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Old 08-07-2006, 05:16 PM   #1
Dojo: Aunkai, Tokyo
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 591
Training the Body for Martial Movement

So I decided to post that article that was in the works. Since bullshido is being a little kid and "moderating" the article (for who knows what reason) I thought I'd throw it to the wolves here.
Have at it:
WARNING. It is long. My apologies I intended for it to be shorter.
Also, it was originally intended for Bullshido, but the body mechanics I refer to are pertinent to ALL MAs I think, Aikido included. Keeping that in mind, please forgive the anti TMA slant since that was originally done on purpose to pacify the BJJ/MT nutriders.

Everyone that does MAs seriously understands the need for a properly conditioned body. Without a properly conditioned body, techniques are garbage. Kicks are weak, submissions won't hold, throws don't work and punches fail to knockout.

In the quest for more power, there are many different schools of thought on what constitutes the best way to aquire a body that can deliver martial power.
The quickest and easiest are the ones that involve weight training, bench pressing, squats, and the like.
Still others are of the school of thought that body weight is the best way to train. Others may emphasize weapons work.
Many will agree that the body needs to be trained as a "unit." But I think that few people stop to consider what this exactly entails.

This article is about what exactly supports the human body as it relates to martial movement, how to strengthen it, and entertains the notion that perhaps what we've all held to be efficient movement isn't so efficient after all.

Making fun of TMAs

I know how everyone from the TMAs like to talk about the importance of "center" and "tanden/dantien." Most of them will tell you that if you want any kind of deep penetrating power, that the seat of that power is the hara/dantien/tanden whatever. However, for any TMAers reading this, forget it. Take that thought and toss it in the garbage can for now.

Even the average boxer with a decent cross would tell you there's more to generating power than just that.

In reality, the middle is important for generating efficient movement.
However, other other key parts of the body need to be
controlled/strengthened/stabilized before you can even utilize movement from that part of the body efficiently.
The middle is only one part of the whole.

"Efficient movement vs power"

Efficient movement and structure are the backbone of power.

Not muscle. You can flame me for this later.

Power should simply be a result of the correct structural parts aligned, then "maintained" during a particular movement.

*There is more to the power chain, such as compression and expansion of the spinal area, but for now let's stick to the
definition outlined above.

To make one thing clear, while I say "muscle" is not the backbone of power, I do not mean muscle is not important. Far from it.
But before you being to develop your muscles, you can need to first
understand how the human skeleton is designed, what constitutes an efficient structure, and which muscles are used to help support this structure.


The human skeletal structure is a wonderfully designed machine frame.
But like any other structure, it is subject to the laws of physics.
This means that unless key parts of this structure are
strengthened/balanced, and stress is properly distributed, it can never realize its whole potential.

First let's cut the human body in three general parts.

Upper: Head to upper chest
Middle: Upper Chest to Navel/midsection
Lower: Everything below the midsection

Here's a craptastic illustration for those of you without an imagination:

Traditionally, some have been told that if you "move" from the middle area (specifically tanden) that everything else will follow, and move in accord.

But what if the rest of these individual general areas are disconnected within themselves?
Moving from the "middle" wouldn't mean anything if your lower and upper parts were disconnected within themselves.

The upper area is perhaps the most ignored, but may also be the
most important area to stabilize before connecting the rest of the body.

First let's examine the upper area in more detail:
The upper area more specifically contains the head, neck, arms, upper chest area etc.

The head is probably the "heaviest" part of the human body. Not in terms of weight/mass, but the effect that it has on the rest of the body as a counter-weight.If support of the head isn't properly realized, the rest of the body goes out of whack, as I'm sure many MAists are readily aware.
(Control the head, and its pretty amusing to see what you can do with a partner).

Because support/control of the head is so important, many MAs will use the analogy of "lifting" the head etc. The effect of this is inducing a little bit of supporting tension in the base of the neck. So if silken threads pulled by fat golden budhhas sitting in heaven don't float your boat, putting a little tension in the base of the neck will do the same thing for now.

The arms are extensions of the body. And since limbs are long, they can exert a large amount of imbalance on the body if they aren't properly controlled/stabilized.

First, it should be realized is that the arms are not separate units. They are connected through the back, and they need to be physically felt as one unit.
This is not intended to be a metaphysical concept. Rather, certain physical exercises need to be performed to increase/solidify the sensation of the arms acting as one cohesive unit.
More specifically, action at the end of one arm should travel through the back and affect the end of the other arm.


