The MartialBody Blog

Articles on the MartialBody Method, Martial Arts & body method development.

Changing the effect of a force

Continuing the articles on handling forces in the martial arts, in this article I will talk about a method of changing forces that are applied to you. Specifically, a method of altering the effect that force can have on a structure. Here I will outline the first and most basic concept associated with the method I call ‘Pairing’.

Pairing is the utilization of a series of opposite actions simultaneously to create complex movement and is one of the founding concepts in the SpiralBody segment of the MartialBody system. It is a method that we can see throughout the Chinese internal arts and in some of the Japanese Aiki lines, and one that I have pressure tested in the competitive grappling environment and use constantly to overcome the superior strength of larger opponents.

Here we are going to talk about the first method of pairing, which I call ‘linear’ pairing, as it relates to changing forces that are applied to us. Although this is the first method, it is also quite difficult to achieve across the body, especially if we are not soft, stable and connected. As with all methods in MartialBody, SpiralBody is predicated on us already having some level of development in some of the founding attributes. Without that founding body development, the motions in pairing and Spiral work in general can result in tensions that the opponent may exploit.

Linear pairing is essentially a method of rotation of a span around a central ‘Pivot’ point. If you imagine a seesaw for instance, this would be an example of linear pairing. The span of the seesaw, the pivot, and the action of the two ends as force is applied closely resembles the actions we are talking about. The term pairing refers to two things that are intimately related to such a degree that they are actually a larger single thing. In this instance we are talking about the ends of the beam traveling in opposite directions due to the pivot, it is a pair of equal and opposite directions unified in a single motion. This type of motion is a rotation, the models for which can be seen across the martial Arts, most notably in the Taiji (Yin Yang).

The seesaw also highlights another important point about pairing. It is in a neutral balance until a force results in motion and an attempt by the system to return to equilibrium. In the example of linear pairing as it relates to body method, the force is generated by us, we produce an active side to the span (yang) and the opposite side reacts in an equal opposite way (yin) to equalise the input. All the while the pivot remains and is held as a point of rotation.

It gets trickier when this basic concept is applied across the whole body however. Initially we must understand the basic process of pairing on a single span to gain access to the concept. But later we will need to explore how pairing results in movement in our bodies, not just how it helps deal with esternal force. A subject for later articles.

The optimum line of input.

But how does linear pairing help us to deal with force? To understand this at its most basic level we need to understand how force is most commonly applied, and what our natural predisposition is when we try to apply force to something. Initially when a force is applied to a surface the application of the force will be most successful and maximised when the surface is at, or close to, 90 degrees to the direction of the force. Imagine breaking a board for instance, the application of force to the board in order to break it is most effective at a 90 degree angle to its surface.

This is true of most applications of force, be them a push, a punch or the pressure through a grip or control. As humans, and often through training, we naturally aim to find this line of maximum effect and the seeking of this optimum path through will create arcs, angular changes, and directions. I am certainly not saying that the motions seeking the optimum angle for penetration are linear, they are often an arc of some type. However, the naturally sought application of force remains as close to the 90 degree angle as possible.

Through training, of course, we can begin to change this predisposition, but if you get a completely untrained person to push on your chest they will naturally form up towards the 90 degree line so that they can push with maximum effect. In fact, when under the pressure of a fight, even the trained individual may subconsciously seek this 90 degree line of effect in their methods. This is not a certainty though, and many systems will train the individual out of this natural instinct so we will need a more advanced concept to deal with these interactions, that is where ‘circle’ and ‘spiral’ pairing comes in. More on those in future articles but for now we can look at how Linear pairing has an interesting effect on forces applied along this optimum line.

Reducing the effect of force

So how do we diminish this strong line of force? Well the greater the change of angle away from 90 the less effect the force has on the structure it is being applied too. Imagine for instance the board breaker, at 90 degrees the board breaks, but what if they strike it at 45/135 degrees? They may struggle and will have to put much more effort into the break. This is a very good example of how angular change at the point of contact can drastically affect the effective application of force.

So the answer is relatively simple, we rotate the contact point by moving distal points on the surface away from each other. This, in turn, has the effect of changing the angle of the surface under the contact point reducing the effective application of the force at the contact point. Theoretically, if we extend this completely the power can be entirely diminished when the direction of the surface and the force applied become perpendicular.

Angle change can be seen throughout the martial arts and is a staple of methods of avoidance and defence. Simply watch defensive masters in boxing or grappling arts and you will note them using angle changes to reduce the effectiveness of the opponent’s methods.

The big difference here is that the angle change in linear pairing is at the contact point, at the fulcrum if you will. The effect of this change, especially in grappling, is quite interesting. As someone aims for a control and tries to gain access to your mass to control your motion and set up their methods, they will be forming a connection along the effective line. If we perform linear pairing on the opponent contacts, the angles change, and they will, often subconsciously seek that optimum line by adjusting their angle to compensate for the change at the contact point.

This compensation normally manifests in a simple and small shift in the persons centre or a small shuffle on their part. But it can be seen in some arts with an extreme and exaggerated reaction in the partner where they jump around and fall over with seemingly very little reason. Take it from me, this is not how trained fighters react however, and the ‘little wins’ that Linear pairing produce are more than enough to exploit during the free sparring exchange.

In striking, the concept of rotation at the point of contact can break through a person’s defences in an extremely effective and subtle way. You can reach out and cross a person’s defences without them recognising the angle change occurring until it is too later. A useful, and subtle technique.

Defensively against strikes, Pairing can be very effective as well, although no substitute for not being there in the first place! At a recent seminar at a Muay Thai School I was demonstrating some pairing concepts for low round kick defence that minimised the effect of this (still extremely powerful) technique.

This is a very brief introduction to a fascinating, useful, and powerful concept. It is one of the founding movement dynamics of the SpiralBody and is well worth some exploration and study.


Remembering that pairing is most effective with a heavy, stable and connected body, why not sign up to a MartialBody Foundations course to train some of the basics. Join MartialBody Foundations here.


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