Archive for November, 2011

Contained Spiral Force

Posted in Day's Lesson, Internal Arts, Internal Development, Taijiquan with tags , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2011 by Combative Corner

Guest AuthorThe Master once said,

“Everybody in the world uses momentum-based movement, therefore we do not. Taiji involves ‘contained spiral force’ that generates momentum on something external to oneself.”



Imagine a car is on a lift. The car is on, it has been put into drive, and someone is inside pushing the gas pedal to the floor. The tires are spinning rapidly on the axle. Now imagine touching one of the spinning tires. Ouch!

Now imagine the same scenario, yet the tire pops off the axle and rolls away, carried by its forward momentum, for thirty or forty feet to where you happen to be standing. Now imagine bending down and touching it as it approaches. It slows to a stop and impotently topples over onto its side.

In the first instance, the rotation is tightly contained, powerful and controlled. In the second instance the rotation becomes decreasingly powerful and cannot be controlled once it has been seperated from the axle.

It’s not that momentum-based attacks are ineffective, it’s just that the strong can always overcome the weak when both parties use momentum to fight. Yet, by mastering “contained spiral force” the “weak” can overcome the “strong.” Master Hong could not lift heavy rocks, yet could send strapping youths sailing through the air.

You must become a gearbox with machine-like precision.

Guest Author: Todd Elihu

Read More of his Material at: PracticalMethod.Org

originally posted in May 2008





Physics of Explosive Energy | Fajin

Posted in Day's Lesson, I-Liq Chuan, Internal Arts, Internal Development, Training with tags , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2011 by mindbodykungfu

Johnny Kuo  |  I-Liq Chuan

Being a science sort of guy, I like understanding mechanisms of how things work. Tying in concepts from biology, physics, and neuroscience into martial arts training is something I can totally geek out to. In my mind, demystifying martial arts esoterica using science is a good thing. However, science is sometimes used incorrectly to justify certain principles and phenomena  Fajin–the issuing of power–can be understood within the framework of sound science; it does not have to reside solely in the realm of qi, magic, superhuman abilities, or hand waved pseudo-science.

Here’s my attempt to properly apply classical physics to the often mysticized fajin.

Momentum ( p = m*v )

According to Wikipedia, momentum can be understood as the “power residing in a moving object.” From the equation p = m * v, we can see that momentum (p) is directly proportional to the mass (m) and velocity (v). In other words, the amount of power you can impart into your opponent depends on your size and how fast you can move.

You have limited control over the size part of the equation. You can only practically add so much lean mass before you hit your genetic potential or have to resort to bodybuilding methods like massive eating, steroids, and high volume weight training. While adding a lot of muscle mass is possible, it has a practical upper limit if you want to live a normal life and get enough quality skill training time. Of course, it is also possible to add fat mass, but that carries significant downsides like health problems and lugging around extra non-functional mass in your day-to-day life.

Between the two factors, velocity gives greater results for training time invested and can be directly improved through martial skill training. Velocity is partially improved by physical conditioning to improve muscular tone and biasing muscle fiber composition towards fast twitch fibers. It is also affected by movement skill, which is what martial skill training should directly improve. Attentive movement drills develop proper body alignment and coordination to improve movement efficiency. Concentration on grooving proper movement patterns improves neuromuscular efficiency so that the body is neurally ready to move, and unnecessary tension from incorrect muscle firing patterns can be relaxed so that movements can occur with fewer hindrances.

An analogy to training velocity would be a car. The physical aspect of training is akin to putting a more powerful engine into the car. This improves the raw ability of the car to go fast, but it is not the only factor in car speed. The car has to drive well in order to go fast: the transmission needs to be maintained to transfer power from the engine to the wheels, the wheels must be balanced and aligned, and the driver has to learn how to control the car speed so that he is not doing stupid things like stepping on the accelerator and brake pedal at the same time. Training movement skill is the equivalent of maximizing the efficiency of the transmission, balancing and aligning the wheels, and actually learning how to drive the car properly.

