Excerpts from the Diary of a “Mad” Martial Scientist
Understanding Human Structure
Ron Chapél, Ph.D.
Over your lifetime beginning when you first began to have control of your body, you have performed various tasks, and in that process created synaptic pathways to the brain that support these many physical activities. Most of them are unconsciously engrained into your muscle memory and autonomic nervous system. You body can work efficiently when your body “senses” the need to use or overcome resistance, or inefficiently if you make a conscious decision to do something that contradicts sound body mechanics.
Most are “trained” into using poor body mechanics and in many cases have over-ridden and created “bad” synaptic pathways for inefficient and body damaging physical movement.
The human body is a great machine if you listen to it. Unfortunately for many, they have stop listening and retrained it so poorly; they can no longer “hear” what it is saying. You have forced yourself into “Disassociated Anatomical Movement.”
In Martial Science, much like other sciences, there is a direct cause and effect to all activity. Martial Science draws on many different scientific disciplines, but all are in some way related to one another through the conduit of human anatomy. There exists a significant cause and effect interaction between all the many parts of human anatomy whether static or in motion. In any examination of the many martial postures and their transitions, the efficacy of its many positions are predicated upon, among many factors, weight distribution and an exacting posture relative to the physical activity at hand.
The relative position of the feet to each other, and their movement, also significantly determines whether structural integrity is created or maintained. Let’s discuss for a moment structural integrity in posture, movement, and weight distribution. Any variations in these categories beyond proper anatomical posture can diminish or enhance effectiveness on multiple levels offensively or defensively.
How you move your body in its entirety, and arms, feet, and even the head in particular, in martial science affects the stability of the complete body for a variety of reasons. For most this probably is not news. However what is probably “new” information to most is that some of the basic things taught in most “martial arts” fall quite comfortably into the negative and inefficient category. Surprisingly their effectiveness can be demonstrated to be much less than perceived. That is, when these things are tested in the light of reality, they fall well short of their well-intended goals. Lets us define efficiency relative to human physical activity in general, and martial science in particular.
Essentially, the “human” machine is a large gelatinous bag punctuated by multiple directionally dedicated and articulated appendages, connected by loose and flexible tissue. This semi solid shape is supported by an articulated and rigid substructure we call a “skeleton.” This necessary substructure skeleton, supports the human body as the primary load bearing entity, but also simultaneously provides it with mobility and maintains and sustains a general shape. It also supplies the major structural frame for anatomical rigidity on demand.
This relationship between the sub-structure frame, (skeleton) the connecting tissues, (ligaments, muscle, tendons), and the containment vessel epidermis (gelatinous bag) have a constant and perpetually active interaction relationship from one jiffy millisecond to the next. The “system software” or brain constantly monitors all external stimuli from thousands of body sensors and subsequently makes thousands of minute adjustments every millisecond to allow the machine on one level to function intuitively, and on another, to take directed commands from the central processing unit simultaneously.
By its very evolutionary design the human body unit operates in one of two non-destructive modes, either operating efficiently, or inefficiently. The inefficient mode I have termed “Disassociated Anatomical Movement.” In order to accomplish this, this extremely complex machine has an inherent ability to “disconnect” or create a more loose and flexible relationship between its many articulated parts, expressly for the purpose of performing movements and/or postures not necessarily anatomically structurally sound, but necessary for fluid human movement. Therefore by the very nature of the body, all movement is not necessarily effective, efficient, or even structurally sound, even though it may be performed quite easily. This is the reason humans do not move like “rigid” robots or automatons.
Most modern martial arts place a heavy emphasis on immediate satisfactory results and therefore are usually conceptually driven, allowing practitioners flexibility to achieve immediate short-term goals of questionable or elementary effectiveness. Unfortunately, these arts usually have levels of efficiency defined by some ranking process, and they include belts despite the lack of knowledge and quantifiable basic skills. Clearly, Martial Arts have taken on a business life of its own. A look in any martial arts magazine will yield pages of books and videos for those who believe they can actually learn this way and virtually teach themselves to mastery.
When any physical activity is taught with only an emphasis on conceptual movement or motion with no regard for anatomical structural requirements and physical mandates, than inefficient movement is the most likely results. The reason this can be confusing is because most martial “arts” instructors teach from this aesthetic perspective emphasizing the “look” over the proper anatomical “execution” to obtain the desired results.
A lack of knowledge has created a plethora of interpretations as numerous as there are “instructors.” Thus the western term “martial art” is indeed accurate because of this interpretive aesthetic perspective. Art, (in this instance artistic movement and postures) is clearly subjective, whereas martial science and its proper anatomical movement and postures are not. This explains why one “martial art” can have so many different interpretations from instructor to instructor, school to school, and even student to student.
This methodology is also inherent in cultural based martial discipline “do” (way) type “arts” that choose to emphasize a cultural and artistic methodology over an efficient anatomical results driven perspective. It is also an unintentional byproduct of modern eclectic commercial self-defense arts that lack sufficient foundation material beyond their conceptual design, as well. At least the traditional “way” arts emphasize consistency of movement and execution from student to student.
