sp ARCHIves: Head-Center Connection

Tommy asked:

When I first read your notes on the “Gallagher effect” a light bulb went off in my head. Prior to that (actually I still work this way) I was big on the center and moving from the center. I never thought about the head but it makes perfect sense.

If I am correct in my understanding of some of the principles you advocate; slight bend to the body and the hips slightly back? This cuts time off of having to adjust to drop/sprawl, shoot or move in and out of range etc. This, if I’m not mistaken goes hand in hand with the shoulder/knee thing which is another tool I made good use of. However I was wondering, if when working with a novice, if there may be a problem of weight distribution. A slight bend or keeping the hips back could end up with weight transfer going into the chest as one “leans” over instead of just slightly moving the hips back in their misunderstanding of the principle and body mechanics.
It seems that for me, when I move my head and do the shoulder/knee thing my center adjusts as I move. It feels “right” and it is a whole body movement. My movements feel fleeting and I am in and out of weight distributions….easily mobile. But again…is that correct? This dovetails so nicely with my feelings on stance and footwork/weight distribution. Or have I twisted it because of my own preferences? I noticed at first that I would have to adjust to get my lead leg up off the ground since I use it allot to block leg kicks. This led to more movement of my centering and weight distribution, hips back and then in again, slight bent at the waist and then slightly upright etc. All the while having the “feeling’ of where my center is and aware of cutting out that extra second (or maybe less) of having to adjust. Now my leg comes up to block more easily. Is this correct as it pertains to head movement? I am assuming it works hand in hand with the center. Is it because I always focus on my center that when I move my head in line with shoulder/knee that I feel my center adjust or is that the goal? I ask because I was wondering if you had a specific process in mind that you would teach to someone new or maybe not getting it. Do you advocate a head/center connection or is that something I am feeling out of my own adjustments.

Personally I feel comfortable and your tips have helped me (although my movements are sometimes foreign to traditionalists). I’m able to keep my weight adjusted so I can fire off and get mass behind the hit. But as far as me passing on information to someone else who may be very unfamiliar I was curious about the head/center connection. Does a conscious effort have to be given to the center or does the head movement guide this. It happens for me pretty much automatically but maybe that is just luck. Is the head leading the center? To break it down would you move the head and have the center catch up or should it happen automatically as it is for me. Is it something that needs explaining to prevent someone from just trying to move their head out over their knee or the direction of the technique? Or am I way off course?

What is the head/center connection.?

Also, I have found that by keeping my head over the knee of my lead leg, or the “shoulder knee” posture with the hips slightly back, that it works for me while moving backwards enabling me to quickly change to a forward movement, diving off the rear leg. Is this correct?

Jon Law added:

Apologies for jumping in, but while going through the impressed thread, I think, and watching some of the clips Steve put up, I noticed some great examples of the ‘head leading the body’. If you watch the knockout clips you can clearly see the head initiating the movement many, many times.



Tommy responded:

My question wasn’t about the head thing, which I understand. It was more about the head movement/hips back/ slight bent in the body combination while moving. That and the possibility of the beginner/ not so understanding student, not getting it and throwing his weight around improperly. . More or less preferred teaching methods.

Through practice I noticed the possibility of throwing the weight distribution off a bit if you didn’t understand the technique or lacked experience. I know how I would deal with it but was wondering if Steve had a preferred method. Also I was wondering about the whole head/slight bend/hips back relation to the center in general. I have always focused on the center so for me the feeling was natural when I incorporated the head theory. I was curious about Steve’s thoughts on those who “don’t ” get it” or the beginner/non fighter.

Steve’s answer:

To be functional, movement needs to be operating at a reflex level. And by that, I don’t mean a conditioned reflex to a situation, but in accordance to the innate reflexive and behavioural patterns of the body. I have to be able to make dynamic changes in direction both within the base (up,down, forward, back, left, and right) across different planes/angles. And I’ve got to be able to move the base in all directions, possibly at the same time. Because there are so many variables, it’s like juggling balls: there are too many to juggle at a conscious level. If you try to do that, you’ll drop the lot. The best way I’ve found is to just play with one: the head. BUt if you overconcentrate on that, then the head movement will become exaggerated at the expense of the rest.

