Pressing tension

We are so used to pain and tension that we do not even know how it is possible to live without it. One example is the high level of tension in the legs and how it affects the hips turnout and our mobility and general health. The way to press this excess out of the body is not pleasant to say the least 🙂 Yet the outcome is worth it.

Do as few movement drills `before and then after this set of drills and note how the shift in tension affects your movement, awareness and impact acceptance.

We begin with static holds, we progress to gentle rocking in place and then further and deeper with narrower placed pressure (less contact and same mass or for example side of foot instead of sole of foot) and later on we move intuitively as we feel the tendrils and arches of pressure and how one interacts with the other.

Static holds:

  • Apply pressure to the center of the muscle belly and slowly edge toward a third up and down. Start with flat pressure by a fist, sole of foot and so on and then proceed to edgier pressure and always avoid going too fast. Slow becomes fast with good breath and attention.
  1. Sit with both legs straight and together and with toes pointing up. Have a partner apply pressure on the middle of the rectus femoris. Focus on breathing and communicating with your partner. Some will feel nothing but the pressures while others may scream in pain. Enjoy both ends of the spectrum and move slowly on the arch of the muscle while avoiding any pressure on the knee joint from above.
  2. Sit with both legs bent so the sides of the legs is on the ground and one knee is in contact with the sole of the other. Have a partner stand or apply pressure on the Iliotibial tract and again focus on breathing and on paying attention.
  3. Squat with your feet flat on the ground and your spine upright. Have a partner stand on the upper third of your rectus femoris ( have him or her balance using your head or anything else in the area. Breathe, note the shift in the hips and enjoy the process as well. After 30-60 breaths, descend and watch as the body naturally adjusts.
  4. Lie on your front and bend the knees so the toes point to the heavens. Have a partner apply pressure downward as you breathe and press from the hips upwards.

For more, come to class or be in touch 🙂

Meditation with a meat hook

There are lessons that can be taught by words and others that require experience to blend together, thought, feeling and sensation.

One such lesson is that of the meat hook or any hook once it sinks in our flesh or makes that needle like entrance in our skin.

I recall no fondly moving through the brush during my time in the army. The thorns and stones and mud and occasional hole made moving with our gear unpleasant at best. Having to hold my rifle in one hand, the radio antenna in the other and needing three more hands to climb, descend, push and pull was a very surprisingly consistent type of torture until a very clear moment when I stopped fighting the brush and started to blend in.

Nothing changed in the brush, it still stung, rip and tear at me. I let go of the part of myself trying to force my way to it and the dance began. I bled a bit less, move a lot more silently and a type of respect started to build.

Starting the journey with an actual meat hook is somewhat unsafe. Take a clothes hanger, an S shaped piece of metal without tips and start pulling and pushing on a partner while avoiding the eye holes and behind for a while. Start so slowly as you can talk while doing so and have a physical and verbal conversation as you go about it.

Let the hook guide the partner to the ground, let it turn them around, let it shift and control what the eyes present to the partner and also have as much fun with it as you can.

Let the hook come in contact with you and move another part of the body than the one in touch with the hook first. Keep breathing when the feeling of being dug into makes an appearance. Start working from the ground, move with the wall, do it inside a car you are responsible for and move with care for all parties involved.

Let the hook come at you and guide it back to the partner. Let the hook come at you and attach it to something in your surroundings. Let it come and draw your own tool from hammer to rope.

Nothing goes beyond the basics done well.

Keep safe,

Keep breathing

Stay in touch

Sharon

In praise of TENSION

Tension is vilified. Tension is maligned. Tension is vital to everyone’s life.

Working with tension is vital to all martial. Resisting partners, heavy tools, hard ground. All these promote our awareness to our own tension and when to use it and when to discard the tension or in my own phrasing, the structure of tension. We tend to brace when something flies into our frame of sight. We sometimes cower or round the spine to instinctively protect the digestive system we cannot do without.

Work from tension helps us become aware and then control and then reign the structure of tension and alignment in our bodies and in our minds.

Partner play

  1. Tense up and let your partners hit you as you focus on breathing and paying attention. It pays dividends to notice how the tension of impact goes through a tense body.
  2. Tense up only parts of the body and repeat the getting hit drill.
  3. tense the lower body and breathe continuously. Relax on each impact of the partners pushes and strikes. and let the contact move through the body to the ground.
  4. Tense up just the behind and have your partners strike your upper body. Relax upon impact and let your breath and sight shift when you are touched to have the contact slide on you rather then penetrate.
  5. Squat down on both feet flat on the ground and tense the back and sides of the neck. Keep breathing and have your partners push you. On impact, release the tension and roll from the squat to the ground and back into the squat.

