FOR OVERALL IMPROVEMENT PART I
Lt Col Al
"...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."
- Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings
In "The Way of Adaptation: Guided Chaos, by Ari Kandel, 1st Degree Ki Chuan Do / Close Combat," Ari stated the following regarding the importance of balance and the contrast between balance training or lack thereof in traditional and sportive fighting arts and Ki Chuan Do balance principles. He writes:
BALANCE: Any martial artist or athlete knows the importance of balance. Without balance, on your feet and on the ground in any conceivable position, any other skills or attributes become worthless, because you have no base to work from. Why, then, do virtually all martial arts training systems train balance only indirectly, for example through forms training and shadow boxing?"
[In KCD] The exercises bear less similarity to conventional martial arts training than they do to modern Western physical therapy exercises, developed to their logical conclusion with increased intensity. The exercises are progressive so that the practitioner can continue to challenge and improve his/her balance to ever-increasing levels. Tools such as wobble boards and cables or exercise bands are used to further enhance the balance training, which can and should be done every day.
No stances or set positions are used. The emphasis is on extreme balance in any and all positions so that the practitioner may generate what s/he needs from any position, at any angle, to adapt to any situation. Wherever the practitioner may step, shift or land, s/he will be solidly balanced so that s/he can effectively execute whatever the situation calls for.
This will be the first of a two part series on Balance. While discussed at length in our book "Attack Proof: The Ultimate Guide to Personal Protection," often I get the feeling that people just don't have a full appreciation for it. Out of all the concepts developed by Grand Master Perkins, this is the one that he probably discusses the most and is by far the easiest of the principles to develop. In Part 1 of this article I'm just going to cover some concepts of balance and then in the second part I'm going to present an exercise regimen to guide you toward developing a root that can't be found.
Without balance you can do nothing, since the power emanates from your root through your center of gravity. It is balance that enables you to step to a new root point effortlessly at lighting speed and strike with maximum power. Below are a few definitions which directly relate to balance and your ability to control it.
[n] The ability to know where your body parts are in 3-dimensional space
[This is also influenced by your sensitivity and your ability to control your body in relation to your opponent based on what you feel in three-dimensional space]
[n] Stable situation in which forces cancel one another
[This relates directly to your ability to root or balance but it goes much deeper than that since you want to develop a root that no one can find. In turn, by developing greater control of your equilibrium, you are able to hide your root and thus control theirs. Controlling balance or your equilibrium, as with sensitivity, is just as much a mental process as it is a physical one.]
THE IMPORTANCE OF BALANCE
From to football, to tennis, to fighting, changing your center of gravity and properly lining up your body to match your moves is the key to efficiency in any physical activity. The technical term as discussed in previous newsletters is "agility." Agility allows us to move gracefully, wasting little motion and allows our joints to move through the full range of motion smoothly and confidently.
The KCD balance training as outlined in Attack Proof comes in a variety of forms, and allows you to improve your balance in ways you can't imagine. For example by performing the exercises as outlined in Attack Proof such as the Ninja and Vacuum walks or Wood Surfing on the KCD wobble boards we force our muscles to make subtle changes in our feet, legs and body position to accommodate our balance. This allows us to work on the stabilizing muscles in ways that they are not normally developed.
For example the KCD wobble boards constantly throw off your center of gravity so you are forced to develop greater control over your center of gravity which serve to further increase your ability to control your over all equilibrium. This gain in balance allows you to gracefully step to a new root point, bringing all of your power with you, which allows you to strike instantly with power from virtually any position.
Also when striking you don't just want to hit people, you also want to penetrate their center as you strike so that no matter where you strike not only are they receiving maximum force from the blows but it off balances them simultaneously preventing them from getting into the fight in the first place. Remember without some form of balance there is no power, period!
Now I'm going to get into some basic concepts on balance for the sake of clarity as with many concepts presented here these are very rudimentary concepts. For a fuller explanation and description please refer to "Attack Proof" or the "Attack Proof Companion DVD's. "
Since I received some positive feed back on my "Stick Men" I'll use the same format in order to describe certain concepts plus it just saves me a lot of writing.
