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BODY UNITY CONCEPTS FOR OVERALL IMPROVEMENT:
"THREADING THE NINE PEARL GATES"
PART I

By Lt Col Al

In this newsletter I will attempt to tackle probably one of the most profound concepts within the art of Guided Chaos.  Outside of Sensitivity, Body Unity is probably the most misunderstood principle, however, Body Unity is not only applicable to fighting but is applicable to just about every physical activity you undertake. We all use the aspects of Body Unity to varying degrees throughout our day-to-day activities and yet we are totally unaware that we are even doing it. In Attack Proof we describe Body Unity as "finesse" or "grace"; in many older martial arts manuals this phenomena has been described as "Chi" or "Ki" or "the circulating point of finesse in the body." However, Body Unity [Chi or Ki if you prefer] in laymen's terms is nothing more than what we refer to as "Hyper-Coordination". This is proprioception at its highest levels.

As a further illustration of this so that people do not attribute this to some mystical phenomena, this is the same effect as when hitting a golf ball in which all of the movement dynamics along with the proper mental focus come together. It is like hitting a baseball on the "sweet spot" of the baseball bat or breaking a board during a martial arts demonstration when all of the movement dynamics comes together. This type of motion seems effortless. This is why when you drop strike someone it feels as if you barely touch then yet are able to project them backward for some distance or stop an extremely large person dead in their tracks. Understanding how the application of Body Unity works is nothing more than physics and proper mental focus [and when under duress a nice shot of adrenaline to boot]. It is easy to see why people would attribute this to some form of mystical technique or skill.

Body Unity also allows you to appear faster and more agile than you really are since it ensures that all of your movement is unitized and coordinated, thus you are able to cut off angles of attack and penetrate people with little or no movement. At times this type of action creates the "illusion" as if you have hardly moved at all. It enables you to move in such an economical manner [see Attack Proof on Economy of Movement] that you appear to glide through the air as you attack, penetrating and cutting off their attack with seemingly supernatural speed.

One analogy that I always like to use that our students have heard me say over and over is that when a person is using good Body Unity it is the same effect as playing tennis or racket ball with someone who is really good at it. They [the better player] do not run-- they make you run by positioning themselves on the court so that they are able to recover and cut off angles on the court with minimal effort, and when you are close to the net they hit the ball just enough over your head to make you chase after it. When you're to the left they hit it to the right and vice versa. Another example of Body Unity is that of a good re-bounder in basketball: it's not that they're the best athletes on the court per se but that they have the innate ability to know how to position themselves on the court so that either they get the rebound or you're going to have to foul them to get the ball.  As you can see there are a million examples I can give but you get the idea.

Key Points to Remember Pertaining to Body Unity:

  • Body Unity is the culmination of Balance, Looseness and Sensitivity working together to properly align your body to work in the most efficient manner possible. [i.e., move 1,000lbs with 1 ounce of effort]
  • Body Unity (Hyper Coordination, Finesse, Grace, Ki, Chi etc...) starts with the proper foot placement in relation to your root and is the key to proper skeletal alignment
  • Whether punching, kicking or bouncing people, Body Unity begins in your feet, extends through your root and into your weapons
  • Along with the proper body alignment subtle muscle control is the key to explosive power
  • You control your movement and body unity and not the other way around nor do you allow others to control it for you
  • When you strike by applying proper Body Unity you don't just strike people; rather you hit with your skeleton within your sphere of influence, in other words their bodies just get in the way of your weapons

As stated in previous newsletters, without balance you can do nothing, since the power emanates from your root through your center of gravity. It is balance that enables you to step to a new root point effortlessly at lighting speed and strike with maximum power.

This next sequence of photos from the "Balance" newsletter illustrates a key point regarding balance and controlling your center of gravity and allows you to see how it relates to your body unity. As you can see in Fig-1 the box represents the relationship of where your balance is in relation to your torso as outlined in "Attack Proof". Where you see the lines trisect [Fig's 1a & b] this is the location of your center of gravity or as known in Tai Chi manuals as the "Tan Tien". The vertical line in Fig-1c shows how the body can turn around the centerline of the body, which runs through the center of gravity.

For the remainder of this newsletter I will try to use as many diagrams as possible to explain these concepts.  This is important because I still think people at times are confused on this critical point. As you move no matter where or how your torso moves you are trying to always control this point on your body in relation to your foot position while rooting to the ground.

Figures 2a and b above illustrate another key point regarding your upper body's "Body Unity." In Fig 2a you can see the "Red" dot, which represents your center of gravity or Tan Tien. The dotted parallel lines represent the relationship of your shoulders and your hips. The key here is as you pocket, twist and turn you want your hips and shoulders to remain relatively parallel to each other. 

