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Follow the link for a veritable treasure trove of historical anatomy texts from around the globe. Some of them are amazingly detailed and accurate while others give some insight into how different people in different times and cultures perceived the human body.

Historical Anatomies on the Web

Yet another excellent online free anatomy and physiology resource:

I especially like the way that this site presents information. For example, the muscular system section has some very helpful features. A toggle function in the middle of the display allows you to smoothly scroll through the layers of tissue in a particular region. A chart on the right of the display contains Origin, Insertion, Action and Innervation information. Clicking on the highlighted Origin/Insertion information will reduce the anatomical diagram to show only those points for the specific muscle. Clicking on the Actions of the muscle will activate a demonstration of the action by a human figure in the display.

If you’ve ever wondered just how much cold a human being can tolerate, or how much heat, water pressure, air pressure, or physical exertion the human frame can safely function in,  take a look at “Life at the Extremes: The Science of Survival” by Frances Ashcroft.  Ashcroft is a professor of physiology at Oxford who also offers first-hand accounts of the subject material, whether that be from climbing Kilimanjaro or soaking in Japanese hot springs. She succeeds in making a scientific topic highly accesible, educational and entertaining.

The book is essentially a survey of what our environmental limits are and how it is that we know them, as well as live within them. The science behind these topics is extremely clear and well presented. Each chapter offers tutorials in the interaction of various human body systems and environmental conditions, ranging from extreme heat and cold to the effects of altitude sickness and the ocean depths at which oxygen becomes toxic. The chapter on human speed and endurance is especially interesting in that it provides an excellent synopsis of muscular function and the related physiological and chemical processes, as well as the narrowing search for hard limits to human athletic performance. While we may never experience some of these situations for ourselves, a knowledge of how, when and why the body fails is invaluable for karate students and teachers alike.

Ashcroft’s explanations are jammed full of related facts from history and the animal world that shed some light on our own limits and adaptations. For example, the relationship between a muscle’s size and the speed at which it can contract tends to limit larger animals from being sprinters. Horses and kangaroos sidestep this issue by utilizing more numerous short muscles to load specialized tendons, providing an elastic rebound on each step, thus reducing energy expenditure and allowing them to move at high speeds. Human beings have a less specialized version of this adaptive mechanism: the calf muscle and Achilles tendon.

If karate is ultimately a process of learning what we can survive, “Life at the Extremes” should be interesting reading indeed.

I came across a really simple, fun, and easy to use interactive on-line tutorial from GetBodySmart that I wanted to share. It uses flash animation so if, for example, you wanted to see what effect that contraction of the pectoralis major has on the arm, you can click on “flexes” and see.

Have a look by clicking here.

"Try to see yourself as you truly are and try to adopt what is meritorious in the work of others. As a karateka you will of course often watch others practice. When you do and you see strong points in the performance of others, try to incorporate them into your own technique. At the same time, if the trainee you are watching seems to be doing less than his best ask yourself whether you too may not be failing to practice with diligence. Each of us has good qualities and bad; the wise man seeks to emulate the good he perceives in others and avoid the bad."
Funakoshi Gichin


February 2020
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