Martial Art training is an ongoing process that takes years to master your skills and finally earn your first black belt.  It is a constant repetition of movements, memorizing sequences and applying them at training with partners or alone. During such training your muscles, through constant repetition, “remember” correct trajectories of the movements/techniques and after X thousands of repetitions you can perform them almost subconsciously and finally attempt your black belt test.

However, what would happen if there was a way that your muscles could memorize movements faster? Or if one could learn and perfect techniques quicker? Could the length of the time required to learn and reach the black belt status be reduced?

The latest research

The answer to some of these questions might be found in the research headed by Dr Shapour Jaberzadeh and his group at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.  The research was described in a paper published on the 15th of July 2015 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

In the article the researchers discuss a new noninvasive technique that could rev up your brain to improve your physical performance — for athletes and musicians, for instance — and might also improve treatments for brain-related conditions such as stroke, depression, and chronic pain.

Introducing transcranial pulsed current stimulation (brain-zap method)

The newest method, called transcranial pulsed current stimulation (tPCS), increases more corticospinal (muscle-movement-related) excitability, according to the researchers who discovered that this new treatment produced larger excitability changes in the brain. When a task is being learned during movement training (for example learning a new Martial Art technique, pattern or even playing the piano) gradually the performance gets better. This improvement coincides with enhancement of the brain excitability. This novel technique can play an important role in enhancement of the brain excitability, which may help recipients learn new tasks faster. At this stage it is difficult to tell how much acceleration can be achieved and more research is needed but increasing the length of the impulse and decreasing the time interval between pulses heightened excitability even further.

tPCS is a new, non-invasive neuromodulatory technique. It is safe and easily applicable. Participants seat upright and comfortable with their head and neck supported by a headrest. A pair of saline-soaked surface sponge electrodes are attached and the treatment proceeds for 10, 20 or 30 minutes. The next step in the research is to investigate the underlying mechanisms for the efficacy of this new technique. This will enable to develop more effective protocols for application of tPCS in individuals that desire to improve the locomotion ability or patients with different pathological conditions.

Conclusion

Obviously there are some gifted individuals that require less time to master a movement and, they undergo the same rank testing time criteria as applied to everybody. On the other hand, the physical performance for a successful Black Belt testing is one of the aspects and the time designated to achieve appropriate maturity while training is also very important and should be properly estimated. Otherwise, we will end up with very young, imprudent and skillful technically grandmasters for whom the 1-9/10 Dan scale will not be high enough. More research is needed in this area to properly assess the maturity of Martial artists that make them eligible to become responsible and humble grandmaster with charisma.

The author would like to thank Master Steve Weston from Australia for the revision of the article