Thursday, March 13, 2014

Waist Not, Want Not

As the next installment in looking at some of the mechanics of good technique, I want to discuss the importance of the waist line (especially as it relates to hip rotation).  Recent previous posts have looked at footwork and distancing, and the waistline is another key aspect of good technique.

In 2007, I wrote a post about the use of hips in Yoshinkan Aikido called "hippy hippy shake", In that short post I was interested in the way we connect our partner to our hip line and then use that connection to drive momentum via our hip motion.

In the past 7 years, I have come to understand this being a universal principle of martial arts, having now seen the same concept applied in Kali Majapahit, SSBD, Baguazhang, Kali De Mano, and a host of other styles.

Of course, we can focus on hip rotation as a broader concept, but this is well-known even to advanced karateka who emphasize it as part of their punching drills.

Instead, I want to look at a few aspects of the hip line as a destination for creating distance, taking balance, and exerting control over an opponent.

In Kali Majapahit, when we work knife disarms, I am often asked where to bring the opponent's hand as we take it clockwise.  There are two answers: one is a very small, very fast circle directly 45 degrees away from the lead knee.  This disarm works because it is smooth and fast. It also (usually) involves ballistic contact to the hand to ensure the disarm happens.  For this reason, I prefer to use this small circle to strip the knife (meaning I take it) rather than to disarm, especially in training, where I don't want to injure my partner.  The second and more powerful variation involves connecting the extended knife-arm to our waist line as we pass.  This is a bigger circle, and dynamically takes the balance as we move.  Note that there is no actual contact of the knife against our body (since we could be cut), but rather, the circle is large enough to extend from the line of the shoulder to the line of the waist, giving plenty of room to develop momentum.  Combined with the replacement footwork, this can be an extremely powerful movement and very hard for the other person to resist.

Likewise, in punyo sombrada, we destination for moving the opponent's stick when we pass it is our waist line.  All FMA seek to sink the body weight rather than to rise the body weight, and this is a great example of how anchoring the opponent's weapon to our waistline definitively takes it out of the fight.

In silat as well, when we pass the hands (as we would do in FMA's basic hubud lubud drills) there are two circles: a very small, very fast circle and a wider, more powerful circle which connects to the waistline.  Again, when combined with replacement footwork this movement creates distance, takes away the opponent's balance and generates powerful momentum.  Baguzhang uses the same principle when passing/controlling the arm for an elbow lock.  When combined with their spiraling footwork, the effect is devastating and it is effortless (at least when Sifu James does it).

From a body mechanic point of view, our goal is always to move and use our body efficiently. This means less focus on strength and more focus on good structure and use of larger muscle groups such as the back and hips.  Yoshinkan definitely teaches this, and as I mention above I have seen it shown in a lot of other arts.  We will be drilling this concept in class in the coming weeks - I suggest you to do so as well.  A good understanding of how to use the waistline to generate power and take balance will serve you well.

See you soon.

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