Gross Motor Skills

Discussion in 'General' started by WT_ATL, Nov 3, 2005.

  1. WT_ATL

    WT_ATL Member Supporting Member

    I often hear from my law enforcement friends that their training focuses mainly on their gross motor skills. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this term, it’s the movements of the large muscles of the body (i.e., punching, kicking, angle 1, etc…). This is mainly due to two reasons.

    • Gross motor skills are easier to learn and retain.
    • When your heart rate is elevated, it’s harder to pull off some of the fine motor skills (disarms, trapping, etc…). I see a lot of this during sparring sessions.
    My question is this. Is it possible to thru training and repetition to convert a fine motor skill into a gross motor skill? If so, can anyone suggest any good drills?

  2. Cruentus

    Cruentus Tactician


    You can't really convert a fine motor skill into a gross motor skill. For example, flipping open a folding knife with your fingers will always be a skill that utilizes dexterity and small mucle groups, making it a fine motor skill. No amount of practice will change that.

    I think what you may be asking is can you train yourself to do something utilizing fine motor skills under combat stress? The answer is yes, but this is a bit controversial and warrents explaination.

    Under combat stress your body goes through a physiological change; so you are literally a different person in a fight then you are normally. You are using different parts of your brain (amygdala [SP?]), and some parts of your physiology is enhanced while others are shut down. The physiology of combat stress will always be there regardless of training.

    So, the key to success here is not to try to train out of combat stress, which is a losing proposition. The key is to train while keeping combat stress in mind, and modifying your training accordingly. So, to use a shooting example, we shoot our handguns in practice using a convulsary grip, because in a fight we can expect that this is the way that we will grip our guns. GUn handling and trigger pull is a fine motor skill in itself, but we practice it with combat stress in mind. So, we look to have accuracy and success in training with a convulsary grip, rather then trying to repetively train a different way in an attempt to train a convulsary grip out of our system. Because when the fight happends and our bodies are responding, we can't expect different results regardless of how much we train, because we can't expect our physiology to change.

    One last thing that can benefit your training is enducing combat stress as best as you can through scenarios, and seeing how the body responds. Then you can modify your training from there.

    All this stuff is outside a "martial art" per say, but useful none-the-less...

    Hope that helps,

    Paul Janulis
  3. G22

    G22 -== Banned ==-

    You can always squeeze "grosser" movements out of "fine motor" skills. For example in gunhandling you can clear a malfunction with a "slingshot" grip on the slide (using thumb and forefinger to pull on the rear slide serrations). Or you can use the "grosser" motor skill of using the whole hand...

    Same thing with a folder. You can train to try and use the fingers on one hand to open the knife or train a "grosser" sweep of the thumb. Its all a matter of scale.
  4. Cruentus

    Cruentus Tactician

    That is a very good point. Well put.

    Your link didn't work for me though... :nixweiss:
  5. G22

    G22 -== Banned ==-

    Hmmm...its a martial talk link to a .avi, perhaps your media player doesnt support it. Works fine on mine.
  6. JPR

    JPR New Member


    What about reping fine motor skills? I realize that some fine motor skills are finer than others, but doesn’t reping the skill make it more likely that you can pull it off under stress?

  7. Cruentus

    Cruentus Tactician

    You have to be careful with that, because you can't change your physiology. Reps help, because when an actual event occurs, the less cognition the better. But you still have to understand the limits of the human body under stress, and you can't expect that you will overcome these limits despite practice. This is especially considering the fact that in the repetitive practice, your not under the stress that you would be under in a fight. So we have seen with some people who have done thousands upon thousands of reps with a particular thing (certain complex trapping sequences or joint locks for example) that requires fine motor skills or complex movement, we have found that under stress in scenarios they aren't getting the results despite their practice. We can only assume that it will get worse from there, not better, and that under actual combat stress these skills will break down.

  8. Danny T

    Danny T New Member

    Repeating the movements over and over under non-stress induced scenarios is great for training: Non-Stressed scenarios.

    It does help even in a stressed situation however only minimally.

