Moving the Body or not?

Martial arts use body motions that are not always comparable to normal life movements. Aikido is no exception.
Human movements naturally depend on the physical laws of our environment, for example gravity.
Of course, human movements are actually quite a complex system. Martial arts moves should follow nature’s rules and something more. I’ll try to explain that a bit further.

The motion of a solid object

The motion of an object is described in two modes: the trajectory of its centre of mass and the rotation around an axis in its center of mass.

The motion of the human body

When Jigoro Kano formulated his Kodokan Judo, he tried to explain the stability of the human body as something solid. Unfortunately the human body is not a solid object, only when it stiffens up as a solid object.


The human body is a very complex system, it is a framework of segments linked to each other by flexible bands (muscles, tendons…).

To control the body, many skills are necessary to carry out effective movements.

The human body distinguishes two kinds of motion, comparable to the trajectory and rotation mode of an object.
Both modes operate side by side and due to the frame construction a rotary mode is always present during body movements.

  • Trajectory motion: use a fulcrum to move the body or part of the body (arm, leg…)
  • self-rotation: using the lenght axis of the body or part of the body

Moving without displacement

Looking at the Aikido demonstrations, you will notice many unnecessary displacements. A troubled mind is the cause of such errors and resulting in inefficient body movements or techniques. Of course, if you practise with a too cooperative partner, a beautiful show can be given with a lot of jumping.
Making your Aikido more efficient by using effective movements should be your objective.

An important characteristic of Aikido’s movements is its spiral trajectory. But this is not unique to Aikido, other martial arts make the same human movements less or more because of the structure of human body. An efficient system of connected segments is required and this is needed to control the actions of an opponent, especially if the opponent is very heavy or strong.
The use and control of power is a vital condition for surviving a confrontation.

3 important components with each an independent role has to act as a set to create the full body movement.

  • Using the legs
  • Using the torso
  • Using the arms

The example above deals with the action of the legs. The force generated by the legs, supported by the floor, passes through the torso to the arms and further into the target.
The legs do not only flex and stretch, but use a spiral movement. The koshi (bottom of the back) controls the legs. The torso spins lightly using the waist. The arm movement is based upon the basic arm movements of Tomiki Aikido.

Testing without falling down.

Testing our movements and techniques occurs primarily during randori. But not everybody likes to fight freely. Alternatives may be used to test your movements and techniques without falling, particularly for older practitioners.

No-movement : Mushin Mugamae

Even when you are not moving, you should maintain a strong posture. You are ready to act in a split-second. You can only do that if you have a calm mind.

By adopting the mugamae, it is not your intention to fight. You don’t offer, for instance, your wrist. Your eyes look at someone in front of you, but you don’t see an attacker. You notice his intention and when the intention becomes physical, you move.

Body Skills

Physical skills are required for effective movements or techniques. Of the many areas of body expertise, there are certainly two that are important.
Of course, other skills are also important, but those two skills are fundamental to the moving and non-moving martial arts body.

Dropping the bodyweight

Dropping the bodyweight is performed by bending or folding the “koshi”.
Bending the knees is the result of the koshi folding.

Dropping the bodyweight is needed for using the koshi.

Open and close the koshi area

Open and close of the koshi is a very difficult action. The whole body is following the opening and closing of the koshi.
Don’t activily turn the knees.

Open and close the koshi area is important when you push or pull. The koshi is the key to efficient movements with the “hara”.

Tomiki Aikido Syllabus – Basic Framework Training Tool.

Author: Eddy Wolput °1948 – 7th dan Aikido (JAA-Tokyo/Japan) – 5th dan Iaido – 5th dan Jodo. 
Part of the material in this article is not directly linked to the Japan Aikido Association (NPO) program or Shodokan approach. Other concepts are incorporated into the study of the subject presented.

Study Group Tomiki Aikido – Shobukai Dojo Syllabus
This article outlines the “basic framework” employed in the Shobukai Dojo. The emphasis is mainly on “how to move the body” and “how to control the opponent”.
Members of the Shobukai Dojo study how to move the body and the methods of control of the opponent before being able to proceed with Tomiki Aikido Kata.

