[snip physio discussion] You may notice that a lot of what I just said, and a lot of what my girlfriends physio told her sound similar to some of the things that Rob has written, which is one of my reasons for thinking that a good deal of the stuff he is doing is similar and has shared skills to what I do. It is not the same by any means but I'd say it's a related skill for certain.
I was just reading a presentation on physical therapy the other day, and it's amazing how interrelated everything in the body is. Any injury can cause muscle imbalance, and any muscle imbalance can cause injury. An example given was weakness in the cervical spine (ie neck muscles) can lead runners to adopt a posture with their chin poked forward in order to keep their eyes level, which then results in an anterior pelvic tilt as compensation, which can lead to hamstring injury! Much of the discussion was focussed on the idea that weakness in the core (29 different muscles attached to the spine) causes compensation, for example weak abdominal support forces the hip flexors to work as stabilizers, yadda yadda. The upshot is, if your core sucks, your extremities will be prevented from exerting a lot of power, in addition to all the potential for imbalance and problems.
That a strong core is an element/byproduct of this sort of training is obvious. It is different than Western concepts of core training, but even in Western sport science such training is ultimately very specific to a given sport. The whole purpose of Akuzawa's Aunkai is to create a "martial body", which has several points. For one thing every high level person has something similar that they do, whether they openly detail it or not. This sort of training is an integrated mix of skill and actual body conditioning. That's why you'll see Rob, Dan, etc. refer to it as "body skill" or something similar. If it's not hard, you're not getting much conditioning. I've never seen a method that has anything to do with typical Western conditioning. Having just read Stuart McGill's excellent Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance (www.backfitpro.com)
, he also makes the point that a bodybuilding mentality has polluted even most athletic training. The things most people do in the gym not only don't further athletic performance, they may hinder it, and often risk injury (particularly most everything people do for abdominal and back training). He further makes the point that the value of bodyweight exercise has been known for centuries, and that real core strength has little to do with absolute muscle strength. Motor groove of activity-specific motion and endurance of the core comes first, before building power. In other words, exactly the sort of exercises that Akuzawa does, and the old martial traditions did, that typically have no modern counterpart. Lifting heavy weights, even if done in more functional movements (Olympic lifting, powerlifting) than the typical bodybuilding exercises does not develop the same capacity. Just like powerlifting will impede your endurance and vice versa, such training will directly interfere with the "martial body" trainings of the Ueshibas and others, whatever they are. The ultimate point is that just doing skillwork in terms of relaxing during movement, even though it will always be important at any level, and doing technique work will never produce conditioning effects that lead to this sort of power. The skill and the conditioning are intertwined, but while the conditioning is specific to the skill it still must be deliberately trained, it will not come for free. And it's definitely not natural by any definition. What is being done in the body is not usually visible to the eye, any more than I can tell by looking at you whether your toes are curled inside your shoe, or that Rob is keeping various contradictory tensions while moving. That isn't natural by caveman standards, it's not how children move, nor is it anything you would get from just doing technique. Somebody has to tell you what they are doing inside their body when they move, and there are always specific exercises to develop those things. Those are the secrets that you're lucky to be told.
The things that you talked about earlier that took some years to start getting the hang of, Mike typically covers in a single workshop. And it is years' worth of material because you won't just go aha! and be able to do it all, but knowing up front what you're shooting for and how to go about getting there starts you on the path of being able to see and better grasp what high level people are really doing. Then when you go and see someone like a Chen Xiao Wang you see how high the bar really is, it's obvious that practicing technique and trying to remember to relax will never get you anywhere near there. People go on with stories of Ueshiba, but of course he's passed on. Meanwhile someone like Chen Xiao Wang is a living breathing person who can do these things, tours around the world, and even speaks some English. His nephew Chen Bing is currently touring the states. It is easy to recommend such people as a standard to see and feel, and then you'll understand the interest in digging for information on how to get past basic ideas to real functional ability. Unfortunately like most top people he won't tell you in plain English what exactly he's doing, but that's what all the discussion is for. The more input from people like Dan, Rob, Mike, Akuzawa, and people who go out to train with various "real goods" players. the more can be pieced together in terms of how things are really done and how to train for it. Unless you continue to go and meet people who are recommended as a "go check this guy out, he's got some real goods" you will never know how far down the path you are, and end up convincing yourself that you know it all already. I can promise you there's way more to it than you think, and none of it obvious.
Or maybe I'm wrong and you do know it all, in which case all us poor schlubs, who are scratching our heads trying to work these things out because we've encountered physically unremarkable people who somehow possess the power of hydraulic equipment, are all ears. The floor is yours.