Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Some thoughts on structure

I think I've mentioned structure, but I don't think I've actually explained what it is. Structure is basically just using the natural alignment of your skeletal system to facilitate power generation and conservation. You can lose energy in your techniques through shock absorption if your structure collapses kind of like jumping down from somewhere and bending your knees to absorb the shock. If you have good structure backing up your punches than you could extend your fist and someone could push on it and you wouldn't move. Your skeleton is supporting the weight that is put on it and transfers it to the ground, so your muscles don't have to do the majority of the work.

Here's an example you can try in the next ten seconds. Get down on the floor in a push up position with your arms straight and shoulder width apart. The bone structure of your arms keeps you up. You need to use very little arm strength to hold this position. You abdominal muscles will most likely give out before your arms do. This is an example of good structure as far as your arms are concerned. Now bend your arms, so you're about halfway to the floor and hold it. Your arms will get tired much more quickly, because you're using muscle to hold yourself up instead of your bones.

With proper structure you can throw almost your entire body weight into your techniques without much of any muscular strength, because your skeleton will support the technique not your muscles. This also brings up the concept of tension. First you don't need to tense at the end of a technique. Tensing your muscles at the end of a technique just makes you tired. It doesn't support anything. I'll prove it. Get down in the push up position again, but as if you were going to do knuckle push ups. Now straighten your arms all the way as before. Now tense your arms as hard as you can. You stayed put right. Okay, now relax your arms as much as you can without bending them. You still stayed put didn't you. You didn't need to tense at all to hold the position. It's the same with punching or any technique. You can relax and if you're structure is good it will still be devastating.

I've been thinking about structure a lot lately especially when it comes to striking. I've been thinking that testing your structure may be more important to powerful striking techniques and easier to achieve than whacking things like a punching bag. It goes back to perfect practice and is very similar I think to makiwara training. There are a few videos out there where people show you how to test your structure. Basically you pick a wall, extend your fist and lean on it like you're punching, if you collapse than your structure is bad, if you just lean there than your structure is good.

I've been kicking around the idea that maybe this should be the bulk of the training used to promote striking. Getting as much energy into the strikes you can land might be more important than getting as much energy into the strikes you want to land. Meaning you might not have three good feet to power a right cross into someone's temple, but you might have one foot to power your fist into someone's kidney. If we use structure to power our techniques than we should focus on strengthening our stances and knowing where we can generate the most power in all positions.

It's funny that I remember reading this somewhere when I was 16 in what was probably an article in Black Belt magazine most likely titled "How to get Monster Power" or something and how I remembered being let down that all it entailed was leaning up against walls. It seemed incredibly boring. Luckily I feel that I'm wise enough to know that just because something can be boring doesn't mean that it's useless.