The Intern's Physical Fundamentals
De Vinci once made a model of the human form transcribed inside a circle. It showed how the man's legs rotated upward on the arch of this circle, and the arms spanned out to the diameter of this circle. No mater how this normal man's limbs were moved about, he always remained perfectly transcribed within that circle.
Of course, a real person can twist about and carry his spine all over the place, unlike De Vinci's two dimensional model, but the fact remains that the area of influence that the human body can physically exert on the world is very small and is fixed firmly within a circle that has as its center the middle of the lower back. (Awareness of this axis is often accentuated during practice with the help of a cross belt.) For an attacker, this is a limit that must be overcome if they desire to strike anything or anyone outside of this circle. To maintain a defense then, this limit must be fortified and held foremost in one's mind.
Ball shield technique is a simple visualization that is performed at the start of any sparring practice. The circle of influence, which is simply the term used to denote the potential reach of our, and our opponent's, limbs, is visualized with the help of the sign of the cross, which is traced over one's opponent with the left hand, and then immediately drawn in front of one's self with the right. This serves to delineate and center our efforts, loosens up our arms for the application of the Upper Cross (see the Seven Mercies below), and gives us a moment to actively visualize the true reach of our opponent. In our Conflict Arts practice, no movement is to be wasted on unnecessary fear or nervous fidgeting, so recognizing and controlling such relevant distance is very important.
Many styles require you to "stay busy," as to not allow your opponents the chance to easily gauge your distance for their strikes. However, until they are almost at an appropriate distance from which anyone could potentially initiate a successful strike, their ability to discern your distance is of no threat to you. Learn to begin your motion only when it is necessary, and to maintain your calm when it is not. Being aware of distances is the key to proper timing.
Also, it is much easier to talk when you don't have to run around and stir up a lot of useless energy. As you will soon learn, in any conflict your most powerful weapon is your voice.
The foundation of nearly every physical technique that you will learn in our school of striking begins from seven simple defensive movements. These techniques, called the Seven Mercies, consist of four different blocks with the arm, and three different blocks with the leg. Conflict Arts school of striking is essentially an art of counter techniques to be employed against the aggressive actions of an attacker. For this reason, these Seven Mercies are learned first, to provide one with a foundation of sound defense from which one's offense, as well as the higher levels of defense, will eventually be built.
There are four basic arm techniques for defense, known as the Upper Cross, which for beginners is made up of:
And there are three basic leg techniques for defense, called the Lower Cross, which beginners learn as:
Of course each student is encouraged to remember, above all other defenses, what we refer to as "the Greatest Mercy," Absence. One doesn't need to block what one isn't there to be hit by.
The standing meditation that is practiced in our school is designed to strengthen both the mind and the limbs while also building up one's mental and physical endurance. The stances are difficult at first, but in time they can be held more deeply and for longer periods of time. This is essential training to the development of a root which will both support the power that is directed through one's strikes and help one to remain standing and unharmed when attacked. Although simple in appearance, this is one of the most powerful forms of martial training, one that will yield many extremely surprising results to the diligent.
The Seven Stances are:
As a counter balance to standing meditation, our footwork is designed to facilitate the cardiovascular development of the intern, as well as make one sure footed and fast on one's feet. A variety of footwork drills are practiced, ranging from the quick and shallow movement one would associate with western boxing, as well as the deep and rooted movements that are found in Chinese gung fu. Both are essential for a well developed freedom of motion.
Once the student is familiar with the basic stances that are included within the following drills, these Seven Moving Stances can be learned.
The Seven Moving Stances are:
The Seven Shuffles are:
Our school encourages its students to take a systematic approach to physical development, allowing them to test and improve specific areas of their physical progress one area at a time. A standardized set of exercises are used to evaluate the many related dimensions that must be taken all together if one is to truly appreciate what being “fit” really means.
The Seven Measures of Physical Fitness are:
Power: Power is a more specific form of muscular strength, which is measured by the speed at which a muscle is able to generate a significant amount of force. This is often referred to as plyometric ability as well.
Endurance: Muscular strength can also be considered in terms of endurance. Endurance is the ability of a muscle to repeatedly perform a task involving the generation of force against resistance over an extended period of time. Generally, as one’s strength increases, so will muscular endurance. However, prolonged muscular activity directly depends on the fitness and efficiency of one’s cardiovascular system as well as strength of the muscle itself, since the efficient oxygenation of the blood is vital to the aerobic production of the sort of muscular fuel required for such extended muscular activity.
Agility: Agility is a measure of gross motor control, which is the coordination of the body as a whole. Although this ability draws heavily upon one’s power and endurance, it can perhaps be best understood as a sort of dynamic balance, permitting one to smoothly change directions, shift one’s center of gravity, and maintain good spatial awareness, all while in motion.
Dexterity: Dexterity is a measure of fine motor control, which is the coordination of isolated parts of the body. Although most often this is considered primarily in terms of manual dexterity alone, activities such as contact juggling, hacky-sac, and soccer each provide good examples of other ways in which this quality can be developed beyond one’s hands.
Flexibility: Flexibility is basically the range of motion for any particular joint, or series of joints, within the body. Desirable increases to one’s flexibility are achieved by gradually conditioning the muscles and the tendons around a particular joint, or, more specifically, those surrounding a given set of joints involved in a particular action, so as to increase the lengths to which they can extend without causing pain or injury.
Balance: Balance, like agility and flexibility, is a complex neuro-muscular skill that requires the consistent training and conditioning of not only the muscles involved but also the neurological structures that make human balance possible. These include the brain, the inner ear, and the eyes.