Check out the latest info and research from Coach Chris' explorations in the Subject of Internal Power.
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.
In the diagram you can see how rotation in the lower cog causes action in the upper cog and the action of these two rotations creates paired opposite action on the front and back.
For instance as the lower cog rotates forwards and down the action in the upper cog is backwards and up, thus opening the front. Simultaneously as this happens the back closes as the rear of the lower cog goes up, and the rear of the upper cog goes down.
Clearly we don't actually have 'cogs' in our Body, they are simply an analogy to describe the process of concurrent action and open and close. There is a complex network of muscles and tissues that we use in synchronicity to open the front while simultaneously the back closes or visa versa.
This action is extremely small in scale but very interesting when we apply it to partner work.
Next time you try a solo exercise related to Sagital open and close, why not give this idea of two cogs a try. For some people its a really useful method.
The stable base of the torso.
It is often said the big driver for Internal Power is the 'lower dan tien' or the area of the lower torso. Indeed we see this area being of special interest in almost all internal arts. But what is one of the first requirements for using or training this area? A stable frame or base for the torso. For us to really start to use this area we need to create a stable frame for the lower abdomen to work within and against. A loose frame is very much like trying to leap off a spongy surface, any power you generate is absorbed by the 'slack'.
We can use the concept of the triangle to help us create this stable base. The triangle is formed between the coccyx and the hip joints. This idea of a triangle allows us to monitor sagital,Coronal and Transverse movement or positioning much more easily.
Having the stable base is much like having a good frame for a sub woofer speaker. If the frame is not secure then the loudness and quality of the sound will be low. If the frame is stable then the sound will be clear. In the same way, if the pelvis is stable we can utilize the various pressures and rotations of the center without loss. If loose, then the pelvis will absorb/counter much of our efforts.
When we watch top level Internal Adepts, one of the first things we see if how stable their pelvis is in relation to their movement. When moving through forms, interacting with the partner or sparring, why not try the simple exercise of putting your mind onto this triangle of stability (hips and coccyx) and see how it effects the quality of your movement.
Note: there are a few posts related to the methods related to a stable pelvis further down the page. eg. 'crotch arch' kwa, softening etc.
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.
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 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.
Grab hold of any high-level Judo-Ka and try to drag them around the mat and you notice one clear attribute, stability. In the grappling arts especially, the skill of stability is a core component of the training methods and one of the main attributes that is built.
Stability can be thought of as our ability to maintain control of our posture, position, motion, and mass, either when we move ourselves or when we move in association with a partner or opponent.
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.
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.
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