In doing so it prevents them from becoming perpendicular to each other (Fig 2b). Once this happens you not only lose power but it becomes almost impossible to maintain good balance especially while moving. Also your body in this position loses its suppleness and ability to get loose since you have taken all of the slack or looseness out of your body thus overall you lose good body unity.

A word of caution: as with all of these diagrams, all of the concepts are relative, in other words they are general concepts or sub-principles if you will. The point is do not become overly fixated on this to the point in which your movements become ridged or mechanical thus taking away from your suppleness and freedom of action.

BALANCE IN RELATION TO YOUR SPHERE OF INFLUENCE


As stated in previous newsletters we see that our "Sphere of Influence" extends to the maximum range of where we can strike with effectiveness (Fig 3a). Since our limbs are just long enough to protect our bodies, regardless of body type we want to learn to fight within our own sphere.

The figure above shows the relationship between balance and your sphere of influence while controlling your equilibrium as you transition moving forward and back (while not stepping). Notice that as you root either forward or back [Fig-3b] that as long as you follow the principles governing controlling your balance you're able to move your sphere accordingly, maintaining control over your weapons. 

My stick men figures below demonstrate the relationship between your joints and their alignment while moving. I have highlighted each of the major joints in the body to illustrate this. Also note that I've represented your spinal column with dashed line since your spine is very supple and in a sense one long joint. By lining up your joints in relation to the placement of your feet/root point you are able to properly balance and structure your body to either deliver a powerful blow or move accordingly depending on whatever the fight dictates. Notice that I have placed footprints at the bottom of each of the stick men to illustrate the position of your feet when either rooting forward or on the rear leg. The first figure also shows the position of your feet when standing relatively square to your opponent as you possibly transition from one root to the next.


Also note that in Fig's-4b and c that the feet are relatively positioned in an "L" like stance. This position affords you tremendous advantages when fighting. I will cover this position in more detail later in this news letter.

In Fig-4d below I demonstrate that as long as you maintain good body unity you are able to strike with power from virtually any position. As long as you have balance and good body unity your upper torso is still free to move virtually anywhere. Also be mindful that this is a free flowing dynamic and is in no way limited to what I am describing. The point is when you have good body unity you can basically do whatever you want.



In this sequence of pictures notice that the "Red" dots [Fig - 5a and b] represent your joints. By properly aligning your joints and rooting to the ground you have thus "Threaded the Nine Pearl Gates". Also notice that the blue line in Fig-5a represents the projection of your power as it emanates up through your root through the alignment of your body and through your weapon. By doing this you are able to strike with tremendous power since you have the proper body unity and structural alignment. Understand that regardless of whether you are rooted on your forward or rear foot as long as your body is properly aligned with your feet supporting your weapons that you can strike from virtually any position with power.


Note that in the picture below [Fig-6a and b] that your center of gravity [COG] can be transferred to either foot instantly as illustrated in the next set of diagrams. Remember in order to penetrate another person as you strike or control them you must be able to shift your root instantly from one root point to another and align your body behind your weapon.

Notice in this diagram [Fig-6a and b] that the root as shown by the white "+" sign is now all the way over either one foot or another meaning that your center of gravity is directly over the center of the root foot when the foot is flat to the ground.  Again this transition must be smooth and graceful allowing you to"ghost"your movements as you shift to a new root point

Understand that as long as you are rooted and your hands and feet, shoulders and hips are working together in line with each other you can strike literally from any position and drop hit with power.

In the picture below [Fig-7] notice that as you move you are able to transfer your COG from one root point to another. The "Gray" foot for this diagram represents the original root the "Black" foot represents the transfer to the new root point.

In the "Balance" newsletter I discussed the relationship between your root and your center of gravity I'll just rehash some key points here as they apply to your body unity. When fighting, contrary to all of the fancy stances prevalent in many martial arts systems, there are generally only four basic rooted leg positions from which to fight from.  I stress the word "positions" rather than stances since there are no stances in a real fight. The action is just too fast, dynamic and chaotic for such stiffness.

As shown below [Fig-8] you're either rooted forward on your front leg [Fig-8a], rooted on your rear leg [Fig-8b]transitioning between root points [Fig-8c] or you're rooted on one leg [Fig-8d]. The exception to this is if you are on the ground in which case you control your balance with your whole body [not shown].


In Fig's 8a, 8b and 8d notice the relationship between your center of gravity and root point is represented by the dotted line. When rooted forward as shown by the arrows your knee should not go beyond your toe, even when rooting deeply for more balance as in the "Long Step". This will compensate for the tendency to "lean" forward causing your center of gravity to get too far forward of your root causing you to lose balance and body unity. When rooted on the rear leg you'll want to ensure that your backside does not go beyond your heel, (also indicated by arrows) which only causes you to lean back and again lose balance.

