richard Martin

"Philip Tetlock applied the hedgehog and fox distinctions to expertise. He realized that there was a continuum between the two. Nothing was black and white. Hybridisation was possible. Context was important for determining where one found oneself on the continuum."


- Carlo Rovelli,

Writing about Alan Burdick, and his new book, Why Time floes (purchased), Carlo Rivello praises Burdick through a very nice description of the scientific process: “He presents scientific inquiry for what it really is: not a package of acquired knowledge, but a vibrant lively adventure of discovery, where what we do not yet know is more interesting than what we know.”

Qs on fluidity & ferocity (force):

Optimal physical performance exists when there is a balance of fluidity and ferocity. While we have done a pretty good job designing training programs to improve ferocity (force-application, and its specific derivatives), we don't do enough to understand - and to teach - fluidity. And it is fluidity which is the prime determining factor of optimal performance. The best in their sports are almost always the ones who look the most fluid; while rarely, are they the most powerful. 

What is FLUIDITY???
How does this relate to coordination? 
What is coordination?  
And how does this relate to rhythm and timing?

One way to look at it:
Rhythm = inter (e.g. sprinting down a track)
Timing = intra (e.g. movement of a single limb through a single sprint stride)

Both are key.  
Which is MORE key?



Brad Stulberg: 

"You can't be great at everything.  Regularly reflect on what matters most, and focus your efforts there.  
"You've got to be a minimalist to be a maximalist; if you want to be really good at, master, and throughly enjoy one thing, you've got to say no to many others." - Dr Michael Joyner

Couldn't agree with his more.  Saying 'no' is not difficult for me, but I have seen a lot of my friends in the industry have trouble with this: if you do good work, chances are you are going to be asked to join the lecture and podcast circuit; if you're not careful, this can become quickly all-consuming, and you will forget that the reason you are being asked is because you were doing good work in the first place.  I'm possibly too far on the other end of the continuum - but I'm OK with that.

More on saying 'no', from Ryan Holiday

If You Can’t Say No, You’re A Slave

"We take out student loans to pay for an education that will get us a job we hope will make those crushing payments worth it. We go to the bank and ask them how much house they’ll let us buy and then we hope two people working every day for the next forty years will prove them right.

All of us regularly say yes unthinkingly, or out of vague attraction, or out of greed or vanity. Because we can’t say no—because we might miss out on something if we did. We think “yes” will let us accomplish more, will give us more of what we want, when in reality it prevents exactly what we seek. All of us waste precious life doing things we don’t like, to prove ourselves to people we don’t respect, and to get things we don’t want.

As Epicurus put it, “Self-sufficiency is the greatest of all wealth.” The Stoic philosopher Epictetus has said that “wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”

... one of the hardest things to do in life is to say “No.” To invitations, to requests, to obligations, to gifts, and to the stuff that everyone else is doing. Saying yes is so easy…and it feels so good.

Freedom is the most important thing. We’re born with it, and yet many of us wake up one day surprised at the chains we wear. The reason? Because we said yes too many times and never learned how to say no ... if you can’t say no, you’re not powerful or free. You’re a slave."



Entrainment: “The term ‘entrainment’ refers to the process by which independent rhythmical systems interact with each other. ‘Independent rhythmical systems’ can be of many types: what they have in common is some form of oscillatory activity (usually periodic or quasi-periodic in nature); they must be independent in the sense of ‘self-sustaining’, i.e. able to be sustained whether or not they are entrained to other rhythmical systems.” - Clayton

“… many instances of entrainment can be observed both within and between human individuals. Examples on a very small scale include entrainment between different neuronal oscillators, or between ‘pacemaker’ cells found in the heart. Still, within the individual but on a somewhat larger scale, many common actions involve the synchronization of movements between different body parts – for example walking.” - Clayton

Entrainment in sport:

“High-performance athletes may benefit from types of entrainment not experienced by most individuals: for instance, rowers and cross-country skiers tend to entrain their breathing to their limb movements (Steinacker, Both et al., 1993; Fabre, Perrey et al., 2007). In short, entrainment is displayed in many different forms of human behavior.” - Gibson

Entrainment in dance:

“A series of studies that used the dynamical systems approach revealed that when people synchronize rhythmic movement of a body part 1. with a different body part, 2. with other people's movement, or 3. with an auditory beat with some phase differences, unintentional and autonomous entrainment to a specific synchronization pattern occurs. However, through practice dancers are able to overcome such entrainment and dance freely.” - Miura & Fuji, 2015, Motor control of rhythmic dance from a dynamical systems perspective: a review.