Oddly enough some of the most effective of these modern types “arts” are “stripped down” bare bones courses that at least allow participants to be “attacked” and retaliate against a person dressed in protective armor for a more realistic assessment of perceived skill development. This methodology also has the effect of introducing a level of “Adrenal Stress” to training that is also missing from most martial arts self-defense instruction.
Subsequently, training in improper movements like stepping backwards into any stance as an example, is an “inefficient” methodology that is readily revealed in realistic practice and application. Using this most basic of footwork to obtain a stance causes the body to go into its loose “disassociated“ mode to achieve the objective. The architectural human frame is designed to locomote forward partly deriving its balance from the swinging of the arm opposite the forward moving leg. Although the body can walk and move rearward, it does so inefficiently and in a definite disassociated mode. Even moving forward is essentially a “controlled fall.”
As an example, when you walk backwards your arms do not swing naturally and balance is more difficult as a result. Additionally, moving forward aggressively without the ability to move your arms creates the same “disassociated” condition. The principle area affected in all of these situations begins with the “Primary Disconnect Mechanism,” the pelvic bone. The same holds true in any lateral movement as well.
However the converse of stepping backwards to meet resistance moving in the same direction as you’re stepping, is stepping forward when you are being pulled forward. Both of these movements are inefficient and must have correcting mechanisms to regain structural integrity.
Stepping rearward without the mechanism makes alignment impossible. Stepping forward however because the body functions to locomote forward naturally may create alignment, but only predicated on either how far or how many times you step, or if an additional correcting mechanism is involved.
Therefore to teach any execution that by necessity requires inefficient movement forward backward or laterally, first there must be recognition of these absolute anatomical facts, and second a mechanism must be designed to compensate, re-connect, or re-associate the body unit into singular structural integrity for efficient transference of power, or to resist body mass driven assaults. Additionally as previously stated, proper weight distribution and postures are also mandated based on anatomical parameters, and not aesthetics.
Other good examples can be found in various forms of footwork taught in most traditional and non-traditional arts alike. Lateral and forward movements where feet move toward one another create similar results of instability and structural disassociation as “stepping back.” Although all of these activities are a staple of most arts, anatomically speaking, such maneuvers lack structural stability, absent a compensating mechanism.
Let’s conduct an experiment to determine if you have the stability you think you have:
Beginning with feet even, step back and settle into your strongest “fighting stance and posture,” making yourself as stable as possible. Have someone slowly push on your shoulders from the front toward the rear or 6:00 (Presumably the direction with the most stability) to simulate a bodily assault or grapple attack to the upper torso from the front.
You’ll notice that the top part of your body is easily pushed backwards until the angle is extreme enough to cause the front foot to lift from the floor, and subsequently the rear foot will be forced to adjust backwards to retain balance. The torso seems to be “disconnected” from the feet and lower part of the anatomy. The feet only remain in place until the torso is moved sufficiently to pull the feet from their position. This is why “street grapplers” entertain a measure of success against those unprepared or unknowledgeable. Most are always taught to “step back” in preparation to defend themselves, and without the requisite skills to counter our own inefficient body mechanics our chances of success are diminished significantly.
What has happened is the step rearward has created the “Disassociated Anatomical Condition,” at the hips separating the lower platform (hips to the floor) from the upper (Hips to the shoulders) platform, causing them to work semi independently of each other with no shared structural integrity. Thus there is no significant stability to counter any realistic physical pressure from any angle, and specifically from the front.
This relationship of the hips to the rest of the body can be explored in another simple observation. When walking in a normal manner, if a decision is made to change the gait or stride significantly, before one can jog or run, a “skipping action” must be made to change the relationship of the hips to the torso. This is done naturally without conscious thought but never the less it must be done to run efficiently. This action is termed a “Platform Aligning Skip.”
In SubLevel Four Kenpo™ we teach a variety of mechanisms to counter every Disassociated Anatomical Movement we may be forced, by necessity to perform. These mechanisms are known as PAM’s, (Platform Aligning Mechanisms), and/or BAM’s (Body Alignment Mechanisms), and PAS for Platform Aligning Skip. Because of their variety and complexity, they are explored in detail in the physical curriculum and are taught situationally within the context of specific self-defense techniques.
The important thing to remember is that all rules of martial science are specific, and therefore apply to specific circumstances. Any variation of any portion of the body, no matter how minute, may cause a complete breakdown of structural integrity, as well as other anatomical properties for later discussion. This means all methodologies have “correcting mechanisms” to compensate for inefficient movement or improper posture.
In martial science posture, there are rules relative to weight distribution. As an example, whenever the feet are parallel, weight distribution (absent a correcting mechanism) must be 50/50. This is the over riding base for the beginning of understanding correct postures and corresponds with the traditional “horse” stance found in most arts for a reason. However, that is not all. The position and manner of the hands, wrists, head, shoulders, fingers, muscle tension, etc. in addition to weight distribution will ultimately determine whether you are correct structurally or not.
Therefore, proper posture in the execution of all things must be explored and defined in significant detail as the starting point for any serious study. Funny, that’s how the traditionalist always started, and the knowledgeable still do.