To a first approximation, learning to move properly increases the velocity portion of the momentum equation. There are of course other considerations and complications that can be added to this simplified explanation. The most important consideration would be that velocity is a vector quantity. It has both magnitude (speed) and a direction. Having speed builds momentum, but that is not sufficient to be effective. The velocity and momentum have to be pointed in the correct direction to affect the target. You can generate all the speed and momentum in the world and still be ineffective if you can’t aim well enough to hit your target. To fajin effectively, you have to be able to generate power and you have to be able to aim the power to hit your target.

Another issue is how the velocity is generated. In most untrained individuals, the speed of attack is generated by having a long travel path. In order to punch, they have to cock their fist back to get enough spacing to get sufficient velocity into their punch. It’s like their winding up for their Popeye punch. While this approach can work, it suffers from slow execution and telegraphing the attack. The opponent has plenty of time to counter when he sees you winding up for an attack. Also, in close quarters, being able to draw back to get enough distance to achieve higher attack speeds is often not possible. The attack velocity must be achieved over shorter distances. To continue the car analogy, you have to get your car from 0 to 60 mph in 5 seconds over 0.08 miles of driving distance instead of 10 seconds and 0.17 miles. To get more acceleration and achieve greater velocity and momentum over shorter attack paths, we must consider force production.


You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out fajin, but you might want to use a little rocket math to understand it. The force equation is a fundamental relationship for understanding how rockets get off the ground.  In the last blog post (Part 1), we left off mentioning how we need acceleration to generate enough momentum over short distances.  For our purposes, we can use the force equation to analyze how it is possible to generate enough velocity and momentum for a short distance attack.

Force (F = m * a)

Two things affect force: the mass of an object and the acceleration of the object. Bigger objects can impart more force (i.e. a sledgehammer hurts more than a BB), and faster acceleration correlates with greater force (it takes more force to go from 0-60 in 5s than 10s). To get the necessary velocity to impart maximum momentum, we need to consider acceleration. The faster the acceleration, the better the ability to achieve higher velocities over short distances and the greater the likelihood of generating higher momentum with an attack.  To get fast acceleration, we need to generate force.

When we discussed momentum, more mass was advantageous to having greater momentum. However, when considering force, more mass is not necessarily an advantage. Getting more mass in motion requires more force just to break the inertia of the mass. Adding more lean body mass in the form of fast-twitch muscle fibers is akin to adding a bigger engine which allows more force generation and greater potential acceleration. Adding fat mass on the other hand is equivalent to putting a heavier chassis on the car; it increases momentum but may end up reducing the acceleration potential since fat mass has no force generation and increases inertia. The last part of the physical aspects of force generation would be the ligaments and tendons, which act as the transmission gears of our metaphorical car. The gears have to be strong enough to handle force of the engine and transfer that force to the wheels.

All of the physical factors can be improved (more muscle, less fat, more resilient ligaments and tendons) through physical conditioning. However, as was the case in our momentum discussion, there are practical limits to the physical conditioning. Baseline effective physical fitness can be achieved relatively quickly, and more gains in acceleration potential are more likely achieved through skill training.

Force generation depends on the practitioner’s movement abilities. Efficiency in body movement and proper body mechanics have a significant effects on force generation. For the purposes of discussion, we can consider three trainable components of movement ability:

  1. alignment
  2. relaxation
  3. joint coordination

One of the first things the practitioner should strive for is proper joint alignments. When the joints are positioned properly, less muscular exertion is needed to keep the body structure organized and the more potential muscular activation is available for force generation. Establishing the proper body alignments is a prerequisite for the muscles of the body to relax and thus be more available for force generation. A prime example of this would be the stacking of the body over the feet so that the minimum effort is wasted standing upright. Other examples would be keeping the elbows behind the wrist or knees aligned to the toes during force generation. Poor positioning of either of these joints results in extra muscular effort being spent just stabilizing those joints.