    What does work is to work and train in the same kind of stressed environment and conditions as you can. Fighter pilots train some extremely fine motor skill actions within a dogfight and do a fine job. So what is the difference. They actually fly and get attacked and train in the extreme environment they will be fighting in. They don't have the mental stress of actually being shot out of the air however the mental stress of losing the dogfight and dealing with their cohearts, the possibility of losing control of the aircraft and the possibility of losing their jobs does cause a high level of mental stress.

    Something we do is to isolate and work a series of movements based upon an attack. We then work the movements against an opponent actually attacking at a speed and force the attacked person can handle. We gradually increase the pressure and force of the attack as the trainee becomes accustomed to the movements and the pressure. We then change their physical condition. They will do 3-6 minutes of hard exercises and then they are attacked. As the trainee is able to handle this they do a series of sprints starting from 20 yards increasing to 60 yards and then are attacked. The last of the series is they make the sprints and then spin 5-7 times very rapidly getting their equilibrium disrupted and are then attacked. We find this helps by isolating the movements we want ingrained and then the training is locked in by stressing the body physically, mental stress is induced by the constant increasing of the force of the attacks and the speed at which the attacks come and actually getting hit. The trainee does get hit and learns to continue with their defense and/or counter attacks.

    Only after the trainee is able to work at a level of proficiency with-in these physical stress levels are they allowed to start sparring at real time.

    Working any action repeatedly under ideal conditions will never prepare you for the realities of an alive attack by someone hell bent on taking you out! Now, this kind of training isn't for everyone. I have many students who only want to train hard but not hardcore and that is ok. I do constantly enforce that they are not preparing nor will they be prepared for a true physical combat situation.

    Danny T
  9. Cruentus

    Cruentus Tactician

    Good post, Danny T.

    One thing important to mention about this example is the fact that distance from the threat plays a major role in the diminishing or salvaging of fine motor skills. For example, a military radio operator can use fine motor skills to operate a radio in a firefight with bullets flying everywhere. But they are under cover, even if minimally, and they are distanced from the attacker. They wouldn't be able to operate the radio if someone was trying to stab them or shoot them from ten feet away. Same with a fighter pilot; they can fight in a dogfight utilizing fine motor skills, but if someone was in the cockpit trying to choke them they wouldn't be able to control the plane even minimally (even if they had the physical ability to do so).

    A good example of fine motor skills diminishing under stress regardless of reps that you can actually physically watch is police tapes of store robbery's. Some of these cashiers that have been robbed have worked for years in retail, and have opened and closed registers thousands of times. Yet, when the robber has the gun pointing at him and is screaming at him to open the register, the cashier finds that he has great difficulty doing that simple task that he has done without thinking for years.

    I know your point was about trying to make your training environment as close to reality as possible, and it was a good one. I just wanted to interate that point.

  10. loki09789

    loki09789 -== Banned ==-

    Not really. You can't convert a fine motor into a gross motor skill. But, you can train yourself to a level of acclimatization to stress that your HR doesn't spike as bad, therefore extending your time window to apply more fine motor skills.

    The magic number seems to be 145 HR according to Sharpening the Warrior's Edge by Bruce Siddle. Once your HR starts climbing above that number fine motor and cognitive functions start to go down hill fast. Just think back to a time when you were in sports (Soccer, Football, ....MA sparring) and noticed how many stupid mistakes, bad choices, ball made as the pressure was on for a long period of time.

    THere ARE things you can do to:

    Maintain a healthy fitness level. Unfit people will spike faster than fit people.

    Train with a purpose regularly. Paul J. mentioned scenario training. That is effective to acclimatize people to performing under stress. The first time you face even simulated intent to cause you harm, it can be overwhelming. With regular training exposure, you don't hit the Hyper-responsiveness that can cause spikes in HR.

    Confidence: Your mental state has a major impact on how much stress can affect your performance. Train regularly and train to build success and confidence in your skills. I try to work from the mentallity of sticking with White belt level material but at a black belt level of performance. Basics basics basics.

    None of these will convert fine to gross motor, but just watch the difference between a Pro Athlete's use of fine motor skills in a sport compared to amateurs. They seem to be able to do magical things under extreme pressure. Fitness, experience, confidence are all factors that extend the time that they can perform in any intricate way both physically and mentally.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2005
  11. loki09789

    loki09789 -== Banned ==-

    Or like converting the forearm as a pressure tool during an armbar instead of the y-hand or grab on the tricep tendon.
  12. Cruentus

    Cruentus Tactician

    Paul M.,

    Very good post and good points; I agree 100%. Great resource by the way well; Bruce Siddle and that title specifically is on our recommended reading list!

