In this post, I will outline the basic concepts that underpin the MartialBody approach and why it is laid out in the manner in which it is. For those who know my background the perception could be that MartialBody is a repackaging of the ‘internal arts’ which I had studied for many years, and while this is partially true, it is certainly not the complete, or even majority, of the story. Indeed, MartialBody, far from being a rehash of systems that I have trained previously, is an approach specifically and painstakingly developed with the sole goal of creating real and lasting changes to how martial artists from any style feel to their partners or opponents, and how their body remains strong, healthy and able to perform as they age.
Whenever I have interacted with high level adepts, and by this, I mean the elite of the elite in their given field, the first thing that I was struck by was their seemingly disproportional capability. This could be disproportional strength, swiftness, timing, power, or any number of other attributes that appear to belie their appearance. This discrepancy of how an adept looks, vs how they feel, is at the heart of the research behind MartialBody. Why does someone who looks very small feel so heavy? Why does someone who looks large and cumbersome move with such agility and swiftness? Why does someone who looks deconditioned and thin hit with such massive power? Why do some fighters have heavy hands and others don’t? MartialBody is the quest for the answers, and the process of turning those answers into viable training methods.
The identification of the attributes found in Elite Martial Artists came after spending many hours a day for many years on developing my skill in various 'body focused' Martial arts. When I began to feel that my body had some understanding and was able to feel some skill in others much better than myself, I decided I would like to meet a number of people that I had heard good things about. My goals with these encounters was always to ‘Feel what they have.’ And by this, I mean feel what the qualities of their style or method were. Far from heading out to challenge these experts, the encounters were often simply to touch these adepts during application or exchange and get a feel for them. At the session, I would take notes in one of my (now many!) notepads. The notes were often details on the methods we were learning, but I would also head the pages with how some one ‘felt’. I would use words like ‘Heavy’, ‘Strong’, ‘Fast’, ‘clever’ etc to describe my perception of the interaction.
Over time I would build a picture of the commonalities that I felt from these masters. Upon examination an interesting pattern emerged, from BJJ world champions and rostered UFC fighters, to traditional Chinese Martial Artists and Koryu Masters a certain set of attributes ran through them all. This set of attributes was always present in some sort of mix. Some would have more of one attribute and less of another, some would focus more on one set of skills, some more on others, but these attributes would go on to form the core components of the MartialBody approach.
The 6 Attributes.
The 6 qualities that I identified in these various experts were that they were heavy, stable, connected, agile, could move in complex ways and were free to apply their given art in accordance with the changing conditions of the fight.
These 6 qualities are presented in the MartialBody system as:
HeavyBody | StableBody | ConnectedBody | ElasticBody | SpiralBody | FluidBody
Once identified, the process of how to create them began. This process began with lots of research and recollection on methods I was already very familiar with, and many of these very effective methods from various arts remain part of the training process. Concepts and methods from Tai chi, Xing Yi, Ba Gua, Chi Gung, JuJutsu and Koryu all permeate the various ‘Body’s’ and help to create the attributes. But in addition a detailed study of these methods through the lens of western physical training concepts, nutrition and anatomy have informed, and often, adapted the traditional techniques so as to focus them more directly on the given goal. Study of existing scientific data and evidencing has been used to back up the validity of these methods, to adjust them to optimise for the desired effect and have inspired entirely new techniques created as new evidence comes to light.
This is a very important part of MartialBody as a whole and is perhaps the most difficult thing for the Traditionalist to grasp. Nothing in the MartialBody training system is static, nothing is gospel and everything is open to change as new and improved concepts, methods and tools become available. This is one of the key ways in which MartialBody differentiates itself from traditional models of martial arts body development training.
Another distinguishing characteristic of my approach to coaching and an underpinning ideal in MartialBody is that training should always be focused at an individual level rather than a group one. Traditionally, martial arts training methods would follow a syllabus of techniques. This style of learning, however, has proven to be one of the most ineffective. So, although we retain a general ‘Foundations’ syllabus for people to follow, the live training will always have the individual at its heart and will never put the ‘system’ above the individual’s personal progression.
Let’s look at the 6 MartialBody sections and explore how they progress, one from another, to aid us in creating genuine body skill.
HeavyBody is the quality of heaviness and its impact during martial exchange. We are, of course, not able to increase our weight, but how our weight is used and perceived by others is very trainable. To highlight this simply try to pick up an unconscious person vs a conscious one, anyone who has working in nightclub security will know the difference of apparent weight in that scenario!
Clearly how our weight is perceived changes. When we delve deeper into this we find that ‘tension’ or lack thereof is the primary driver for this perceived weight change. As such, the HeavyBody training is designed to bring our levels of tension under conscious control. We focus our time on the ‘Off’ switch and how to immediately turn off muscles so that they can relax completely. Once we can do this in a targeted way, our whole-body weight can begin to be used in our martial exchanges and we are more efficiently able to use our body mass regardless of what martial technique we employ.
