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Old 05-04-2010, 07:40 AM   #1
Mark Jakabcsin
Dojo: Charlotte Systema, Charlotte, NC
Location: Carolina
Join Date: Feb 2001
Posts: 207
United_States
Offline
Spine Awareness

Spine Awareness a Start
05/04/2010

Often we talk about proper form and keeping the spine straight. No bends or twists in the spine. Of course we do not become slaves to this concept as every rule or concept needs to be broken on occasion. The core of good form is the spine, and yet how many of us have trained their spine? How many of us can feel our spine as a very specific part of our body? How many of us can move our spine independent of our bodies? The spine is the core of good form and yet few have awareness of the spine, let alone understand how it relates to the rest of the body. The following piece will provide a few drills and thoughts about how to build awareness of the spine and few simple ways of using this awareness.

Building Awareness

The spines location in the back of our body means we often times forget about it or do not feel it until it is in pain. Most of us live from the front of our bodies as that is the direction of our sight and the easy use of our hands. We tend to live through our eyes and hands first and then, if we have time, we become aware of other aspects. The spine is our central support beam and communication highway that makes all movement possible. Heightening our awareness of this key component can have many benefits.

The simple breathing and tension drill is an excellent place to start. However, focus this drill to the very small muscles that run up and down the spine. Attempt to tense these muscles without tensing the larger back muscles next to them. As you may never have attempted to use these muscles independent of the larger muscles this can be difficult at first. Two key points when doing this exercise: 1) Tense the spinal column muscles along the ENTIRE length of the spine (brain stem to tail bone) 2) Tense as hard as possible UNTIL you feel other muscles tighten then stop, hold, exhale/release and start over. At first this may mean the tension is very minimal, that is okay, do not rush.

Building Movement

There is not a hard connection between the spine and the rest of the skeleton; hence we should be able to move the spine to some degree without moving the rest of the skeleton. Think of the spine as a broom stick inside the body, keep it in place but slowly rotate it in place to the left then the right. Be gentle so you do not cause damage. When rotating the spine to the left/right the big muscles of the back should not be fired, only the small muscles of the spinal column. Eventually one can rotate the spine far enough that the big muscles of the back are stretched or pulled but they should not be fired. Feel how this motion inside the body affects the rest of the body. Make sure you are moving the entire spine from the top to the bottom.

As we all know the spine is made up of many small bones with gaps between each piece. These gaps allow us to move the spine in two additional directions. 1) Compress ALL of the gaps out of the spine so it becomes shorter 2) Expand all of the gaps so the spine becomes much longer. Note the affect on the rest of the body.

Solo Movement Drills

Hopefully we all know movement can be generated in many different ways from many different places in our bodies. Understanding different movement methods allows us to continue to move when our opponent takes one method away. Following is a simple solo drill to help understand this concept, first from large movements then we will add in the use of the spine.

Lie on your back (side, sitting, whatever) in any position but remember the exact position as you will continually come back to that position. Now move (roll or whatever) so your stomach is now facing the ground. Study how you moved. Where did the movement begin? Where is the power coming from? Etc. Generally, when we do this our first movement is from the opposite shoulder. That is, if I am rolling to my right I begin my movement from my left shoulder. Now go back to the starting position and find 10 more ways to generate motion to move the body to the same end position. Hints: One can sling a leg or arm to generate the motion. One can rotate the same side should away, the hips can generate the motion, etc, etc. This also makes a very good paired drill. One partner holds the other partner down taking away some of the movement option, the partner being held figures out what he/she can move and the different methods of movement.

Back to the solo drill: Now while lying on your back complete the spinal awareness tension and movement drills above several times until you really feel your entire spine. Can you figure out how to start the motion over to your stomach from your spine? Generate the power from the spine? As you do this, how does the rest of your body feel? How much power or energy are you using? Compare this to the different methods first described.

Paired Movement Drills

The following drills are just that drills to help explore the concept of moving from the spine. If you are expecting some sort of martial magic, you should stop reading now or at least temper your expectations. Also note that the results for each person can be vastly different based on that individuals tension, ability to feel/move the spine, fear/ego, etc.

