An important focus for the martial artist or combat sports athlete is to create a body that minimizes power loss and maintains a certain type of consolidated strength. If you look at virtually any physical training methodology, you will see the initial sections of their training devoted to the fundamentals of alignment, basic strength and how to unify the body. In the MartialBody system we place a large emphasis on harmonizing the body and much of this attribute is due to 'Connection'.
Connection training, as we mean it here, is the process of developing the major body lines so as to consolidate the body. This process revolves around exercises that remove segmentation by working on entire chains of muscle and connective tissues in single motions. Much like the major Olympic lifts in strength training, the process of creating the ConnectedBody never uses a single joint articulation, isolated from the rest of the body.
Firstly, at the fundamental level, we must understand that connection is all about developing the connective and skeletal muscle tissues of the body. These tissues span every bone, cross every joint and wrap and protect the organs and it is this complete web of tissue that we aim to work on directly with focused and targeted training methodologies.
When we develop these tissues in order to create connection, we need a simplified model in order to make the training suitably targeted. Obviously, the entire network of connective tissues and muscles are almost impossible for our mind to focus on at once, so instead we break the body down into the major directions of movement expression, up to down, left to right, opened to close etc. As such, the methods that we employ to develop the tissues are focused on the ability to maximise development along a set group of 'lines'.
The major body lines and the planes of motion through which the body moves have been identified for centuries, but the easiest way to witness them is look at the commonalities in how our body moves during various demands. For instance, look at how a person performs a tennis serve or how they bowl a cricket ball, and note the similarity.
Thomas Myers book ‘Anatomy Trains’ is a seminal work on these lines of tissue. In it, he outlines what they lines are, what muscle groups are involved and how they are used. I would recommend this excellent work to anyone truly interested in a deeper exploration of the anatomy of these lines. Here my aim is simply to bring these major lines to your attention in order to help re-enforce and quantify some of the movement and developmental methods in the ConnectedBody section of the MartialBody system.
Separation & the importance of zooming in.
But first, I would just like to briefly comment on separation as it relates to body methods. It is easy for us to break the body down into its component parts to examine them in more detail and maximize their individual development. Indeed, many people will focus their time of separate parts of the body during certain types of Body building or strength training.
But it is important that we remember that these individual lines are never, at any stage, separated from the whole. The entire body, mind and breath are all ‘one thing’ and will always be one thing, so we should practice with the understanding that ‘one thing’ is the ultimate goal. Here is where the good coach or teacher becomes invaluable.
I mention this here, because we are about to ‘slice up’ the body into several specific muscle/tissue groups and it would be easy for the reader to think that these only matter in isolation. However they are part of an all-encompassing network of connections permeating the body. Much like a football, made of numerous bits of leather, but none are independent or separate from the other when the ball is used. The gaps between these lines are a wide-ranging network of minor body lines, webs and networks that are just as vital to the healthy human as the major ones described here.
The Axis is often thought to be the ‘centre line’ of the human body, and although his concept is useful for some training methods, the Axis is better described as the deep front line, superficial front line and the back lines of the body. These chains of tissue in the body are made up of muscles and fascia that link the top and base of the head to the lower torso and pelvis.
The axis is often also mistakenly thought to be the spine, and although relevant, especially to the position of the torso, this doesn't take into consideration the entirety of the tissues concerned. The axis is responsible for causing bowing in the sagittal and coronal planes, as well as creating waves and spirals. It is one of the first lines to work with in order to correctly align the torso for further postural development and to prepare to develop the springy body found in the ElasticBody module.
The bodies inner support structure
The laying down of thicker and stronger tissue on the inside of the legs is a core component of stability and base for the martial artist. The classical postures that develop these tissues are often called the ‘horse’ or ‘horse riding’ stances. We aim to develop these tissues to the point where the practitioner is naturally utilizing them in every standing posture or movement.
They are also highly useful in the 'Guard' work used by the Brazilian JiuJitsu athlete. When done a certain way the practitioner will effectively ‘sit’ on the inside lines of the legs like the arch of a bridge and develop excellent ‘rooting’ and base capabilities. This is the ‘crotch arch’ and is normally the second line of focus in training.
The pillars of the body.
Almost all Traditional Martial Arts forms start in a similar manner; the arms start by the practitioner’s sides, the posture is neutral, then the arms are raised. As the arms rise the side lines are revealed and engaged and the support pillars of the body are utilized. The side lines can be likened to the support pillars of a suspension bridge. They are bands of tissue running from the arm pit to the outer ridge of the foot.
They are extremely important in their role for overall body stability, alignment and in controlling lateral loss at the level of the pelvis. These lines also help to fuel twisting and rebound forces and can generate massive elastic forces for striking or throwing.
UPPER BODY BRIDGES
The arm bridges are the links between the hands through to the back and front of the body. They are responsible for the articulation of the arms and also how we project and receive force from the body.
Targeted training of the upper body bridges aims to unify all of the muscles of the chest and upper back with those of the arms so that there is no breaks or gaps in power as it is expressed . Upper bridge development often transforms the Athletes striking abilities as more mass is brought to bear in each strike.
SPIRAL OR CROSS BODY LINES
Like our DNA forming a spiralling helix, one of the major body lines used in movement is also a spiral. We can think of this line as a strap that runs around the body keeping it stable and connecting both halves together.
Much like a corset or body wrap this line development equalises the body. This line helps to create and manage forces that cross from one side of the body to the other without loosing stability or balance. This is perhaps the strongest link through the body as it feeds directly though the tissue nexus of the lower abdomen, often called the centre.
In upcoming posts we will be exploring each of these lines in more detail and looking at some of the research being carried our on how their development can improve functional strength and power.
Thomas Myers - Anatomy trains : Myofascial Meridians - Click here
Study on connectivity via Myofascia meridians in the Lateral Myofascial Chain.