Saturday, November 10, 2012

a firm foundation: involving the torso

Until now I haven't said anything about what to do with your arms. There are a couple of reasons for this. First and foremost, up until now it really hasn't mattered what you did with your arms, other than to have them ready to catch you if you suddenly felt an overwhelming need to escape from a painful position. But there is another reason, which is that once the arms become involved it's all too easy to let them take precedence over the legs, which would be an unfortunate mistake.

However the time has come to move a little higher, involving the hips and shoulders, and everything in between. For now I'm going to suggest that you put your hands on you hips to keep your arms from flopping around and making a general nuisance of themselves.

At the end of the last installment we were rocking back and forth, side-to-side, moving our weight almost but not quite entirely from one foot to the other. Now we're going to add some rotation around a vertical axis, from about 45º to one side to about 45º to the other side, for a total rotation of about 90º. The axis in question is the vertical line passing through the top center of your skull, and also through the center of your tailbone. You are going to pivot your upper body around this axis.

Standing with your feet under your shoulders, from a neutral (central) position, turn your head slightly to the left, shift your weight onto your right foot, continue to turn your head to the left, allowing your shoulders and hips to follow it until they have turned approximately 45º, replant your left foot with its toes pointing outward at 45º.

Now reverse the movement, turning your head slightly to the right, shifting weight onto your left foot, continuing to turn your head, allowing shoulders and hips to follow until you've pivoted 90º to the right (45º right of center), replant your right foot pointing outward at 45º. Your feet should now be slightly further apart than your shoulders and at a 90º angle to each other, and, except for slight adjustments while unweighted, should remain approximately as they now are. Turn your head slightly to the left.

Continue shifting your weight and pivoting your hips and shoulders, left, right, left, right. Notice that you are backing your body away from whichever direction you are turning toward, and unweighting what is becoming the leading foot as you turn. To the extent that it has any martial content at all, this is a defensive exercise.

Now try to synchronize your breathing with the movement so that your lungs are maximally inflated as you pass through neutral.

If your legs begin to shake uncontrollably, stop right away and do some gentle stretching.

PS: If you find that turning your body 45º to the side is too much, don't fret. Just do what you can comfortably and work very gradually in the direction of 45º. It will become easier when we add arm motions.

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