Trust your body
Implicit Memory for Successful Self-Defense
In human memory, our abilities are generally divided into two categories: explicit and implicit. The first is often compared to computers and lists. The second category — implicit memory — is where humanity excels beyond any computer.
Implicit memory is the realm of emotions, peripheral vision, feelings, reflexes, and autonomic responses. There is no “if” in this realm, rather a memory-triggered procedural response that unleashes your movements with blinding speed.
Building muscle memory by repetition is one part of this category. Through exercises, you develop process memory and teach your body the “how” of movement (no “then”). In many ways, implicit memory has already given us all the raw material we need as martial artists. When a baseball is flying towards your head, you will likely react to dodge or brace yourself before you can even process the details of the “why.” If you see something out of the corner of your eye that startles you, adrenaline and immediate evasive motion occur as quickly as a blink. These responses are vital, and immediate. They effectively process an overwhelming amount of contextual, structural, and situational information, link this information to an immediate response, and initiate a physical action over an immense network of “you” faster than most computers open a program. This is the raw processing power of implicit memory.
In martial arts training, we seek to refine, improve, or strengthen the body’s procedural responses while providing the body a chance to update or expand the student’s implicit memory to include martial arts situations. Learning a “technique” or a “move” is useless if the mind cannot link what the body has learned to implicit procedural memory. Inversely, the most basic martial movements can be devastating through timing with the simplest linking to implicit memory. Effectiveness in this approach does not come from a list of things you learn and repeat. Rather, true power comes from instilling the procedures of martial movement in the students’ implicit memory.