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?
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.
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.
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.