Soft leg movement - Aug 22, 2014

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Soft leg movement - Aug 22, 2014
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Anybody who's ever been hit, kicked, pushed or slapped, knows that our natural instinct is to automatically tense up in opposition to the attack. This is sort of like forming a wall that is more difficult for the attacker to penetrate, to the point that the defender may be leaning forward toward the incoming force to provide more opposition.

There are several problems with the natural reaction.

First, a properly delivered strike will penetrate your tension causing much more damage than a relaxed body would sustain all else being equal, to the point of ripping the muscles and internal organs. The muscle tension creates a platform (effectively, a hard target or support) for the strike that lets most of the momentum transfer to the defender and forces his upper body to tilt away from the strike (broken posture). Finally, tension in the upper body, especially the shoulders, immobilizes defender's legs and prevents him from moving out of harm's way (loss of mobility). An experienced attacker will capitalize on the loss of posture and mobility and likely finish his opponent off with the second strike.

Smooth movement away from the strike is a much better alternative. This is best done using the Systema posture described in prior posts – upper body straight, legs directly underneath the hips with the knees slightly bent and protruded forward, no curve in the lower back, and the chest slightly sunk down toward the hips to contract the exposed stomach. Try to walk around in this position making smooth, cat-like steps and keeping the weight of the body distributed between both legs (i.e., when walking, your center of gravity should never be directly over any one leg). Keep you body level and avoid bobbing up and down as you move.

Next, have your partner stand before you at a striking distance and push you in the chest, stomach, thighs, chin, neck, etc. with a fist. Your job is to step back as soon as the fist comes in contact with the body. The key skill to practice here is to make sure that your leg automatically steps back upon contact followed by the body reducing the impact of the push. Note that dealing with pushes to the face is more difficult than with any other kind. Make sure to soften your neck and slightly lower the chin when the fist comes in contact with the face – this makes it psychologically much easier to process.

Lastly, try applying the smooth stepping to escape from pushes on the move, that is, when both you and your opponent continuously move at a striking distance. For training, it is good for the defender to ask the pusher to push down on hips and thighs at an angle directing the power of the push toward the opposite leg. As this creates tension in the opposite leg, the defender is forced to remember to check that his legs are free, relaxed, and move the same way as in the very first exercise without pushes. If you feel any tension in the legs at any point, analyze what caused it and take the time to relax the legs (don't be shy to ask your partner to slow down a bit to  give you time to check yourself).

Note that the attacker also practices smooth stepping forward to deliver the push which means that both partners in the exercise work on different aspects of the same thing.



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