In this article we will be exploring a phenomena that naturally arises when interacting with someone who has highly developed body skill. This is the feeling that your own efforts are returned to you, or that when trying to apply effort in a specific direction it makes another area tighter or closer. The experience is one that can be frustrating, disconcerting and exhausting to be on the receiving end of.
Here we introduce a few of the reasons for this strange sensation to lay a brief groundwork for exploration more thoroughly in upcoming articles.
Whole Body unity
The unity of the body causes the first effect that is immediately apparent to a partner or opponent. It is the result of consolidated effort through the precise connection of the body and produces an unusual feeling of ‘strength’. The outcome being that the opponent feels they need to use far more force for a given action than they would usually have too.
When the body is disjointed in its action it is easy for the opponent to move an arm, to lift a shoulder or to disrupt the spine. The effect of whole-body power, or more precisely whole-body unity, is that these manipulations become much, much harder. The push never just pushes the area of the body that it is targeting, to move the shoulder, you must move everything connected too it. This greatly magnifies the amount of mass you need to move and the amount of effort to do so. It is the difference between moving a 10lbs shoulder and a 180lb person!
This body unity is developed through the focused training of the ConnectedBody but also related closely to the StableBody attribute where the maintenance of alignment optimises the effect of the connected body. The feeling for the opponent is one of ‘strength’ manifested in an ability to resist distortion. This feeling can be disconcerting because the opponent’s strength does not amount to what is expected. They feel like they are somehow ‘weaker’ because the effect of their effort is lessened.
Once again, the attempt to move the shoulder out of alignment from the hip is immediately picked up by the trained body and the habit of holding them in harmony with each other is maintained. Now the opponent must try to move our shoulder, but also move our hip as they are in harmony! Not an easy task. If the opponent is relying on muscular strength, they are limited by what they can bench press, lift or curl and against the whole body, all but the biggest of individuals will be on the back foot.
Linked to the attribute of body connection is something I call reflection. This is the phenomena of the pusher, pushing themselves away from an object rather than pushing the object away. For instance, if your shove a wall with a large amount of force you will push yourself away from it, your own effort has been reflected by the superior structure of the wall.
Similarly, the highly training body can have this effect on the partner. Highly trained alignment, connection and of positional security will create the sensation of immovability and as such, we become the ‘wall’ against which the opponents force is reflected.
Some practitioners focus fully on this concept of being Immovable and reflecting forces that touch them. This is usually combined with some type of rotation like a stone ball spinning which obviously can create quite dramatic responses. Now, obviously, it is very rare that our opponent will bluntly push us in a real encounter, and there will be occasion where being stable as a mountain will be a distinct disadvantage … with a boxer jabbing us in the face for instance.
However, as a ‘quality’ this effect arises naturally when someone interacts with us in a number of specific instances. In the clinching or grappling environment for instance, you will feel unusually solid to the partner or opponent. This is of great advantage when we add rotation and movement.
Importantly, at its most basic level this effect is the result of superior structure and internal alignments rather than the ability to resist. Resistance is the creation of a directional force to resist incoming forces and although the mountain may provide resistance to the push, it does have to counteract with a directional force. The danger in resistance using direction is that we are then prone to the actions of the partner, like a matador they can simply remove their force and we will topple over.
Instead, the effect of reflection is a facet of the superior structure of the trained body. When the internal alignments and structures are superior the ability to reflect incoming force skews in favour of that superior body development. When this is present it doesn’t particularly matter how big or strong the partner is, they will still feel like their application of force comes right back into them. One of the ways this is useful is in the effect of ‘lightness’ that it can produce in the opponent, a lightness that can then make people much easier to throw, take down, or be struck.
The Balanced scale
Here is where things get interesting. The Body method that is causing increased effort for minimal gain in our partners can then begin to change the angle of an incoming force such that its effect is diminished and returned (often back to them). The easiest way that I can describe this effect is with a highly simplified and crude example, the example of the ‘see-saw’.
When force is applied to one end of the see-saw, as that side drops, it is immediately returned on the opposite side. If there is a weight on the other side the fall may be slower, if there is a bigger weight on the other side it may not fall at all, and if there is no weight on the other side it will be directly proportional to the incoming weight.