The chest and shoulder blade area (which correspond to the chest area in the back) serve to hold the arms, head and the rest of the upper body together.

Illustration of shoulderblade

Stabilization of the chest area is extremely important. Wrestlers appear to recognize this and use destabilization of this area to great effect when doing certain takedowns. Same thing occurs when an Ikkyo, or Nikyo etc is applied.
This means if you don't understand how to strengthen/stabilize these areas, your "root"(read: how stable you feel to your opponent) will always be weaker than it could be.

Breaking this down even further, stabilization of this area means that you should be able to use the lower extremeities of the body without affecting your upper structure.

***Three Axes***

Stabilization of the chest area is directly related to recognizing and
stabilizing three axes.

First, let's define what the three axes are.

The left and right axes are two imaginary lines running from the left
shoulder to the left hipjoint and knee, and the right shoulder to the right hipjoint and knee.
The center axis, as one might imagine, runs from the crown of your head down between your legs. Or to get graphic, imagine your wang drilling the ground (females, imagine your imaginary wang drilling into the ground).

Yet another Craptastic Illustration:

The leg raising exercises found in many CMA are *supposed* to strengthen and balance these three axes, but often people focus on how high they can kick...(I'm ub3r cuz I can touch my foot to my nose), but enough TMA bashing.

Try this experiment.
Stand with feet together, arms at the sides.
Knees straight.
Spread your arms outwards.
Push the palms outward, fingers pointing up.
Draw the shoulder blades in, drop the shoulders down.
Elbows should be straight and turned down.
There should be tension running from fingertip to fingertip now.
This should also induce the feeling of a "cross" of tension within the

This tension should be felt right smack in the middle of the sternum bone.
Or close abouts.
Illustration of sternum bone in the chest

You should look like a cross.
The induced tension should feel very uncomfortable. Don't worry, it's normal.

Now, with feet together raise your leg without disturbing the structure in the upper area.
When I say "without disturbing" I mean that there should be virtually no movement of the upper part of the body.
If your hands move from side to side or up/down, or your head bobs, etc., it means that your upper structure is on the whole, unbalanced, weak, uncoordinated or some combination of those.

Many people will bob/waver from side to side, which means that their left and right axis aren't developed. Without mastery of this left and right axis, you can't even begin to stabilize the much vaunted centerline, much less the "one point."

Back to the exercise:

If you can do this without moving the upper structure, awesome.
Now try it moving. Try stepping and raising the leg without disturbing this upper structure at all. This will almost certainly cause the body to fall apart even more. Once you can do this exercise without affecting the upper area at all, you can start to focus on integrating the other parts of the body.

Spine part I

Before we move onto the next segment, I wanted to first cover the spine, since it tends to be overlooked, and a certain concept regarding the spine first needs to be understood before moving on to the next segment.

Taking a closer look, we see the spine connects the head all the way down to the pelvic region, joining upper, lower and middle parts together.

The two most important parts of the spine to "realize" are the base of the the neck (close to where the spine starts, and is probably the seventh vertabra down, but I'm no doctor) and the sacral area. (which actually is close to parallel with the over-hyped dantien point)

The spine in its natural state:

Normally the spine forms a slight "S" shape.
Now what comes next is going to sound a little weird.
Imagine the spine like a "bowstring". That is, you can induce an opposing tension along the spine, running up and down, by pulling it slightly taut like a bowstring.(This doesn't mean you hold the spine curved like a bow though!)

This up/down contradictory tension might not make sense at first to some, but it's essential if you want to transfer power "cleanly" from the spine.

Boxers will tell you to tuck your chin in, and while they probably didn't have this in mind at first, it has the effect of pulling the base of the neck up slightly, pulling the spinal cord slightly up.

This is part of the "upwards" tension.

Tai chi peeps [practitioners maybe?] do the same by touching the roof of the mouth with their tongue.
This also induces a slight tension in the base of the neck which "pulls" the spine up.
Interestingly enough this tongue touching granola stuff has been used in recent mouthguards like "Shockdoctor" to improve performance in athletes
(MORA is the current buzzward for this configuration.)

