In this article we will explore an aspect of structure and rotation that I call 'Keeping the centre point'. This is an important concept that is required if we are to avoid opposing force directly, and as in the recent article on pairing (found here) it is also required for effective ‘rotation’. Here we will be exploring the importance of the centre point and how maintaining that point is vital when looking at directions and rotation.
I call this idea ‘keeping the centre point’ but it is a principle found across many styles of martial art. Indeed, some regard the centre point as the classical ‘centre’ known as the Dan Tien or Tanden. In the martial arts, the centre is a common term that can have a variety of definitions depending on the context in which it is being discussed. For this article we mean the centre point around which things move, we are looking at a location, rather than the various other meanings (Which we will explore in future posts).
So,in previous articles I have outlined how a pair of actions around a static common point can change the influence of an incoming force. Here we are going to explore how establishing that common point is the vital first step in utilizing paired actions and how, without it our action can become defuse.
The natural reaction of the centre.
In This article I talked about how we naturally form up behind force to resist it. As some of you have likely already felt, it is not only our structure and musculature that braces against a force but also our centre of mass. In fact our centre point also migrates towards the force as a part of this shift in weight. This can be thought of as us naturally attempting to use more of our mass in the direction of the push and therefore adjusting our centre of gravity.
There is a very easy way to feel this. Simply place your fist on your partners belly and gradually push with increasing pressure. When we push on the centre of mass and the partner has not trained the concept of non-resistance, they respond by moving towards the push, meeting it. If the push is removed quickly the partner will often pop forward momentarily losing balance. This is partially due to the centre migrating towards the direction of force, when the force is removed there is a rapid re-adjustment as the centre returns to its normal position, and our pushing forces are released. When this happens the partner is thrown off balance.
However, If the centre point doesn’t move towards force, it stays in the centre and remains unmoving, when the push is removed the loss of balance associated with the removal of push will not occur. This of course is quite a difficult task as we have to undo some of our natural habits, however, with training it is absolutely possible to achieve and even utilise in the heat of sparring or a fight.
The Importance of the unmoving point.
The centre, by definition, is something around which something else is present. So how does having a static centre point help the Martial Artists? If the centre is defined in relation to that which rotates around it we will not be biased in any one direction. An unmoving centre point will help us towards this neutrality where all 6 directions are even and in balance. Having a defined centre will also help to removing slack during rotation and towards direct and accurate action at the surface. Rotation is very effective way to change the line, lead force and return it, but without a centre to rotate around, things will be defuse and slack.
Perhaps, the easiest model to help see this is to look at the centre as a dot at the middle of a circle. This classical image can be seen in a wide variety of traditional arts and is a symbol that permeates many ancient cultures. The centre of the circle is an excellent representation of the ‘unmoving point’.
Firstly, to demonstrate how a ‘loose’ centre point can make rotation defuse, imagine that the rim of a wheel is fixed in place by elastics instead of spokes. If you were to rotate, push or pull on the outside edge of the wheel the Centre point would appear to wobble and move around as the elastics stretch and absorb the forces applied. In relation to the rim of the wheel the centre point will be migrating all over the interior of the circle. As a result, the rotation will be soft and indirect and rotation will be less effective as the elastics absorb some of the rotation we produce.
Now think of the centre point as being connected to the rim by solid spokes so that any action at the centre is transmitted immediately. The rotation is direct and applied at the point of contact with no ‘absorption’ or softness present. This wheel will work far more efficiently than the wheel spanned with elastics and actions taking place at the rim willbe supported by the opposite side, meaning that a direct rotation can occure and affect the point of contact immediately.
In this model the smallest motion at the location of the centre point is immediately transmitted to the edge of the circle. So perhaps the first and most important point when considering a centre point is that it must be still in relation that which is around it. It is the neutral point that is neither advancing or retreating, nor rising or falling in relation to the rotations or actions. The creation of motion around the centre point should not affect its position, neither should the action of external forces acting upon that which is located around it. It simply remains at the centre, the point around which everything moves.
Of course, this leads to another important point to consider. This is that the centre point should be located … at the centre! A strange thing to say, but consider a Cam for a moment, the action is uneven because of the offset centre of rotation. For this article that is not the desired centre of rotation.
Of course, we are 3 dimensional beings and as such we can start to create a better map of the myriad ways we can ‘rotate’ by extending the circle into the 3rd dimension to create a sphere. This is still a very crude analogy of the human body but is a start. Considering the sphere and imagining it rotating in all planes and direction we can see that, no matter how it rotates, the centre is kept. It is a constant in relation to the ball and its rotation, even if the ball is rolling along the floor.
But even so, this model is also flawed, after all we are not balls or wheels in a much more important way. We are consciously in control of our bodies and as such we can actively move around a centre point and do not need to remain passive to the forces applied to us. In the above analogy much like a motor can rotate a car wheel we can rotate whatever surrounds the centre point actively. When we add this component the rotation no longer acts passively in response to force but can actively be turning as or before the force comes into contact, leading it around, returning it and dissipating it. This motor for rotation around the centre point it our mind linked to our bodies via our intent, but that subject is for another time.
A body full of centres points
Finally, it is important to understand that although the most well-known centre in the martial arts is in the lower abdomen, this is not the only point of rotation that we can establish. There are, of course, a number of other classical well known centres, the heart centre in the chest often used in some Russian styles, the centre in between the eyes and so forth. But we can go even further than this, and state that the body is full of centre points. After all, the centre as we mean it in this article is the static point around which things move. With this view in mind, ‘centre points’ can be created and utilised all over the body. One classical example of this in use is Chinese Ba Gua where the practitioner may use a centre point of rotation that migrates from the hand to the elbow to the shoulder as theil coil in on themselves. In fact, part of Ba Gua’s unique ability to ‘disappear like a ghost’ can be found in the styles ‘changing centres’ and if you have ever crossed hands with someone good at this skill, you will find it is extremely disconcerting!
In conclusion, hopefully I have outlined the utility and importance of ‘keeping the centre’ and how it can be vital to the pairing actions I mentioned in previous articles. This is something you can immediately put into your own practices and explore the results. When this skill is working well it can be quite an amazing tool for the martial artist.