Check out the latest info and research from Coach Chris' explorations in the Subject of Internal Power.
At its most basic level the cross body connection allows us to actively utilize the opposite sides of the body in harmony with each other. If you think about someone walking naturally, swinging their arm forward as the opposite leg is forward, this is a classic example of this cross body connection in use. But this attribute of body motion and the associated tissues has a deeper reaching consequence for the internal artist.
We see the cross body used in almost every action the internal artist makes once they have achieved the spiral force so characteristic of the arts. Some styles talk of a crane and snake entwined or of two dragons coiling around each other, these esoteric visions or descriptions relate directly to the spiral nature of these arts and perhaps most closely with the spiral line. Without the cross body connections, the spiral is not formed.
In the anatomical model the spiral line refers to a specific group of tissues that wrap the body and legs, creating a type of corset or multi sided support. This lines use is demonstrated in the Tennis serve, the Cricket bowl or the ‘reverse’ punch of Karate.
The tissues of the Spiral Line are more complex in their association that other lines we have discussed but to briefly outline them. The line starts at the level of the first metatarsal bone in the foot, the bone we use to create alignment in many of the arts basic practices. Then through the ankle, running up the leg through the Tibialis Anterior and Peroneus Longus, via the knee joint we follow the line into the Biceps Femoris, the ITB and the Tensor Fascia Lata. Then on the back this line is related to the Erector Spinae and Rhomboids, but perhaps the most obvious appearance of the spiral is around the front of the body. Here via the Illiac crest the line follows the Abdominal obliques (internal and External) which form a X at the level of the lower Dan Tien. Then up from here the line runs in the Serratus Anterior terminating at the Occipital Ridge via the Spenius Capitus.
So this line runs from the first Metatarsal (the big toe foot bone) all the way to the back of the Skull and as it does so, specifically for the internal arts, it crosses over from one side of the body to the other. This is the formation of the body cross, a concept and physical reality that can be used to manage and project forces in a number of interesting ways.
Power of the twist
At a fundamental level the cross body method means that we can utilize a huge proportion of our torso muscle and connective tissue to generate large volumes of power. Some martial arts will avoid twisting forces in the torso, instead focusing on turning the pelvis. However this method will miss out on all of that elastic and potential energy that can be stored in our torso. We see the remarkable utilization of the spiral line in arts like Ba gua, where exponents will turn and twist creating huge volumes of power in short spaces and inside tight angles.
Here are some examples of the basic cross body method in use from around the world of martial arts.
Positional Security via not leaving your base
But there are some uses, many unique to the internal arts, that are also very interesting. One such use for this line is in how it allows the exponent to emit and receive huge volumes of power without ever leaving their stable base. This is achieved because incoming / outgoing forces are crossed over the body to the opposite side rather than leading the same arm and leg. The same side motion is used in some instances, especially in throwing, but it does mean that the practitioner may be lead out of their base or that their own power will make them commit to a direction. When we utilize the cross body or spiral connections the left forward leg will instead be linked to the right forward arm and the opposite on the other side. This spiral means that, rather than the hips being pulled in a straight line, the incoming forces is directed around them.
Power from the unity of opposites
In the later stages of training the spiral or cross body lines can be used in equal and opposite harmony. The practitioner may be closing in one side of the cross and opening in the other. Further, they may be spiraling down from right hand to left foot and up from right foot to left hand, all at the same time. This unique way of creating opposite spiral directions, again, keeps the exponents power within their base, but also creates a body that is extremely hard to control. Much like grabbing a turning wheel or a giant corkscrew the exponent will not be where they appear when the partner tries to grab, they will have moved already.
(Learn this technique here)
Next we need to look at how these major body lines work in harmony with each other to produce the unique ‘whole body power’ of the internal arts.
Whole body power forms the bedrock of the internal arts. Our abilities to move every part of our body in harmony is as fundamental to the health benefits as it is to the martial effectiveness found in these styles. In this article we will explore one aspect of this whole body work, which I call the attribution of effort technique.
In the internal arts we often use the term ‘Bridging’ in relation to contacting with the partners arms. But there is another use for this term that relates to the connection of the arms to the torso and it is that connection that we will explore in this post.
The Arm or upper body bridges are the front and back connections of the arms into the torso and are one of the major development focuses for the Internal Martial Artists. They are perhaps one of the most important areas of focus for practitioners due to the common misalignment and systemic tensions from poor posture or lifestyle that can manifest in them.
In this method we use the front and back of the Lower Dan Tien or Taren, in harmony with one another. It is this complimentary harmony of opposites, a pair of actions happening simultaneously but in opposition that gives this method its name. It is not a singular direction or motion but a 'Pair' of actions creating 'one' result. The Ming Men and Qi hai are the origination and termination points for the harmonized opening and closing in of the torso we will talk about in this post.
An initial point of research for the Internal Arts coach is the relationship between the various muscles of the center and how they relate and influence structural alignment.
Before any of the strength development can occur (pulling silk - winding etc), we need to address these imbalances or misalignment. If they are are not addressed early then the body will build strength over misalignment and compound any per-existing issues.
Opening and closing the body in harmony is one of the key methods of many internal arts, indeed it stands as fundamental to some of the Chinese Systems. I call it 'pairing' as this open and close happens simultaneously as a pair of opposite directions within a single action. This simultaneous harmony of opposite action is well described by the Taiji symbol (often called the Yin/yang).
One of the methods I use to help people visualize this process within the torso is to think of two cogs, one located in the lower abdomen (lower dantien) and one in the solar plexus area along the Sagital Plane.
These cogs are meshed so that action in the lower cog results in action in the upper cog. The lower cog is always the driver while the upper cog simply reacts to its action.
One of the initial focuses of Internal Arts training is to create a body that is connected and structured with healthy tissue. If you look at virtually any physical training methodology you will see the initial sections of their training devoted to alignment, strength, endurance and connection. Internal Power Training is no different, but the strength and endurance we are looking to build has a alternative quality.
Click here for more info
This site is designed to be an online learning environment and community for people with an interest in the internal arts and internal power training. Our aim is to help people around the world optimize their training practices through the dissemination of previously hidden information.
Sign up for our mailing list to get latest updates and offers.