#1 lies on back, #2 kneels next to him placing hands on any part of #1's body and applies some downward pressure. The amount of pressure and additional resistance can be increased over time. #1 slowly goes through the progression of rotating the spine to the left, to the right, expanding and contracting. Do these slowly and feel how the movement of the spine affects #2. Is there a change in the pressure #2 is applying? A shift in balance? Or any other discernible change? Repeat the same drill but have #2 lay on #1. The same questions apply. Now you can repeat both drills but continue the motion so the spine motion leads the rest of the body and escape. How does it feel for both partners?

#1 and #2 stand facing each other. This is the basic push drill but rather than #1 doing large motions he should move his spine as discussed above and begin this movement the moment #2 makes contact. #1 should not allow #2 to twist or bend his spine, simply rotate, compress or expand the spine, hold your form and study what is happening. One must keep the rest of the body relaxed, especially the back and hips. Remember I mentioned that the spine can be rotated to the point that the back muscles are stretched but not tense. A good discussion between #1 & #2 is essential to learning.

Enjoy and explore.

Take care,

Mark J.
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Old 05-06-2010, 05:49 PM   #2
gregstec
Dojo: Aiki Kurabu
Location: Elizabethtown, PA
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 1,110
United_States
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Re: Spine Awareness

Quote:
Mark Jakabcsin wrote: View Post
Spine Awareness a Start
05/04/2010

Often we talk about proper form and keeping the spine straight. No bends or twists in the spine. Of course we do not become slaves to this concept as every rule or concept needs to be broken on occasion. The core of good form is the spine, and yet how many of us have trained their spine? How many of us can feel our spine as a very specific part of our body? How many of us can move our spine independent of our bodies? The spine is the core of good form and yet few have awareness of the spine, let alone understand how it relates to the rest of the body. The following piece will provide a few drills and thoughts about how to build awareness of the spine and few simple ways of using this awareness.

Building Awareness

The spines location in the back of our body means we often times forget about it or do not feel it until it is in pain. Most of us live from the front of our bodies as that is the direction of our sight and the easy use of our hands. We tend to live through our eyes and hands first and then, if we have time, we become aware of other aspects. The spine is our central support beam and communication highway that makes all movement possible. Heightening our awareness of this key component can have many benefits.

The simple breathing and tension drill is an excellent place to start. However, focus this drill to the very small muscles that run up and down the spine. Attempt to tense these muscles without tensing the larger back muscles next to them. As you may never have attempted to use these muscles independent of the larger muscles this can be difficult at first. Two key points when doing this exercise: 1) Tense the spinal column muscles along the ENTIRE length of the spine (brain stem to tail bone) 2) Tense as hard as possible UNTIL you feel other muscles tighten then stop, hold, exhale/release and start over. At first this may mean the tension is very minimal, that is okay, do not rush.

Building Movement

There is not a hard connection between the spine and the rest of the skeleton; hence we should be able to move the spine to some degree without moving the rest of the skeleton. Think of the spine as a broom stick inside the body, keep it in place but slowly rotate it in place to the left then the right. Be gentle so you do not cause damage. When rotating the spine to the left/right the big muscles of the back should not be fired, only the small muscles of the spinal column. Eventually one can rotate the spine far enough that the big muscles of the back are stretched or pulled but they should not be fired. Feel how this motion inside the body affects the rest of the body. Make sure you are moving the entire spine from the top to the bottom.

As we all know the spine is made up of many small bones with gaps between each piece. These gaps allow us to move the spine in two additional directions. 1) Compress ALL of the gaps out of the spine so it becomes shorter 2) Expand all of the gaps so the spine becomes much longer. Note the affect on the rest of the body.

Solo Movement Drills

Hopefully we all know movement can be generated in many different ways from many different places in our bodies. Understanding different movement methods allows us to continue to move when our opponent takes one method away. Following is a simple solo drill to help understand this concept, first from large movements then we will add in the use of the spine.