Stability is the presence of acute understanding of our bodies positions, alignments, and articulations in relation to a partner or the space around us. Moreover, it is our natural ability to hold and flow between optimum positions so as to always be maximising our whole-body power.
Stability is often thought of as being the rooted and immovable, but in fact, in the martial body system our goal is a type of ‘dynamic’ stability that allows us to maintain the harmonies of our body, even in extremely fast movement or when fighting on the ground etc.
The foundation of the StableBody method is waking up the bodies proprioceptive network so that that we are better able to perceive our position. Without this we simply don’t have the awareness to correct the common postural flaws. The stable body focuses on the training of alignment, understanding, and recognising the centre, ‘intent’ training, and harmony of the joints. Once these points are engrained we move with stability without having to think about it.
Connection as we mean it here is the linking of the Aligned frame via the body tissues. These tissues are developed to form major lines of muscle association, connective tissue and harmony along specific paths.
The ConnectedBody displays the ‘one part moves, all parts move’ attribute and is characterised by whole body power. This means that in every motion, no matter how slight, the movement is backed up by every tissue in the body. This trained connection give rise to large volumes of power within relatively small spaces.
We train the tissues and lines of connection by paired extension and contraction. It is a type of isometric stretching but is characterised by balance and the unity of opposite forces. In connected body training we also use tools to ‘load’ the lines, like Sticks, Clubs or small weights.
The lines that are connected and strengthened in ConnectedBody training are the same lines that we can use to create Agility and swiftness of motion. There is a tendency in some martial arts to value ‘rooting’ above all other qualities, but this is a mistake. Agility, lightness and rising forces are the other side to the same coin and should be trained in equal measure.
To do this we train the same lines of connection but instead of building their strength via connection, we build their elasticity. This skill combines connection to the ground reactive force, rebound, bounce and the stretch shortening cycle to train the body to move quickly and with a springy quality.
Lightness training can enable the adept to leap, to kick without telegraphing, to use agile and deceptive footwork and to power a myriad of effective, lightening fast methods.
Once the Body tissues and structures are trained we need to learn to apply our body to movement. In the SpiralBody training we introduce the concept of movement complexity to create superior body mechanics during interaction. The idea being that the spiral, or helix, represents one of the most complex manners in which the human body can move.
To engrain spiral movement we must first pass through the various stages of movement skill, from the ‘pointed’ movement, the linear movement, through the circular movement, to the spiral or helix movement. This progression is long and painstaking because the awareness and intent must be sufficiently trained from previous steps so as to allow the practitioner to identify when movement skills break down.
In the SpiralBody the idea of ‘Pairing’ is introduced where simultaneous and opposite actions occur in our movement and bodies. Pairing has the advantage, even at a basic level, of not committing our power outside of our base of support, creating a high level of stability while still allowing a high volume of power output.
Finally, everything that we do is controlled by the mind. Our freedom to apply our body appropriately is entirely predicated on the ability and openness of our mind and this is the training focus of the FluidBody section.
In the FluidBody training the methods help us to train our nervous system, awareness and ‘changeability’ such that we become a free to move, act, react and flow with the ever changing conditioned presented in the fight, training environment or solo training.
FluidBody contains methods from meditation, awareness training, flow state practices and movement puzzles to begin to train the nervous system and mind in a targeted and focused way. When mastered, the FluidBody skill gives rise to the ability to self-correct and self-explore within the other MartialBody Modules.
When we have been through the MartialBody sections sequentially, and gained some progress in each it would be easy to think we have finished the training. But in fact, this is simply the first cycle of development. Much like layers of sediment laid down to form rock, MartialBody is designed as a cycle, not as a linear training progression, every cycle deepening the skill as a new layer of attribute depth is laid down.
So, once we have Completed FluidBody training we must return to the HeavyBody section and begin the process again. The reason we constantly return is simple. Think of the developmental phases of MartialBody, the connected and elastic training. These modules develop tissues that can pull on the frame or structure in various ways. In the first cycle, we may not have the acute awareness of how this tissue is pulling on us and how we may have built some tension in the process. Returning the HeavyBody section will allow us to release these miniscule points of tension once more, the StableBody allowing us to reset out posture to maximise the next phase of development. And so the process repeats, endlessly, building layer upon layer of capability in our body.
If you would like to learn more about MartialBody training or begin the training for yourself please sign onto the HeavyBody Foundations course. All other sections will be coming soon but the foundations found in this course will help you with the next section.
Alternatively, if you run a Martial Arts group, Coach Chris is offering a FREE introductory seminar in MartialBody to groups with 10 members or above in the UK*. Get in touch to arrage a session