If you move the eye/head/neck as a functional unit, then you’ll find the rest of the body will start to follow the head. Some people are more naturally ‘connected’ than others.

When I look at a class, I’ll look at the guys all standing there and I’ll notice they’re often standing in a militaristic posture: shoulders back, chest out, weight on their heels. Now I say to them, ‘OK, there’s a ten pound note on the floor. See how quickly you can get it.’ They then have to adjust the posture before they can even see the £10, and then they’ll reach down with their hand. They leave the body behind. They didn’t engage their head to change the level.

When I say to them, ‘OK, now change your posture to a point where it’s most optimal to you to get that money immediately, as quick as you can, whilst still standing.’ And they start to take a more shoulder-knee alignment. And they do it again. And again, they reach down with their hand. They leave the head behind.

Now I say, ‘OK, now go down with your head. Look at it, go towards it with your head.’ And now they’ll grab it really quick.

So pedagogically, I look for ways of tricking people into doing it the way they need to do it, rather than getting them ‘thinking’ about how to do it. It’s like if I want to get guys to change levels to do a shoot on the legs. I’ll tell them to change level, and it’s a perception thing that they have to have in time. They’ll do it, and it won’t be that great. They know it, I know it, everybody knows it. Usually it’s because they’re too vertical. I’ll then get them to slightly line up shoulder to knee, and they’ll do it again and you’ll see an improvement. And then I’ll say, ‘This time, lift up your hands as if you’re covering your head and drop,’ and then you see an exponential improvement in the performance.

The body moves in an integrated way. It’s all interconnected. You push your hands out, your head and hips want to go back. You pull your hands back, your head and hips want to go forward. You push your hands up, you lower your head and hips. If you pull down with your hands as though doing a pull-up, your hips and head will rise. These are natural patterns. They’re wired in at a reflex level. They are the way we maintain an equilibrium without having to think about it. They’re primal.

The thing is, first how do you get comfortable with these innate patterns, especially if you have to shed a lot of preconceptions as to what you believe movement is (i.e., balancing a book on your head). And the second thing is to learn to tactically modify them, so that you can enhance your power by displacing your center or your mass up, down, forward, back, left and right, within the base or outside of it. To produce a bigger mass velocity.

So the c-shape, which is what I call the alignment you’re describing, is both naturally dynamic and tactical. It has to do both at the same time. If you understand why you’re doing it, then the how follows naturally.

And eventually, you’ve got to take this principle of underlying movement to the ground, so you’re comfortable in all dimensions.

The key to teaching this is example. And obviously, if you’re able to conceptualize it, you’ll refine the process. But a lot of people although they can conceptualize it, and even believe they’re doing it, but when you look at the performance they’re not. The whole thing, Tommy, you’re trying to take your understanding to another level. And for some guys, that’s a really big shift because it takes them out of their comfort zone. You’ve really got to let go, and encourage anyone you’re teaching to do that, and not worry about what you look like. This is home experimentation stuff. This is you learning to get in touch with your body and experimenting: does it improve your performance or doesn’t it?

Be a kid. Look at clips, try to pick it up. Don’t be so serious about yourself, don’t be self-conscious. From my experience, you’ve really got to come at this thing like a kid, every day. Let go of any preconceptions you have.

Try and use the tricking/ lateral approach—some people can’t think at angles but as a teacher you need to engage people in different ways. I try not to teach things directly. A lot of my teaching uses analogies and imagery, and exercises that bypass the conscious mind. Trish had a problem with her footwork and I sent her off to play racquetball. Footwork sorted.

And remember: walk like you’re looking for money on the ground! (You never know—you can’t find it if you’re not looking). I always have a bow shape in my body when standing. Stand on muscles, not bones. Take the weight on the quad, don’t be back on your heels. ANd when you do walk, don’t forget to post from foot to foot with your head.

Here are some links that talk about the vestibular system and the orientation to a target and the adjustment of the body to accommodate that.