What Is a Martial Art Syllabus?

A syllabus is a document that presents all the necessary information on a martial art course. It lists the topics you will study while you practice martial art.
The course programme is a working document and a personal document. The syllabus can be used as a guide for the instructor as well as for the dojo.

Living Syllabus 

A syllabus is not fixed and basically a “living syllabus” can be updated as often as the teacher considers it necessary. This creates a vibrant, living document that students can interact with. Of course, the interaction between the instructor and the students is a major factor in updating the program.
Unfortunately, the emphasis is sometimes too much on a programme given by an international institute which does not allow much interaction between the institute, the instructor and the students. In this case, we cannot refer to a “living syllabus”.

An international institute program can be basically a policy guide to be used to generate a “living syllabus” for the local group.
So you can find a different program among the local groups while teaching the same concepts and principles.

Shobukai Dojo Syllabus

A Tomiki Aikido Syllabus can focus on various options for study and training, depending on the kind of dojo students.

  • Grading tool
  • Competition as the main goal
  • Sparring (randori)
  • Bodywork, efficient body movement
  • Self-protection and self-defense
  • Movement therapy
  • Other goals

The Shobukai Syllabus is based on the ideas and concepts of Kenji Tomiki and his nearest followers. There is an influence of other Aikido methods and Bodywork of independent instructors.

The program is built around various types of core concepts.

Basic arm movements

Our hands are one of the most important tools of our body. Tegatana translates into “sword hand”, but also includes the arm.

Basic arm movements can be performed either stationary or dynamically.
The stationary method emphasises the use of the “Koshi” synchronized with arm movements (tegatana). A dynamic version is integrating footwork.

Basic arm movements are based upon the basic arm movements developped by Kenji Tomiki.

The Stationary Method

The 1st part of the videoclip gives a overal impression, the 2nd half focussing on the use of the koshi.

The Dynamic Method

The integration of footwork into the tegatana exercises is the first step for practising “hakkei” or sudden power.

Hakkei Tegatana Dosa

When practising tegatana dosa in a stationary or dynamic way, movements are relatively big. The performance is quite slow and with no explosive power.
After several years of training, sudden power or Hakkei may be introduced.

Footwork – Unsoku-ho

In the Tomiki Aikido method a formalized exercise is wellknown by most of the practitioners. Because the focus is more on the pattern or in which direction to move, the most basic ways of footwork is in the backround. In the syllabus, the basic ways of footwork (ayumi ashi, tsuri ashi and tsugi ashi) is mentioned as a basic exercise. The different methods are integrated in the dynamic tegatana exercises.
When practising footwork, the arms are hold high and the intention is to hold a big ball between the arms. The arms are not used to push or pull, the power comes from the footwork initiated by the koshi.

Ayumi Ashi forward

Ayumi Ashi backward

Tsugi Ashi

Testing the solo exercises

Sometimes during training, the instructor can test the posture and movement of the student or to give feedback (interaction). All the movements of the solo-exercises can be tested.


Some testing examples

Testing posture and tsugi ashi

Ko-mawari testing

Kumi Kata (Judo)

The definition of Kumi Kata is grip fighting. The word “grip fighting” means to take a grip that will give you an advantage over your opponent. But also not to allow your opponent to take a comfortable grip to be able to counter.

The mastery of Judo Kumi Kata is a critical component for any judoka to succeed in modern judo. Without this skill being very well developed it is difficult to see how any judoka can experience the ability to throw ones opponent cleanly, effortlessly and with grace and beauty.

Ridatsu ho & Seigyo ho

Grasping the wrist in Aikido is a kind of strategy skill similar to the strategy skill of Judo Kumi Kata. Without this skill, we are not able to perform kuzushi and waza.
Tegatana kihon dosa (basic hand and arm movements) can be used as a setting up for gripping skills and controlling the opponent: Seigyo ho
On the other hand, kihon dosa can be used as a defensive action when the opponent is grasping you: Ridatsu ho

Both methods will depend on a correct and powerfull gripping skill.

