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 if continued.
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 they mean.
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 to
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
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 more readily.
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 disciplines.
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