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: Generate the most power possible.
Power is composed of two parts; Mass and Velocity. Mass refers to a solid object like a fist or foot or knee or elbow. Velocity is speed in a specific direction. These two elements must be increased again and again to increase the amount of power that you can generate.
There are several ways in which to generate this power, but all of the ways begin with your bodies contact with the one largest source of solidity that exists, the earth. Assume that you are standing, your feet are in contact with the earth and the earth does not move below you. If you press against the ground, the ground will, by not moving, press back at you. If you press into the earth, with 100 pounds of force, and the ground pushes back at you with 100 pounds of force, then you have 200 pounds of force with which to invest. The more weight that you drop into the ground, the more force the ground will give you to express. This is called reactionary force.
There are two fulcrum points in your body that aid in increasing power. These are the hips and the shoulders. As your 200 pounds of force ascends up your legs to your hips you can rotate them, directing 200 pounds of force in one direction. If you, at the same time direct 200 pounds of force in the opposite direction with your other hip, because your hips are connected, you will express 400 pounds of force on each side.
Your hips are connected to your spine, so as your hips rotate with this force then so will your spine. You now have 800 pounds of force traveling up your spine to your shoulders. Your shoulders work in the same way as your hips, so now by rotating them you have generated 1600 pounds of force. Let this force travel along your arms, thrusting with your arm muscles. One arm thrusts forward and the other backward with 1600 pounds of force each. Your arms are connected to your shoulders so are connected to each other, and so each side expresses 1600 pounds of force.
At this point you have 3200 pounds of force expressed in both extremities. As this power travels down your arms to your wrists you rotate the lead wrist at the moment of impact to add that velocity to the overall compilation of force that you have built up. At this point, the rotation of the wrist may add as much as another 100 pounds of force to the equation. The rotation of the wrist will also serve to drill the 3200 pounds of force that you have generated deeper into your target.
The same or a similar system of incremental power escalations can serve to form any technique, be it grabbing, kicking, or blocking. The most important thing in making this work is timing it perfectly. If at any point there is a break or gap, or pause in the chain of increases, then most or all of the power hither to then generated will be lost.
To achieve this perfect unification, you must relax until the moment of impact, thereby allowing the force you have built to gain speed and grace on its way to the target. The only way to truly relax while in motion is to move in rhythm with your body and breath. It is therefore very important to know how your body moves. You are not a system of pistols sliding back and forth. You are composed of joints and therefore move at angels.
The shortest distance between two points, is a straight line. A straight line is also the path along which you can create the most speed, and therefore power. Since your body does not move in straight lines a tight wave may be better, as with each up and down you create more speed and power, working in concert with gravity. Moving this way, you can stay relaxed while striking, and so strike with much more power.
Every movement is composed of a down an up and a down motion. The first down allows you relax with an exhale and a drop. When you hit bottom you rebound and can be relaxed while effortlessly going up with an inhale. The last down ends with the impact and an exhale. During the last down you are going with gravity and therefore can build the most speed with the least effort. This wave pattern must be applied to all techniques to be able to execute them with the greatest efficiency.
When traveling forward, taking a step, or spinning, all of the weight should shift to the front foot and then with all of the momentum that was gained by that shift, rise up on that lead leg with the effort of a pole vaulter who has just reached the point where his pole will bend no further. Let the tension and momentum of this state lift you up. At the apex descend on your target with both the pull of gravity and the forward momentum that has taken you too that high position, like a roller coaster as it flies down the ramp, or a man chopping wood as his ax swings down. Make your strike land in concert with all of your weight dropping into the ground.
One of the dangers a martial artist faces is exaggerating too much. It is important to exaggerate movements while training to make sure that they are large enough to spot any mistakes that you are making, and to understand the mechanics of the technique, but it is a huge flaw to assume that the exaggerated version of a technique is the actual way it should be performed. This is a mistake many practitioners make when they attempt to apply martial arts to goals other than logical combat, such as tournament play, performance, or fitness. Do not mistake exaggeration for full range of motion.