Lie on your back (side, sitting, whatever) in any position but remember the exact position as you will continually come back to that position. Now move (roll or whatever) so your stomach is now facing the ground. Study how you moved. Where did the movement begin? Where is the power coming from? Etc. Generally, when we do this our first movement is from the opposite shoulder. That is, if I am rolling to my right I begin my movement from my left shoulder. Now go back to the starting position and find 10 more ways to generate motion to move the body to the same end position. Hints: One can sling a leg or arm to generate the motion. One can rotate the same side should away, the hips can generate the motion, etc, etc. This also makes a very good paired drill. One partner holds the other partner down taking away some of the movement option, the partner being held figures out what he/she can move and the different methods of movement.

Back to the solo drill: Now while lying on your back complete the spinal awareness tension and movement drills above several times until you really feel your entire spine. Can you figure out how to start the motion over to your stomach from your spine? Generate the power from the spine? As you do this, how does the rest of your body feel? How much power or energy are you using? Compare this to the different methods first described.

Paired Movement Drills

The following drills are just that drills to help explore the concept of moving from the spine. If you are expecting some sort of martial magic, you should stop reading now or at least temper your expectations. Also note that the results for each person can be vastly different based on that individuals tension, ability to feel/move the spine, fear/ego, etc.

#1 lies on back, #2 kneels next to him placing hands on any part of #1's body and applies some downward pressure. The amount of pressure and additional resistance can be increased over time. #1 slowly goes through the progression of rotating the spine to the left, to the right, expanding and contracting. Do these slowly and feel how the movement of the spine affects #2. Is there a change in the pressure #2 is applying? A shift in balance? Or any other discernible change? Repeat the same drill but have #2 lay on #1. The same questions apply. Now you can repeat both drills but continue the motion so the spine motion leads the rest of the body and escape. How does it feel for both partners?

#1 and #2 stand facing each other. This is the basic push drill but rather than #1 doing large motions he should move his spine as discussed above and begin this movement the moment #2 makes contact. #1 should not allow #2 to twist or bend his spine, simply rotate, compress or expand the spine, hold your form and study what is happening. One must keep the rest of the body relaxed, especially the back and hips. Remember I mentioned that the spine can be rotated to the point that the back muscles are stretched but not tense. A good discussion between #1 & #2 is essential to learning.

Enjoy and explore.

Take care,

Mark J.
Mark,

I see that no one has commented on your post; so I will. I find it very fascinating and full of interesting points - It will take a while to digest it all.

Greg
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Old 05-06-2010, 09:06 PM   #3
Lorel Latorilla
Location: Osaka
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 311
Japan
Offline
Re: Spine Awareness

I agree, Greg. I have to re-read this again. I think what Mark is doing here cross-pollinates with some of the training I"m currently engaged in. I'll chime in more later.

Unless stated otherwise, all wisdom, follies, harshness, malice that may spring up from my writing are attributable only to me.
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Old 05-06-2010, 09:36 PM   #4
Thomas Campbell
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 407
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Re: Spine Awareness

Good stuff, Mark . . . I recognize some of the partner work. The solo practices seem like an excellent way, through soft work, to engage the spine and your intent. The same approach may perhaps help provide a little understanding of what Dan Harden teaches at the beginning stages of IS work. But I won't claim to speak for him in that regard.
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Old 06-04-2010, 06:12 AM   #5
Mark Jakabcsin
Dojo: Charlotte Systema, Charlotte, NC
Location: Carolina
Join Date: Feb 2001
Posts: 207
United_States
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Re: Spine Awareness

Additional Drills:

While walking, coordinate tensing the muscles along the spine with your breathing and steps. Example: 2 steps inhaling and tensing spine muscles, exhale 2 steps and relaxing, repeat. Then do the tensing on the exhale and the relaxing on the inhale.

Same work but instead of only tensing the muscles, expand or contract your spine in coordination with breathing/walking.

Same work but slightly rotate the spine to the left or to the right while walking/breathing.

Do all of the above drills again but walk backwards.

