Superhuman Series : Ep 3 – Parkour Wall Flip

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Wall Flip – It’s a cool skill to watch, even cooler to perform but while you’re in the air, there is a lot going on inside your body. There is loads of transmission of sensory information to and from the brain for smooth and balanced movements, and maintenance of posture.

Athletes are people who can make aggressive, powerful, explosive movements look so graceful. They are so well-coordinated. It doesn’t matter how heavy their body is, they are always light on their feet. They move with such ease that it leaves the spectators spellbound. It’s a gift. They are born with it. It’s called proprioception – the sixth sense. From high school science textbooks we have learned about the five senses. But it’s the sixth sense that separates a natural athlete from the rest of the crowd.

Even if you close your eyes, you know the position of your nose, and eyes, and hands. You don’t need sight for that. What makes it possible? Your central nervous system. Your central nervous system makes the inner communication possible that helps to coordinate parts of the body with each other by sensing relative location of each body part, which is responsible for the well-coordinated movements. This is proprioception. The above example was too basic. So you could understand. But good athletes don’t depend on their sight even for the most complicated movements.

We just talked about the inner sense. But if you have watched this attached video, you know that this inner communication is not enough to guarantee a safe landing. For that, athletes have another weapon in their arsenal. It’s called kinesthesia. The kinesthetic awareness is an external sense. While proprioception is the body’s sense of the relative location of body parts, kinesthetic awareness is the body’s sense of where it is in space and time. How does our body achieve that? It’s a little complicated. There is an in-built balance system. It’s called vestibular system. In the inner ear, there are three semicircular canals at a right angle to each other, each related to one dimension in space. They all contain hair cells. These hair cells send the signals to the brain when they are activated by inner ear fluid (endolymph) when the head moves. And that’s how we know where we are in time and space. It has nothing to do with Einstein’s time travel theory. It’s simple biology.

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