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Old 02-03-2010, 03:06 PM   #50
Erick Mead
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Dojo: Big Green Drum (W. Florida Aikikai)
Location: West Florida
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 2,616
Re: Hormonal & Psychological Responses to Combat

Josh Phillipson wrote: View Post
hi Erick,
You've spoken a bit about Oxytocin. Do you mean that that is the chemical released during episodes of compassion?
-Why is it important?
-Is more better? Is it balanced by other stuffs?
-Is the name of the game to increase production of it? From foods? From milking the brain/body to produce more?

You have brought it up a few times; I was wondering if there was anything specific that is implied or suggested to *do* about/with it.

Compassion yes., but more and also in aggressive protection. Not in self-defense -- self-defense is the realm of the adrenal system -- protection of others is the realm of oxytocin. "Love your enemies" becomes martial advice -- not merely moral advice.

For training, if we give credence that "love" can be understood physiologically as well as metaphysically, then the need to work on training to physical limits of proximity, speed and intensity -- with an attitude of protecting the partner by instantly controllling him becomes paramount. Competition would simply destroy that, and is not merely a difference of degree but of kind. The reasons are generally summarized below. Understanding the structural state of the body under influence of oxytocin is also critical. it gives us ways to think about training problems that need to be made both tougher and yet also more careful.

Please browse some of the studies linked above for particular information. Much of the currently existing research is in animal analogues. We are just now seeing much more serious work in the complex neuropsychological and neurophysiological effects in human subjects.

Oxytocin is very complex in its production and effects -- and very powerful -- unlike the adrenal/epinephrine system oxytocin has positive feedback. Some oxytocin provokes MORE oxytocin.

This is critical for understanding its action in men because in males it is very short-acting because androgens antagonize it in the blood. IN women by contrast it is much longer-acting and its effects can be seen at lower levels and in more subtle ways. In men, its consistent expression requires much more extreme stimulus and in a sustained environment. (e.g. --combat) -- the strength of bonding of men in combat is mediated by this hormone -- but in ordinary settings it is far less active in men.

Oxytocin commands the neurohormonal HPA axis (adrenal system, basically), and provides a modulator for the detrimental performance aspects of the fight-flight syndorme. It contracts smooth-muscle like fascia that have been spoken of here in several threads, contraction that is poweful enough to strengthen joints and stabilize the body under load -- it may thereby increase effective strength beyond normal parameters ant the cost of joint mobility.

If this has this structural effect at significant levels of expression one's limbs would be much more difficult to bend at joints (i.e. -- arms would be very close to the tegatana form) Much of the articulation in the body would be far more limited -- This "stiff" formality to aikido seems not "natural" to many people beginning this art. But from this perspective it begins to make far more sense -- though the form is adopted artificially in the beginning -- if aggressive action is provoked under the correct intention then this is the form the body will take and maintain. If this persepective is correct then styles of Aikido training that may illustrate "unbendable arm," for instance. may often be mistaking an effect for a mechanism. Styles in aiki -- (not merely aikido) that emphasize the mediation of structure with "intent" may be correct in one sense and yet wrong in another -- intent does create the structural effect -- but not actually intent toward the structure, as such.

Oxytocin has direct effects in the brain, it provokes both bonding AND aggression, and your body will make as much of it as you need, for as long as you need, and in ever increasing amounts -- if you need it.

That is the problem -- the body knows if you genuinely care for and wish to protect someone -- and that is what provokes the expression of oxytocin -- near as we can tell. The insight of the Founder of Aikido that "True budo is love" is a mad momma tiger love -- not a happy bunny love.

The most accessible reference I can give anyone to note the provoked experience of this hormone -- if you have not been in a situation involving the protection of a loved one -- is in the response to a good film, actually.

Film is a powerful art because it hits multiple sensory cues at once and when well done it stimulates the emotions directly, even though vicariously. Women who feel the flush of care for another in film are experiencing effects of oxytocin. Men are more moved by say, Gladiator in the scene where Maximus triumphs and dies or the scene in Platoon with the Samuel Barber Adagio crescendo. Men and women are more typically moved together by the immediately following scene in Gladiator where the woman actually takes moral command: "Is Rome worth the life of one good man.... ? He was a soldier of Rome. Honor him."

I mention these because they are the closest one comes in ordinary circumstance of the moving experience (That smooth muscle fascia stuff -- it is moving) that this hormone provokes. other setting where i have felt it provoked have been in training where something unexpected happens and the partner will be hurt, if I do not simply take over and control it -- That chest shudder radiating out ward in the limbs I have felt in those circumstances in directly inverse proportion to the degree that I could anticipate it occurring and proportional to the degree of danger to the partner involved. It is very different from the purely adrenal thing -- which is more in the neck hackles and the pit of the stomach

Men are emotionally more moved by the self-sacrificing nature of the violence -- women more by the concern for the fallen or those in harms 's way. Again, way overbroad and much overlapping -- but essentially true.

To put it in that overly simplistic and stereotypical terms that nonethelss capture that certain truth --

Women bond primarily to care for one another --

Men bond primarily to sacrifice for one another.

Both are related, good and necessary -- but distinct.

Last edited by Erick Mead : 02-03-2010 at 03:13 PM.


Erick Mead
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