    Paul Janulis
  13. Christopher Umbs

    Christopher Umbs New Member

    At times, when my kids are sparring, I'll yell 'sprint' and have them instantly stop and do wind sprints and then go back to sparring while they are still elevated. Since you're likely to be elevated in a stress situation like a tournament, you might as well get used to doing your moves while pumped. I've said before that I see a big difference between what I've seen in FMA books and what I sometimes see in FMA tournaments and I think this is part of it.

  14. G22

    G22 -== Banned ==-

    Dont forget that the simplicity task itself enters into the equation. While pulling a trigger may qualify as "fine motor" because one finger is moving, yanking a trigger isnt rocket science. Yes "trigger control" like you see on the range is out at CQB distances, but its not like you are going to "fumble" around pulling the trigger. The complex+compound movements is where the real crux lies. You can improve "fine motor skill" applications by simplifying the action being attempted. Hence the problem with level 500+ retention holsters with buttons, straps, levers and fingerprint scanners required to manipulate to draw your weapon.
  15. WT_ATL

    WT_ATL Member Supporting Member

    Thanks everyone, this was great feedback. What I took out of it all is that it's not the physical training but the mental training that will increase the potential of pulling off some of the more fine motor skills under stress. Meaning if I can keep my cool and not freak out, I should be able to keep my heart rate to a point where I can still funtion at an effective level.

    Is this a correct conclusion?
  16. G22

    G22 -== Banned ==-

    Experience+Conditioning+Personality (are you a "calm" type)+Training+Streamlining your techniques/tactics to the simplest effective methods+Testing and Re-evaluating your training and adapting to what you find.
  17. Cruentus

    Cruentus Tactician

    Well, "freaking out" or not is only one element in the equation, as I think that G22 was explaining. It's important to note here that your not looking to learn how to not have combat stress, because that is a losing proposition as combat stress will be there when stuff happends. Your looking to be able to function effeciently when combat stress is present. Combat stress can be a lifesaving tool when utilized properly.

  18. G22

    G22 -== Banned ==-

    Exactly. People seem to think that the "operators" out there are always "cucumbers" when the bullets are flying. You will never react the same way all the time. Many combat veterans will tell you that in some battles they were unafraid, that things seemed to go on auto pilot. Then the next battle they will tell you that they cowered in a hole afaraid to move, and still later that they were forced into some sort of action. Its all dependent on your training, your experience, how quick the situation "jumped off" on you, your beliefs and personality etc.
  19. loki09789

    loki09789 -== Banned ==-

    Thanks Paul J. Whose recommended reading list are you referring to in the above quote? I remember a great phoncon we had a while ago where you mentioned Law School as a possible future plan.

    I was wondering if this reading list title was for a law enforcement and law class or something like that.
  20. loki09789

    loki09789 -== Banned ==-

    Possibly in a limited time window. Remember though the more complexity in the motion, the more likely it is to fall apart even early in the game. You can extend the time, you can stay focused longer if you are fit/confident/been there done that, but you really should be training for a hit and run approach to a real life situation.

    OODA loop. Observe a possible threat (Yellow code would bump to Orange or Red here), Orient (turn) to the possible threat, Decide on a course of action (experience/training/control factor in here BIG TIME), and Act based on that plan. Can't remember the AF Officer that outlined this perspective on stress reaction for fighter pilots, but it is pretty useful as a training tool.

    For a civilian the above would mean that you had to throw out escape or talking out of the situation BEFORE you plan on using force because either is only going to put you in more danger than applying force. Then you have to plan on using only the force that will stop the threat and create a reasonable escape. People can get all 'freaked out' because they are afraid of legal consequences as well as physical consequences. I have seen people in training 'lock up' because they didn't want to over react and get in trouble with higher ups after the fact.

    For LEO or Mil/Operators, the equation is different because the mission objective drives the choices. Staying may be a requirement to getting the job done. If you don't do your part, the rest of the plan could fall apart.

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