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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Add placing hands and feet on your partner or partners to the play as you go. Never sacrifice mobility for position.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
Strength gives way to capability. We aim for strength but we usually forget to aim for a balance of strength.
Our bodies are made for forward motion mostly, for climbing, running, swimming and working with tools for building and war.
Balance in strength allows our bodies to manifest our will in movement over time instead of attempting to maintain a balance with tension and posture adjustments.
Drills to manifest balance:
- Stand on one leg. Swing the other leg forward and back as you clap your hand in the opposite side to create a balance. Breathe and let your arms find the same reach in front of you and at the back.
- Place yourself on your fists and feet. move side to side, move forward and back, and turn in circles. Turn from facing down to facing up or vice versa and repeat the movement patterns. Enjoy moving and move with your breath and from the center outward.
- Stand a step away from a wall or a tree. Place your hands of fists on it and start walking it side to side. Turn away from the wall and repeat.
- Pick someone or something up in your arms. It can be your kid or mate or a log you aim to use for heating. Start walking and pay attention to the mass distribution in your feet. Walk forward and backwards side to side and turn right and left. Walk tall and in a partial squat. Let your feet relearn how to walk by shifting instead of pressing.
- Take a broomstick or any other rolling pin that can bear your mass. Stand on it with both feet using the center of each foot. Breathe and slowly look up and down side to side and turn your head. Breathe and release excess tension and slowly let the body align on the rolling pin to gain greater balance in each direction.
Enjoy and join our classes.
Art by Natalia Friedman
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.
- Stand and hold a tennis ball in your hand. Throw it from rib height to eye height along with your breath tempo.
- Repeat the previous drill and close your eyes. Feel before you see.
- Repeat the previous drill and hold your breath and throw and catch the ball continuously until pressure rises and a bit further.
- 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.
- Repeat the previous drill but move out of the way of the incoming ball and return to your position as you throw it back.
- Walk with the ball in one hand and throw it as in the first drill as you walk.
- 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.
- 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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 🙂
There is a saying that we are treated as worse as we allow.
I want to introduce a few physical examples of this concept but also urge you to consider where this concept comes to life in everyday life and the relationships we hold with family, friends and the powers that be beyond the people.
- Distance – Consider the distance we dynamically hold and mold between ourselves and the world. Aim to determine the distance between people and yourself as well as the position you are in, instead of letting others guide, bully, direct and request you at their will. In many ways, the ability to detect being bullied, guided and circled will aid in avoiding being mugged, attacked and so on. Distance is not just physical, it is a manifestation of our state of mind and the way we position ourselves in the social hierarchy.
- Breath control – Speaking cannot happen without breathing. Not much else can happen without it either. Notice and mind your breath as you speak and as you move withing distance and action. Avoid letting people taking your breath away by minding your own breath first and staying within the rhythm which suits you. We are either masters or slaves. There is only freedom or servitude unless you find the golden line of true cooperation or dare I say love.
- Conflict – Manipulation, subterfuge and plain use of force are evident everywhere in nature. The fight to feed the young, kill the competition and avoid being mud beneath the wheel of time is everlasting. Consider with each interaction, which role we play and to what extent we are in control of the dynamics. We are only human when we act human. It is easy to lose sight of our humanity when pressed and there again, recognizing the pressure, is the key to letting it pass within without passing it on to us.
Art by my beloved Natalia Friedman.
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.
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.
Do pushups 🙂
Do breathwork and always stand for what is right.
In confrontations there is no balance between the streams. There will only be a balance within the theater the confrontation takes place in.
In physical confrontations, we will gain balance once we are mindful to the internal streams of tension and movement within. Knowing the internal theater of war lets the one in conflict see with less distortion both inward and outward.
Our hips are a marvel of engineering. Crafted over eons for the perfect balance between stability mobility, efficiency and effectiveness.
I give you two drills to balance your hip nervous system activation patterns. They are simple on the outside but the multitude of possibilities make them a rich research ground.
Place yourself on both feet and hands. Make your body into an X with your feet and arms slightly parted. Use your breath to time each movement and lift each limb in turn minding to keep the body centered. There may be a slight shift before each lift that with attention will clean out as awareness grows.
Repeat the same standing up. Lift each leg in turn. Think of peeling the sole off the ground instead of lifting it like a robot. Move as if all limbs act in union and enjoy the new found balance and health this releases.
In a confrontation or when walking on a slippery surface, this will aid in maintaining and regaining your level and allow for less telegraphing motion when in maneuver.