Home | In The Classroom | The brain, multimovement therapy, neuroscience, pedagogy and education: part 5

The brain, multimovement therapy, neuroscience, pedagogy and education: part 5

In terms of all of the complex multimovement sequence actions that John engaged in, there was within this process the intentional self-directed activation of what D. Royce Sadler referred to as hard goals, and also that of stretch goals. Hard goals and stretch goals fit in with the concept of aims and objectives, specifically pertaining to future wants, desires and achievements. As such, it is profoundly important to understand that these wants and desires cannot be realised (in any discipline one cares to name) without having the personal discipline, dedication, determination, resilience and all-important self-motivation of wanting to work hard (irrespective of difficulties) to achieve the goals and advance the skills, knowledge and potential one is wanting. As Ambrose Palmer, John’s trainer and manager, told him from the very beginning, “There are no shortcuts to success. What you need to do is listen, work hard, learn, work hard, practise, and repeat, every time you train.”

Click here for part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.


Without question John always applied himself to hard goals and stretch goals. If this were not the case John would not have become the Featherweight Champion of the World. And also, as the empirical evidence informs, despite his circumstance of being incapacitated (from August 1991 to December 1993), John unrelentingly committed himself to a new form of therapy. This intrinsically understood and self-applied commitment and application by John clearly acknowledges the value and importance of what hard goals and stretch goals are all about.

Hard goals and stretch goals can also include refusal

From the very beginning, even before we started talking about whether any form of therapy was to take place, Glenys told me that John would refuse to do any activity if after a few attempts he saw no value in the activity. Glenys began by immediately informing me that John was not interested in anything to do with karate. Added to this Glenys then provided me with previous rehabilitation examples. There was the use of weights and after a brief period of time John refused to engage in any further use of weights. The same result occurred when John was introduced to the activity of tai chi. The outcome was the same in relation to the activity of throwing a ball, and also that of throwing a weighted medicine ball.

Informed refusals open doors

These informed refusals provided me with information. I had to be prepared for John’s refusals. This meant being aware of every activity and process. What this meant to me was that it was up to me to change any activity as required. This is exactly what happened. All of the activities that I applied to John had to be meaningful to John. I now knew, following the advice from Glenys, that John would only continue to engage in an activity if he was of the opinion it provided value to his circumstance. The adage of ‘if one door closes, another door opens’ most certainly now needed to be at the forefront of my thinking, at every session.

Further development

During the four years of our weekly sessions, there was only one time when I thought (these were only my thoughts) that John may have been on the cusp of perhaps refusing to engage in an activity. This was in the use of a mini-trampoline. The weeks and months of therapy had progressed to where I began to think about John jumping. Jumping is complex. Jumping requires whole brain and body coordination. Any activity that involves a great deal of complex hólos coordination would require a correlated level of neurological and neuromuscular recruitment and firing to be taking place. By now John had been rolling, crawling and walking for quite some time. Plus, not forgetting his running. The use of the mini-trampoline, for the purpose of jumping, was an additional extension in the further development of John’s complex holistic brain and body movements and overall therapy.

With this in mind, it was time for John to stand on the mini-tramp and begin bouncing and jumping. I held on to John’s hands and asked him to step onto the mini-trampoline, which he did. I asked John to start bouncing. I held his hands. John was standing in the middle of the mini-trampoline. He looked at me, then looked down at his runners. I could see John looked like he was thinking. I remained silent. John was not bouncing.


There was silence. John looked at me. I looked at John. “I argh can’t bbbounce.”

I then replied (with the knowledge of John’s inexorable irony): “I can see what you’re doing John.”

“Argh, aaand what’s that?” asked John, smiling.

“You want me to do the bouncing.”

“Argh, you’re tryyying to con me,” John replied.

“You’re right John, and I’ve learnt that from the champion of con men.”

John looked directly into my eyes, smiling and said, with a mock fierceness: “You’re right aaabout thaaat.” I laughed. There I was metaphorically knocked out again. Yes, it was another undisputed victory to the Champ. Or as Ambrose Palmer, his much-loved trainer and manager would say, champeen.


With that I joined John on the mini-tramp. Without speaking I started to bounce. This momentum led to John involuntarily moving with the spring of the mini-tramp, however John was not moving or bouncing voluntarily. This shared bouncing in silence continued for some five minutes or so. When I stopped the bouncing I stood down from the mini-tramp. I then helped John to the floor. We were now both standing. “Argh, you did well,” John said. “I argh can see you can argh bounce.” He was as sharp as ever.