Strength movements:

  1. Stand on one leg, squat down taking 10 breaths to the down movement and then rise on one breath. Repeat 10 times per leg.
  2. Hang a rope over something sturdy. Hold it with both hands with one at chest level and one straight upwards. Pull up on one inhale and down on 4 exhales. Repeat 10 times per hand.
  3. Lie on the ground and hold something sturdy with both hands behind your head. A sturdy partner will do as well if you cannot locate a pole, a building or something else in sight. Raise the body straight up to a shoulder stand in one breath and lower it straight in 10 breaths. Repeat 20 times.
  4. Lie down and place both hands on the top of your head. Rise into a neck bridge and hold it for 120 breaths where the spinal muscles are tensed on the inhale.

Enjoy and share with your partners.

The lesson of the drum

I often tell my students to avoid acting like a drum. Reacting is also a choice and we can choose otherwise. The drum is passive, makes sound only once hit and makes sound due to the tension of its surface.

Like the drum, all of us at times are tense, reactive and it is visible both physically, emotionally and mentally.

Physically, we are able to go past this reactivity through many ways, each must choose what fits his needs at the moment.

Physical

  1. Begin with tensing the body where you would brace once pushed, pulled or twisted. Hold your breath and release the tension and start breathing as a partner or a device ( an object hanging on a rope and swung …) makes contact. Begin from a standing position and alternate as you grow accustomed to how the body works counter clockwise and how one always has a choice between the two ends of the spectrum and beyond.
  2. open your eyes wide and spread your view side to side and up and down and then in circles until the eyes are relaxed and see without excess fixation. Now have a partner or an apparatus strike you slowly at first, with you aiming to maintain your eyes relaxed, your breath even and your body alignment without flinch or brace. The goal is to recognize the affect of fear and not knowing as the body cowers and braces with awareness and choice. One cannot rush this, avoid replacing tension with tension. Use your eyes and body to see all that is there instead of just the threat. Create a path instead of drifting between options.
  3. Tie a limb to a tree with a thick rope or have a partner hold or grab you. Begin with tensing and relaxing as you are without trying to pull out or twist. Continue to move the non tethered parts of the body, one at a time and then in union. Differentiate between the perceptions of what is holding you back and what internal freedom is.

Mental

  1. When you are at rest, you know you have energy and resources to enact if need be. This is the time to build the faculties further so you are not overwhelmed when pressure rises. Find yourself at rest, perhaps before going to sleep and lie down comfortably. Feel your pulse either with your hand or by awareness in your chest and start breathing in rhythm with your pulse. Start counting one pulse to one breath phase (inhale/exhale) and climb up as far as you can with syncing matching length of inhale and exhale to a longer count of pulse.

1 inhale per pulse counts, 1 exhale per pulse counts

1 longer inhale per 2 pulse counts, 1 longer exhale per 2 pulse counts

1 even longer inhale per 3 pulse counts, 1 even longer exhale per 3 pulse counts

and so on.

Emotional

  1. Think of something horrible. Monitor your heart rate and breath as you do. Go over the motions of how you would feel and act under a tragedy and again, monitor yourself as you do. Repeat for something positive. Balance is important.
  2. Place yourself in a cowering position and tense up. Aim to think positively and shift between body positions becoming aware how alignment and the body pose affects us internally. Make the connection how both inside affects outside and vice versa.

Be safe but not too safe 🙂

The magic of wrestling with a sword

Many times, we attempt to recreate something that already exists. Many martial arts today have gun disarm drills they invented, knife defense and attack they invented and much more that was already in existence the first time a man took a rock in his hand and threw it at his brother.

Studying what worked for people who fought for their lives for millennia helps us deepen and further our own knowledge and temper our own experiences with that of our forefathers.

I suggest to you ten drills to rediscover ancient knowledge. Mo magic exceeds honest work.

Lie on the ground with your sword. Have your partner or partners come at you with their tools. Get moving with your breath, body and sword to avoid being cut down and cut them down as you go. Smile, it relaxes the face and frees the mind from worry of things that have yet to happen.

Close your eyes and stand on one leg. Hold your sword in your hand and with each breath, feel your balance shift and adjust. Have a partner push and pull on you with a stick or a rope loop. Breathe and move as one with the sword and maintain your balance through conscious movement. Let your footing start at your hips instead of at your legs.

Stand a sword stroke away from your partner and cross swords. Breathe and relax your hand, arm and shoulder tension so as to move the blade from the movement of the body. Let your partner move as they care to and sink inwards to cut or thrust with your blade. Here focus on moving from your own volition instead of being a drum making sound only when hit.

