Thread: The Leather Man
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Old 07-30-2007, 02:26 PM   #39
David Orange
Dojo: Aozora Dojo
Location: Birmingham, AL
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 1,511
Re: The Leather Man

Lee Salzman wrote: View Post isolating out one structural component of the muscle, while ignoring the other aspects of the contractile machinery, useful as an overarching strategy for the practice of martial arts? Would it optimize the performance of the whole system?
That's the point--to realize that our bodies are made of interacting systems. It's easy to recognize the function of the heart/lungs and muscles, plus the eyes and ears, balance, etc., without ever noticing or factoring in the functions of the fascia system. In previous discussions, I've not recognized that 1) the discussion was about an entire system of fascia; or 2) that this was the same system I've had experience with in completely unrelated areas.

When I made both those recognitions, then it occurred to me that this system had to play an important part in all martial arts. But we immediately hit the question of exactly how to apply this system's functions and "sense" tends to tell us that it's by some kind of direct willful control of the fascia as through tensing/relaxing and using it to "hit" the other guy. My purpose in this thread is mostly to think out loud about 1) the nature of the fascial system and 2) the "potential" ways that that system could contribute to martial strength.

We can check out all the books (Emei Baguazhang, by Liang Shou-Yu with Yang Jwing-Ming and Wu Wen-Ching (?) has some interesting information); you can look at the well-known systems of qigong; you can look at these forums; and you can experiment--the last being interesting but potentially very dangerous.

As I said in an early post, I came to the recognition of "the leather man" through Feldenkrais practice. I had a "crick" in my back from working on Quicken, updating several months of bank transactions and receipts. So I lay down on the bed and went through the small Feldenkrais movements, and when I put my attention to my left pectorals and willed them to "open", I felt the warm rush of relaxation flow from the pectorals into my left arm/shoulder/bicep. And I suddenly realized that this was not muscle relaxation that I felt--at least not entirely: a lot of it was fascia "opening" or "releasing". At the same time, I realized that the fascia goes throughout the body and that it's pretty well completely connected and basically unified.

Two related things: I spent over $2,000.00 having a full course of Rolfing treatments in Tokyo between about 1990 and 1992. I had the deep-pressure treatment over my whole body, feet, ankles, calves, knees, all the way up to my head. And in fact, when they get to your head, they stick their finger up your nose and massage the fascia of the face!!!!!!!! They take pictures of you before and after each session, but they have to tell you how to stand and align yourself. And if your attention wanders, you will automatically return to your habitual way of standing. So Rolfing had that limitation and just a few weeks after completing the whole course, I got a bad back injury. So while I had a lot of experience with fascia there, it didn't teach me anything, really, about how to interact with the fascia. It didn't teach me that the fascia is anything other than purely connective tissue that could work just as well "dead" as "alive," so I just thought of that tissue as being insensate and beyond any willful influence, so I never thought much about it.

Second related issue: I had a hernia. This thing started in about the late 1970s, looking like a pea under my skin--which was tight as a drum back then. The doctor told me it was "a piece of fat" under my skin. I couldn't figure out how it got there and he offered no explanation. Over the years, it gradually grew and I went to doctors again and again and asked about it--maybe three or four times. They all said it was "nothing." So what could I do? I went to Japan in 1990 and by that time, if I were wearing a t-shirt, you could see a lump on my stomach. But I worked out strenuously in karate, judo, aikido and sword. I got punched and kicked in the stomach and whenever I did judo, people's hips were banging into my stomach, etc., etc. But since the lump didn't rupture, I just kept on. I got my black belt in judo with that lump. I came back from Japan in 1995 and went on with life. I had other people look at the lump and they told me it was "nothing," "fat" or a "cyst." Finally, in 2002 or 2003, I really got after my doctor to tell me what this was. He sent me to a surgeon, who confirmed that it was a hernia. A tiny hole had opened between two of my abdominal muscles and this tissue had oozed out from inside the abdomen and was held in by the skin over the hole. The surgeon operated, pushed the tissue back into the hole and unfurled a plastic screen on the inside to keep the tissue from coming out again. It was a very small hole.

Anyway, after the surgery, I felt a dull aching around my midsection and realized that all that tissue was aching from having been pushed through that hole for all those years and sqeezed with all the abdominal contractions I'd been doing--thousands of crunches, hanging straight-leg lifts, etc., plus when I punched and kicked and someone slammed his hips into my gut to do ogoshi or such techniques. But what was aching after the surgery?

Well, there is the abdominal wall, with fascia, then a layer of fat, then, I think, more fascia, then the internal organs, that are covered with fascia. So what had oozed out of this hole was, in large part, fascial tissue, which is full of nerve endings. And after the surgery, I could tell a difference in my whole body. The relief of that squeezing of the fascial tissue was perceptible throughout my body because the fascia of the whole body is connected and shares information. So if you're going to share awareness between muscles, I think, that awareness has to move through the fascia....

Doing Feldenkrais that day, I recognized that that was the tissue they were discussing on the internal power threads. I realized that this tissue is not muscle and could not be used as muscle. And I realized that it is an effectively unified system that works with the muscles. And I understood at once that it would take a lot of study of the nature of that system to even glimpse how that system could be applied to martial technique.

So "The Leather Man" thread is intended to discuss the nature of the fascial system and the fact that any "use" of that system has to be in accord with that nature. Just as we wouldn't "hit" someone with our eyes or with our lungs, we have to find out "how" fascia can contribute before trying to force it to contribute in some way that goes against its nature.

Is what I'm saying.

Best wishes.


"That which has no substance can enter where there is no room."
Lao Tzu

"Eternity forever!"
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