Many people believe that fighting, repetition, and fitness drills are the only training tools that are valuable. They tend to underplay the importance of patterns. Patterns are pre-choreographed sequences of movements or fight scenarios against imaginary opponents. Patterns serve to train your subconscious and muscle memory to react correctly when confronted with a situation. Patterns train you to, without needing to go through the conscious process of observing, registering, deciding and reacting, just let your body react with the appropriate techniques. A person who has never before been in a fight but has performed their patterns correctly, picturing their opponent there and attacking or defending with technical precision will be able to react as well as a seasoned veteran. Patterns combine repetition with application, and combination of movements that will hone you for fighting like no other practice. I do not mean to say that there is any practice that is without merit, but I do mean to say that Patterns are an extremely useful and all encompassing aspect of training that must never be set aside.
Actually fighting, it may be argued is a better practice then patterns. Though actually engaging in practice combat is important and an effective way to hone your reflexes and applicable skills, it also has the drawback of letting you developing bad habits. If you practice against skilled fighters, they will train you to be hit, not to hit them. You will not develop good reflexes this way. If you practice against an inferior fighter then you will not be pushed and cannot develop beyond a certain point. Some technique may work, but not as well as it could, so you keep doing it, not knowing that there is a better way. Patterns will help you achieve a balance between a naturally evolved fighting style, and a scientifically, strategically honed fighting style.
One must be careful when practicing patterns. Make sure that the patterns make sense. There are patterns that advocate illogical sequences and bad technique. It is your job to understand what you are practicing and making sure that the movements will not condition you to put yourself in a vulnerable position. Most people are not yet at a stage in their understanding of the art to make this decision. Those people must trust their teacher. It is important to find a teacher who can explain and demonstrate the applications of any pattern that they are advocating. They must understand and be able to explain any movement that they are teaching. If they cannot do this, I would suggest finding a different teacher.
Every martial artist who begins fighting should attempt to understand the techniques, guarding blocks, and stances that they are using. If you do not question how you do a certain thing, you will never find the best way to do it. Know the origin of your fighting style and what it was originally designed to do. Where your predecessors fighting someone on horseback, or multiple opponents, or is your martial art designed to be hidden, behind a dance? Once you know this, you will begin to understand why you are standing a certain way, or why you have your hands in a certain position. Once you know this, then you can begin to experiment with different positions until you find one that works best for your situation and body type. Do not perform only this best technique though, continue to experiment. Fighting is like battling a many headed serpent. With each head that you cut off , with each problem or attack that you defend against, two more will take its place.
It is very important to train, constantly, strictly, vigorously, and happily. It is only training that will get any martial artist to the point of mastery. Though one must keep ones eyes on the goal of mastery, it is not to focus on the goal that will benefit you but constant focus on the path. One step at a time, never give up, never lose focus, and know that everything, every aspect of training is real and a matter of life and death.
THE STORY OF SIL
One evening, Sil was walking home from a day of playing with his friends. The sun was bright and there was a slight breeze that would occasionally catch a wisp of Sil's hair and toss it around, tickling his forehead. It was then that Sil heard a noise. Three large and ferocious looking thugs had emerged from behind Sil. One of the thugs grabbed his left arm, and another grabbed his right. Sil struggled to get free but could not pull himself loose. The third thug, the largest and meanest looking one, walked in front of Sil and threw a solid punch directly into Sil's stomach. Sil doubled over in pain. His breath was coming in short and painful gasps. The thug did not say anything; he just reached into Sil's pocket and removed all of the money that he had been saving to buy sweets at the local shop. A tear rolled down Sil's face, but as his eye caught the thug's, a feeling of deep and roiling anger overtook him. The thug threw another punch, this time to Sil's face. He felt his head snap back and then felt as if a curtain were being drawn over his eyes. The pain and the world started to go black.
Sil did not know how long he had been out, he only knew that he heard a buzzing sound and his head was throbbing, as if sledge hammers were pounding away at his brain. He rolled over and moaned. Pieces of gravel and dirt clung to Sil's body and dug their way into his skin, adding discomfort to his aching pain. It was some time until Sil's head was clear enough for him to realize that he was no longer wearing clothing and that he could not see anything. At first Sil was grappled with an almost uncontrollable panic. He thought to himself, "Am I blind?" He reached up and touched his eyes. They seemed to be okay, though badly bruised. He blinked five or six times. The dark world began to clarify. Dots of light speckled the blackness and dark shapes moved to and fro. Sil realized that he was not blind, but that night had fallen.