The are different ways to grasp the wrist of opponent.
The purpose of grasping the wrist is to control the opponent action.

The comments of holding the sword, the golf ball and the soft tanto apply also for grasping a wrist.

Some examples of grasping the wrist

The example shows an offensive way to capture the wrist of the opponent. When the opponent performs an offensive movement, you can apply a basic arm movement and then grab the wrist.

How to seize

A strong grip can be catogorised in 3 major metods. See picture.

In essence, grasping the wrist in Aikido is similar to grasping the hilt of a sword. 
The basic rule is to grip firmly with the middle finger and thumb, keeping contact with the base of the little finger.

A study performed by The University of Western Ontario on the Individual finger strength and published in Journal of Hand Therapy gives the following results:
The percentage contributions of the index, middle, ring, and small fingers to grip were approximately 25%, 35%, 25%, and 14%, respectively.

While the ulnar side of the hand (ring and little finger) is taught as the dominant side when holding the “tsuka” of a sword, there is a lack of control if you don’t use the middle finger and thumb. When you start grabbing with the middle finger and thumb and index finger, the ring and the little finger, you will have a strong grip with many possibilities of precision.

3 important points

  • Base of little finger
  • Middle finger
  • Thumb

Exercises to develop correct wrist grabbing

Using Thera Band Flexbar

Soto gaeshi & uchi gaeshi
As mentioned earlier, both movements can be used both offensively and defensively. When you grip a wrist to apply a technique, Soto gaeshi or Uchi gaeshi may be applied. An exercise with the Flexbar almost gives you the feeling of gripping a wrist with a certain resistance.

Holding a golf ball.
Holding a golf ball is a good exercise to power up the middle finger and thumb.
Index, ring and little finger just close, but do not put pressure. Do not tighten the ball or you will lose control of the ability to manipulate your hand and arm movements.

Other examples of grasping

  • Holding tsuka
  • Grasping softanto (soft training dagger)

Holding tsuka
Hold the tsuka with the middle finger, the thumb and the base of the little finger. Index finger and ring finger close without any pressure.

Holding softanto (soft training dagger)

Soft tanto is a safe training tool used during sparring (randori). Frequently used in a Tomiki Aikido training program.

More pictures
European Championship Antwerp 2014 – Zuiderpershuis

The same comments apply as for holding the ball or holding the tsuka of a sword.

Kihon no katachi – Basic Aikido Techniques

Kihon no katachi is not the ju-nana-hon no kata or ju-go-hon no kata (an early version of kihon no kata), but it is a collection of basic aikido techniques usefull during friendly sparring (randori). It is a basic techniques syllabus.
There are 4 different kinds of techniques in Tomiki Aikido. All techniques start from a “tegatana awase” situation.

  • Atemi Waza
  • Hiji Waza
  • Tekubi Waza
  • Uki Waza

Atemi Waza

Kihon dosa or basic movements is the source for succesfull applying atemi waza. The philisophy behind atemi waza is explained in differents posts on this blog.

  • Shomen ate
  • Ai gamae ate
  • Gyaku gamae ate
  • Gedan ate
  • Ushiro ate

Hiji Waza

The use of “seigyo ho” or seizing skills are necessary to apply a skillfull hiji waza.

  • Oshi taoshi – straight arm push down
  • Hiki taoshi – straight arm pull down
  • Ude gaeshi – entangled arm
  • Ude hineri- entangled arm
  • Waki gatame omote – elbow lock
  • Waki gatame ura – elbow lock

Tekubi Waza

The use of “seigyo ho” or seizing skills for control are necessary to apply a skillfull tekubi waza.

  • Kote Hineri (uchi gaeshi)
  • Tenkai Kote Hineri
  • Kote Gaeshi (soto gaeshi)
  • Tenkai Kote Gaeshi

Uki Waza

Generally, this type of waza is translated as “floating techniques”. Basically, kuzushi or balance disturbing is performed as a throwing technique. All examples of wrist grabbing can be used to throw the opponent.
We distinguish 3 area

Kihon no katachi describe 3 major throws using Uki-waza skill.