Originally I hesitated to put this sequence of photos in here however they illustrate a key point regarding balance and controlling your center of gravity and allows you to see how it relates to your body unity. As you can see in Fig 1 the box represents the relationship of where your balance is in relation to your torso as outlined in "Attack Proof" where you see the lines trisect (Fig's 1& 2) this is the location of your center of gravity or as known in Tai Chi manuals as the "Tan Tien". The vertical line in Fig 3 shows how the body can turn around the centerline of the body, which runs through the center of gravity.
In the next group of pictures I will build on this in order to provide a clearer understanding. This is important because I still think people at times are confused on this critical point. As you move no matter where or how your torso moves you are trying to always control this point on your body in relation to your foot position while rooting to the ground.
Figures 4 and 5 above illustrate another key point regarding your upper body. In Fig 4 you can see the "Red" dot, which represents your center of gravity or Tan Tien. The dotted parallel lines represent the relationship of your shoulders and your hips. The key here is as you pocket, twist and turn you want your hips and shoulders to remain relatively parallel to each other.
In doing so it prevents them from becoming perpendicular to each other (Fig 5) once this happens you not only lose power but it becomes almost impossible to maintain good balance especially while moving. Also your body in this position loses its suppleness and ability to get loose since you have taken all of the slack or looseness out of your body.
A word of caution: as with all of these diagrams all of the concepts are relative in other words they are general concepts or sub-principles if you will. The point is do not become overly fixated on this to the point in which your movements become ridged or mechanical thus taking away from your suppleness and freedom of action.
Now I'm going to cover the relationship between your root and your center of gravity. When fighting contrary to all of the fancy stances (which I'll cover later) prevalent in many martial arts systems there are generally only four basic rooted leg positions from which to fight from. I stress the word "positions" rather than stances since there are no stances in a real fight. The action is just too fast, dynamic and chaotic for such stiffness.
As shown below (Fig 6) you're either rooted forward on your front leg (Fig 6a), rooted on your rear leg (Fig 6b) transitioning between root points (Fig 6c) or you're rooted on one leg (Fig 6d). The exception to this is if you are on the ground in which you control your balance with your whole body [not shown]. Now I'll cover some of the more salient points of each the positions.
In Fig's 6a, 6b & 6d notice the relationship between your center of gravity and root point as represented by the dotted line. When rooted forward as shown by the arrows your knee should not go beyond your toe even when rooting deeply for more balance as in the "Long Step". This will compensate for the tendency to "lean" forward causing your center of gravity to get too far forward of your root causing you to lose balance. When rooted on the rear leg you'll want to ensure that your backside does not go beyond your heel, (also indicated by arrows) which only causes you to lean back and again lose balance.
The same applies when on one leg. In 6a, 6b & 6d you will notice that I have placed percentages above each picture they represent the relative distribution of your weight over your rooted leg, however I want to point out that these are relative figures and in truth you should be able to comfortably lift and step or kick with the non-rooted leg.
I left Fig 6c for last because this is only a transitional position so your root is literally shifting as you feel where you need to either transition your root or step.
One key point that I would be remiss if I didn't discuss it and that is when fighting whether you take a step or even reposition the foot to a better root point once your foot comes off the ground no matter how long even if only for a micro second at some point you are balanced on one leg. Therefore it is critical to develop what Grand Master Perkins always harps on and that is "One Legged Balance". But not only one legged balance but the ability to do all of the things that you could do from a fighting perspective of course if you had both feet on the ground. If you get nothing else out of this newsletter that is the one key sub-principle you must work toward developing. I will cover this in greater detail in Part II of this newsletter as I discuss some of the training methods you will want to practice.
FROM THE PARALLEL UNIVERSE OF BIZARRO WORLD
If you're a fan of "Superman" like I am then you are familiar with his alter "Bizarro." Bizarro is the antithesis of Superman and came from a parallel world where everything was backward, tires on cars were square, people walked backwards, the police robbed banks etc... and because no one knew how backward they were no matter how illogical it seemed everyone just accepted it. When people get caught up in false paradigms which defy logic, physics, human kinesiology and reality they might as well be living on Bizarro World because the effect is all the same. Now I'm going to show some of the stuff I have seen over the years in contrast to the previous section as to what not to do and why, below are real stances actually taught in many martial arts systems.
Most of us have seen this type of nonsense whether training in a previous art such as myself where such techniques were the foundation of the system, watching a demonstration or in the movies so I don't think I need to go into detail. Who knows maybe they make sense on Bizarro World but in this universe I can assure you they are a recipe for disaster.
