When you are injured you are told about muscle memory as part of learning to use your body again to prevent injuries repeating. The idea is that we learn how to do something a certain way with our body and then we are set for life. We only have to remember the muscle memory to repeat the action. But this doesn’t work for everyone. And sometimes it takes a long time for people to get it back. Some never do. Muscle memory is a preconceived idea, sorry. The good news is that there is something better for you. And no, you’re never going to get yourself back to the old you, because that’s in the past and led you to where you are now.
Muscle memory is just a learned pattern of tension.
It can be good or bad. We tend to think of it being a positive thing because we learn how to do something the “right” way. We see that as a beneficial habit that we want to keep and not err from. That means we do the same thing again and again expecting the same result. But it doesn’t work that way. Because we fixate on these habits it gets us into trouble even if you are doing something well and effectively, you can still fix your posture, position and attitude to it.
This leads to the startle pattern happening over and over again, perhaps on a small scale but still building bad tension. It might be over a few days or years. It doesn’t matter, fixing is still fixing and will catch up with you eventually. Every form of learned, organised and coordinated muscular tension creates a memory all throughout the body. Not just in the muscles. It’s something that we remember in our heads, bones and all the rest of it. It might be easy or difficult to learn. And if it was difficult we can make the mistake of trying to repeat it constantly to keep it.
And now for something completely different
You don’t need to learn more muscle memories to improve your injuries. What’s needed is unlearning. You need to unravel all those habits you’ve built up and go about it with the idea that you don’t want to fix and the attitude that you can stop at any moment. Without that shift in your thinking you will always struggle.
We are constantly fed the idea that we can just do anything if we choose to. But this leaves those that struggle to learn something with the impression that they aren’t naturals or just can’t get it. But this just isn’t the case. How one person interprets an instruction will vary greatly to the next in mental understanding, physical application and spiritual implication and awareness.
More WWF than Zen
I am lanky. It’s a fact. From the age of about 11 or 12 I was hitting 6ft. Mostly legs. Aged 11 I was introduced to Judo. I went to a class taught by people who all had long backs and short legs. Somehow I could never perform the moves properly. My throws all went wrong and ended up being more WWF than zen! I lost most of the time! I did exactly what I was told in class and when I questioned the instructor as to what I was doing wrong I was told not to worry about it or to just keep doing it.
After training for 6 months I was then entered into a competition being judged by my teachers that had trained me. I was disqualified in my first match for illegal throwing! I decided to quit the class because I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing.
Why did they set me up to fail? This wasn’t the way to learn. 5 years later I started a Jujitsu class (very similar to Judo) and quickly found myself coming across the same problems. All that failure and humiliation came rushing back. Reservedly I asked the Sensei why my throw wasn’t working. “It’s because you’re tall, you need to drop your hips lower than the person your throwing” was his reply. Suddenly I was able to do all the moves that I had struggled with before! There was no confusion because the teacher had the self awareness to see what I was doing wrong. This was an odd feeling at first, just because I wasn’t used to it. No one had told me before. But as I started to trust it, my ability improved.
Don't fix on old muscle memory
And when you stop trying to repeat muscle memories over and over again and pay attention to yourself you will start to think problems like this through for yourself before you go to do them. The muscle memories will still be there, but you won’t be fixed on them. Your awareness of what you need in each moment will guide you instead of a fixed habit. You might repeat the same move, but there will be all sorts of other kinaesthetic awareness developing when you trust your ability to stop and not do something.