He picked himself up and began to trudge down the dirt road. His feet stung with every step as pebbles and bits of broken pottery stabbed his now bare feet. Sil forced himself to walk on, shame and anger still hot in his chest. He could not go home - not like this - beaten, naked, and filled with rage. Sil began to shake, not from the cold but from a deep inner heat that seemed to fill his entire body. "I'm weak!" he screamed at himself. He struck his chest and it hurt. He felt like he deserved the hurt, but forced himself to stop. He had enough bruises without giving himself any more.
Sil's mind wandered back to other instances that made him feel weak. So many aspects of his life were out of his control. His mother dictated his eating, sleeping, and travel schedules. His father controlled his money and how he must behave in the house. Sil's brothers often teased him and made him feel small. Sil realized as he walked naked down that long dark road that he truly had no power. He was weak and alone inside of himself. He could not control the pain he felt. He could not control his feelings. Sil began to cry. At first the tears were small and trickled down his dirty cheeks. Before long, the tears were streaming down his face in long, gushing rivulets. The strength of his despair forced Sil to double over and walk with a hunch.
Suddenly, Sil realized through his grief that the texture of the ground had changed. His feet stopped hurting and he was moving more briskly. He was about to stop walking when suddenly there was no ground under him at all. Sil was falling. He struck a soft grassy slope and began to roll. He tried desperately to stop, to cling to something, but his hands found nothing to grasp on the steep hill. Sil fell and fell. After what seemed like a long time, the naked and bruised little boy came to a stop. He looked up to see an old house. It was a peasant house, built of scrap materials: discarded sheets of metal, wild bamboo, thatching, and bits of newspaper that had apparently been tossed aside. The house should have looked ramshackled. To Sil's surprise, the overall effect of the conglomeration was not one of sadness and poverty, but one of beauty. Who ever had constructed this majestic hovel had an artistic fl air that Sil found he appreciated. His family lived in an expensive house in a very nice section of town, but he had to admit that this house had something that his lacked. It had a luxurious simplicity that took Sil's breath away. Sil felt that who ever owned this house might help him. Sil got to his feet and walked around to the front of the house. There was a carefully woven door secured with a piece of string. Sil raised his fist and knocked on the wall. He heard a scuffling and a moaning. A light appeared, flickering on the other side of the door. Suddenly, as quickly as the movement and noise had started, it stopped. Sil quickly peeked through a crack in the wall in time to see an old man throwing a blanket over a fire. Sil stood his ground and waited. There was no other noise.
Suddenly there was a deep, rumbling laugh behind Sil. "I am being invaded by a naked boy army of one." The same old man that Sil had seen in the hut bellowed from the rise behind where Sil was standing.
"How did you do that?" Sil asked incredulously.
"Do what?" the dirty old man asked.
"You where in the house, and then a split second later, you where over there. How did you do it?"
"Secrets of the trade boy, secrets of the trade," said the man, waggling his finger as if at a dim child.
Sil felt the anger rise in his chest again. "You will tell me how you moved that fast! I demand you tell me!" Sil's eyes were squinting, and his mouth was pressed tightly together as he spoke.
The man looked at Sil with incredulity. "Now aren't you an insolent child?"
Sil closed his eyes as if to ask for patience. When he opened them to retort, the man was gone. Sil turned around and saw that the door to the house was open, offering a view into a well lit room. There was a large fire in the center of the room, and small pictures on the walls in pleasing little nooks and crannies. Sitting beside the fire was the old hermit, holding a chunk of meat on the end of a long stick.
Sil stood there with his mouth agape. The old man gestured for Sil to come closer. Sil took several tentative steps and then tripped on a protruding root and fell face first onto the dirt floor. The old man was there in an instant. He had Sil in his arms and set him down on a clean, but bland blanket. The blanket smelled vaguely of flowers. Sil's ankle was throbbing. The old man looked at it and frowned. "You are going to have to keep off of this for a couple of days." Sil moaned. The old man smiled. "It has been a long time since I have had a dinner guest. I hope you like rabbit." The man handed Sil the long stick adorned with a chunk of now crackling hot meat. Sil noticed that there were bits of green herb and shredded root pressed into the rabbit meat. He took a small bite and his mouth was flooded with sensation. "This is amazing," Sil commented. He gobbled the rest down before he knew what had hit him. The old man laughed again. Sil lay back full and tired. He wrapped some of the flowery smelling blanket around him and felt warm and happy.
Excerpted from THE MARTIAL ARTS MANUAL by Simon Scher Copyright © 2010 by Simon Scher. Excerpted by permission.
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