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Martial arts: Faulty memories

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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When talking with martial artists, you sometimes find they have very selective memories. For example, they always seem to remember their victories, but they have a difficult time remembering any losses. Each time they speak about a particular tournament, their opponents get bigger. Each time they speak about a particular self-defense situation, their attackers get more numerous.

Sometimes the person is knowingly lying, sometimes they are unknowingly lying, sometimes they are just exaggerating, and sometimes, they are just remembering incorrectly.


When a people knowingly lie, it is because they are usually habitual liars; they lie all the time. Habitual liars have a difficult time keeping their lies straight; they lie so much that they cannot remember how they phrased their last lie about a particular incident. This is why law enforcement investigators keep asking suspects the same questions over and over and on different days. Liars tend to get their lies confused and their statements are inconsistent, while a truthful person will make consistent statements over time.

When a people are unknowingly lying, it is because they have stated the same lie so many times that, in their own minds, they now accept it as the truth. These types of liars are usually so consistent in their lies that the lies have become embed in their memory as truths.

Sometimes people are not telling outright lies; they just get so involved in a conversation that they begin exaggerating their experiences so that their stories sound better than the stories being told by others. Exaggerators have the same problems as liars, they forget their past exaggerations so their exaggerations are inconsistent; and sometimes, they began to believe their own exaggerations.

Sometimes people are not lying or exaggerating, they are just remembering things incorrectly. Sometimes, when we are having a difficult time remembering certain facts, we unconsciously fill in the gaps with things that are not necessarily true. However, unlike liars, when we remember the truth or find out the truth, we willingly correct our previous statements. This is not the same as a liar being trapped in a lie and then suddenly remembering the truth.

When talking with martial artists, knowing something about how memory works may help you sort out the truth in their statements. There are three types of memory: procedural, semantic, and episodic.

Procedural memory

Procedural memory is the strongest and longest lasting. For example, in Alzheimer patients, these are the last memories to go. Procedural memories consists of memories of how to perform some procedure that we have done so many times that we do not consciously think about how to do it, we just do it, such as walking, driving, or in the case of martial artists, sparring, or performing a pattern or a proper stance. Black belts will never forget how to perform a pattern or how to spar because they will have done these procedures so many times in their training that they become embedded in their memory.

When a black belt spars, he or she does not think about sparring, it just happens, much the same as a experienced driver does not have to think about how to drive a car, the brain just does it automatically. If a person was ever a legitimate black belt, they will never forget what they learned, barring any mental problems. Even if they have not trained in decades, when asked, they are able to immediately step into a perfect back stance, since the motions are embedded in their procedural memory. Fraudulent black belts, instead of performing the stance properly, will make excuses about why they cannot remember how to do it.

Semantic memory

Semantic memory is factual memory. These memories are relatively long lasting; in the case of Alzheimer patients, these will be the next to last memories to go. When semantic memories are based upon the truth, they last much longer. We use these memories every day in remembering where we parked the car, what year it is, or whether we ever earned a legitimate black belt. Illegitimate black belts have a difficult time remembering the dates they trained, their schools they trained in, what they had to perform at their black belt test, and other facts.

Episodic memory

Episodic memory is the most fleeting of the memories. These are the memories of our experiences, such as where did I leave my keys, where did I park the car, what was the name of that movie, etc. These are the memories that play tricks on us at any age, but they cause more problems as we age, and, in the case of Alzheimer patients, these are the first memories to go. This causes many of us to fear that we are getting Alzheimer disease when we start forgetting the little things. A legitimate black belt may forget the name of his or her first instructor during a conversation, but then it will pop into his or her brain a few minutes later and they will remember it. This is just the brain playing things on us. However, an illegitimate black belt will not be able to remember anything in particular about their first instructor. They will not remember the instructor’s mannerisms, funny things he or she used to say, or any tales the instructor used to tell. For illegitimate black belts, episodic martial art memories are not fleeting—they never existed.