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.
'Softening training' is something we encounter a lot in the internal arts, indeed these arts are sometimes called ‘soft arts’. But what is the practical utility of softening practices and why do we need to perform them?
Well there are 4 big reasons for using soft work for internal power development. These are related to the joints, the alignments, the fascia and the nervous system.
Lets Look at these primary problem areas that many softening exercises address.
When we practice the internal arts for some time, as evidenced by the recovery of my own knees after a long period of patella tendinitis, we begin to feel that the joints are able to articulate more smoothly. Sticking, stiff and sore joints will start to be released and generally we feel much more like a 'well oiled' machine.
So far we have talked about various parts of the body and the associated tissue chains in isolation. But it is important to remember that these lines, chains, alignments and tissues all constitute a single interconnected and inseparable unit.
The quote from the Tai chi classics i recently posted really speaks to the idea of integration.
“stand like a perfectly balanced scale” this is to say that you have equal and balanced body, front to back, left to right, up to down.
“move like a turning wheel” a wheel moves as one, there is no part left behind and no part disassociated from the rest.
'Winding' is an interesting subject. It may mean many things to many people, but I define it as a means to wrap the fascia, muscles and relevant tissues into tight spirals around the bones and body structures. If we imagine the construction of a rope, strands wrapping around each other, you will get the idea.
As we perform Winding the tissues actually 'squeeze' the bones and body alignments. With this in mind it is obvious why the very first phase of internal power training is often to correct alignment issues or postural problems. Pull or Wind on a misaligned frame and you will most definitely have problems!
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.
(El-Labban et al.,1993)
Winding is a method by which we put a pressure on the body tissues via specialised stretching and rotation that will result in quantifiable change. Placing the right demand on the tissue is extremely important as our body begins to adapt.
"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.”
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