WTF is Ecolgical Dynamics? (A gentle onboarding)

WTF is Ecolgical Dynamics? (A gentle onboarding)

WTF is Ecological Dynamics?

When you first step into our gym, you might notice something different. There's an energy, a buzz of activity that feels more like a playground than a traditional martial arts dojo. This is because, five years ago, we embarked on a journey to transform how we teach and learn mixed martial arts, adopting an approach known as Ecological Dynamics. If you're unfamiliar with this method, you're not alone. It's a path less traveled in the combat sports world, but one that's proving to be remarkably effective.

Rejecting the Traditional Training (Or at least some of it!)

Traditional martial arts training often resembles a classroom setting: repetitive drills, strict adherence to form, and a focus on memorizing techniques. It's a method tried and tested over centuries, but it's not the only way to learn. In fact, we'd argue it's a very inefficient way of learning. Imagine learning to ride a bike not by getting on it but by watching others ride or by practicing pedaling motions in the air. That seems kind of absurd, right? And this is where Ecological Dynamics comes in, shifting the focus from observing and imitating to experiencing and adapting.

Core Principles of Ecological Dynamics in MMA

Learning by Doing: Much like diving into a pool to learn how to swim, we believe in immersing our athletes in the dynamic environment of combat from day one. It's about feeling the mat under your feet, gauging the distance to your opponent, and experiencing the give-and-take of a real fight (Safely).

Self-Organization: This is one of the most difficult principles of the approach to comprehend. That we really don’t need to tell our bodies what to do! That if we focus on a task (that’s within our capability) our bodies will self-organize and move to achieve the task. No different from you move to pick something up, step over something, climb something or in fact anything you ‘intend’ to do. Self-Organization is a fundamental process of complex adaptive dynamical systems. And our bodies are just that. Complex adaptive dynamic system! We designed to move and learn. Not overthink!

Perception-Action Coupling: This is about connecting what you see and feel (perception) with what you do and move (action) in a seamless flow. Think about your everyday movements and tasks you go about doing. You see and feel your way through the process to achieve your goal. Driving to work, cleaning your house, cooking dinner. All activities requires you to see/feel and do. This relationship is inseparable. We always respect that.

Scaling to the Challenge of the Learner: Just as video games adjust difficulty levels to keep players engaged, we tailor challenges to each leaner’s skill level. This ensures continuous growth without overwhelming them, making the learning process both effective and enjoyable.

Problem Solving: In combat, as in any sport, the ability to adapt and overcome is crucial. We foster an environment where fighters learn to navigate problems,  whether it's breaking through an opponent's defense or finding a new way to execute a technique, through trial and error, much like solving a puzzle.

Repetition Without Repetition: Repeating a movement over and over until it is perfect and automatic seems so intuitive right. What if we were to tell you, that we actually never repeat the same exact movement twice. Ever! Similar, perhaps, but never identical. This has been understood in motor-learning science for almost a century. Now add that in martial arts, your opponent is never doing the exact same thing, and the problems are always dynamically changing.

What sense does it then make to even try to repeat the same action over and over. That’s not to say repetition is not important. Rather, we repeat the process of solving the problem in front of us. By getting our repetitions this way, we become competent and adaptable to the ever changing and dynamic demands of a martial arts engagement. These problems can be big or small. But they are never exactly the same. Therefore, our repetitions should never be exactly the same.


Direct Perception and Implicit Learning: This principle is about learning without the need for explicit instructions, similar to learning a language by immersion. Fighters learn to "read" their opponents and situations directly, developing an intuitive understanding of the fight. Direct perception tells us that, all the information we need to achieve our movements goals is out there to be exploited. We really needn’t overthink it or involve any mental gymnastics. We just need to become sensitive to what the environment is informing us of. It's knowing where to look and the picture becoming clearer over time.

Moving Beyond the Traditional

By embracing Ecological Dynamics, we're not discarding the rich heritage of martial arts training. Instead, we're augmenting it with a system that emphasizes personal growth, adaptability, and a deeper, more intuitive connection to the art of combat. It's about creating martial artists who are not just skilled but adaptable, intuitive, and always evolving.

For those new to the concept, it might seem unconventional, perhaps even daunting. But the beauty of this approach lies in its simplicity and its roots in how we naturally learn and adapt to new challenges. Our gym is a testament to the effectiveness of Ecological Dynamics, and as this approach gains traction, we invite you to explore the natural, intuitive path to mastering mixed martial arts. Join the revolution of combat training!


Sounds like fun? Click here to book a free trial and come meet us!

Sound daunting or Dangerous? Click here to read about our gym culture and how we foster a safe training environment for beginners.

Sounds interesting: Check out the rest of our articles and interviews for a deeper dive on the science of skill-acquisition, motor-learning and motivational psychology.

Learn how to learn, find your own style and thrive at Primal MKE.

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