In addition to allowing greater potential force, relaxation also allows more efficient use of force. An untrained individual (particularly with the modern sedentary lifestyle) often has several movement dysfunctions. The proper muscles are not sufficiently activated, the body alignments are off, and extraneous muscles are tensed to compensate for improper body mechanics. The extra muscle tension often retards the desired force. The extra non-functional muscular tension is like driving a car with the accelerator and brake pedals simultaneously pressed. A lot of force might be generated, but the unnecessary tension means that different forces in the body are working against each other. An example of this would be throwing a punch with all the muscles of the upper body tensed at the same time. It can feel like a lot of effort is going into a super strong punch, but because the muscles are not contracting and relaxing in the correct sequence, they end up working against each other and making the punch weaker. When the unnecessary tension is taken out of the movement, the generated force is applied more efficiently towards the desired movement.

Finally, joint coordination plays a crucial role force generation. To achieve maximum acceleration, we want to be able to tap into as much muscle as possible to generate the maximum amount of force. If we rely on only muscles local to one joint for movement (let’s say the elbow for a punch), then the amount of force we can generate is limited to strength of only a few muscles which may not even be all that strong. What we can do instead is use multi-joint movements to draw on muscles from all over the body, particularly from the strong muscles of the legs and hips. This requires that the joint alignments be correct and that the movements of each body segment coordinate properly with the other body segments. When the coordination is correct, the movement becomes like a chain that is whipped: each link transfers power to the next segment until the sum of all the individual forces is manifested at the end of the chain. If the movement is uncoordinated, the forces do not sum together and the chain flops in a disorganized fashion.

One of the purposes of the skill portion of training is to develop movement quality.  When we can leverage proper body alignment, relaxed movement, and whole body coordination, we can achieve sufficient force production to accelerate our attacks over much shorter distances than would be possible otherwise.

Johnny Kuo

originally posted at on 9/1 & 9/9/2011



Contained Spiral Force

Roundtable Discussion 014: Myths & Misconceptions

Posted in Discussion Question, Martial Arts, Roundtable Discussion, Styles with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2011 by Combative Corner

We asked our author panel consisting of five professional martial art teachers this question:

“What are some of the Myths & Misconceptions that you’ve come across in marketing your classes?”

Self-Defense  | Hybrid Fighting Method

1. Being from Israel automatically makes something badass.

Fact of the matter is, Krav Maga’s creator was born in Hungry (grew up in Bratislava), and based Krav Maga on his boxing and wrestling experience mixed with street fighting and his father’s police arrest and controls. So at the root of it, Krav Maga (although developed in Israel) was born with its founder in (modern day) Slovakia. And belonging to any culture is irrelevant – it doesn’t make anything more or less effective.

2. Being from Russia automatically makes something badass.  See above in relation to Israel.

3. You can’t be a good marketer AND a quality combatives instructor.

I call BULLSHIT! Too many people think that if you are successful then your content must be watered down for the masses. Maybe it’s that your marketing skills are lacking or that your personality sucks. There is no reason someone can’t be a quality combatives instructor AND a first rate marketer. And for heaven’s sake….make sure you spell check your ads.

4. Being an ex-military or law enforcement officer or bouncer automatically means that their program works.

I have met several of the above (military, police, and bouncers) that wouldn’t know their ass from a hole in the ground when it comes to self-defense and combatives. Many don’t even know how to throw a basic punch. This is not true of all of them of course, but if someone markets themselves as some super-experienced ninja killer of death because they were a cop for 20 years, it doesn’t necessarily translate to “combatively skilled”. Nor does it meant their system is going to fit you.

Karate   |   Sanshinkai Karate

1. Traditional martial arts like Karate and Tae Kwon Do are just for kids (a.k.a I’m too to old to train.)

I admit that nowadays a lot of traditional schools market themselves more towards children than adults. We are constantly selling people on the benefits of our classes siting their ability to increase a child’s discipline, fitness level, self confidence, etc. and that of course is why kids will always be a large part of our market. What adults need to realize is that the martial arts, regardless of style, have plenty of benefits for them as well. It helps relieve stress, improve fitness, introduces them to other adults with common interest, which can be hard to do as busy as people are, and the obvious benefit of being able to defend oneself. Adults also need to understand that the days of training on concrete floors with no safety gear are long gone. Just because you take martial arts doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get injured.

