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.

KNOWING YOUR SPACE

We all practice the knowledge of space when walking, driving, dancing and fighting.

Getting to know your own space while in combat gives us the ability to welcome a contact, move away and time the alignment, tension and movement to maintain freedom in a fight or a contact.

From the first step each of us took, our eyes began to study space and timing. We continue the practice and learning with static work and then move to the dynamic.

  1. Stand up in front of a wall. Place a hand on a wall extended but not locked and repeat for the front, the sides and the back. Play with the starting distance so you start a foot away from the wall and move to place a hand or fist on the wall by knowing the distance. Move from different angles, heights and side. Move another foot away from the wall and again, play with movement to place your fists, hands, elbows, shoulders and more. Continue playing with starting location and use your breath to add speed without adding tension and let the breath lead each movement starting from the body.
  2. Once the eyes and body are aligned with static work, we continue to moving with a partner. Start with the partner walking around you in a circle. Breath continuously to remain relaxed and time placing hands, fist and feet on the partner as they walk without adding any pressure. Keep the contact light and move with the contact to avoid becoming fixed with your eyes.
  3. Have your partner walk toward you and move the least amount so they just miss you by a hair. Do this from different angles and add speed with breath awareness and also pay attention with your body angle. Play with the angles and keep your legs under your hips to avoid becoming a position while maneuvering.
  4. Add placing hands and feet on your partner or partners to the play as you go. Never sacrifice mobility for position.
  5. Close one eye at a time and repeat the play. Play with your head angle and position and continue to look as you move instead of tracking what is moving. Your eyes and mind are capable of encompassing much more than most allow. Let them see for you and take in the entire picture. This is one of the keys to remain free in a melee or with resistance.
  6. Sit down and repeat the play. Find freedom with your eyes and motion by focusing on different heights in the walking partners and alternating constantly. Move with your breath and as you are down, view the horizon but do not let it confine you. Let the head move with the movements of the body.

This is a first step. Once force is introduced to the work, be diligent to breath continuously and to be aware of the tension building in the body and pose. With each breath, rebuild yourself. Simple but not easy.

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.

Co-ordination

Coordination and coordination under pressure are related sets of skills.

I was playing with my son Gideon and together we came up with a set of drills for coordination under pressure.

Here is the progression.

  1. Stand and hold a tennis ball in your hand. Throw it from rib height to eye height along with your breath tempo.
  2. Repeat the previous drill and close your eyes. Feel before you see.
  3. Repeat the previous drill and hold your breath and throw and catch the ball continuously until pressure rises and a bit further.
  4. Have your son or anyone else stand only slightly out of reach and as you throw the ball, have them throw a ball at you. Catch it with your other hand and throw it back minding to continue your initial rhythm and your breath continuous.
  5. Repeat the previous drill but move out of the way of the incoming ball and return to your position as you throw it back.
  6. Walk with the ball in one hand and throw it as in the first drill as you walk.
  7. Have your son or anyone else throw the ball at you. Catch it as you move out of the way and throw it back. Keep your breath continuous and your eyes relaxed from fixating on the incoming.
  8. Repeat the previous drill only with more than one ball flying your way. Choose which to catch and which to avoid. Color of balls can help here.

Enjoy, Grow through play and live free.

The four horsemen to counter commercial medicine

Ask yourself who you are. Are you a consumer who follows or a man who chooses his path ?

The four horsemen to counter commercial medicine

  1. Doctor FAST Fasting has been a successful prescription to countless ailments and promotes health and mental and emotional clarity. It is the definition of cheap and can be applied in moderation from not eating for a fixed number of hours each day to fasting for a day or two weekly. Keeping things simple will ease your entry into this highly beneficial practice and the joy of finding that we are not reliant on constant feeding may bring more freedom in other areas to your life.
  2. Doctor MOVEMENT Movement is a key ingredient in staying and building both ability and health. Physical labor from building a fence to digging a ditch helps in strengthen and harnessing the physical body and creating a more aware, healthy and happy individual. We can practice many arts from dancing to martial art when we have the time and we become more vibrant and effective in our lives in both the physical and mental plane. Breath, dance, move and be happy.
  3. Doctor TEMPERATURE heat and cold are primal catalyst for body and mind integration and health. Our bodies and minds clear the mist and release the breaks when it feels the need to stay alive and heat from a sauna or a hot shower and cold from an ice bath or taking a cold shower will clear the head, bring about great hormonal changes in the body for the better and help build a better working and better feeling machine for us to use.
  4. Doctor SILENCE Silence is often misunderstood. Any person can be happy for a little bit with the aid of drugs (sugar, spirits and worse) but long lasting happiness comes from having a purpose and being in alignment with your true self instead of following a trend or trying to fit in. When I speak of silence, I speak of the clear content of following your purpose, the silence of not listening to the screaming voices of media and fashion trying to push and prod you to fit in a mold which benefits them. Be your own man or woman. Be truly happy. I wish you all the best in this challenge and hope to learn together on the way.

NICE is a killing word

Today we have many schools for martial art that teach very little while costing us time and even derails us from true understanding and harms us.

How do we distinguish what is good for us and what is harmful ? How do we take this lesson and enact it in our being instead of keeping the lesson in the classroom?

We ask questions and stand for what is good for us even if others call us names and attempt to shame and derail us.

For example:

Does your martial art school elevate students when time passes and money transfers hands or only when the quality of the student rises ?

Does your art benefit you outside your school ? Do you think more clearly? Do you move better? Does your awareness level and breadth rise and are you healthier ?

Does your martial art force you to look inside and acknowledge more strength of character than you thought you had ? This can come in many ways from investing in deep practice to helping others rise.

One of the earliest arts I studies was Korindo Aikido. We learned to roll and move on wooden floors, fight with hands feet staff sword and dagger and to avoid getting hid by one of many. Aikido has a bad name today in the martial art world and many say it is not fit for the ring or octagon. That is not the true test of a martial art. I have seen it help many grow as people and it has saved my skin in the service many a time both in movement, awareness and mortal combat.

I urge you to take this a step further and stop acting nice by abiding by ruling and pressure from outside and start being nice by standing tall and standing for what you believe in no matter what the outside calls you or tries to control you by trying to paint your beliefs in a certain way.

The martial way is not about who wins a bout in the ring, it is not about who has the fastest kick or the hardest fist though they are nice to have.

The martial way is about being a beneficial member in your tribe, about being free to advance your beliefs and keep learning and being able to protect and grow yourself and your loved ones. The best soldiers are leaders, scholars, innovative thinkers and people who answer the question “Am I my brothers keeper?” in the affirmative every day, not by acting nice but by being nice. Being a person of worth instead of a drone in someone else’s plan.

Also,

Do pushups 🙂

Do breathwork and always stand for what is right.

Risk

There is always risk in a fight and there is a risk in avoidance too.

We choose by making decisions and by postponing them too. Sometimes our decisions are made out of negatives being weighted and sometimes by a higher values such as hope or a need to change for the better.

In mortal combat and in life, we choose all the time. A slave in the dark continent chooses too but his choice is meager compared to another human who grew up in a land of presumed freedom. Choosing freedom is a hard choice because again, it entails a great deal of risk.

Returning to combat, We choose to practice drills. Many of them have rules which limit the freedom and possibilities of the outcome and the outcome is what matters.

The more freedom we have, the more risk we must undertake and here is the line. Will we choose freedom now and may or may not survive or do we choose the momentary safety of self limitation and end up in a slow decline.

Take risks daily. Small risk, medium risks but those that lead somewhere or at least have a trajectory. There is a reason why a horse pulling a carriage has blinders. He is not going anywhere by his own volition.

Drills:

  1. Breathe – Take a breath before making a decision you make daily – choose to alter your action by a bit. Wear your shoes differently, take another route to work, Speak to a stranger that you see on the way to the monkey bars, choose to exercise instead of watching a video of someone else moving…
  2. Sight – Look at your day differently, what is dangerous in your day because of your choices ? Do you choose to eat something that will take you from your family before your time comes ? Do you practice being comfortable in your body ? Do you know how to speak in a convincing manner ? Do you know how to write and how to read ? Simple questions deserve to be answered daily? In the martial sense : Why do you choose the drills you do and what do they grant you ? Where are you destined in the martial pursuit ?
  3. Contact – Humans die without contact. Sometimes the body keeps living but the heart dies. Make contact with your loved ones on a daily basis when possible and engage with your surrounding so that every day you know more about the people around you and yourself. Otherwise. Read Alice through the looking glass.
  4. Null – Take something you care not for in your life and remove it from your day. Stop complaining and take small actions toward your freedom. Make your future self smile and laugh and don’t wait for him to laugh. Laughter is a powerful weapon and it can lead to understanding self governess. Be the one who decides when to say NO, not today, no more.