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Check out the latest info and research from Coach Chris' explorations in the Subject of Internal Power.
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.’
So if I were to slowly raise my hand I would be acutely aware of the amount of effort it takes for me to lift it. If I were to lift it as fast as possible, the movement of mass would mean that I would be unable to accurately perceive the amount of energy it had taken me to move the limb. This law explains how our sensitivity to a given effort decreases as we move faster and faster.
The upshot of this idea is that slowing the movements down to a snail’s pace allows us to recognize how much effort is actually required for the given action and also precisely which tissues we utilize to do so. It allows us to really dig into the mechanics of an action and optimize it. This translates into a faster speed when needed because we able to move with extreme efficiency, utilizing the correct chains of tissue in the correct way, with no un-necessary supplemental tension.
Understanding what is required during a given motion also means that we recognize when selected muscle groups may be working in opposition to the required action. For instance when raising the arm we may be tensing the trapezius muscle too much, thus actually applying the brakes to our motion and disconnecting from the coordinated ideal.
This problem of inefficient motion is actually very common if practitioner never slows down and digs into the detail. I have personally increased the speed of several Sport fighters by getting them to slow down to a snail’s pace. The difference between the start and end of the session was dramatic.
Secondly, the slow or static training allows us to condition the body in a specific way. We are able to release all unwanted muscular tension while at the same time connecting the body together via tensioning of the fascia. Often the adept will use extension and winding to achieve this state of relaxed muscles but taut fascia. This translates into speed in a couple of interesting ways.
Firstly, the relaxed musculature means that there are no ‘brakes’ (as I like to call them) applied during the action. If we imagine a connected body with one tense muscle in a key part of the chain, what will happen when we express force along that chain? The tense muscle will ‘trap’ the force, inhibiting the motion as it is made. This tension is like a brake, slowing down our movement and lessening the total force expressed. Again this is something I have helps sport fighters to recognize and their striking speed and power has increased significantly.
Secondly, the tensioning of the fascia means that even small motion elsewhere in the body, the Dan Tien for instance, will transmit to the extremity almost instantaneously. Of course this takes a lot of training to really achieve. But once you are connected together through this network the results can be dramatic. We see some practitioners able to emit rapid full body power in apparently tiny distances. This is because rapid motion in one part of the body will travel through the ‘suit’ of connective tissue to the striking surface at blinding speed.
In some traditions there is a model used for ground contact sensitivity call the 9 points of the feet. This model is very useful for grounding or root training and forms part of the method to increase our Stability. Stability is a fundamental quality for the internal artists, even when stepping and moving very quickly. This is a model we find in systems where students may be required to perform static single leg standing postures or where rooting is a large factor in the styles outlook.
In it we identify the 9 major contact points of the foot and bring our awareness into these areas so as to acutely recognise weight distribution.
In the last few articles we have looked at ‘Intent’ and its physiology as it relates to the internal arts, so in this article I will provide a couple of practical ways in which we can practice following the line of our intent to improve our movement.
There is a saying in the internal arts that one ‘follows the line of intent’, this is the process of moving in accordance with our will to act using the Intent as the link between the mind and the motion. But there is more to this concept than simply following how we would like to move.
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.
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.
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