2. In order to be a Master rank in martial arts you have to be really old and have trained for decades.

This is the double edge sword of the depiction of martial arts in movies. Movies have done a lot to spread martial arts to the masses but it has also given us the stereotypical martial instructor. There are literally thousands of schools teaching thousands of styles and every single one of them has their own time as well as age requirements that their students must reach in order to test for higher levels of black belt. Just because black belt A got his Master rank in 7 years when it took black belt B 15 years doesn’t mean black belt A’s training was substandard or any less difficult.

3. My uncle’s, cousin’s, brother-in-law took martial arts and he had to have his hands registered as deadly weapons.

I can’t believe this martial arts urban legend is still floating around. It doesn’t happen often, but every now and then I’ll actually have someone walk in off the street and tell me about someone they know that “had” to do this. I usually just smile and nod and wait for them to leave.

Gongfu  |  I-Liq Chuan

1. “Marketing is evil”
Marketing is not evil. It is just a reality of modern life. A lot of martial arts teachers I have encountered refuse to promote themselves and then complain about not having students. There are a ton of distractions in modern society competing with your art for potential students. If no one knows you exist, it doesn’t matter one bit how good a teacher you are or how awesome your art is. You have to play the marketing game at some level so that potential students can find you.

2. “Running a class as a business degrades the art.”
Offering only free classes is a bad idea. It’s ok to start with free classes to get a few students or to get your foot in the door somewhere. But ultimately keeping a martial arts class going requires paying students, which means taking care of the money side of things. This is not just because you need money to cover rent and insurance for the class, but also because money is the primary unit by which things are valued today. Attaching a monetary value (even if its a nominal sum) gives your class a perceived worth; keeping a class free means you’ll lose a lot of students simply from the misperception that your class or your teaching doesn’t have any worth. Plus, you can weed out the taste testers from the serious students with a class fee. Students who are truly interested are willing to pay a reasonable fee.

3. “That looks easy. I can do that!”
Learning an art is not easy. Just because somethings looks easy or is conceptually simple does not mean that anyone can do it. Since I teach an art based on “tai chi” principles, I get a lot of people expecting an easy class with nothing but gentle movements, transcendental feelings of qi, a panacea for all ailments, and instant super human self-defense skills. Not only can I not offer the quick fix to any of the above, but teaching a martial “art” precludes it. Like any serious endeavor, achieving the skill requires delving into the study. It involves some physical exertion and sweat. It also requires mental effort to understand what you’re training. If you want to achieve any level of skill, you can’t bypass putting in the effort to learn the art.

Gongfu  |  Tai Ji Quan

One two-fold myth about taijiquan is that it’s (a) all about its slow movements and (b) it therefore is an “old person’s art form.”  A recent quote I fall back on goes, “Move as fast as proper technique will allow” (Rener Gracie talking about moving in practice), which if you think about it, can only be done in a slow motion (especially if you expect the body to pick up on the subtleties).  Moving slowly, the body “understands” more, but the advanced practitioner can eventually move like lightening – the obvious and practical application of any martial art technique.  It’s my opinion that the “old masters” (being masters of their art) move slowly (a) because they understand that it’s more beneficial to do so (b) more pleasant and elongates their training period and (c) old people move only when they want to (don’t they?).

Fencing   |   Classical Foil

Something that really gets my blood pressure rising is the statement that “classical” fencing is antique and out-dated. Some fencers simply decide or are pressured into disregarding “classical” training for what’s termed “Olympic, Modern or Sport” fencing. While it is true that “classical” may never be as popular as “modern”, it’s the fencing method, training and these “classical” teachings (developed over the last 500 years, NOT just since the last 40-50) that develops the swordsman. All activities are based on RESULTS and this is part of the problem. (I know this is a generalization, but) Modern fencing focuses (I’ve come to see) more on making the touch (at whatever cost, as long as it pertains to FIE rules), whereby (“most”) classical fencers find more importance on the technical result and his/her improvement through proper form, timing and sportsmanship.

This is just “my take” and one of my pet peeves if-you-will.  I know there are a lot of modern fencers that love the classical and vice versa (I’m one of them)… however (although generalizing) the point can easily be made as described above.  Aldo Nadi said, “There is only one fencing.” What is meant by this is the connection we make is/should be between our head and the sword, NOT our sword and our opponent.