The holistic MMT process then continued, with the added inclusion of this mini-tramp process. Three weeks later, this now included the ongoing actions of rolling, crawling, walking, with many ‘event horizon’ episodes taking place. Plus, there was now the added action of John and I bouncing together on the mini-tramp. All of this eventually led to John bouncing independently. The only thing I had to do was hold his hands. Each time we bounced together John would say at the end of the activity: “Aarghh, you’re getting argh better.” This continued until John was eventually bouncing independently. All I had to do was hold John’s hands for balance. Every time John stepped off the mini-tramp, once he had completed his bouncing, he would smile and say: “You’re improving.”

Hard work, failure and success

As noted by D. Royce Sadler and Ken Purnell, failures and successes are an important conduit for constructive and meaningful learning experiences to take place. In relation to my work with John, for example, whatever failures occurred they helped me with the development of my creativity. These failures also helped in the therapeutic evolution of what became the hard journey, and associated destination of the stretch goal, now known as the ‘event horizon.’

Event horizon

The ‘event horizon’ was the application of engaging in a process of complex multimovement sequences, where the goal was to stretch John in his thinking, focus, emotions and his total commitment and application to doing the sequences correctly, to the point where John would ultimately experience failure. This failure would take place because the multimovement sequences were designed to become so complex that John would no longer be able to successfully complete the complex sequence of multimovements as required.


Despite the immense mental, emotional and physical effort that was required by John in having to deal with the immense cognitive confusion these ‘event horizon’ episodes were eliciting, he continued applying himself. No matter how difficult, John never refused to continue with the activity. The question that must be asked is ‘why?’ I never discussed this question with John or Glenys. I knew, as I was told by Glenys, that if John saw no value in any activity he would refuse to continue. Therefore, in terms of John’s commitment to the ‘event horizon’ this could only mean (even though it was never discussed) he saw value in what all of these ‘event horizon’ episodes were potentially providing. That is, an ongoing process of holistic recovery from the circumstances he was silently dealing with. John never spoke about his circumstances.

Observational skills

From an MMT intervention therapeutic perspective it is profoundly important to take note of the following. Despite the anguish that John would have been experiencing during his journey and then especially when he was at all of the ‘event horizon’ episodes, despite the immense frustration that John would have been dealing with, and despite all of the immense and unrelenting ‘event horizon’ mental and physical demands and associated fatigue that was taking place, John always continued until he was asked to stop. This is where the required observational skills of the therapist must be at the highest sophisticated level. Plus, and significantly, any self-congratulatory ego by the therapist must be kerbed to the point of non-existence. That is because the self-congratulatory ego leads the individual to only thinking about self rather than engaging in the all-important action of holistically observing the other.

Delicate therapeutic balancing process

As such, it is important to understand that the ‘event horizon’ is a very delicate holistic therapeutic balancing process, especially when one is dealing with the authentic experience and actuality of success and failure, taking place in real time by and through the immense required personal application by the client in the ‘event horizon.’

It’s okay

As noted by Sadler and Purnell, there is value in experiencing failure because from this failure success may eventually be an outcome. This is also aligned with resilience. This process of being successful and then experiencing failure (with the hope and immense effort in trying to then achieve success again) is certainly the case during the journey to ‘event horizon,’ and then at the ‘event horizon’ itself. However, and importantly, there is absolutely no value in the MMT ‘event horizon’ procedure if the purpose of the ‘event horizon’ activity is to have the individual in a prolonged state of physical, mental and emotional confusion and frustration. If this is taking place, then the action of the ‘event horizon’ (that is being applied by the therapist and being experienced by the client) will not be bringing any potential meaningful feelings of success to the client.

Reflect and acknowledge

If this is ‘event horizon’ intensity without its associated feelings of success this then suggests that the ego of the therapist may have become the ‘event horizon’ goal. If this should happen, then it’s time for the therapist to stop what is taking place. What needs to happen then is for the therapist to immediately reflect and acknowledge this occurrence. Once acknowledged, this should mean this acknowledgment needs to be turned to ongoing success, both for the client and the therapist. This will then mean the ‘event horizon’ will be all about and only about achievement and success for the client, in supporting consultation with the therapist.

That concludes part five of The brain, multimovement therapy, neuroscience, pedagogy and education. In part six there will be an ongoing examination of the ‘event horizon,’ and how it was being experienced. In addition to this there will be a presentation of three other acquired brain injury case studies.

Dr Ragnar Purje is adjunct lecturer in the School of Education and the Arts at Central Queensland University. Under the supervision of Professor Ken Purnell, Purje’s doctoral dissertation focused on the success of his neurologically focused acquired brain injury rehabilitation therapy.

Professor Ken Purnell is from the School of Education and the Arts at Central Queensland University.

Do you have an idea for a story?
Email [email protected]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *