What is centre?
When standing upright the centre is approximately 5cm below the navel. Let us experiment, go to a solid wall, and try to push it down for some 10 seconds, hopefully you will have placed both hands flat facing the wall and pushed. Now go back again, facing the wall push with both hands, still pushing turn your centre (navel) away, (if we viewed the wall as being at 12 o’clock, turn to about 10 o’clock,) You may well feel that at the 10 o’clock position that you can not push quite as hard. Now try pushing with one hand facing the wall place the hand flat on the wall in front of you push with your centre facing the wall, then turn as before, you should feel a weakness in your shoulder, face the wall again slowly with your centre pushing all the time, as the centre returns the pressure to the shoulder will disappear. You have now used your centre. Let us try another way, standing upright hold your arm say about 30cm out from you side, about hip height. Get a friend standing slightly to the rear to hold your lower arm with one or both hands, now move your hand from the side position to the front of you, your friend holding strongly so that it becomes an effort to move, or just on the brink of impossibility to bring your hand forward. Now still being held firmly with your hand at the side position turn your centre to face your hand, turn your centre forward but mentally lock your hand to the centre so that centre and hand move together. It should be possible to move the hand without struggle. The movement can be amplified by opening your fingers and pointing them in the direction you are moving, having achieved this you have used centre and inner power. We will look more at extending/ projecting inner power later.
Relaxed upper body.
Constantly one will hear “relax your shoulders” (easier said than done) the stronger one is physically, the greater the tendency to use and tense the upper body, we must let go this strength, learn to feel the inner flow of energy. If it were a fact that the strongest will win you would not undertake the study of martial arts, we therefore have understood that skill is the essence not strength. Let us look at some instances we can understand where tense muscles detract from rather than enhance combat. But before that we should realise that in paired training if we use muscular strength to overcome our partner one will not learn, one must put aside the thought of conflict, there should be no satisfaction in “flooring you partner” with brut strength, one must aim to overcome with the minimum strength.
It takes no great imagination to understand that should we run a race with tense muscles we would tire quickly, and not be able to achieve great speed. One must now ask why hamper ourselves likewise in martial arts.
The story of the oak tree and the willow, no doubt you will recall, that in a gale the mighty oak tree snapped under the force of the great wind, the slender willow bent and when the wind abated the willow returned to its original position. Think about it, one can learn much from this story.
Imagine pushing a rod of metal. If we push from the either end the whole rod will be effected, play with the idea , push one end the other will move, and so on. Now think about pushing a sack of rice, you could shove the end or middle without affecting the whole.
If we accept that we have “inner strength” for now call it kie, though there are many others forms of inner strength, we shall look more at these later, for now just feel the possibility of this flow of energy in/through the body. Once we understand the concept of kie energy flowing through us, we can begin to realise that the tense muscles cut of the energy flow. We can visualise it as a stop cock, tens muscles put pressure on closing the valve, denying flow of inner-power.
We should understand the importance of relaxed shoulders. One must dispense with the thought of being “strong”, over competitive, or “looking the part”. We must also learn to banish the image of someone before us, not the imaginary image but the actual person must be “viewed” as if not there, a ghost or less, wipe the substance away as if nothing were before us. Be it a hit, push, or throw reach past to a far wall or tree or even up to the distant stars, but never overreach the physical self always maintain balance and posture.
Push from the ground
It is correct to say “push from the floor”, though it conjures up a wrong mental visual image. The action of pushing from the floor raises the centre of gravity, causing overreaching. Think of yourself holding aloft with both hands a heavy weight, pushing from the floor and push the weight upwards, one gets a lot of pressure on the toe and none on the heel of the foot, losing stability and strength. How do we push from the floor without losing stability and posture? . Imagine holding the weight again, this time don’t push from the floor but into it, the energy will return up through the body, try doing it. The principle of pushing into the ground and using the returning energy to punch or throw, is one of the important basics we must master to maximise strong movements. It is in our basics that we learn to place toe to heel firmly on the ground.
We must look at our basics as the foundation, the groundwork, the ABC of training. Can you remember when told A is the first then B, and so on. As we become proficient at reciting the letters in order we are given pencil and paper to make the shape of A through to Z in capitals, painstakingly we copy the shapes, the teacher making a line bottom, top and middle to give the height and centre of each character. We just about reach the stage of congratulating ourselves on our proficiency, only to be informed that this is not the way grown ups do it “A” must now be a lower case“a” and “B” must be lower case “b”,. Off we go again, only to be told later that it must be joined to look abc, As we grow and use these skills there is freedom for expression by the shape and style of our handwriting. This is similar to the way we learn martial arts.