Entrainment in jazz:

“In the wake of Paul Berliner’s and Ingrid Monson’s landmark interview-based research of the mid-1990s, the notion that “good jazz improvisation is sociable and interactive just like a conversation” (Monson 1996, 84) has become near-conventional wisdom in the field of jazz studies. Numerous other scholars have since demonstrated conclusively that spontaneous ensemble interaction is a prominent element of jazz, and in so doing have greatly enrichened our knowledge and understanding of this signal Afrodiasporic art form as both a musical and a social practice.  Some have even gone so far as to characterize jazz as “a music that demands interaction” (Doffman 2011, 213); it has been said that dialogical interplay between participants is “fundamental and always present” within the idiom (Szwed 2000, 65), that it is “continual” (Gratier 2008, 80) and “constant throughout a performance” (Iyer 2004, 394), and that “if [it] doesn’t happen, it’s not good jazz” (Monson 1996, 84). Yet the concept of interaction in jazz nevertheless remains somewhat undertheorized. More still needs to be said about what, exactly, it is, and about the various roles it plays in everyday performance practice.” - Givan, 2016 - Rethinking Interaction in Jazz Improvisation 

Coaches have paid excessive attention to the manipulation of load in their training paradigms, and not enough to understanding - and organization of - skill acquisition.  How should we periodize skill acquisition?  I have written on this before.


Hardcore History - Painfotainment (Blitz)
- Dan Carlin

  1. ‘We’ enjoy watching (very realistic) simulated violence on TV.  What’s the difference between that and watching it in real life?
  2. It is not long ago at all that humans were treating executions as entertainment - with up to 100,000 people flocking to the ‘more popular’ executions.  This was not in medieval times - they were celebrated right up until the end of the 18th century - early-modern times.  The prevalence of sadism in our history is all too real
  3. A majority of the crowds were women and young boys
  4. The religiosity of the ritual was surprising to me
  5. Executions did not seem to end because of public outcry, or because of a loss of interest.  In fact, the rise in prominence of them increased right up until they were abolished; the high water mark for public executions in Europe was immediately before they were taken away: “People never grew out of public executions because of changing sensibilities; they had public executions as a spectacle taken away from them by the authorities”
  6. Taken away because they were not deterring crime.  Also - Voltaire - and other public intellectuals - were big critics.  ‘The Age of Reason’
  7. While these spectacles may seem sadistic-barbaric to us now, we don’t have to look too far back in our history for something very similar; it is estimated that almost 3500 African Americans were lynched, for example, between 1882-1968 (a majority in the first 3 decades of the 20th century) - the most famous perhaps being ‘The Waco Horror’ -  the lynching of Jesse Washington in Waco, Texas, in 1913, where “a crowd of 2,000 men seized Washington, chained him, beat him and dragged him to the town square, where he was burned.  His fingers were amputated for souvenirs and his fingernails taken for keepsakes. Finally, all that was left was a charred torso, but Washington’s body parts were put in a bag so they could be dragged through downtown.” 
  8. Thought Experiment: If there was a public execution in the US today, would it draw more than the last public execution? 