  • Mae otoshi
  • Sumi otoshi
  • Hiki otoshi

Sparring or Randori Ho

  • Kakari geiko – continious predescribed attacks, no resistance
  • Hikitate geiko – continious predescribed attacks, escape possible for uke
  • Randori geiko – both can attack and defend
    • Dojo sparring
    • Shiai format

Example kakari geiko

Tanto randori – competition format

A ring of power

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
Tolkien – 1954 – The Lord of the Rings

It is silly to think we can control our movements by just using one virtual ring in the body. Our physical behaviour is more complex than 1 body ring.
Nevertheles we can use the image of 1 ring in the upperbody to understand the mechanism of power generation in the arms. Of course this is just one part of the body.

Manipulating kyokotsu, pushing out and pulling in, generates power in the arms produced by stretching and contracting back muscles steered by the inconscious mind.
By moving Kyokotsu, koshi will also move. Drilling the legs and feet will rebound the power from earth in the arms.
Drilling will be discussed in another post.

Inner and outer circle form a ring of power

In a previous post, we spoke about “opposing isometric forces“.

This concept can be introduced in a form of “Toshu Randori”. In this case we grasp each other elbows and creates a ring of power . Each one has his own ring of power, the skill is to merge with opponent’s ring of power and keeping the initiative.
As a first step we can start to move around, using different Unsoku-ho.
Of course we will detect very soon a major problem: How to create a ring of power?

Yiquan

How to create a ring of power?

To answer this question we must understand the different modes of tension.

  • Contraction of muscles.
  • Dropping the bodyweight to create a line of tension
  • Direct your mind into a body part
  • Other modes…..

The first mode will be used in most of the cases during our daily life.
To create a ring of power by contraction is not a solution during training because the muscles of our arms have limitations if used to stabilze our posture or to cope with an attack from opponent.
But we are looking for a more efficient multifuncional application in our activities especially during training martial arts.

Postural & phasic muscles

Postural muscles act predominantly to keep your posture in the gravity field. These muscles contain mostly slow-twitch muscle fibres and have a greater capacity for longterm activity.
Phasic muscles contain mostly fast-twitch muscle fibres, and are therefore more suited to movement. They are more easily fatigable.

The muscles we use to move around are “fast twitch” or phasic muscles. The other type of muscles (slow twitch) is what are called “stabilizing” or postural muscles, are involuntary and react against force, primaly gravity without intervention of our conscious mind.
Unfortunately we are reinforcing our structure with contraction or pulling phasic muscles.
We need those fast twitch muscles for our movements during training and randori. By contracting or pulling the benefit of fast twitch will be gone. Our movements become rigid and predictable.

Why are we using fast twitch muscles as postural muscles?
When our balace is not correct, postural muscles have to do a lot of work and sometimes they need support, mostly from fast twitch muscles. By doing this on a regular base, a wrong pattern is created into the brain. We have to overwrite this pattern.

Postural training, a key to efficient movement

When you make any movement, before the movement begins there is a short delay during which your lumbar spine using deep abdominal postural muscles. The delay produced by stabilization of your lumbar spine makes you slower. This does not matter very much for slow movements. There is a way to eliminate or at least minimize this delay by holding your body in a posture where your postural muscles are already engaged.
Every martial arts require a certain efficiency of movement that can be increased through the strengthening of postural muscle, and freeing phasic muscle from performing a postural role.
Postural training can be a solution for efficient use of postural muscles by keeping the whole body in the gravity field.
Although a lot of people are refering to “shizentai” or natural boy as an important principle in our training, often we see a fight of muscle power in randori. There is no shizentai in their performance.

Ritsuzen or standing meditation is a perfect exercise to understand “Shizentai

Dropping the bodyweight to create a line of tension

Creating a line of tension by dropping the bodyweight is a matter of dropping the groins or mata down and keeping the bodystructure.

