Training Tip #4
The Length Strength and Legs
by Mike Sigman
One of the major aspects of "internal strength" is its use of the "ground strength." By relaxedly training the body structure to propagate the solidity of the ground up to the hands, great power can be wielded, whether in martial arts or in daily chores.
The propagation of the ground strength, or peng jing, or "Ki strength," etc., has been discussed in previous issues. In this issue, let's take a look at part of the "power-train" of the body from ground to hand. To optimally transmit the ground's strength to the hands, all elements of the "power-train" have to be in condition; one weak link is all it takes to hamper our ability to use peng.
The traditional way of training the path of power, our "length strength," is through "standing postures" or "standing meditation." By standing in very relaxed postures, but maintaining peng to the very finger tips and body surfaces ("extend Ki" in Aikido), we can accomplish two things, on the physical level:
Various postures assist in the development of various application-strengths. Naturally, Qi considerations, central nervous system effects, etc., are also present, but they are outside of this discussion.
Doing a Taiji form, Bagua walking, Xingyi standing practice, etc., slowly and correctly (relaxed) will also build up the "length strength" of the body because these practices involve the same body training that "standing" does; a Taiji form can be thought of as "moving-standing" practice. Clearly, prolonged practice will assist in training and conditioning the length strength.
For those of us with busy schedules, but the desires to go beyond a mild achievement of the internal strength benefits, some supplemental exercises are acceptable and expedient.
The important points to remember in supplemental exercises are that the body must still be used as a unit, great relaxation and softness are needed in order to allow the development of the whole-body muscle sets, high repetition and low effort are the key, and perseverance is important.
The legs and leg joints are the most important link in the length strength of the body. A deliberate, and moderate, exercise program which strengthens the legs, ankles, knees, and hip joints is one of the most fruitful undertakings of supplemental exercise. Everyday quality of life will be enhanced by leg strength, regardless of any other efforts!
One of the best exercises for the legs is a series of side-to-side dips, going down on one leg and then the other. Allow for gradual progress over a period of time (months); consult a physician if questions arise. Remember that the internal strength exercises involve high repetitions at low effort; strength is counterproductive to repatterning the body.
At first, just a slight bending of the weighted knee is fine. Use common sense in your progress, because injuries can be harmful and slow down your progress.
In going down and flexing the knee, three things need to be borne in mind:
Feel as if you are balancing a bean-bag on your head and be aware of the path from the weighted leg, through the hip joint, up the sacrum and spine to the top of the head. Maintain the "bean bag" with a constant peng strength.
Each time you go down (exhale), let the lower back relax (maintain peng!) and bow slightly out; each time you rise (inhale), let the un-bowing of the back contribute to your upward force. Use a chair or hanging rope as a stabilizing aid. The length strength from the ground to the spine can be strengthened in this manner.
Many benefits will accrue from this one exercise! Try it.
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