Controlling the Attacker's Brain
We can think of the brain as having latent programs. Some of them running continuously in the background and others only triggered when needed. All of them, at a very base level, have to do with survival, or at the minimum, survival of the species.
The more immediate the survival needs are the more immediately the program takes over and the more difficult to override. And the more it overrides other programs.
We can also look at where these programs reside in the brain. (caveat: Neuroscience is still in its early days and certainly not exact. However, the models mostly work for our purposes). Social signals are mostly processed in the temporal lobes. So here we would have tribalism, reciprocity, care for others in the species, etc. The four F's (fight, flight, ,freeze and f___) originate in the amygdala. The autonomic nervous system resides in the hypothalamus and works with the amygdala. And balance resides in the cerebellum.
You might have noticed that I listed these in order of 1) The distance to the brain stem (inversely) 2) The distance away from the PFC (prefrontal cortex) 3) The more difficult to override. There is no coincidence here. The further away from the PFC the more difficult to override. The closer to the brain stem the faster and more primal the response.
All of these latent programs have the ability to shut down the PFC to varying degrees. We can see this in action in our world around us. For the first few just look at the media and the response to it on social media. For the for F's just pay attention to how you respond to stress. Depending on the individual and maybe the stress type different individuals may trigger faster into different F's. Interestingly we can develop our brains to be more or less triggered into the 4 F's.
While all of these have utility in controlling the brains of others, the first few constantly being used in evil ways, for us martial artists balance is the most powerful.
The control of balance resides right at the brain stem. So fast acting. It is an always on program. Constantly operating in the background unless we are lying down. It is extremely complex. We are the only creatures that spend most of their time upright. This endeavor takes huge processing power to achieve. If you have ever tried to understand in detail how all of our muscles work together to balance us you know it is not an easy thing to understand or even achievable. And if you've ever dived into robotics you know that it has never been achieved in this arena even with massive computing power.
So to summarize, balance is fast acting and uses huge processing power. So much so that when it goes awry it momentarily shuts down most other programs.
For us, this makes understanding balance and how to manipulate it of tremendous utility. And this is why "controlling centerline" is one of the three rules of Shou' Shu'. Controlling centerline means to control your opponents center of gravity and to simultaneously control your own. A part of "mastering" Shou' Shu' is mastering our own centerline. Each beast does it differently so this gives us highly adaptive centerline skills.
Incidentally mastering our own centerline is one of the highest forms of mind-body exercise. Because of this, I believe it is extremely effective and causing neurogenesis and neuroplasticity which in turn develops the hippocampus. Which in turn shrinks the amygdala. Which in turn diminishes our 4 F response. A positive feedback loop. There have been studies on less complex mind-body exercises which show this to be true but none on anything so sophisticated as Shou' Shu' (Hint, hint to you up and coming neuroscientists out there)
My teacher used to say, "It's more fun to almost take someone down than to take them down"
You can take offense to the use of the word "fun" but whatevs. The point is that when you take your opponent's centerline you take control of their motor responses.
I tell my students, "Once you take control of your opponent's centerline they can no longer fight you. They can only fight for their balance"
In other words, you have complete control and you are then completely safe. You are in control of your opponent's brain systems. They can perceive but they cannot act.
This is not the only way to take control of your opponent's brain systems, but it is the most powerful.
And it can be a far better substitute than beating them to a bloody pulp if you have the skill to take centerline and the situation warrants refraining from doing extreme harm.