Notice in each of these examples that the legs are spread either too far apart or in a mechanically inferior position disconnecting the center of gravity from the root to the ground as shown by the vertical line. Such stances not only defy the laws of physics for optimal efficiency and stability but only a super athlete possessing incredible kinesthetic ability could make some of these work in the brutal chaos of real combat. One point I want to make here and that is once again we're not talking about sport fighting where everyone is limited by rules along with a flat surface in a controlled environment but real life and death fighting on the streets where there are a myriad of conditions to contend with. Slick or wet surfaces, uneven footing, blood, dog poop, etc... if your life is on the line there is not much room for error and since as Grand Master Perkins would say, "luck counts" so you want all the luck to fall on your side.
We have all heard the reasons as to why people teach such forms one good one I heard was that by practicing the forms they prepare you for what to do if you find yourself in those positions in a real fight. All kidding aside and not to belabor the point but...
WHOEVER SAID SELF-DEFENSE TRAINING SHOULD BE COOPERATIVE?
...WELL GUESS WHAT--THAT'S THE WAY MOST PEOPLE DO IT!
This stuff comes from the minds of people who have absolutely no concept as to the forensic reality of combat. This is why in KCD we focus on principles rather than a bunch of forms or special techniques, we are "Brand X" martial artists dealing only with the reality before us adapting, creating and flowing to what we need, where we need it, "when" we need it. I know there are those who will say, "But, but, but when performing such stances I feel so stable..." this is true however you are only stable for "that" moment in time in "that" position and as long as no one challenges your balance you're fine and therein as they say lies the rub...
Real fighting is dynamic, uncooperative and chaotic and I'll even go as far to say that most competitive fighting is within the limitations of the rules dynamic as well which is why it is not uncommon to see people throw kicks and punches where they are off balance. Trust me I know the feeling because I've performed some of these stances through my own martial journey through the years but feeling on balance and being balanced for fighting are two different things.
Remember the fight comes from everywhere and out of nowhere and the only thing you can count on is utter chaos and change which is why you have to have your balance together. There are just too many variables to deal with and there is no time for fancy foot work and Drunken Monkey Kung Fu. Often when people ask me, "What would you do against this technique or that technique?" what I usually tell them is "I don't know..." I then usually quantify it by saying whatever they are going to do all I know is that I'm not going to cooperate. Usually when this comes up people then ask, "Well what if they try to grapple with you or take you to the ground?" I always tell them "I don't grapple with them I don't play their game... if they want to spar like in a karate or kung fu tournament I don't spar, if they want to Box I don't Box because I'm not playing!" When students ask me how do I prevent this from happening or that from happening its not uncommon to here me say "Don't let it happen in the first place..."
The mistake that people make and the more I think of it and observe it the more I know this to be true and that is in order to defeat a martial arts technique everyone thinks they have to use some form of stylized martial arts technique often within the same paradigm of that style to counter it. No you don't you just don't cooperate with it. It really is that simple.
Just watch an episode of "COPS" if you don't believe me, it never fails at least once an episode there is some woman who decides she's not going to jail especially if she's been smoking funny little rocks and the next thing you know she's got anywhere from two to five police officers on her, usually twice her size no less just trying to restrain her. What the hell does she know? Yet here she is on national television giving these guys a run for their money.
They try all of the "sanctioned" police academy moves but at the end it's always the same where they usually end up dog piling on top of her driving her face into the concrete, knee in the back, or using some form of pain compliance just to get her hands behind her back. And it is a sloppy, sloppy mess.
Where are the cool moves? Where are the cool stances holding the night stick? Balance? Forget about it you might as well be speaking Martian because even as police officers more often than not they train for a reality that doesn't exist and end up having to learn the hard way OJT [on the job], it's the same nonsense in the military. I can see trying to grapple or fight from some bogus stance, without balance mind you, on uneven footing against an insurgent in Fallujah while wearing fifty pounds of gear. Where do you want them to mail your body to?
Think of it like this when you were a kid and you were say playing Cowboys and Indians while the Cowboys were always the good guys we all know that it was much more fun to be an Indian because lets face it the Cowboys had all sorts of stupid rules like you couldn't shoot people in the back or wound people in the stones. Ah but as an Indian all bets were off and you literally made it up as you went along. And that's what people do in a real fight...