Self Defense   |   Golden Thread System

A popular misconception is that many of today’s popular martial arts can prepare you for the violence one can encounter on the streets.  This used to be hard for a traditional martial artist (like me) to admit, but the physical side – all the punching, kicking and yells of ‘kiyah’ matter very little in violent encounters.  Yes, knowing how to do all of this can be beneficial but one should dive deeper into exploring ones own fears and limitations and learn (or be taught) how to detect and diffuse a situation before it gets physical.  As a Lao Tzu once said, “He who can not be drawn into a fight is invincible.”

Gongfu   |   Freddie’s Modern Kungfu

Misconception #1: “Kung Fu is a Martial Art style.” Kung Fu is not a Martial Art style. Kung Fu is the discipline you have to better yourself in any craft; it does not have to do anything with combat. The term derives from Confucius, Confucius was a great scholar, he did not practice combat techniques, but he had great Kung Fu. Osho, Lao-tzu, Socrates, J.Krishnamurti, & many great sages & mystics have great Kung Fu; but yet they do not practice any type of physical combat.

Misconception #2: “Wushu is a Martial Art style.” Wushu is not a Martial Art style. It is simply the Chinese term for “Martial Art.” It is simply a different language pointing towards the same thing, which is the artful expression of combat, which we know as Martial Arts.

Misconception #3: “MMA is the ultimate Martial Art style.” MMA is just another combative sport that has been created with another set of rules. No different than Boxing, Kickboxing, Wrestling, Thai Boxing rules etc. MMA is simply another sport. You may like this sport more than that sport but it does not mean that a certain sport is the best out of all; it is all subjective to your preferences. Just b/c you like football more than tennis does not mean that football is better. All athletes who train in any sort of combat sport focus on different types of specialized training, one is not better than the next, it simply boils down to which you wish to specialize in. Runners practice running, some like to concentrate on sprints, others like to concentrate on long distance, neither is better than another, it boils down to what you like to specialize in.

Misconception #4: “Belts mean nothing.” Belts or any sort of ranking do set a certain purpose. We should not be limited by them but we should also not completely disregard their intended purpose. You need to develop the ego before you learn to eliminate it. If you start with no ego & you do not train to develop the ego, then you will have no understanding of it. There is clearly a difference between a person who is trained & untrained. Ranks simply signify that a person has been trained to a certain level, once trained then he can drop the rank. A person who has obtained rank & then consciously drops the rank is much different than the person who has not obtained the rank at all, he has nothing to drop, his understanding is therefore limited. A person like a Buddha who started off as a Prince & then consciously decides to renounce everything is very different than the average homeless man. If you have power, can you refrain from abusing your power? If you have no power of course you won’t abuse your powers over others, you have no power to abuse, but how will you act if you did have the power? A high level Martial Artist is a person who has the power but he does not abuse it.

Aikido   |   Four Winds Aikido

The top misconceptions that I have encountered: It is ok to put your self out there. How else can others find you and your classes.




Common Injuries in Jiu Jitsu | Neck

Posted in Health, Jiujitsu, Martial Arts, Nutrition, Safety, Training with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2011 by chencenter

It can go without saying that injuries in jiu jitsu is not so much a question of how it will happen to you, but when.  After getting back to the mat post-honeymoon last Saturday night, I could sense that the coming Sunday was going to be sore one.  After waking up (moving quite like Batman), I felt compelled to write.


[Commonly encountered from neck cranks, guillotine chokes & hard falls]

 Muscles Affected*: [Upper/Mid-back] Semi-spinalis, Longissimus dorsi, Iliocostalis dorsi, Trapezius [Neck]  Semispinalis capitus, Levator scapulae, Longus capitus, Longus colii, Scalenes, Splenius cervicis


The first thing to understand (and sometimes a difficult thing amongst men) is “Don’t be a hero.”  Before more damage is done, Tap out!  It also helps to communicate beforehand with your training partner, especially if they are strong to begin with.  If something feels injured, it probably is (proceed to step 2).  The quicker you start the healing process (which first is the sometimes difficult task of stopping your training – at the very least for the time being).

