The Sword Really Is An Extension of Your Arm

Current Biology
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“You must practice until the sword becomes an extension of your body.”

A study published recently in the journal Current Biology shows that when you use a tool, your brain incorporates it into your body-plan. The idea of tools being part of your body (especially an expert) is not a new idea. It just never had any evidence from scientific research – until now.

After using a mechanical grabber that extended their reach, people behaved as though their arm really was longer, they found. What’s more, study participants perceived touches delivered on the elbow and middle fingertip of their arm as if they were farther apart after their use of the grabbing tool.

That second finding means that the grabber tricked their brain into thinking their arm was longer than it really was.

“We believe this ability of our body representation to functionally adapt to incorporate tools is the fundamental basis of skillful tool use,” Cardinali said. “Once the tool is incorporated in the body schema, it can be maneuvered and controlled as if it were a body part itself.” Brain represents tools as temporary body parts, study confirms

If a student is performing a cut inefficiently, using too much muscle to force the weapon around, I’ll often tell them to “put your mind in the tip”… meaning that they should not think that they are so far from the action. I’m glad that there’s a solid foundation for that kind of advice, instead of hocus pokus.

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