A Simple Lesson in Body Mechanics
By Christopher Caile
A mistake made by many karate-ka and other martial
artists is improper pelvis and hip alignment in their
front leaning stance. Instead of the pelvis and hips
being aligned naturally under the rest of the spine,
the hips are pulled backward and out of line by the
back leg. The problem is aggravated if the stance
is long and low.
When the pelvis is tilted backward and not centered,
the spine becomes misaligned and the body's center
of gravity is pulled off center. This disrupts power.
When the hips are not loose and fluid, power cannot
flow efficiently up through the legs into the torso
through the hips. And if you practice any of the energy
arts, such as Ki Ko (Qi gong or Chi Kung in Chinese),
natural flow of Ki energy (Qi or Chi in Chinese) is
also restricted by this misalignment. Not only is
this inefficient, but it could lead to pain and injury
When done properly, the pelvis and low back should
remain in the natural curve as much as possible. But
many people when in a front leaning stance allow their
pelvis to be pulled backwards by their back leg. This
causes a misalignment (collapse into extension) of
the spine instead of the spine being integrated and
balanced as it maintains its natural curvature. When
teachers say "keep the spine straight," this is what
So check your front stance: tuck in your hips and
activate your abdominal muscles to help counteract
the pull from the back leg. Lengthen and elongate
your spine so you are in a position for power and
energy to flow more easily. You will feel the difference.
So will your body.
On A Simple Lesson in Body Mechanics
By Trisha Jenkyns P.T.,
Director of Jenkyns Physical Therapy in Cambridge
and Arlington, MA
I think it is helpful for people to understand the
mechanics of the forward stance or any stance/position.
When I look at people's body mechanics. I look for
lines of energy. I look to see what muscles are activated,
over activated or under activated. I also look to
see what muscles are not flexible and not allowing
movement or too flexible therefore allowing for collapse.
In this forward stance, there are a number of things
1. The person may not have an awareness of the safe
position for his or her spine and pelvis. In this
case just an understanding of what the neutral curve
is for each individual and the importance of maintaining
this neutral curve is necessary. When you are standing
your "tallest" and "with ease," your spine is usually
in its "neutral" curve. Many people have been misinformed
that is necessary to always tuck under the pelvis,
and flatten this curve whatever position they are
in. It is necessary to activate the posterior hip
muscles AND abdominals only as much as is needed to
maintain a neutral curve of the lumbar spine.
2. The person may not be able to execute the stance
because the front hip and thigh muscles are inflexible
or the calf musles of the back leg are inflexible.
In this case isolated and correct stretching for these
muscles is necessary. (It is also possible to work
on stretching these muscles just by maintaining this
stance and activating the posterior hip (gluts) and
abdominal muscles as you slowly press the back heel
to the floor.)
3. The person may need to activate the gluts and abdominal
muscles more effectively to keep the pelvis and lumbar
spine stabilized. This is what is emphasized most
often, but if flexibility is also present, then the
lines of energy are more available. The hips are truly
loose and fluid and the power and energy will flow
Editors note: Trisha Jenkyns is also very knowledgeable
in Yoga. She was a long time Tae Kwon Do practitioner
and former teacher of that art at the University of
New York at Buffalo. She was one of the finest teachers
and technicians of the art I have ever known. Her
unique mix of professional and martial arts knowledge
gives her a unique prospective that can be educational
for all of us.
On A Simple Lesson in Body Mechanics
By Greg Seel,
Director of the Alexander Technique for New York.
The Alexander technique, which focuses on the understanding
and development of efficient body mechanics, is a
useful tool to help identify and correct a number
of common bad habits with the front leaning stance.
One of these is the prime focus of this examination
- excessively arching the back and jamming the legs
and pelvis into one another, which is often also combined
with straining the neck and compressing the head back
and down onto the spinal column -- all which combine
to create a substantial functional inefficiency and
structural strain. In addition students often shift
their weight too far forward onto the front leg or,
overcompensating, push the head and chest up and too
far back, causing rigidity and eventually injuring
the knee, back or hip joint. If the head can lead
the body into balanced length and expansion instead
of fixed contraction, as described below, it results
in greater ease and effectiveness. This is the lesson
of Alexander Technique and is commonly referred to
as "primary control."
The Alexander Technique looks at the effectiveness
of how our bodies are used. F.M. Alexander discovered
that a certain relationship of the head, neck and
back resulted in a more efficient coordination of
the muscular-skeletal system. The goal is to inhibit
those habits that interfere with the freedom of our
natural design through awareness and mental direction.
This is very different from trying to muscularly manipulate
the body to conform to preconceived ideas of alignment
or posture that can, among other things, lead to compression
of the body.
Ideally in a correct front leaning stance, as in any
practical body mechanics, the primary control is activated
when the pelvis and legs are organized by the traditional
Alexander directions; to let the neck be free, to
send the head forward and up, to lengthen and widen
the back and to aim the legs away from the pelvis.)
This initiates an integration of the whole body rather
than the manipulation of different parts, and it enables
the muscles to function closer to their intended natural
length which reduces compression on the various joints.
In karate this is the intention of "straightening"
the back. The back is not forced or over straightened.
Instead, the natural curves of the spine are coordinated
both naturally and efficiently.
When employed in the front leaning stance, the energy
and weight will be up, off and centered over the legs
allowing for more mobility and power to come from
our center, an important principle in most martial
art disciplines. There will be less downward pressure
on the lower back, hip joints and knees reducing the
risk of strain and injury. There will be an integrated
balance and fluidity available to all our techniques.
Most importantly, however, we will learn to pay attention
to our overall coordination or use, so that patterns
of repetitive misuse will not persist to a point of
self-inflicted pain and injury which would rob us
of the benefits and joy of these wonderful martial
So often there are issues of inflexibility of certain
muscle groups that cause imbalance. This is so often
a result of habits and repetitive activities in our
daily life such as long term sitting or other occupational
situations. Encouraging right direction rather than
right position leads to an integrated support by the
musculature. Paying attention to the way we use our
bodies can contribute greatly to enhanced performance
of any kind.
The Alexander Technique directions work through a
process of indirect procedures that address a state
of total coordination or use of self, not specific
problems. From this foundation we can achieve the
greatest effect with the least effort in all our activities.
Seel is a fully certified teacher of the Alexander
Technique (AmSAT - STAT) in private practice for over
seventeen years. He is the Director of Alexander Technique
New York with both a Midtown and Brooklyn Center.
Currently Mr. Seel is on faculty at the B.F.A. Theater
Conservatory at S.U.N.Y. Purchase. He holds a nidan
in Seido Karate and has studied under Kaicho Tadashi
Nakamura for ten years. Mr. Seel specializes in performance
enhancement in both the arts and athletics as well
as contributing to the recuperation and pain management
process of various medical injuries. He may be contacted
by phone or e-mail at: 212-447-5649, or JGregS@aol.com.
His website is: alexandertechniqueny.com
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