To move this to the human model, as force is applied to shoulder for instance in a standing encounter, the effect of the well trained MartialBody is that is it returned through the opposite side with no resistance. The less well trained the body, the more ‘resistance’ and the less able to return the force it is. Think of the untrained body like the weighted seesaw, the return will be slower, or may not happen at all if the weight on the other side is too great. In the example of the shoulder push the effect of the push is absorbed by the tensions and ‘strength’ present in the body, the more strength, the less return. This is, again a very crude example of a highly complex idea, but hopefully explains the concept.
When someone is trained well, and isn’t trying to be ‘strong’ or resist in the classic sense the partner would feel like every effort to apply forces to you is returned to them in kind or, when the ElasticBody is use, with a little bit extra pop as incoming forces cause an elastic snap back towards them.
The progression of the balance idea is to move from the linear to the circular and then finally into the realm of the spiral. Perhaps the most advanced and difficult of body methods to produce, the spiral body can have the effect of returning force at a distal point, apparently not linked to the input point. Although the point of return may seem unrelated it will actually be some point on the trajectory of the spiral created inside our body.
A point which, as more effort is placed at the contact point will feed increasing power back at the partner. This often has the effect of ‘locking’ the partner to the spot as the spiral drives into their structure, motivated by their own forces. This is something that I Love to use in grappling environments and a constant source of frustration for my training partners!
An analogy I can use for this effect is the feeling of ‘hugging’ one part of huge corkscrew. As the corkscrew rotates another part further down the screw will be pressing into you, while we are drawn around in winding motions. This effect can be active, where the exponent actively creates this screwing effect, or it can be passive where the force present at the distal point is directly proportional to the amount of effort applied by the opponent. It is extremely disconcerting to be on the end of this sort of method and although we are talking of large spirals so far, as that spiral condenses and becomes tighter, the effect of the spiral drive becomes ever more painful, shocking and penetrative.
Sharp & deep force.
With all these body methods in place and the sorts of effects that I have discussed so far it could be thought that the only times these effects are experienced by the partner is in longer duration of contact. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Indeed, one of the most shocking effects of the well-trained body is the power felt in striking, checking and blocking. I recall very distinctly first experiencing my Xing Yi teacher touching my arm from a few inches away and thinking he had broken my arm! It was shocking, immediate and took the fight out of me completely. Later I was able to replicate this effect and, when training with a student, hit their arm in much the same way. The student had to stop training to vomit and went white as a sheet! This effect was caused by the body thinking the arm had been broken, and the common nausea resulting.
These short strikes are not some mystical expression of something spooky, instead there are the result of determined and precise application of the body, their arm just happened to be in the way. When interacting with the well-trained body, their ‘touches’, be that in blocking, short striking or checking a limb are all painful in a way that doesn’t seem to match the movement. The touches are sharp and cut deep into the surface, with excruciating results.
Taking a ride
With the MartialBody firing its attributes, our directional movement can become extremely powerful. As one makes a directional motion with the entire body, expressing all the effects that we have talked about so far, the opponent will often become somewhat disturbed by the forces coming back at them.
The final effect that then appears is that the opponent will feel they have become connected to us or slave to our motions. I call this ‘taking a ride’ as the effect is very much like you are taking hold of something you are unable to stop and thus are taken along with the movement. A good example for this would be to imagine a spinning wheel connected to a strong motor. If you were to grab hold of that wheel you would be dragged along its direction of spin.
In practical application the ride can be over a very small distance and is often part of a larger strategical approach. It may be that as we strike someone and they check, their contact with our directional forces and well-trained body off balances them, which makes them vulnerable to our counterattack. Or that, inside of a clinch, they are stuck to us, riding our movement which we then use to set up take downs, throws or counter strikes.
Again, this effect can appear quite strange to the observer. It seems that the attacks of the opponent amount to nothing but disturbing their own security. But they are the result of the well training body and nothing more.
Here we have looked at a few of the effects felt by partners or opponents when interacting with the trained body. But it is extremely important to frame this article properly. Absolutely none of these effects can be produced with out a long term and correctly formulated focus on solo training for body method development. There are several experts in this field that have systems for creating such a MartialBody, Not least my own approach. But what matters is this body development focus. It is only when you have developed sufficient body method that all of these effects will appear all by themselves, without thought nor conscious effort.
To learn methods for developing the MartialBody you can begin with the highly popular ‘MartialBody Primer’ beginner program found here.