******************************************************************************Fo r those that're bored, here's an informal look at what doctors "think" is going on.
My own opinoin is that the increase in strength is mainly due to the
increase in support from the actual skeletal structure, which MORA induces.

Strengthening this up/down tension serves to give a proverbial kick in the ass to the spine and make it support the body at a ramped up efficiency. (Or provide a more stable base, for you BJJers out there). Strengthening the opposing up/down tension along the spine has the effect of stabilizing your kicks/strikes while making them more solid and penetrating, since the body has a cleaner/more stable base with which to transfer power.

More on how to induce and increase the opposing "down" tension later.

Lower Part
But what about the middle? the ub3r DanT1en?!

Forget the middle and the dantien. It's not that important. Besides it's in the garbage can right??
I'm kidding.
The middle recieves so much attention anyway, I think we should focus on the lower part next. We'll come back to the middle in a bit.
Actually compared to the upper, I feel the lower part of the body deserves the next most attention compared to the middle, especially when first developing your body.

Without a strong, stable base, a structure made out of the most durable materials will collapse. Any structure will collapse pretty easily if the stress isn't properly distributed. The same goes for a human body.

So how does one "properly distribute?"
Well, let's take a look at the way the lower body is arranged.

The first portion consists of the legs, or more specifically, the feet, ankles, knees, and hips/pelvic region.

For your viewing pleasure

In order to provide proper support to the base spinal area, the legs along with the surrounding muscular skeletal region must first be properly trained.

In order to provide extra support to the base spinal area we work on
creating an "arch" of tension running along the inside of the legs.


Like a bridge, the "keystone" (in this case the sacrum of the spine) serves to hold everything together and prop up the spinal cord. The power generated by this arch travels up the spine, and can then be utilized by other extremeities of the body as support and balance. (This means extra penetrating power for you strikers out there.)

Just a pic of a bridge:

While the arch is prominentaly induced in the exercises to be shown later, it needs to be present in a "normal" posture as well, where the "arch" is otherwise not visible, such as when you're standing normally.

***Pelvic Crease***

Once the base of the spine is having force properly propagated to it, we can look at the pelvic crease, here on after referred to as the p.c.

The crease referred to is the "space" between the illium and Leg, but NOT the joint.

The p.c. adds yet another factor to supporting the rest of the
structure and delivering force along the skeletal structure.

Opening the p.c. (by pushing the knees out) causes a further "upwards" force to be sent to the base of the spine, while at the same time pulling "inwards" to the pelvic joint(see illustration) causes the base of the spine (sacrum area) to be pulled downward, flattening the small of the back.

This has the effect of pulling the spine taut, like a bow, inducing the
"downwards" force of the "up/down" contradictory force generated along the spine which was mentioned earlier.


Now we get to that holiest of holy places in TMAs...

teh M1DDL3

For now let's just arbitrarily define the middle portion as the sternum down to the tanden,dant1eN, that spot about 2 inches below your navel, or in simple terms, your center of gravity.

The dantien/tanden is a subject covered by many TMAs, mostly in regards to breathing and the seat of power etc., etc.
And because of that, we won't cover it here. Because it is mostly a lot of BS, or the effects aren't really worth it.
I'm kidding. I think.

What is important is that the h0ly place two inches below the navel is not only the center of gravity in most people, but it also corresponds to the sacrum area of the spine, which also makes up the small of the back.
Being able to "connect" the point in the sternum discussed earlier, to the tanden point serves to bring the Upper and Lower parts together, and unify them on the front side. (The spine unifies the upper and lower parts together from the back). Being able to physically use these two parts together in a unified manner allows the skeletal structure to propogate force in the human body in the most efficient way possible.

Spine part II and Six Directional Contradictory Tension

We covered inducing an up/down opposing tension.

Now we start to get really weird.

The up/down tension induced in the spine is only the beginning in creating a skeletal structure that has superior balance.

Next a forwards backwards tension is induced by a "push/pull" line of tension between two sets of points.

The first is a push pull of tension maintained between the "cross" in the chest,and the base of the neck.

The second is a push pull of tension between the sacrum and the tanden point.

Finally, an opposing left/right tension needs to be
induced and held first [do you need this "first"?] between the shoulder blades, which connects both arms
as one unit.

If the body is trained in a manner to strengthen these connective six
directional opposing tensions, you train a body that naturally desires to stay in balance, even as you punch/strike/kick/grapple/pound/pwn or however you wish to unleash unholy damage on your opponent.