Hold your sword in your hands and have your partner grab the tip of your sword. Aim to stab and cut them as they move and work the contact to avoid being cut and thrusted upon. Focus on being the entire blade instead of having the point of contact pressed to your consciousness.

Hold your sword in your hands and have the blade of your partner placed on your body. Move from your breath to first avoid placing resistance on the blade and from there let the body movement decide the next step. Practice so you can answer several questions at the same time. Do not limit yourself to defense or offense.

Take a sword and have both you and your partner place hands on it as you both kneel on your knees. Breathe and both work to either be the only one with blade at hand or on drawing a dagger from your belt if you choose to. Never let the blade consume more of you than required.

Stand with your feet under you and start moving your blade. Have your partner aim to strike you and you in turn aim to avoid his blade, not only with your body but with your blade as well. Free your mind from conversation and exist without leaning on outside circumstance.

Place your blade on your partners blade. Keep them touching as your partner aims to break contact and slide and move on their blade as they make their intent known. Why do this ? To understand the mentality behind contact and no contact so when the desire to regroup hits you under pressure, you will not suffer a dissonance between your survival and your instinct.

Tense your body, from your skull muscles to the muscles gripping the ground at your feet. Let go and breathe continuously. Have your partner dart their blade at you using both thrusts and cuts as you avoid focusing on them or their tools with your eyes and movement. See the gaps in space and movement and find their timing without molding a response. Be active in touching with your blade or body while not letting their actions lead you. Freedom is always won, never without intent.

Be either in a blade on blade or with both sides touching the blade and practice the art of invisibility. Breathe as you would and let go of all intent and tension to free yourself from the current motion to become something new. An example for this can be to let go of struggling over the control of a firearm to grab a boiling kettle and emptying it on the front of your attacker or letting go of a knife to push an assailant into a moving truck. disappearing is choosing when and where to be and when and where not to be.

Stick ups Rope rolls Sideways squats

There is a terrible way of linear training and strength training which hampers how we progress and maintain our health throughout a very nonlinear life.

Here are three examples of nonlinear strength and movement which will enhance your health, strength and ability to handle life’s rungs.

The Stick ups

Take a sturdy stick which can bear your mass without snapping. Sit down on your behind and place the end of the stick on the ground. Use one hand to press it downward in order to raise your body to a standing position and then ease downward to sitting. Repeat playing with angles, holds and remember to always breathe.

Rope rolls

Loop a sturdy rope overhead on a strong enough hold. Hold the rope ends in each hand and bring yourself upwards by looping the rope on your arms and thus shortening the distance. Relax yourself back down by releasing the loops under your control. Remember to always breathe.

Sideways squats

Stand with your feet under you. Relax the angle of one hip and relax the leg coming from it. Let it continue naturally until you are either squatting down or laying down. Raise yourself in the same manner. Let your eyes see what the body movement present before them and always breathe.

Water training

Being in the water is a natural experience. We’ve all spend months in liquid and returning to it is second nature.

Standing neck deep in water is relaxing and can be challenging in the right mindset and conditions. If the temperature is low, then the body needs to contend with the elements and the blood flow and heat generation is getting a workout. If the temperature is mild, the body can receive the same by swimming and diving.

One of the great things in water is they resist all movement and give instant feedback. Clap your hands in front and clap them behind you and feel the water resistance to the movement. Try to do this faster and faster and the water will respond in kind.

Kick with your feet and strike with your arms. Roll and turn, switch positions and height. Shadow fight slow and then faster and faster and you will get a great lesson in movement efficiency and your entire body will learn to move more as one unit and forgo excessive tension and movement.

Breathing wise. When the temperature is low. Direct your breath into the places that warm your body. The locations are slightly different for each person so note where your body is warmer in cold environments and study yourself. This is a focus drill of course and through that, you learn to direct and use your nervous system and visualization to generate actual heat.

Also, Just enjoy the water and watch out for gators 🙂

CHAIR POISON

Our bodies are a wonderful evolution. Generations of gathering, hunting, building and fighting with each other and ourselves.

Sitting is a common poison we administer to our bodies. It shortens our tendons, creates tension and blocks the flow of blood and other systems in the bodies. It is a part of almost any day so daily undoing is required.

Drills to undo sitting:

First – Don’t sit when possible or sit using a position that undoes some of the position damage. For example, a kneeling chair.