In virtually any physical activity the less you have to think about it and the more natural your actions become the easier it is. Whether you're a carpenter or fixing a motor cycle if you have to think about every simple task that you perform you'll go mad. It's just not possible. The same is true for fighting which is why we focus on training principles and place a premium on KCD Contact Flow exercises to allow you to refine the concepts without having to consciously think about them while allowing the subconscious processes to take over. When training students to develop their balance one of the techniques that I employ is to force them to control their balance by trying to take their balance within the KCD Contact Flow exercise (I'll cover this more in the second part of this newsletter).
The point is since you can't possibly prepare for everything and every possible condition why on earth would you want to start off by placing yourself at a disadvantage by assuming some bogus stance? Bottom line you're either balanced or you're not you either control your root or have it controlled.
As you can see I was really having fun drawing some of this stuff some of these are just too funny for words. Yet this is what people get when they joint a typical martial arts school. There are some more that I thought of adding but they were just too complex for me to draw with my stick men without cluttering the images but here's food for thought, if they were too complex to draw they're probably even more complex to make them work in a real fight. "Truth is simple, lies are complex..." Just my two cents...
Based on what I've already covered you can clearly see the weaknesses in each of these positions and while widely taught in many martial arts systems you can see why they will get you killed in a real fight. One key point I want to make though it should be obvious by now that while impressive looking especially at bogus martial arts demos not only are they disconnected from their root but they also cause you to become "double weighted" destroying your mobility or place your feet in a position where you cannot instantly transition to a new root point.
I would probably say that when flowing I spend probably 95% of the time on one leg as I step or shift to new root points and when I'm moving fast it's probably like 99.9% because I'm usually launching from my root as I drop with each movement.
The one that really gets me is the last stick figure where people cross their feet I added it because you see it in all of the kung fu magazines. Why anyone would think that crossing their feet while attempting to balance between two points would aid them in a real fight is beyond me but is does make for some good satire.
I know this was kind of long winded but I feel it was necessary if you are to have a proper understanding of how to develop a more powerful root. What did Edison say, "90% percent of genius is knowing what doesn't work..."
In the diagram above we see that our "Sphere of Influence" extends to the maximum range of where we can strike with effectiveness (Fig 1). Since our limbs are just long enough to protect our bodies, regardless of body type we want to learn to fight within our own sphere.
Fig 2 above shows the relationship between balance and your sphere of influence while controlling your equilibrium as you transition moving forward and back while not stepping. Notice that as you root either forward or back, that as long as you follow the principles governing controlling your balance, you're able to move your sphere accordingly, maintaining control over your weapons.
From time to time you may find that your attacker is just beyond your reach where you can effectively strike them even as you root forward. So rather than reaching out and thus becoming over extended and off balance, by moving forward or by stepping to a new root point (as shown above in Fig 3) you are able to move your sphere of influence, maintaining control over your limbs.
As shown above in Fig's 4 & 5, by moving your center of gravity with you as you step to a new root point, it enables you to always strike with maximum power and cutting force because you're able to penetrate their center. Notice that as you move forward from the root point that you cover considerable distance.
This is important because in doing so it requires that the person you are stepping towards has to move much faster to get out of the way and move their sphere as well. If they try to run, they can't move fast enough, because you have stepped in and cut off all possible angles making you unavoidable.
Finally, no matter which direction you turn or step, your sphere of influence remains the same, along with your center of gravity. So no matter which way you line your weapons up, you are able to strike in every direction with power. Fig 6 provides a basic understanding of the different directions in which you can step to. Fig 7 shows the relationship between your Sphere of Influence and how you can control your center of gravity as you step.
For example, you can step forward slightly off line into an opponent (Fig 7a), switch feet as in Fig 7b, perhaps stepping off line as you kick or box step around them and strike them from the side (or even better, from the rear as shown in Fig 7c.) Notice as you step your sphere travels with you. The key is, you want to trap them within your sphere so that it's not so much that you hit them, as it is their body just gets in the way of your weapons. This is important because even if you miss you are still fighting within your sphere, on balance, and you can quickly recover and strike from another angle.
Where you step--and this is key-- is entirely up to you, based on what you feel through your sensitivity.
Well that's it for now. In my next newsletter I'm going to focus on some of the exercises and what to practice when working these concepts.