A quick look at muscle work in the Martial Arts.
Martial Arts are usually spilt in to two camps: Hard Styles and Soft Styles.
Hard Style (Yang) are often categorised as external styles and rely on strong physical compacted muscles power.
Soft Styles (Yin) are often categorised as internal styles and rely on relaxed muscles but strong tendons and good fascia control.
Both hard and soft styles can use the Chi energy, the hard styles tend to compact the Chi, where the soft styles tend to keep the Chi moving
I wouldn’t say that one way is better than the other as it is a matter of choice and down to your natural physique. I have seen great martial artists in both camps and have seen martial artists change from practicing hard styles to soft styles and vice versa and still maintain fantastic martial prowess.
There is another way in which to perfect the art of movement and power, although it may take a lot of time and practice to master it’s is well worth the time and effort. It’s categorised as a Yin / Yang way, it’s not utilised by many martial artists. Very occasionally experienced Hard and Soft style martial artists move into the Yin / Yang way, just because the natural development of their training takes them to a point of balance.
It would also be classed as a soft internal style as the Chi is allowed to flow but the muscles are used in one of three basic ways: (starting from a point that you are using natural muscle change to move the body and not manufacturing movement)
- The muscles move in their natural way to facilitate movement
- The muscles move in their natural way to facilitate movement but the muscle fibres extend with the muscle change
- The muscles move in their natural way to facilitate movement but the muscle fibres shorten with the muscle change
The practitioner should be able to implement any of the above three ways of moving at any speed.
Bones and ligament work together and the muscles and tendons work together.
Now usually by the time you reach the age of three, your bone, ligament, tendons and muscles are working together to produce smooth movement that can be extended or shortened at will. When we get to the age of five, the ego starts to become more dominant and we move into yin or yang expressions or movement.
So with practice, patience and perseverance natural movement can be re-established.
It’s very simple how it works; the bones and ligaments distribute the body weight, which means that the muscles can stay relaxed and movement is unimpeded. This then means that the muscles and tendons can be extended or shortened at will; this will also open or condense the joints it also means that the bodyweight can be directed through the bones and directed with the muscle and tendons. The fascia is used to help keep the muscle movement smooth and keep the muscle change even. (To say that the muscle shortens or contracts is really not the right description, it’s more that the muscle is extended inwards within itself).
Because the muscles remain relaxed when moving, extending outward or inward means that the blood and lymph and body fluids can move to feed and remove waste from the muscles and organs. With the development and use of Sheng Chi initially, and eventually the harnessing, expansion and control of Ching Sheng Li (Macro-Cosmic Energy – External Energy) this not only backs up the movement, speed, stability and flexibility but gives more power to all the bodies movement, not just to ward-offs, parries and strikes. This means that movement can flow from the centre of the body outward and vice versa with control and power of your choosing.
For those of you that don’t believe in Chi energy it still works quite naturally. (You can’t see the air that you are breathing but you still breath it nonetheless).
So if you use physical tension for power, once you have moved or struck you have to power the muscle down before you can move again, so your ability is down to how fast you can release muscle tension move and apply muscle tension again and again.
For those who use internal style the majority are usually taught to move with the tendons and fascia to get speed and have to connect through the legs for power and Chi movement. Incorrect movement of tendons or fascia can result in spontaneous tension or laxation in the muscles, which in turn slows Chi and power movement. This is a flipping between Yin and Yang so too not really balanced.
The body’s memory for using whole body movement as nature intended or having a Yin / Yang balance can be re-activated and can take your ability within your chosen martial art to new heights and a better depth of understanding of your art.