Training Tip #5
The Length Strength as a Frame
by Mike Sigman
The discussions of the "length strength" have to do with training the body, from foot to hand, as a true unit. For instance, even turning a door-knob involves a real connection from hand to back through hip and leg to supporting foot. A recognizable portion of the power to turn the door-knob comes from the torso muscles, supported by the continuous ground-strength to the hand.
The last issue stressed the importance of knee, leg, hip and lower-back strength as the foundation for the "length strength." Leg strength cannot be over-emphasized. There is an indelicate, but insightful story about Chen Xiaowang's father urinating over the side of a cliff when one of his jocular friends playfully tried to push him over from behind. Such was the leg and hip strength of Chen that he was able to root direct pushes and neutralize any others all without missing a drop, so to speak!
Standing-posture practice is the traditional method of building the length strength. By imagining from which directions various forces impact, subtle adjustments can be made and practiced, over time creating great strength in the length strength "cage." In other words, willing the peng strength (the "ground strength", Ki strength, etc.) to an area of the body (usually the arms) and maintaining will develop considerable power over time.
Spreading the peng strength over the whole body can also be done by slow exercises which involve visualizing manipulating peng during applications or visualizing facing peng in all movements against a viscous resistance. The Taiji form, Reeling Silk exercises, I-Chuan (Dachengquan) slow-movement trials, etc., are all examples of this sort of directing the peng strength. Aikido uses similar exercises, e.g., fune koge undo and others.
One of the main problem areas in propagating the ground strength to the hands is in the shoulder and upper torso area. If the leg and back strength are good, more load responsibility can be put on them, lessening the reflexive tension of the shoulders and chest. Still, though, the structural support path from the back to the arms has to be strengthened and added to the body unit, because this area is the one most guilty of local tension. It's hard to change after a lifetime of habit, isn't it?
A Handy Piece of Equipment
A great workout tool can be made from a mesh laundry bag and a rounded sack of sand. The sand bag, etc., can be constrained to a rounded shape (about the size of a basketball) with the help of duct tape, string, or whatever is handy. Place the sand-bag in the laundry bag and suspend it from the ceiling so that the sand bag is at stomach/lower rib height.
By pushing the bag forward until it is slightly over head height and the arms are fairly well extended, we have an excellent position from which to develop the "length strength," particularly in the area of the upper torso (see picture). Rather than allow the shoulders to tense, try to get the body between the bag and the back foot so there is minimal tension in the shoulders. But don't allow the shoulders to slip out of alignment, either.
Using the knees, hips and waist, extend and twist your support of the ball so that over days, weeks and months. Alternate which leg is in back and alternate the direction of the circle. Just a few minutes will suffice.
Strengthening this link in the "length strength" will do much to get rid of unwanted shoulder use and train you to propagate great power to your hands from the ground, legs and waist.
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Page maintained by Ian Young; last change June 11, 2000.