Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Conditioning your mind for battle, Part 1

This topic is actually very complex and far reaching in its complexity.  However, there are a few elements that I think are needed in any type of violent conflict.  Whether it be empty handed or with weapons.

First, find your center.  I know that in different schools this can mean a lot of different things, however, I am not talking about Chi or anything mystical.  In this case I am going to recommend that you drop your weight just a little bit.  Bend your knees.  The easiest way to know how to bend is to do this...  Stand up straight, legs nearly locked out.  Back straight.  Sit straight down as if there is a stool directly under your bum.  As you begin to bend your knees pay particular attention to keeping your back straight.  After bending your knees just a few degrees you will feel the muscles engage.  Almost like a catch in the legs.  You will be just before the quads engage fully.  It should be fairly comfortable although when you are not used to it your legs will tire quickly.  With your body aligned straight up and down with knees bent you are best able to engage and stay in balance.  You can be mobile and static as needed.  You can best generate power from this relaxed and flexible position.

Second, breathe!  Too many times when we exert ourselves we can find ourselves holding our breathe.  Especially when we find ourselves in a conflict when stress is high.  Another common place to do this type of this is to watch people climb a flight of stairs really fast.  Many times people are not used to being athletic will hold their breath as a response to the quick heavy exertion.  Also, psychologically, breathing is a great stress reliever.  Just focusing on forcing yourself into a regular breathing pattern can take you out of the tunnel vision created by conflict and adrenaline.

Third, close the gap.  As part of the conditioning needed to protect yourself.  I think almost all of the martial arts would teach to move toward and not away from an attacker.  At least in a "real world" conflict.  The primary reason is this:  If we stay at arms length we are at the optimum position for all the punches and kicks they can throw to land at their most effective.  Basically, we would be in a perfect spot for them to hit us as hard as they are able.  By closing in on the opponent you shorten the distance they need to build up momentum in their attacks.  If the defender is worried about getting close than think about the example I got from Rory Miller's blog.  Give a 300 lbs. man a cat and tell him to hold on to it.  Then throw a bucket of water on the cat.  The man should have trouble maintaining a grip on the cat without getting scratched up pretty well.  How much more effective should the defense of an adult be over a cat.  Get close and attack.

There is more to training yourself to be prepared for an attack.  Self defense isn't exactly color by numbers but there are some things you can train yourself to do that will help.  These three are near the top of the list.  Drop your weight, breathe, and close the gap.  Once inside, bite, scratch, slap, become that angry cat and make the attacker want to run away.  Again, this is not all but it is the beginning.

And, of course, this is all assuming that simply running away and talking are not options or have already been exhausted.

1 comment:

  1. I like this post. In class or any time I practice, I find myself mentally checking these things all the time. I am CONSTANTLY telling/reminding myself, keep your weight down, exhale, breathe, etc.

    I have also noticed in class, that students don't like to get close to each other. I'm working very hard at focusing on moving TOWARD my partner, instead of away from them, especially in sparring. People don't like that. Sometimes I feel like I am chasing my partners across the dojo to stay close enough to them to feel like I am actually practicing in a way that is worth while. In addition, this is especially difficult when they teach forms or techniques that involve stepping back into say a half moon stance with a block. Do you have any advice for working around these sorts of things?