Dropping the bodyweight has nothing to do with bending the knees. Of course, the perception gives an image of bending the knees.

When our posture is correct, the line of gravity falls into the gravitational field marked by the 2 feet.
Top of the head, shoulder-line, tanden and back of the knees are on this vertical line. All the bodyweight rest in the feet.

Bodyweight in the feet has a direct relationship with the knees. The vertical line from the knee to the foot cannot pass the line of the toes. Although there is also a possibility to bring the knee more forward and will pass the toes.
When we can feel the bodyweigth in the feet by pushing down on the knees, keep the back also straight.
Testing the bodystructure when dropping the bodyweight into the groins or mata will reinforce the structure.

This skill can be used when performing sumi otoshi and putting knees on the floor. By directing the power from koshi & mata into the back of the front foot, there will be lesser stress on the knee.

Direct the mind into a body part – projection Ki

Ki is a multi-purpose term for many bodily processes, functions, and energy that may not have been scientifically researched at the time various martial arts were developed.
Nowadays we understand much better the function of “Ki” but we have no word for this multi-purpose process.

Because we seek to create a ring of power, our mind can use an image of a ring which can be inflated or deflated. Tension can be going outward and inward. We can define this tension as “pressure” or directing Ki (on of the processes for this multi-purpose term).
There is no contraction of muscles. There is pressure in the muscles and tendons. There is a feeling of lenght and stretching in the muscles and tendons.

By imaging we can control body processes. NLP or neuro-linguistic programming is a popular Western imaging method .
Of course we don’t need to become an expert in NLP.
During postural training, the skill of imaging can be learned and used in an efficient way to start feeling the flow of Ki (bodily processes) in our body and eventually steering in the right direction.

Opposing isometric forces

The human body as a movement construction is used by most of the people in a very inefficient way.
The body and mind are full of tension and this creates during a movement action sometimes a non-movement situation: a frozen action.
People think this can be resolved by relaxing the body and mind. Unfortunately relaxation is understood as a lack of tension resulting in collapsing body.
During a fight or in our case randori, we cannot have tension or relax. We need to find another solution based upon the concept “tone of the muscles”.

Balancing between tension and relaxing: Opposing Isometric Tension

Yi-quan* is a Chinese martial art famous for Zhang-zuang (Ritsuzen in Japanese) and the use of opposing isometric forces (zheng-li). Other Chinese martial arts are also using these concepts in a more or less manner during their training. The Japanese version of Yi-quan is called Taikiken and is utilizing many concepts borrowed from Yi-quan.
In Japanese Budo we certainly can find countless examples of “opposing isometric forces”.
Nobuyoshi Tamura**, an Aikido teacher used Baduajin or 8 brocade exercises as a tool to improve inner power. One of the concept in Baduajin is “opposing isometric forces”.

**I studied aikido during my early period (1970-1978) with Tamura sensei, Kanetsuka sensei, Kobayashi sensei – see also Intro
* I was introduced to Yiquan by Ilias Calimintzos (France)

Budo and opposing isometric forces

In Kodokan Judo there are many kata to explain the concepts of Kodokan Judo. One of the lesser known kata is “Go no kata”.
This kata has many “opposing isometric forces” to keep a power balance between Tori and Uke. It expresses very well the concept of “Go” as a counter concept of “Ju” found in “Ju no kata” and other Judo training tools.

Tomiki Aikido has many exercises to develop this kind of power. Even in other styles of aikido, this kind of exercises is frequenly used as mentioned in a previous paragraph.

Tomiki style opposing isometroc forces

From “Gendai Aiki”

Koichi Tohei famous unbendable arm can be classified in this category.

What are the thoughts of Kenji Tomiki on this matter?

この問題は、現代体育学の、筋肉のトレーニングの事で、アイソメトリックスと言うんです。
Kono mondai wa, gendai taikugaku no, kinniku toreiningu no koto de, isometorikkusu to iun desu.
This is a matter of muscular training which is part of modern physical education. It’s called isometrics.

