Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hard stuff

Both stylistically, and by temperament I tend towards the softer end of the spectrum in my martial arts. Sure, when I throw my partner hits the mat hard and when I apply a joint lock it hurts, but I aspire to use leverage and whole-body power, rather than the "brute" force of local muscle.

That said, lately I've wondered whether a teensy bit of "hard" practice might do me a bit of good. So I've picked three training drills that have a hard element and have added them to my personal routine: 2-5% hard, leaving 95-98% soft.
  1. Horse stance with tension: Just stand in horse stance and tense every muscle, all at once, increasing the duration over time. Warning: If you try this do not allow pressure to build up in your head, as it can be dangerous.
  2. Low forward stance: The front knee should be in line with the toes; the back leg braced straight. Sound hard? It is.
  3. Circular punching: This should actually be fairly relaxed, but my shoulders and upper arms don't understand this, and tense up, making me want to stop.
Note that the former two exercises are static hard exercises, not dynamic. There's some virtue in exploring what hard feels like, as opposed to adopting it as a normal state of movement.

For dynamic I still want soft. The latter two drills are primarily hard in the sense of difficult, and this leads to hard in the form of unwanted tension. Certainly, the punching should become softer with practice.

What exercises do you find hard, in either or both senses? How do you balance hard and soft in your training?


Sue C said...

Hi Dan, those first two stance exercises sound just like karate! And yes they hurt. If nothing else we karateka have rock hard thighs!

Matt "Ikigai" said...

I find that I have to pay attention to utilizing soft, much in the same way you utilize hard. In karate, soft is an essential part of the curriculum but often gets brushed away for more dynamic and tense techniques.

I've found by putting as much emphasis on soft it has increased the effectiveness of my arts as a whole exponentially.