So how is this at all beneficial????

I might catch a lot of flak for what I'm about to write, so don't take this as a rule that applies to everyone. This is only from what I've experienced so far.

Taking the typical punch as an example. In this case, I'm talking more of a cross than a jab.
You average to above average striker uses a mechanism, (in this case punching) that's succinctly described by Kotoryu. That is (and I'm being very general here) it's more or less generated by dropping your mass, twisting the waist, "whirling" the shoulders, turning the feet, and by getting your "all" behind the punch. F=MA right?

But what if "M" isn't 100%? (Even though you think it is)

The power being generated by this mechanism tends to be one that's generated by individual muscles being first "loaded" then "unloaded" in a segmented fashion towards the target. The result of this is that while you *think*, and may even feel as if you're putting your entire body behind the punch, you aren't.

Punching in this manner generally means that you're activating only the muscles on the side needed for the punch, and commiting all power towards the target, while leaving the other side, particularly the leg connected to the ground not contributing to the punch at all.

In other words, the drop mentioned in Kotoryu's article (refer to contributes 100%
body mass behind the punch initially, but on contact the force isn't
efficiently transfered and ends up dispersing. The load/unload mechanism of the muscles mentioned earlier contributes to a more segmented fashion of the body being aligned, and the punch is maybe 60% of what you could deliver dispersed over a wide area.

This goes for generally any martially based movement whether it be punching, kicking, grappling, take downs, throws etc, even though they may think they're paying attention to aligment and proper body mechanics etc.

The following is a quote from Dan Harden, mma'er who uses Japanese Koryu Weaponary to condition his body for Vale Tudo.

While this was originally written for an Aikidoh forum, he describes very succinctly the body mechanics elaborated above.

About the cross or the back chest area:

Imagine shoving a drive shraft or any pole into a hole in the floor then
slide a peg through it horizontally. Next grab the peg as it sticks out left to right with both your hands.
Now imagine the hole you stuck the pole into is attached to an engine with 1000 ft. lb. of torque and I turn it on.
When you get out of hospital with your broken arms healed you can understand how powerful it can be if:

1. the pole is your spine

2. the peg is tension held across the back and chest

3. and the engine is the ground through your legs through your hips that turn the spine or pole at the waist.

Everything attached to it is launched without you dedicating much to the effort in a forward direction. It makes powerful kicks, punches, throws, and shoves without you giving much to lose or have someone take your balance.
You are wholely dedicated without being dedicated.
The frame is strengthened through connections throughout the body which can be strengthened further still through breathing and pressures there. You are using the ground for power. Of course, it is the way you are connected that allows this power move through the whole body from foot to hand.

The above example can be quite effective in ground grappling for reversals when you are on your back with someone on you giving you weight. You hold tension in the cross and turn using the ground from your feet through the hips, turning the spine like a drive shaft .....which......... turns the peg (your scapula area). Whats attached to the peg? Your shoulders and arms.
I have seen guys lifted off the floor and thrown. The key is to not try to throw them but to maintain connection and just turn into yourself.
Breathing and certain other things add to this.

For any structural engineers/physicists that want to tear apart the above statement with force diagrams, "using the ground for power", refers to a metaphor of what the practicioner feels. You are NOT absorbing chi from the ground.
The above refers to the optimal skeletal aligment to the ground, and
utilizing that when striking/throwing/grappling. Ultimately the resulting equalized tension has been described as "feeling the ground in your hands" etc. It is simply the result of having stress properly propagated throughout the skeletal structure.

A body properly conditioned to be connected through specific training exercises, such as those described in the next segment, allows the body to naturally utilize all of the joints, keep them aligned, and use the body as a single unit,keeping those muscles which need to be tensed tense at just the right amount, while the other muscles relaxed at just the right amount. This allows the the body to remain in balance, no matter what the opponent is
doing (pushing, pulling, tugging, having a double leg being done to you) but also means that the whole body can be placed behind the mechanics of a strike, lock, takedown, or whatever movement you're trying to execute at the same time. In fact, this kind of movement isn't only efficient for fighting, it's also more efficient for daily movement as well, but has to be "retrained" and hardwired into the body.

Ah huh... so how do I train this??

Next I'm going to cover exercises that develop the body in the manner outlined above.

If you want me to
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