それは、押したり引いたりすることによって、屈筋や心筋が働くわけですが、上手になると、筋肉が働くのが見えないんです。
Sore wa, oshitari hiitari suru koto ni yotte, kukkin ya shinkin ga hataraku wake desu ga, jouzu ni naru to, kinniku ga hataraku no wa mienain desu.
That is to say, we can train inner or outer groups of muscles by pushing or pulling. A person who is highly skilled at this form of training hardly exhibits any muscle movement at all during the exercise.

見えないところで筋肉をうまく使えるんです。しかし、それ(このような理論を隠しておいて、大道の安芸人のようなことをすることをさす)を教育の場にもってきたら、非常に おかしい事になってしまうんです。
Mienai tokoro de kinniku wo umaku tsukaerun desu. Shikashi, sore (kono youna riron wo kakushite oite, oomichi no akibito no youna koto wo suru koto wo sasu) wo kouiku no ba ni motte kitara, hijouni okashii koto ni natte shimaun desu.
When you can’t see any movement the person is using his muscles very skillfully. But you are making a big mistake in the educational field if you demand a similar level of expertise from everyone.

Interview with Kenji Tomiki – Aiki News

Opposing isometric force pairs

The steering of a movement is the result of a neuro-muscular action. This action has 2 main components:

  • The use of internal and external factors: body and gravity
  • Using the mind as the manager of the internal and external factors

Movement of the body need always a support point and in most cases earth is the major support point. The mind is observing the body which is build according a vertical line in relationship with gravity. The mind is not interfering with this body action. Keep in your mind, standing is a movement.
Feeling with the feet the solidity of the earth, feeling the returning (rebound) power of gravity towards the head. Keep this stretch because this is the opposing isometric force by using gravity and correct body posture. Tanden (hara) plays an important role by becoming the center of the body. Gravity is always present even in non-vertical force lines.

Major opposing isometric force pairs are:

  • vertical line
  • left/right line
  • forward/backward line
  • diagonal line
  • combination of major lines

After developing major opposing isometric forces lines, the next step is to be applied them during movements. Keeping the isometric forces lines is a real challenge and we cannot expect an immediate result during training. Mind and body must become one and “ego” or “the monkey brain” ** cannot interfere with our movements, mentally or physically. Reaction to an attacking movement by an opponent must be handled by a spontaneous reflexive action.

**Taming the “Monkey Brain”
We all experienced the noise in our head when the monkey brain is talking during our exercises. Stopping thie noise is not a solution, because the monkey brain is not listening. Better is to ignore the noise, and after a while you will notice “the noice is gone”. You really start to feel the exercise and the dynamics of the body. This is forging the body and mind. It is not about bigger muscles, or more muscular strength. I can feel my body and its movements…..the rest is a side issue

How to develop opposing isometric force pairs

Opposing isometric force pair is a state of equilibrium between two tensions. If the two forces are equal, a balance is established between them.
This implies this form of tension inside the body which solicits two distinct zones. If we consider our body as a dynamic system, all types of force will involve the opposition of two forces regardless of direction.
For example, when you jump up, you use a force to hoist yourself up. You can also say that you exert a force down (ground).
To achieve upward movement, use the downward force. Similarly, to achieve a forward movement, it is necessary to exert the force towards the back.
We can interpret the function of the legs as that of spring which makes you bounce in height when you make a push towards the ground. This image speaks easily of the movement of legs that function as a pair of springs.
Let’s now look for the mobility of the trunk whose examination is fundamental to understand what an opposing isometric force pair is. The mobility of the trunk is not very visible, which makes it difficult to place the image of spring in relation to the movement of the legs. But the function of the trunk is crucial to organize the application system of the overall force of the body.
Like the springs of the legs, imagine that at the level of the sternum – kyokotsu – existed a spring that goes inwards to its antipode back. Following this example, let us situate imaginary springs inside the trunk to zones corresponding approximately to those of the chakras in yoga. These are in addition to the sternum, under the throat, plexus, navel and lower abdomen. All these springs are placed inside the trunk and their other end rests on the dorsal projection of these five points.
By putting the mind on the kyokotsu or other points of the body, we can move the kyokotsu in this example forward and back and use the image of the spring to create resistance.
The spring image can be internal, but can also have an external quality. If we use a spring connected between our elbows, we can open or close our arms and feel the resistance between the elbows.
A step further is to use the spring image between you and your training partner.

