IntroPosture, stance, and breathing are the three most important foundations of any technique. Posture is an important part of any stance. Posture is maintaining a correct body and spine alignment.
SpineThe spine consists of 24 interlocking bones called vertebrae bones that are supported by muscles and it’s an essential link between the body and the nervous system. Pairs of nerve roots exit the spine from between these vertebrae and go to various parts of the body. The extremities are all controlled by the information sent through these links. When there is abnormal pressure or tension on the vertebrae, information from the brain through the spinal cord is hampered. Good posture helps keep the nervous system operating correctly.
For correct postureTo maintain correct posture:
- The neck and back should be straight and natural (not stiff) so the back muscles can transfer body pressures to the feet. You should allow the body to assume its natural condition (relaxed) without any forced intent.
- The neck should be relaxed so the head is floating independently from the body, as if it was hanging from a balloon. When you release tension in the neck, the head will naturally float upward.
- Keep the tailbone pulled in to lengthen the lower back. Body pressures are handled by the back, the neck does not participate.
- When executing a technique, if you concentrate on the head, you will reach forward, and the upper torso will lean. Your concentration should extend from the lower stomach (tan-den) outward, so the center of mass adds to the power of a technique.
- Strengthening of bad habits of movement.
- Techniques that are limited to the muscular ability of the arms or legs.
- Greater chance of injury.
- Breathing is unrestricted.
- Body action will be smooth and quick.
- Muscles action may achieve maximum contraction or expansion. Don’t confuse muscle relaxation with collapse and loss of posture.
- Good posture will help prevent back injury and may help improve existing injury.
Poor posture robs energy from the body. The better the postural alignment; the better the physical performance of the body. Ideal posture occurs when the muscular-skeletal system functions move more efficiently. Poor posture causes greater stress in the stabilizer muscles and joints and therefore increases the chance of injury. Good posture and alignment lead to better balance, agility, and even faster recovery from a workout.
A good posture allows us to use the center of the body, the base of effective techniques. All techniques and movement of legs or arms are controlled, initiated, and stabilized from this center. The center of mass of the body is located about 2 inches under the navel and toward the middle of the body (a point called the tan-den). Technically, we create energy from the center of the body by dynamics: rotation, vibration, shifting, dropping, lifting, or pendulum motion, and by using the breath to control the contraction and expansion of muscles. These energies extend and transfer to the other parts of the body depending on the technique.
- Keep centered. The center of the body serves to transfer energy between the impact point of a strike and the floor, via the feet, and it acts as a stabilizer against impact shock. With a firm center, energy will transfer smoothly. Energy transfers best in a straight line, therefore, when posture is misaligned, energy is wasted.
Another problem with posture is an imbalance between the front and back muscles. In life, we do much more flexion than extension, which leads to shortened abdominal muscles and a weak back. Most techniques to the front require the use of the back muscles. Neglecting the body center results in more injuries and not fulfilling your potential.
Articles by prominent conditioning and athletic coaches and researchers stress the importance of developing the “core” of the body to enhance athletic performance and to prevent injuries. Those articles always mention the martial arts as examples of good use of the body center.
- Stand erect. Keep your upper body vertical; do not slump or lean in any direction. Beginners tend to lean backward or forward at the waist. Tense the lower abdomen and buttocks enough to make the body firm but not stiff. You are trying to make yourself look large and intimidating, not like a stiff cardboard cutout.
- Head and shoulders. To protect the head and neck, drop your shoulders, pull them together, and pull the head down into the neck, while keeping the body and head upright and chest held high. The leading shoulder is slightly raised. Keep your chin down and pulled inward, while keeping your head vertical so you have a clear vision of your target. Face the head in the proper direction. Don't exaggerate the movements or make the movements feel unnatural. Keep chin soft. Eyes should appear as if you were looking from deep inside at the center of the head and “shooting” energy forward.
- Arms and hands. Keep arms up in front of the body to guard the upper chest area. Keep the hands high enough to protect the head while keeping elbows tucked close to the body to protect ribs and solar plexus. As long as the opponent is beyond an arm's reach, keep the hands low enough that you can to see opponent’s feet. When the opponent is within an arm's reach, hold hands a little higher but do not block your vision of the opponent’s upper body. At this close range, trying to see your opponent’s feet through your hands would expose you to a hand attack.
- Hips. Power and speed come from using a hip snap. Coordinate the hip movements with body movement.
- Abdomen. Keep the lower stomach firm and “shoot” your ki forward from the tan-den. The upper stomach slightly presses backward to allow using the back as a base and to stabilize the lower spine.
- Tailbone. Hold the tailbone in, do not tilt the body externally, simply lengthen the spine.
- Knees. Knees are always bent; never lock the legs. The angle of the knees should not become acute since sharp angles interrupt the transfer of power through the knee joint. Also, avoid wide angles since they reduce the amount of power generated by the muscles on either side of the knee.
- Feet. The feet stay parallel to the floor during movements, don’t raise the heels. Slightly lift the toes of a stepping foot so they don’t stub on the floor; this also prevents the heel from rising. The lead foot’s position dictates body position, as foot turns inward, the body is more protected; however, turning it too much will slow your attacks.