Check out the latest info and research from Coach Chris' explorations in the Subject of Internal Power.
Proprioception is the ability to sense position, motion, and equilibrium. It is how, if blindfolded, we are still able to touch our finger to our nose and know where our limbs are in relation to our body.
The better our proprioception, the more accurate, responsive and fluid we will be when undertaking complex movement patterns.
Patterns like Chen Tai Chi's Silk Reeling, Yang Cloud hands or Ba Gua's Dragon serve teacups are demanding movements and our ability to perform them can rest on our Kinesthetic and proprioceptive capacity.
This sense is widely believed (although still an ongoing area of study) to arise from a network of receptor nerves (proprioceptors) located in the muscle, fascia and joints. Some would say that it is entirely rooted in the 'Neuromyofascial web (Ingber, Myers 1998).
Largely an unconscious or subconscious process unlike the very closely related Kinesthetic Awareness, Proprioception is something we all do without trying. With that said some have a greater capability than others. So the essential question is, how do we train this subconscious ability?
Well, firstly we have to move, and move in deliberately complex ways! This is where arts like Chinese Ba gua and its circle walking will produce dramatic results. But any movement from any art that requires the exponent to change directions, jump, walk or move in complex ways will yield results.
Secondly, we need to directly train our Neuromyofascial web. Methods like winding, pulling, reeling etc will enhance fascial elasticity and this can have a direct knock on effect on our sensory capability.
From an internal power point of view, this is certainly not studied in depth, but it is fair to say that internal arts adepts, yogi's and body workers will often have a very high level of awareness, movement capacity and equilibrium. The hallmarks of strong proprioception.
This area is worth some research, especially for those who struggle to pick up new movements or methods quickly.
As we have discussed previously the body is a web of connective tissues. The symmetry and health of these tissues can dictate our postural balance, our skeletal alignment, our movement capacity and the health of our organs.
If we imagine a pristine spiders web, the structure is usually uniform, equal and perfectly balanced between its anchor points. This is how our fascia network should naturally be, in balance and without defect.
In the internal arts there is a method for identifying the relationship and the role of our major body joints known as the '3 external harmonies' or sometime the '6 harmonies' depending upon the tradition. These are the Wrists to the Ankles, The Knees to the Elbows and the Shoulders to the Hips.
There are several idea's linked to this association. But two of the major ones explain how the joints align with each other and then their related role within the body.
In terms of alignment, operating outside of our natural joint position or range of motion is a very common cause of joint problems and postural misalignment. People used to leaning on one leg when they stand still will develop problems in one hip and a lopsided gate. Having an acute sense of the position of our major joints in relation to their counterpart will help us to recognize these very clear problems and adjust our posture accordingly.
But we can go slightly further with this awareness and talk about the actual Role of the joints themselves.
So first we say that the Shoulders and hips are 'Mobility' joints. They control the overall mobility of the limb. If you want to touch something in front of you, it doesn't matter how much you can move the elbow and wrist if the shoulder is locked in the down position.
As Bipeds we have extremely refined balance and proprioception systems keeping us upright. Most of the correction and balance maintenance systems work without conscious thought, they simple activate as and when they are required. This is, of course, how it should be! If our conscious mind was occupied with firing muscles to remain standing all the time we would have very little else we could achieve.
With that said, we can improve our ground connection by Increasing the sensitivity of our balance maintenance systems. The ankle and associated tissues are central to this work.
The ankle is what i describe as a control joint. It controls balance and weight distribution by articulating in association with weight shifts using the various muscles, tendons and tissues of the lower leg.
"Kangaroos can jump much farther than can be explained by the force of the contraction of their leg muscles. Under closer scrutiny, scientists discovered that a spring-like action is behind the unique ability: the so-called ‘catapult mechanism’ ( Kram and Dawson, 1998 ). Here, the tendons and the fascia of the legs are tensioned like elastic rubber bands. The release of this stored energy is what makes the amazing jumps possible.
Surprisingly, it has been found that the fasciae of humans have a similar kinetic storage capacity to that of kangaroos and gazelles ( Sawicki et al., 2009 ). This is not only made use of when we jump or run but also with simple walking, as a significant part of the energy of the movement comes from the same springiness described above. This new discovery has led to an active revision of long-accepted principles in the field of movement science.”
In this article I am going to introduce one of the first ideas found in the internal arts relating to the use of the legs. The method we will discuss here has a number of unique advantages, from the co-ordination of multiple muscle groups to the use of the earth in relation to the center. However, more importantly, it means that we maintain legs that are active, rather than simply relegating them to posts that we balance our weight on! The methods in this article are the absolutely basic first step to present the ideas, we will cover more details in future articles.
Intent (as we mean it in this training) is the link between the minds thought to act and the bodies resulting action. Although ever present, there are several ways we can train this link to make it stronger, faster and more direct.
One way is the exercise of - ’move before you move’. When standing in a specific position we can REALLY try to reach into the distance with our posture. That is to say our mind is telling our body that we are really going to begin moving that direction at any second.
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