Check out the latest info and research from Coach Chris' explorations in the Subject of Internal Power.
Low energy levels is a common issue we see in individuals inquiring into internal training. People may be systemically tired or feeling weak regardless of apparent physical exertion. Perhaps the most common (but least recognized in the individual) impact on a persons energy level can be tensions and misalignment causing inefficient body usage and excessive physical expenditure.
If we examine the actual load forces and mechanical effort that a given action takes for a relaxed and aligned person vs a tense and misaligned person we may see a multiple time increase in the forces required for the given action. This shouldn’t be too surprising to any mechanical engineers out there considering the ‘lever’ natural of many of our articulations.
For instance, for the healthy relaxed and aligned individual picking up something from a low bench is a relatively easy and simple task. They may squat down slightly, incline forward a little as the arms hang naturally, scapular well seated. Then as they grasp the object the legs, posterior chain, and forearms will tension and work in unison as the object is lifted. Everything is optimally aligned, muscle groups work in harmony and no one part of the body is carrying excessive load.
In contrast, someone with tension issues may have a very different expenditure, often without even realizing.
They may well squat slightly just as the healthy person, incline a little, but then the shoulder will front rotate, the thoracic spine will bow, the cervical spine kink, the scapula flair out, the Lumbar may tighten along with the buttocks and a series of isolated tensions may build. This postural skew will mean that the weight of the head is coming into play on the overall structure, the bodies core muscles start to fire to stabilize the posture as the load is grasped, individual muscle groups are now firing at high states of tension to counter the loss of whole body connection.
So the load is lifted i both instances but in the first the body works as a mechanically unified whole, and the second, well, it is often the case that the individual doesn’t realize the war that their body just went through in order to perform a simple task! And that war costs energy!
When you extrapolate that across many actions throughout each day it is not hard to see why poorly aligned or tense individuals suffer from 'low energy'. They are expending much more energy throughout the days normal tasks than the aligned and unified individual.
One of the aims of alignment training in the internal arts is to address this inefficient body usage in everyday tasks and correct over expenditure. Individuals often report an increase in daily energy after some time training and much of this increase can simply be laid at the feet of a higher level of unconscious body unification."
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.
When we think of the Internal Arts we often think of the slow motion practice or people standing in static postures but there is an interesting phenomena related to these practices. One which we see in combative exchange but is not immediately apparent in these fundamental training methods. This is the ability for some internal artists to move at blindingly fast speeds even though much of their training can be focused moving slowly.
How does static posture training or slow movement practice actually increase the speed of the practitioner? The two ideas seem to be at odds!
There are several factors at play here but first we can say that moving slowly or holding a static position makes us better able to recognize precisely how much effort is needed to perform a given action.
There is a physical law known as the Weber Fenscher Law which states:
’The higher the speed of a given movement, the less able we become to recognise the power required to perform it.’
Methods which utilize extension permeate the internal arts. The idea of extension is different to idea of ‘stretching’ however the two are often confused. When extension is used we actually lead entire chains of tissue out from the body in order to create an elastic like tautness, in stretching we are more focused on elongating a specific muscle or limited muscle group.
Extension plays several roles in internal work. Firstly it is a great way to identify what are often called, blockages or bindings in the body. We may extend our arms out to the side and notice an ache in the elbow or the upper back and this is indicative of the tissue in these areas 'resisting' the extension.
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