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” - George Santayana (His other famous quote is “Only the dead have seen the end of war”)


If you’re not familiar with Hardcore History, this, from resetera, offers a nice overview:

"If you have interest in history, Hardcore History is the ultimate podcast. No doubt if you have even a passing interest in podcasts, you've probably heard of Dan Carlin's huge series. Started in 2006 as 20-30 minute episodes, Hardcore History is known for its behemoth-sized series, with episodes that can last over 5 hours long. From the reign of the Khans to a deep dive into the mindset and history behind the construction of the atomic bomb, the series spans centuries and civilizations. But the length, and the many month wait between shows, is well worth it, as Carlin is unmatched in his ability to deliver history in compelling fascinating fashion."

My personal favorites:

Blueprint for Armageddon - A massive six-part series that explores the battlefield horrors across the full span of The Great War
The Destroyer of Worlds - A bleak look at the birth of the Nuclear age through the creation and aftermath of the atomic bomb
Wrath of the Khans - How the nomadic Mongols become one of the most infamous forces of the ancient world


2nd POD of the WEEK:

Perception-Action with Rob Gray

If you're intertested in coaching (and I hope you are if you are reading this), Rob's pods are must-listens.  Right off the back of a three-parter on constraits, Rob is now mid-release of a three-parter on Myzcka's hero, ├╝ber neurophysiologist, and skill acquision / motor learning OG Nikolai Bernstein.  

If you're new to Bernie, I highly recommend this series (and checking out The Movement Miyagi's YouTube videos - including this one on The Bernstein Degrees of Freedom Problem).  

My brief notes from Rob's 2nd pod on Bernstein:

3 stages of motor learning:-

  1. Freezing DOF. Acquisition process: simplify choice through reducing potential movement solutions. Never an optimal solution. Performer needs to move on to improve performance
  2. Freeing DOF - gradual unfreezing of DOF. Systematic order: proximal to distal; upper before lower. ‘Functional’ coupling between body parts to improve dilution. 
  3. Use of reactive phenomena: exploits non-muscular forces. Reactive-reflexive forces. Solving the problem of context-condition variability 

Freezing and freeing - exploration of movement solutions. 

Associated article to read: 

Conscious Control Is Associated With Freezing of Mechanical Degrees of Freedom During Motor Learning

Study in a sentenceresults of practicing a throwing task using either error-strewn or error-reduced practice protocols (which encourage high or low levels of conscious control, respectively) suggest that conscious control is associated with freezing of mechanical degrees of freedom during motor learning.


Contrary to recent opinion, there is such a thing as the self, and it is empirically amenable to scientific investigation
- Serife Tekin

“‘Know thyself’ is one of philosophy’s most ancient aphorisms. But is there such a thing as the self and, if there is, can it be empirically investigated through scientific methods? Antirealists deny the existence of the self – for them it is an illusion, a fiction of the mind. If there was no one to perceive it, there would not be a self. The concept of the self, in their telling, is invented by cultural, social and linguistic conventions. It is nothing but a useful conceptual tool for organising human experience.

David Hume, the 18th-century Scottish philosopher and economist, remains the preeminent antirealist. He suggests that we have no experience of a simple, individual impression that we can call the self – where the ‘self’ is the totality of a person’s conscious life. In A Treatise of Human Nature (1740), Hume wrote:

“When I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe anything but the perception.”

The tendency to create selves by way of creating stories, for humans, is akin to how spiders weave webs to protect themselves: it is both intrinsic and unconscious, argued Dennett in Consciousness Explained (1991). Because the self is constructed and abstracted out of narratives, it is permeable and flexible, and because of its permeability and flexibility, the self eludes scientific scrutiny.

I call my proposed model the ‘multitudinous self’. ‘Do I contradict myself?’ asks the poet Walt Whitman in ‘Song of Myself’ (1891-92), ‘Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)’ The multitudinous self is empirically tractable and responsive to the experiences of ‘real people’ who do or do not have mental disorders. According to this model, the self is a dynamic, complex, relational and multi-aspectual mechanism of capacities, processes, states and traits that support a degree of agency. The multitudinous self has five distinct but functionally complementary dimensions: ecological, intersubjective, conceptual, private, and temporally extended. These dimensions work together to connect the individual to her body, her social world, her psychological world, and her environment.