  1. Lie on your stomach. Inhale and raise all limbs and head in the air and arch the spine off the ground. Exhale and release. Repeat sixty times.
  2. Lie on your back and bring your heels to your behind. Inhale and extend your feet downward to bring your hips forward. Exhale and release. Repeat sixty times.
  3. Lean against a wall with your arms straight to the sides. Inhale and press the shoulders and then arms against the wall to bring the body off the wall. Exhale and release. Repeat thirty times.
  4. Stand a step away from the wall and place both hands on the top of your head. Place them on the wall and walk in a circle in place so the body rotates on two axis, the ground and the wall. Repeat ten times to each direction.

Enjoy the freedom and never forget to appreciate your health and freedom.

The bridge defense

The human body is an amazing mechanism when treated with care.

Balance is overlooked these days. We try to become strong but mirror strong or strong toward just a few tasks and not for life.

Here is an imbalanced plan to help balance the spine activation and power arches. To stand tall, we must build two arches. One to pull forward and one to pull backwards. In the middle we find our balance.

  1. Lie on your stomach and on the inhale, raise your head upward and to one side. Exhale and relax downward. Repeat this right and left ten times.
  2. Lie on your stomach and on the inhale raise one arm straight up till the body rests on the opposing shoulder. Relax down on the exhale.
  3. Lie on your stomach and raise one arm and opposite side leg to form a straight line on the inhale and slowly relax downward on the exhale.
  4. Lie on your stomach and raise all limbs together in the air to form an X on the inhale and slowly relax downward on the exhale.
  5. lie on your back with all limbs in the air. Breathe and move to balance on one side (balancing on the side of the body) with all limbs in the air and then the other with no bounce or sway.
  6. lie on your stomach with all limbs in the air. Breathe and turn to balance on one side and then the other with no sway or bounce.
  7. Lie on your back with your knees together and your heels touching your behind. Inhale and arch up to a shoulder stand and release on the exhale.
  8. Lie on your back with your knees touching the ground and your heels touching your behind. Raise your hips upwards on the inhale and release on the exhale.
  9. Lie on your back with your legs straight together upwards and parallel and touching a wall or a tree. Inhale and arch your hips up and backwards to form an arch with the heels on the wall and one shoulder blade on the ground. Exhale and release.
  10. Stand a step and a half facing away from the wall or tree. Arch back and do push ups with both hands touching on the support. Move from almost touching the wall with your behind to fully extended away.
  11. Stand two steps away from a wall or tree and walk your hands down into a hand bridge and back. Focus on starting each step with a breath and shift the weight from one leg to another. Walking is a full body motion.
  12. Stand a step away from the wall and place both hands on it. Step aside and turn to face the in the other direction in a slight arch and repeat this movement until fully comfortable. Repeat with increasing distance from the wall and no small children passing underneath 🙂

Movement is the new constant.

The invisible sword

It is up to us to be logical but it is equally paramount to be illogical in our pursuit of truth and affect.

Here is an illogical lesson plan for the sword. It mirrors a simple truth of resistance vs control but from the other side of the mirror.

Begin:

  1. Hold your sword in your hand but allow the mass of it to point downward. Imagine it resting quietly in calm water.
  2. Shift your hips in a way when the middle stays in place and the hips move, one forward and one back and in reverse. Transfer that movement to the sword by letting go of excess tension in the spine and shoulder and let your breath be the rhythm.
  3. Keep the image of the sword in calm water in your head and add to hip movement to draw the sword out without splashing any water or creating any excess tension or movement. Keep your hand closed around the hilt so any adjustment in angle is made by the body, shoulder, arm and wrist.
  4. Keep the edge of the sword in your head and draw the sword from the down position to pointing up but so it maintains its up position out of balance and not out of tension. You can also balance a wooden stick on a finger for practice but keeping the sword upright in your grasp is more beneficial for the dialog between resistance and control.
  5. Start drawing a Mollinet by drawing a circle to your right and one to your left in one continuous motion coming from your hips and guiding the movement by spreading the movement between your shoulder, elbow and wrist. Always be aware of the edge and lead with it when appropriate.
  6. Have a partner place a staff or a sword parallel to the ground. Strike it with force and feel the resistance passing back to your sword arm and how your vision is affected.
  7. Breathe and release the wrist to let the sword strike the other sword and continue the movement with moving the elbow but with a relaxed wrist. Mind if the movement continues smoothly and if your vision maintains its focus more clearly.
  8. Breathe and Release both shoulder and wrist so the release meets at the elbow and strike the other sword in a continuous manner with each breath.
  9. Stand an arm and a sword away from your partner. Hold your sword in balance and watch both your and their swords. Find the wave of the pulse in yourself and in your partner and strike as theirs pulse. Release the motion continuously to keep the opponent from touching your tension or yourself and within that mold, you will find freedom and opportunity.

The straight road is not always the shortest. There are times where there are many valid ways and it is the choice which makes the way.