Listen to your body.  Don’t be a hero.  What you do from the time injury occurs and for the proceeding 24-72 hours, is of monumental importance.  Stretching beforehand is crucial before any activity and will help stave off the soreness and lessen the possibility for injury.


Most of us have heard the acronym “R.I.C.E.”  It stands for: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.  Stay away from heat (it’ll increase the inflammatory response).  I learned in massage school the tremendous benefits of ice therapy and highly encourage everyone to apply it, constantly.  Studies have show that heat (although it may feel nice) acts superficially and doesn’t get quite the rush of blood and nutrients that cold produces.  Aspirin or Alleve is a good pain reliever but Arnica is a great natural, topical treatment (applied only to injured, unbroken skin) [Weil, 2006].  Three key nutritional needs for muscle recovery/growth are vitamin C (chief component of connective tissue healing) and protein (essential for muscle growth/regrowth) and hydration.  Speaking from personal experience, even with the use of multiple, daily applications of ice, and plenty of good rest and nutrition, pain (although in a diminishing amount) is present anywhere from 3 to 14 days.


It is always advisable to see a physician regarding any injury, however many injuries we sustain in the martial arts and through training are (fairly) minor and can be dealt with through the application of good sense and information (from expert sources**).  Acupuncture, massage therapy and (especially) chiropractic treatments are avenues highly worth exploring and will help keep your body working in top order.  And while recovery is best done with rest, it is not to say that some motion is bad.  The body craves motion (but know your limits/boundaries)! Light stretching, slow movement and (pain-free) rotations of the joints can be highly beneficial in boosting circulation, improving muscle tone and lubricating the joints.  A great resource for anyone is Dick Hartzell (inventor of the Flex band).  Here is one of my favorite videos of his for shoulders [Click Here].


You’re body is yours and yours alone, and it goes without saying that we should do our utmost to keep it healthy.  When, how soon and how hard you continue your training is ultimately in your hands and should be a safe call.  Be patient and make sure your ready.  If you’ve consulted your physician or chiropractor, ask him or her if and/or when you’ll be ready to continue training.  Good luck everyone.

We at The Combative Corner wish you all the best and – no injuries!  Cheers.

Please offer your advice if you feel we missed/left out anything


*Obviously injuries vary and therefore different muscles can be damaged/injured to a greater extent.  This is not a complete list, as other muscles maybe affected as well.  It is, however, of benefit to become aware of these muscles.

**Author Michael Joyce is a professional martial artist, licensed massage therapist (#6096) and has his degree in the Exercise & Sport Sciences.  Additional Resources: Andrew Weil M.D., The American Journal of Sports Medicine 2004, Volume 32, Dr. Tom Deters, Ashok V Gokhale, MD, PhD, eMedicineHealth.

-Photos of Muscles Courtesy of: Greys Anatomy

Sifu Lee on Life’s Purpose

Posted in Peace & Wellbeing, Philosophy, Spirituality, Teaching Topic with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2011 by Sifu Freddie Lee

Thinking about your life and it’s purpose is one of first major steps in your spiritual development. It is a very important question to ponder and it shows your maturity, this spiritual aspect of yourself is a very important aspect to gain in order to complete your development to become a Martial Artist, without it, you can be nothing greater than a Fighter.

Your basic question is “what is the point of working so hard if you die and lose it all in the end?” That is the basic question that Buddha had such a hard time figuring out. Realize that he was a prince, and he could not stop thinking about this question. He had to search for the truth and in the process he decided to renounce his status as Prince & all the attachments that came along with it. He went searching for the truth but in the end he discovered that the truth was within himself the whole time. He figured out the answer to this question and he shared his discovery with the world. His teachings are the foundation to the Martial Arts and to Eastern Philosophy. In order to achieve a high level in the Martial Arts, you must deeply understand his teachings.

My feedback is this, you shall live in the current moment, in this moment only, not thinking of the future, nothing thinking of the past. You should not be working hard, you should be playing. Playing is when you enjoy. You should simply enjoy your life, enjoy the moment for what it is. Do not think about the next world, simply enjoy this world.


Sifu Freddie Lee

Thoughts via FMK’s Facebook


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