The multitudinous self is based on the psychologist Ulric Neisser’s account of the self, laid out in his paperFive Kinds of Self-knowledge’ (1988). 

Neisser encourages us to reevaluate the sources of information that help us to identify the self. There are five sources, which are so different from one another that it is plausible to conceive each as establishing a different ‘self’:

  1. the ecological self, or the embodied self in the physical world, which perceives and interacts with the physical environment; 
  2. the interpersonal self, or the self-embedded in the social world, which constitutes and is constituted by intersubjective relationships with others; 
  3. the temporally extended self, or the self in time, which is grounded in memories of the past and anticipation of the future; 
  4. the private self which is exposed to experiences available only to the first person and not to others; 
  5. the conceptual self, which (accurately or falsely) represents the self to the self by drawing on the properties or characteristics of not only the person but also the social and cultural context to which she belongs.

The multitudinous self is a variation of the Neisserian self in that it individuates the self as a complex mechanism with many dimensions that interact and work together to maintain a more or less stable agency over time. “


“Without consciousness, the mind-body problem would be much less interesting. With consciousness it seems hopeless” - Thomas Nagel



The Cult of Mary Beard
- Charlotte Higgins

"Democracy cannot properly operate without knowledge"

"The point is not what I look like, but what I do."

One of the great problems of today, she said, was deciding how far current rules of behaviour could be projected back on the past. 

"There is no argument that I won’t take seriously. Thinking through how you look to your enemies is helpful. That doesn’t mean that your ideology is wrong and theirs is right, but maybe you have to recognise that they have one – and that it may be logically coherent. Which may be uncomfortable."

FYI - SPQR - Beard's bestselling history of Rome, from 2015, is excellent.  I have yet to read her more well-known Pompeii.


When Two Tribes Go to War - New York Magazine
- Andrew Sullivan

“ ... no one even faintly patriotic should object to investigating how a foreign power tried to manipulate American democracy, as our intelligence agencies have reported. And yet one party is quite obviously doing all it can to undermine such a project – even when it is led by a Republican of previously unimpeachable integrity, Robert Mueller. Tribalism does not spare the FBI; it cannot tolerate an independent Department of Justice; it sees even a Republican like Mueller as suspect; and it sees members of another tribe as incapable of performing their jobs without bias.”

“Dominate the news cycles. Do anything to muddy the conflict and to sow suspicion. Lie, if you have to. Exercise not the slightest concern for the stability of the system as a whole – because tribe comes first. Trump, to make things worse, sees no distinction between the tactics he deployed as a private citizen in lawsuits for decades and the tactics he is deploying as president, because has no conception of a presidency committed first of all to the long-term maintenance of the system rather than the short-term pursuit of personal interest. He simply cannot see the value of institutions which might endure through time, under both parties, as a way to preserve objective fact-finding and the neutral enforcement of justice. All he sees is his own immediate interest, as filtered through his malignant narcissism. Some thought this might change when he became president and realized the gravity of the office. We know now how delusional that idea was.”

“We are in a different zero-sum political world. This is a tribal scorched-earth war, underpinned by racial and gender divides, thriving regardless of the consequences for our democratic institutions, discourse and way of life. And if we once thought with confidence that one tribe would come back in the mid-terms, and somehow moderate this, we may be forced soon to reconsider. I know my pessimism is deep. I just long for evidence that it is misplaced.”

“A massive attack on our democracy took place in the last election. Nothing, so far as we can see, has been done by this administration to prevent this in the future. The Congress’s bid to punish Moscow has now been sidelined by a president unwilling to perform his Constitutional duties. When the president is already suspected of having had ties with the Russian government during an election when that government tried to tilt the results to Trump, his refusal to obey Congress’s specific intent to punish Moscow is more than troubling. Can we truly expect this presidency to exist within the framework the Founders constructed? Can we trust our elections any more? Or is tribalism getting closer and closer to something we used to call treason?”


“Vladimir Putin is running the world” - Dr. David Smith


  1. love these weeklies! keep them up please! So much insight and useful tools to increase knowledge and productivity