SP ARCHIVES: Hitting from Bottom Position

Luis Fernandez wrote: I was wondering if there’s some special to think about when you hit form bottom postition. It’s very difficult to deliver effective blows from down there.. any suggestion, important point, training advice??

and on another thread Joe S wrote:
My question for you references the structure of the body during striking.
In some Chinese Wing chun systems there appears to be a great emphasis on skeletal alignment to deliver a greater mass through the strike.
Alot of it seems to be shrouded in a bit of gung fu bunkem, what is your take on this body structure concept?
I herald from a kung fu background meself and generally see attitude and intent being key criteria for powerful striking.

Steve wrote: I’m going to try and answer this question in conjunction to Joe’s question on skeletal alignment because they are closely related.

Joe S., there’s a lot more to effective striking than aggressive attitude and intent. These can be said to be the driving force behind the organisation of a destructive force, but the effectiveness of that force is dependent both upon your attributes and your opponents’. You could be a non athlete, overweight, completely unconditioned, with no skills, and with an aggressive attitude and bad intent, still knock somebody out. But that doesn’t mean that the same attitude and intent alone is going to be sufficient to take out an experienced fighter. The real difference between a layman and a trained fighter lies in the level of conditioning, athleticism, skills and their tactical biomechanical application, and of course experience. Both people could have good cause and motivation to deliver a destructive blow, but the translation of that bad intent into a biomechanical and tactical act is something that has to be trained.

So with regard to skeletal alignment, the devil’s in the detail. Often people assume that skeletal alignment works based on anecdotal evidence or a demonstration. It may seem to work in a drill, or be part of a tradition (as in kung fu, karate, whatever) where similar types are testing it against similar types, often with a lot of compliance on the part of the ‘uke’ or defender. Often the ‘drill’ is designed to fulfil the expectations of the traditional teaching, so it’s a foregone conclusion that it’s going to work. An athlete cannot have a theoretical way of throwing the javelin. He has to compete and throw against his peers. Kinesiologists and coaches will then step in to advise him on how he might throw the javelin better, but in the end it has to be tested in a competitive environment.

That’s really what all my method is about.

Skeletal alignment is only significant if, at an instinctive/intuitive or intellectual level, you understand the ‘why’ of that alignment. The most important thing is what you have to do. That in itself is enough to bring about an organisational process of the necessary changes in joint alignment, rate, sequence and timing. But it’s only upon the realisation of failure that adjustments (whether conscious or unconscious) can begin to take place. I can instinctively kick a ball without having to get a sports science degree. The effect is obvious. But that effect in martial arts is isolated within often contrived situations. You could kick a ball. You could kick a ball hard. But scoring a goal in a match is a completely different thing. And in the martial arts, often people try to produce biomechanical movement (skeletal alignment as you put it) under idealised conditions. And that’s misleading, and it becomes fixed patterns. So in order for the skill you’ve trained this way to work, the situation needs to be exactly compatible to it; i.e., ‘he does this, I do that.’ But a fight isn’t like that.

That’s why the dynamics and biomechanics of movement have to be internalised and understood so the translation can take place in different ways for different situations.

A lot of great athletes win with performances that are biomechanically far from optimal. Their aggression, motivation, intent, conditioning were greater factors in their success. Yet often these guys are used as examples for others to emulate the way they move. Often you’re imitating the wrong move; you might even be imitating a move that the great athlete performed by mistake. Even great performers biomechanically, are usually ‘natural’. They’re not aware of what’s taking place at a reflex level. So whatever they tell you they’re doing, it often contradicts their actual performance. And if that’s true today, then it must have been true hundreds of years ago. That’s why, if you’re in a tradition, you have to really take the damned thing apart and you have to have the tools to do that. You have to have a good understanding of psychology, physiology, biomechanics, tactics, strategies, etc. And most important, you’ve got to test it. Now you might end up with the same thing, but ten to one you won’t, unless you set out to try to justify your tradition, which is what most people do.

I will teach skeletal alignment, but I first teach people just to walk or even just to stand and sense the interconnection of their joints, and to use whatever biomechanical understanding they have. I walk, and with my scientific knowledge in mind, I can sense that science in action. It’s no good to you unless you can translate a concept to a sensation and vice versa.

Unless you have an instinctive feel of your body like a great athlete, you’ve got a problem. You’re internally blind, and that means that you’re reliant either on somebody else’s word or their example, or you have to go the scientific route. If you just study the science, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to apply it. What I do as a trainer is to teach people the science of movement and how they can apply it to their own physical structure, and I do it layman’s terms with a lot of examples, whilst trying to encourage them to go to the source. There are several sports scientists out there who have recognised what I do and endorsed it, so I feel confident that I’m on the right track. Because I’m telling the sports scientists things that they haven’t found out yet.

So with regard to kung fu or anything else, don’t assume anything and don’t accept anything as gospel. It’s got to be tested.

Now, with regard to ground work, it follows that the ground is constant, the neuromuskuloskeletal structure remains constant, and so are the laws and principles of force and motion, so the only variable is a reorientation on a target and a modification of some of the standing and open/closed tactics you’ve used on the feet.

To me, the fight is the fight no matter where it goes, because I’ve trained what’s essential to it. If you were an effective striker say in the closed position in the standup, if you were able to create working space, cut an angle on the guy and deliver a destructive force from very close range, it follows that you can apply that very same principle to the ground. If you don’t understand how to apply that principle on the feet, then your problem isn’t about being on the ground, it’s about being able to create space and to deliver a destructive force in a very small space. That’s my specialty, 30 years ago Terry O’Neill said that he’d never seen anybody deliver so much shock over such a short range. I’m as effective striker on the ground as I am on the feet because I know how to deliver short range power.

One way I learnt to punch from very short ranges was to get very close to the bag. I’d almost hug the bag so that I had no space to move. I had to learn to angulate my body to create the space, and if you look at You Tube you’ll see me drop a shoulder, I’ll move back a hip, I’ll create a concave space or angle with my body. That I’ll call my working space. That space doesn’t seem to exist if you maintain an upright position, but you can create it. That gives you space to work in, either sequentially or simiultaneously (i.e., startle reflex)

Once you’ve understood that and can create an effective impact from short range, just lay on the ground with a free bag on top of you, shrimp the hip out, and now you’ve created the same kind of angle you did on the feet. Now you can deliver your shot. No matter what position you’re in, you’re looking for working space and an angle to hit the target from that will be more damaging. I show what I mean by angles on the Concepts & Principles clip of the low round kick going in in a way that he can’t absorb it.

Most of fighting is about creating space and angles, or taking it away from your opponent so that he can’t work effectively against you. If you understand the principles on the feet, it’s easy to transfer them to the ground.

You’re in Spain, Luis, so I can’t say come to my course, but if you did I could show you in five minutes. It isn’t magical, it isn’t a formula, but I have to show you. There’s a limit to what I can write on these forums, and also to what I’m willing to write!