Understanting Strong Posture

Different martial arts teach and instill different postures that have been designed to offer the ideal position(s) to best use attack and defend actions for that specific style.  Although what works for Aikido is so substantially different from Kickboxing or Wing Chun they all make sense when you apply the techniques from their particular repertoire.

This post addresses basic concepts about what a strong posture is and how it can be better understood and improved.

Some basic attributes of a strong posture

  1. well balanced: attacks can come from different directions and your posture should be able to cope with it;
  2. well rooted: you should feel in control of your balance and how to shift it back, forth and sideways;
  3. relaxed: the posture should not involve any unnecessary muscle;
  4. with a proper guard: a strong posture for martial arts will always have to reflect the most adequate guard for that style;
  5. ready to action: you should be always ready to react to an attack so your posture should reflect that; do spend some time analysing “what if” situation and try to be realistic with your own level of fitness and proficiency in your style.

Developing a strong posture

A strong element of self awareness is essential to well perform martial arts techniques and moves: good news is that the actual training helps developing the self  awareness that helps its own improvement.  Following the teaching of an expert teacher you can surely have a feeling of what is suggested and required by the style you are practicing.

The next step, once you are fully comfortable with the basics is experimenting and see what works for you, your body shape and level of fitness: what is ideal for an Olympic champion of tae kwon do will not equally work for a software engineer practicing Ju Jitsu.

Understand and improve your strong posture

In my opinion the best training for your posture is to increase your level of awareness about it.  Be aware of your position feel it with your eyes closed.  Then try moving forward and back, then side to side and then in circle: stop in between, literally freeze in position and check.

A mirror is also a great tool: if you see your image and can balance all elements associated to it you are likely to store them into your unconscious memory when automatic reactions are originated.

The final and next step is asking a friend or training partner to test your posture by pushing, pulling or simply testing where weak points can be found.

Differences between Aikido and Tae Kwon Do

I met yesterday a guy and our conversation drifted very quickly into martial arts (surprise!), specifically about self defence.  I was confused when he stated that he wanted to learn Tao Kwon Do for self defence because a friend of his is a high ranked student of the discipline.  My first reply was: “TDK is mostly based on high kicks, really not ideal for self defence and then, also, you are 37 years old reasonably large and heavy male, TKD is ideal with people with lot of flexibility in their legs and trying to achieve it at this age might be tricky”.  He continued with his explanation that in ideal situation he would like to be able to seize the opponent’s attack and avoid striking but simply locking his attacker in a way that would be impossible for him to hurt any further but without risks of injuring him too much.  I then added that what he was talking about was possible doing Aikido, or Ju Jitsu or other styles not primarily based on strikes… and there he came out with: “oh!, yes, Aikido, I meant Aikido, this is what my friend is an expert of…”.

To me somebody that confuses Aikido with TKD is like confusing a steak with a salad, both food but very different in content. So what are the main differences that a neophyte should look out when checking a class, of either Aikido or TKD?

Let’s list the main ones:

  • Aikido is Japanese; TKD is Korean, well no easy to spot by observing them 🙂
  • In a Aikido class you’ll see most people in white Gi, perhaps with coloured belts and the higher ranked people and the masters will wear a black hakama, a very broad pair of trousers that look like a skirt;  in a TKD class they wear white Gi, with coloured belts but their top is some times a “V” neck long sleeves shirt.
  • In Aikido you see people twirling and twisting, throwing and applying arm and wrist locks: people fall and fly around a lot; in TKD opponents are striking each other, mostly with kicks to the upper part of the body (sport rules forbid kicks below the belt).
  • Aikido is mainly defensive, e.g. it starts working when an opponent attacks you; TKD is based on attacking with strikes.
  • Aikido’s techniques can be subtle and usually require a very long time, several years, to be practiced to a level of proficiency to be useful in self defence; TKD can start to be effective with some of its techniques within a few months or a year of practice.
  • Aikido teaches, apart from the bare hand practice, the use of various weapons like sword and staff;  TKD is purely based on bare had strikes.

I have chosen and selected 2 videos to show what Aikido and TKD look like.  It was harder than I thought as many are dispersive and not representative enough.  Please keep the volume down and ignore the part of the TKD video from the boxing ring onward:

Martial art to learn as a background for a security course?

I was recently awarded best answer in Yahoo! Answers by replying to the following question:

For someone who is looking into enrolling in a security course, what is one of the best martial arts to learn as a ind of background into self defense. I have heard that Ju Jitsu is good as far as grappling goes…. Any ideas

and here was my answer:

I agreed that ju jitsu can be the first and correct answer to your question it is also true that aikido offers as well great level of joint locks that are excellent for security work. They will surely protect you against people pushing and grabbing you although they might not be the best answer against somebody attacking you with punches or other strikes at short range. For those I’d suggest Wing Chun that also allows great attacking skills when needed. Another interesting alternative could be Silat that offers both attack and defense against strikes but with a broad range of joint and limb locks and grappling techniques.

For any of the above, in any case, you should consider a consistent practice in order to learn and assimilate the techniques: by no means expect to be proficient in a martial art within a few weeks or months.

All the best in martial arts

Should i do karate or taekwondo?

I was recently awarded best answer in Yahoo! Answers by replying to the following question:

hey guys im a teenage girl and i really want to do either taekwondo or karate. i just dont know which one! what one would be better, and be more to my advantage?
if that makes sence

and here was my answer:

I agree with most answers so far but I would like to add a couple of technicalities. TKD is based mostly on kicks above the belt: that means is very suitable for lean and flexible people.  Anybody with heavy, inflexible legs will suffer and never really pick up on their techniques.

Karate has a much broader range of techniques that include kicks, punches, elbows and knees so it can suit a much wider range of people.  Please bear in mind that there are many different styles of Karate: Shoto Kan, Wado Ryu, Goju Ryu, Kyu Shin Kai and Shorin Ryu just to mention the most popular ones. They all share common factors but they are physically different.

My suggestion would be to have a good look at a few classes, if you have clubs near by, and then think which ones will be suitable for you two.

BTW have you tried considering Kung fu, or Silat or Aikido?

Transfer of knowledge: the pyramidal structure of a martial arts club

The technical basis of most martial arts is full of complex concepts if  compared to many other physical disciplines and sports.

Just think about the number of different strikes that karate, tae kwon do or a kickboxing practitioners have to master or the number of throws that a judo or a aikido students have to learn.  Teaching and learning all moves that a martial art style involves requires a specific approach in the way they are taught.  That’s why the organizational structure of a typical martial arts club is usually different from what is found in other sports clubs and organizations.

The structure of a martial arts club (or school) can be usually seen as having a pyramidal shape where the master (or head coach) is at the top of the pyramid and progressively, at lower levels, are individuals that belong to various ranks like instructor, assistants and other senior students that by definition contribute to the transfer of knowledge.  New students and beginners should usually represent the largest group of people: these will progressively improve they knowledge and climb the ranks.  This concept is important to express that not just master and instructors are taking part in the transfer of knowledge but also the remaining students that, once they learn a new concept, they should be able to explain it and transfer it to others.