SOLO PRACTICE, PART II
By Lt Col Al Ridenhour
"by training you will be able to freely control your own body, conquer men with your body, and with sufficient training you will be able to beat ten men with your spirit."
Recently I was having a conversation about training with a number of students and one of the more consistent themes that I found regarding their questions was "what do I do when time prohibits me from training on my own like we do in class?"
This is totally understandable after all for the most part between family and work our lives are very busy, heck for most people it's a stretch just to be able to find the free time to attend a regular class let alone set aside time to train on your own. I realize that I have also been remiss in not pointing out that there are things that you can do everyday that in some cases enhance you ability in ways beyond the normal exercise regime that we prescribe. In this newsletter I will pick up on where I left off with the newsletter on "Solo Practice" and I will offer some advice on some alternative training methods you can do during your normal day to day routine.
What I am presenting here are but a few concepts and helpful hints of things that I along with others have done over the years through our training with Grand Master Perkins to enhance our development in the principles of the art. Bare in mind that what I present here are but a handful of training tips that you can do and are only meant to act as a reference point from which to build on in your martial development. Some of these are so simple and practical that you may be hesitant to do them however this does not in any way diminish their importance or effectiveness.
"We must sharpen our minds as well as our skills if our swords are to prevail in battle"
Some of these training tips have a "Zen" like quality to them however as with proper physical development without the proper mind set or mental development you are just wasting your time.
Be in the Moment: being in the moment means just that, "being in the moment." In all that you do you want to become one with whatever you are doing. Researchers working with high level athletes have discovered that regardless of sport there is a common term used which is referred to as being "in the zone." Many of us throughout our lives have experienced this though we may not have fully been aware of the phenomenon we experienced. When in the zone it seems as if time stands still and that all you seem to be aware of is the physical or the sensation of the movement that one is engaging in. However this goes much further; for those of us who have experience being in the zone it is not uncommon to experience the following:
•· A feeling as if time is slowing down or stands still.
•· The perception as if you are viewing the activity you are engaged in from the third person or as if outside your own body.
•· A feeling as if your entire body is as light as a feather as if gliding through the air when moving, almost a sense of weightlessness.
It is also not uncommon when in the zone to have little recall of all of the actions you have undertaken when engaged in the activity. It's sort of like when driving on the highway and you begin to think about something and go into a trancelike hypnotic state. All of a sudden something snaps your attention back to the road and you realize that you were driving for a considerable time totally unaware of your actions.
When training you want to learn to tap into this ability because in truth, when under duress, this is the way your mind operates when a real fight goes down. This is one of many reasons why memorized forms, katas, fight by the numbers systems and unnatural movement techniques don't work in real fights. When the feces hits the oscillating device your brain generally goes on auto pilot and your body just reacts, which is why we place so much emphasis on contact flow exercise along with developing the principles so they become a part of you and you don't have to think about them, they just happen.
A way to practice this is to focus and pay attention to one simple task at a time when performing it. For example, when changing a tire, focus on all its aspects: the lifting of the jack, the turning of the lug nuts and the position of your body in relation to the activity. When washing dishes relax and focus on washing the plates, scrubbing the pots and just be in the moment without much thought. If an errant thought enters your mind, say "oh well" and go back to what you were doing. The more you do this the easier it gets and the more focused you can be when you need it.
Breath in Breath Out: learn to relax in all that you do, when sitting, when moving, when walking etc... and breath deep in the belly, expanding the diaphragm to allow for more air into your lungs and exhale at a slower rate than when inhaling. By learning to relax your breathing it allows you to relax your muscles and remain loose in all of your movements, which brings me to my next point...
Move as Little as You Need: when performing a task, for the sake of developing your body unity and the ability to remain loose throughout your motions (even at high speeds), learn to utilize only those muscles that are required to perform a given motion no matter how trivial in order to function with maximum efficiency. For example, when pushing a chair in try to line your body up so that your entire body is unitized. This will allow your body to work more efficiently without your antagonistic muscles putting the breaks on your movement. Initially you will notice that your body is not properly aligned to perform many tasks and has a lot of superfluous motion. In doing this exercise you will begin to learn how to move as little as you need in all that you do. This skill is critical to your ability to cut off angles of attack through economy of movement.
"In all forms of strategy, it is necessary to maintain the combat stance in everyday life and to make your everyday stance your combat stance...whether you move fast or slow, with large or small steps, your feet must always move as in normal walking...."
Move with Grace, Move with Power: in all of your movements you want to try to be as graceful as possible. With practice, your body will begin to feel as if you are moving through well. Also when moving or sitting or whatever, learn to feel everything through your sensitivity while remaining relaxed. Throughout the motion, feel the wind on your body, on your face etc... This in turn will increase your overall level of sensitivity and body unity. Remember that grace equals efficiency and efficiency equals power and speed. You want to move like a panther, graceful and even yet powerful and ready to explode when necessary.
Place Your Feet on the Ground When Walking: when walking instead of just stepping on the ground practice placing your foot on the ground, focusing on being as silent as possible when stepping. This forces you to step with balance and increases your ability to step to a new root point without thought. Do this in all that you do since it requires greater control to place your feet on the ground vs. just stomping your feet or falling into your steps as most people do. With practice you will feel as if your body glides through the air as you walk unitized and balanced.
"We are what we repeatedly do"
"Roll the Ball" in All that You Do: when ironing your clothes, rather than just using your arms, move the iron with your entire body in a similar fashion as with the "Rolling the Ball," "Dry Land Swimming," and "Starting the Mower" drills. When sweeping, mopping the floor or using a vacuum cleaner, move as if "Rolling the Ball:" swaying back and forth, transferring your weight from one root point to the other, pushing and pulling the object with your body rather than just your arms. When opening the door, try to get your whole body involved in the motion focusing on the body unity aspect of the motion.
Rooted Stair Climbing: when walking up and down a flight of steps lift your legs as if you are performing the ninja walk and focus on stepping as naturally and as silent as possible. This will build you a root like an oak tree and when you get really good at this, try it while carrying packages or bags.
Rooted One Legged Balance: when standing around or standing in line such as at the super market or the bank, practice picking up one foot at a time just enough off the ground to place all of your weight on the opposite foot rooting over the other leg. Also practice this barely touching other objects as well as free standing. When you're really up to it, perform this while riding on an elevator or on the train while lightly holding onto the bar, using it just to counter-balance your body while working your root.
Ghosting Through the Door: if you want to really spook people try this: in order to practice my stepping off line and moving as little as needed, sometimes I will step through a door after I open it "just enough" for my body to fit through it on an angle. As you get better at this you will be able to follow people and step through the slight opening after they have already entered a door. This works particularly well with doors that have closing mechanical arms. As the arm closes the door, time it so that you are able to "slip" in just before the door closes. As you step in you will notice that as long as you step through on an angle [i.e., stepping off line] you will be able to do it. People get spooked by this because they only notice it after you have stepped in behind them, so be careful. Also learn to move in this fashion when moving through a crowd and remain mindful of your sphere of influence throughout, mentally imagining controlling your sphere as you move.
Stand in the Jack Benny Stance: this works particularly well when speaking to people in a business setting, standing in line somewhere or on an elevator. This will condition you to always stand in some sort of guarded position when out in public.
Well that's it for now. As you can imagine, there are a million things that you can do. I hope this helps generate some thought and some ideas on how you can enhance your training. If I can remember some other things that we have learned over the years I will pass it on.