Developing spontaneous reflexive action

Reflexive action conditioning is primarily neuromuscular coordination training. You must have a firm foundation in multi-directional awareness before you can start this training. The goal is to achieve mind-intent and body action arriving simultaneously.
Internal movements during solo training can give an impression of “no movement” when there is no external movement visible. It is called “pause”. Posture training – ritsuzen – is mostly internal movement training wihout visible external big movements.
When doing moving exercises start always slow and use rather big movements.
Tegatana dosa, also called tandoku undo, are exercises to build this skill using the change between the different body (arm, hands,….) movements.
After many repetitions and using correct body movements with mind-intent leading the action, it will become a spontaneous reflexive action under control of the mind while maintaining the isometric tension.
Next step is to use these movements in paired exercises and all kinds of randori.

Examples

Power management

Relax, relax more…..drop shoulders…..

This is often heard in the dojo, but in most cases the student doesn’t know how to release the excessive tension of the muscles. The word is there, but the body doesn’t understand the action.

Taikan or bodily feeling or sensation has to be improved before we can start with releasing the tension. If you experience tension you have to know from where it is coming.

Movement and relaxation

Movement is basically an action performed by the muscles. The muscles are steered by signals from the brain.

When you pick up a box from the floor, most people bent over from the back. Although we know this is not healthy, most people are doing it this way. The brain is not built to recognise bad movements or postures.
When you grasp the wrist of the opponent and he resist your movement by pulling for example, the natural reaction is to apply more power with the hand and arm. We all know this is not the proper action, but it seems the brain has his own way of managing movements and using power. The brain says, more power by contracting the muscle. By doing this way, the local muscles are becoming too tensed and will block the power generated by the koshi, tanden and yōbu.

When the muscles are too tensed for a long time, the brain will give a signal to release with the result of a low muscle tone, which is on the other side of the “muscle tone” spectrum.

posture trainingFor example keeping the arm in the position of chudan no kamae, after a while tension creeps up to the shoulders. The tension becomes painful and the brain will say “stop”, the arm will drop down.

Muscle Tone

“Muscle tone” is often confused for “muscle strength” and although related, they are not interchangeable terms. Tone refers to the amount of tension in a muscle when at resting state (not actively contracted). Muscle tone helps our bodies maintain posture.
Low muscle tone is characterised by the muscles having less tension at resting state and feeling “floppy”. High muscle tone is created by excessive contraction of the muscle. High  and low muscle will interfere with the power management of the body.

Is it possible to instruct the brain to use a pattern with a more economical use of muscle tone and more healthy for the body?

Inner balance, the solution for better power management

Adapted from an article on “generating body strength” by CP Ong

We define inner balance as a state where the muscle actions underlying movements and support are neither excessive nor deficient. This balance incorporates the internal dynamics of the muscle actions at the joints and therefore the balance of axial and appendicular muscles in alignment. The comprehensiveness of the balance is underpinned by the ease and liveliness of change of motion at the joints within the structure. The approach presumes that our postural configuration is flawed with inner imbalance. The strategy of training is to reduce the errors of imbalance, moving through states of lesser stress towards inner balance.

The ideal motion gives rise to a comprehensive force that can be applied in timely response with precision and optimal strength. The strength is uncharacteristic of physical muscular force—there is hardly any indication of exertion in the execution; it appears hidden, and thus is dubbed “inner strength.”
Governed by the principle of inner balance, in the execution of any action, the axial and inner muscles are aligned with the prime-mover muscles in balance. Therefore, the output power of the waist-power action is optimal by virtue of inner balance. In other words, body motion inspired by inner balance is ideal; unimpeded by imbalance of muscle actions, the motion is fluid,

The skeleton

250px-Appendicular_skeleton_diagram.svgThe bones system consists of two parts: the axial skeleton and the appendicular skeleton. The axial skeleton include the skull, the spine, the ribs and the sternum; totally eighty bones. The shoulder and pelvic girdle and the bones of the limbs fall under the appendicular skeleton. This part of the bones system has 126 bones: 64 in the shoulders and upper limbs and 62 in the pelvis and the lower limbs.