Note that most of us have difficult feeling the small muscles along our spine let alone contracting them independently of the other back muscles. Our brains simply ‘think' back, not individual parts of the back. Over time and with practice we can start to feel all of the parts of our bodies and learn to move them independently of the other parts. This is body awareness.
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Old 06-04-2010, 07:44 AM   #6
dps
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 2,156
Offline
Re: Spine Awareness

"Spines with a strong deep musculature are a rarity in our society. Virtually everyone moves in compressive lockdown patterns that collapse the pressure distribution system. Moving in compressive patterns for any length of time allows the deep muscles to overstretch and become weak. Disengaging the deep muscles sets off a chain reaction of compensation in which the bigger, more superficial back muscles tighten up. They tend to dump the pelvis forward when standing and moving, which pushes the abdominal contents forward, disengaging the abdominal muscles and pulling the upper hip muscles into stabilizing the pelvis. Below, this throws the legs out of alignment, and above, it throws the ribcage, neck and the shoulder girdle out of alignment. The activities of modern life have led to virtually universal structural collapse; virtually everyone has fallen arches, twisted knees, tight hips and shoulders and jammed spines. "

From Michael Tonetti's website http://www.dealingwithgravity.com/

http://www.youtube.com/user/miketone.../0/u2QzvACTyF8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-42KV462Vg

David

Last edited by dps : 06-04-2010 at 07:49 AM.
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Old 06-04-2010, 08:20 AM   #7
MM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 1,996
United_States
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Re: Spine Awareness

Quote:
Mark Jakabcsin wrote: View Post
Additional Drills:

While walking, coordinate tensing the muscles along the spine with your breathing and steps. Example: 2 steps inhaling and tensing spine muscles, exhale 2 steps and relaxing, repeat. Then do the tensing on the exhale and the relaxing on the inhale.

Same work but instead of only tensing the muscles, expand or contract your spine in coordination with breathing/walking.

Same work but slightly rotate the spine to the left or to the right while walking/breathing.

Do all of the above drills again but walk backwards.

Note that most of us have difficult feeling the small muscles along our spine let alone contracting them independently of the other back muscles. Our brains simply ‘think' back, not individual parts of the back. Over time and with practice we can start to feel all of the parts of our bodies and learn to move them independently of the other parts. This is body awareness.
Hi Mark,
I don't do the "tensing" part in my exercises. I'm curious why you use tensing? I do work on exercises for rotating the spine without moving the body, but do so without consciously tensing the muscles, instead I use intent to stretch the spine.
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Old 06-05-2010, 06:52 AM   #8
Mark Jakabcsin
Dojo: Charlotte Systema, Charlotte, NC
Location: Carolina
Join Date: Feb 2001
Posts: 207
United_States
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Re: Spine Awareness

Mark,

In training, tensing specific muscles while keeping others totally relaxed helps to build very specific neural pathways which allows specific control of those muscles or body parts. I.E. hightened body awarness. Note the drill is to tense these specific muscles until you feel the other muscles surrounding them begin to fire, once you feel that you stop and start over. Done very slowly and deeply one begins to have far greater access to these specific areas due to specific neural pathways. Check out the book "The Talent Code" by Daniel Coyle of a more detailed explaination of the brain mechanisms and the affects on training.

Another consideration to this is the tensing of these muscles is only one part of the whole, there is the rolling, the expansion, the contraction, combinations of all of these and then adding in full body motion.

Also doing breathing and tension drills helps to train the muscle to relax (at least when done properly).

Take care,

Mark J.

Last edited by Mark Jakabcsin : 06-05-2010 at 06:54 AM. Reason: adding more info
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Old 06-05-2010, 06:57 PM   #9
AllanF
Location: Shenyang
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 56
China
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Re: Spine Awareness

Interesting stuff and is similar to things my teacher has taught me in that he says each vertebrae should rotate individually as one exercise and as another exercise each vertebrae should expand and contract he says we should also try and move each vertebrae forwards and backwards. However this approach differs in that there should never be any tension in the body and everything should be intent driven. The above should all be done from a standing position with hands out to the sides palm down.

Mark Murray, i would be interested in hearing how you approach this concept.
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