The same applies when on one leg. In 8a, 8b and 8d you will notice that I have placed percentages above each picture; they represent the relative distribution of your weight over your rooted leg, however I want to point out that these are relative figures and in truth you should be able to comfortably lift and step or kick with the non-rooted leg. 

I left Fig-8c for last because this is only a transitional position so your root is literally shifting as you feel where you need to either transition your root or step.


In fig 9a we see that the feet are relatively "parallel" or square. When in this position it can be difficult to bring to bare all of your power because you are not always able to freely transition your root forward and back as with the "L" stance (9b). While you can transition freely from side to side it presents a greater target to your opponent. Also if you are moved off of your root from front to back it is easier to uproot you since there is no rear leg to transition to.


With regard to the "L" stance much has been said about its application however there is still much confusion over it. This stance has almost unlimited applications and is critical to your ability to align your body and skeleton in order to project your power. Not only does it present a lower profile of your body to your opponent it allows you to instantly structure your root and your body in the most economical way.

Notice that in the "L" stance you are able to shift the weight of your body forward and back. Additionally this stance not only provides you with greater structure from which to fight from but also allows you to present a smaller profile to a potential attacker.

In the "Parallel" stance you are able to shift the weight of your body from side to side as in rolling the ball, however this stance tends to make your body more square to a potential attacker (unless you are adept at rooting from side to side while finding the straight line in the circle) however because you are relatively square you may get caught being double weighted.




One thing that I want to point out and that is in both stances that at some point you can be rooted 100% over either leg or what is called single leg balance. In this situation as long as your weapons are in line with your body and your feet there really is no difference between being in the "L" stance or the "Parallel" stance.


Okay, now stay with me on this because I'm going to explain something that, if you get the understanding of how this applies to your ability to transition and step to a new root point, it will literally triple your abilities because it will allow you to move in any direction in a unitized manner. In the diagrams above the black feet represent "you" while the gray feet represent the attacker and the "red" arrows represent the angle of attack from which you are striking. When you face an opponent regardless of where you position your body you must understand that "your" L stance can still be applied against an opponent from any angle and is not something that is just limited to standing directly in front of them.

As you strike you are still striking your opponent based on where his center is in relation to your feet, root and weapons however, and this is important, while you may remain in your L stance to the perspective of the opponent, it may appear as if you are standing in a relatively square or parallel stance. In Fig's-12a & b notice that even though your are standing on an angle or oblique you are still able to strike with power because you still have all of your body unity behind your weapons. In fig-12c you can see that even from the side you are still able to strike from the L stance while your opponent is basically out flanked. This is a prime example of what we mean by "finding the straight line in the circle..." 


In the figures below, your feet appear almost as if they are either backwards to the opponent, or the opponent is completely to your side. The reason that I am showing this is to point out something very fundamental that is often missed and that is, as long as you have good body unity and your hips are not "perpendicular" to your shoulders you can strike from seemingly impossible angles with tremendous force. Fig-12d shows you striking to the side directly in front of your opponent, Fig-12e show you striking after you may have folded in or rotated in order to avoid a strike and finally Fig-12f demonstrates how you can strike while stepping off line just outside of their body. In each one of these examples you are able to cut off angles so fast that they have no time to get around you or to the side.

Also notice that in Fig-13a that by changing the position of your feet you are able to strike from different directions and cut off angles of attack and literally strike 180º from one direction to the other lining up your weapons with your feet. Also notice that you are also able to control your space without compromising your position. You can even root forward, backward or even "Box Step" around them literally at will. In Fig-13b notice the transition of your feet. In the next set of pictures I cover this in more detail.

Transferring the Root




In Fig-14a we can see the position of your feet as described in the previous photos. In Fig-14a notice the numbers above the feet along with the "blue" arrows, the numbers indicate which foot you want to move first. However understand that as you move your feet you must first "shift" your root from one root point to another and then you can step to the new root point. In Fig-14b as the left foot begins the transition to the new root point you must first transition your root over the right foot, pick up the left foot and place it down and then transition to the new root point / foot position. Once you have rooted this foot you can then pick up the right foot [Fig-14c] and transition to the new foot position or L stance. You have now realigned your body behind your weapons and are thus able to hit from a completely different angle [i.e., again the straight line in the circle]. By moving in this fashion it ensures you are rooted at all times while you step.

As a final note, while this seems like a very long winded way to describe it, it is really a very simple transition and with proper practice such as the balance training and foot-work drills, the transition is so smooth and simple that you simply don't see it. In Part II of this newsletter I will discuss how the drills that we perform in our classes and seminars apply to this.