What is axial skeleton?

(The white part of the skeleton on the picture)

The axial skeleton is supported by soft tissues like ligaments of the vertebral column, muscles of the face and the throat, cartilage of the ribs, and tendons of the muscles. These bones have functions of central weight bearing and protection and maintenance of posture. The skull and the ribcage protect the brain and the organs of the chest cavity respectively. The ossicles of the ear have the function of maintaining the balance of the human body. The hyoid bone is an anchor point for various muscles covering the throat as a protective function for the airways, gullet, major arteries and nerves. The vertebral column has functions in proper weight distribution, protection of the spinal cord and maintaining proper posture.

What is appendicular skeleton?

(The red part of the skeleton on the picture)

The appendicular skeleton consists of 126 bones in the body, which are arranged symmetrically on either side of the body, which include the bones of the upper and lower limbs, and their connections to the axial skeleton. They are mainly made up of long bones and other bones. The upper arm is connected to the axial skeleton by the shoulder girdle, and that is supported by a myriad of tendons, cartilages, muscles and ligaments. The thigh is connected to the axial skeleton by the pelvic girdle. The main bones of the upper limb include the humerus, radius, ulna, carpal, metacarpal, and phalanges. The main bones of the lower limb include the femur, tibia, fibula, tarsal, metatarsal, and phalanges. The functions of the appendicular bones include balance and stability, along with the main functions of locomotion and manipulation.

What is the difference between Axial and Appendicular?

Both have functions of weight bearing at differing levels, as well as those of stability, balance, and protection of organs. But the main concern of axial skeleton is that of posture, stability and balance, whereas the appendicular skeleton is that of locomotion. The axial skeleton is fused, whereas the appendicular skeleton is not fused.

Power management

Power management depends on the skill of resetting the muscles. Resetting skill stands generally for a release of tension or stimulation of the muscle tone, a return to equilibrium. The resetting skill depends on the input and output in the brain. Unfortunately the synchronisation between the axial and the appendicular systems is not optimal. Gripping the wrist, mentioned earlier, is an example of the malfunction in the synchronisation.
We have to rewire the pattern in the brain. Creating the pattern of resetting the muscles of the shoulder and pelvic girdle is the first part of the rewiring of the pattern.

By sinking the shoulders at the level of the armpit, we can reset the muscles to the correct muscle tone whenever there is tenseness.
The same can be done with the pelvic girdle, sinking of the groins will reset the muscles in the pelvic area.
The shoulder girdle is controlling the arms, the pelvic girdle is controlling the legs.

Resetting a deficiency of muscle tone can be obtained by stretching the muscles and tendons internally whenever there is a deficiency. Internal stretching is not what most people understand by the popular stretching exercises.
The expression “taking out of the slack” is referring to the internal stretching. When we use tenshikei skills, we are stretching internally the muscles and tendons of the central body. Also kyokotsu exercises will stretch internally without excessive tension.

Resetting exercises

ritsuzenKiko (気功) is the Japanese term for Qi-gong, Chinese exercises for health and energy.
One of the most famous exercises is “standing”.
Ritsuzen in Japanese or zhang zuang in Chinese.

The purpose of this exercise is to reset the muscles and tendons. The shoulder girdle and pelvic girdle are the main targets in this exercise.
Seichusen is needed to be succesful in resetting. Sinking the shoulders at the level of the armpits and sinking the groins creates the necessary relaxation.

There are many postures in ritsuzen training, even the posture of chudan no kamae can be used as a ritsuzen posture for a long time. The amount of time spent practicing ritsuzen varies between styles and schools; one may spend from two minutes to two hours standing in one posture.