I’ve recently found that the best way to teach a powerful stance with an optimal connection to the ground while still preserving the ability to push from the feet to facilitate movement (transfer weight) is to utilize a long gun defense – specifically the striking motions employed right before the take-away.
To begin the conversation, I tend to favor a demonstration that illustrates definitively that power comes from the ground. I ask each student to assume a fighting stance. Each stance is different, as each student is physically different – limb length, weight, flexibility, injury profile, etc. effect how a natural stance is taken. This is irrelevant for this demonstration but worth noting to point out how the concept of “power from the ground” works no matter the size or capability of the student working this exercise.
In a natural fighting stance, each student is – more or less – consuming as much ground as is optimal for developing powerful combatives. We can actually measure this by making a rectangle – using the foot in front, the ankles on the sides, and the heel in back to draw a rectangle. We can then calculate the area of that rectangle.
Now we can run our demonstration, as follows:
- First, once the students are in their stances, have them deliver strong combatives to a partner holding an appropriate pad – by driving their weight forward into the pad (straight punches or straight knees to keep it simple).
- Second, move the students to passive stance. The area the rectangle their feet make is now reduced substantially. Ask them to deliver strong combatives again. They will begin to smile, as they sense the reduction in power on the pad.
- Third, ask the students to put their feet together. Repeat the striking drill. More smiles…less power.
- Fourth, ask the students to raise and keep one foot off the ground. Repeat the combatives drill once more.
As you finish the drill for both partners, talk with the students about what they felt (or didn’t feel) from the perspective of the striker and the pad holder. The results will be obvious to all. By pushing and driving from the ground, shifting weight in the feet, and moving body weight (and intention) into a combative, students create a powerful motion that cannot be replicated when the optimal connection with the ground is compromised (when a fighting stance made smaller in this case).
So, now that we know that the ground is a source of power, we can move to the demonstration I mentioned earlier in this article (the long gun strikes). This drill allows each student to explore how powerfully he/she can be when struggling with direct force from the attacker.
To begin, ask each student to grab a stick or training shotgun. Everyone should hold the weapon with the hands situated as if holding a shotgun (that is, spread apart). Next, invite everyone into a fighting stance (and freeze them in place). Let the students know you’ll be working from the feet, up through the core, and into the shoulders, arms, and hands.
- Start by grounding down. Tell the students to create unseen friction by turning the heels out and the balls of the feet in towards the centerline (but don’t actually move the feet). This can also be facilitated by pulling the knees into the centerline slightly (over in the inside of the ankle). Once the friction in the feet is clearly present, ask each student to press down into the ground with the pad of the big toe.
- Continue by sucking the bellybutton in one inch – think about pulling skin to muscle to bone.
- Now, ensure the body weight is in the feet – feel heavy in your lower belly and in your feet. Try dropping or shifting down one inch.
- Lock the muscles in your middle back, shoulders, forearms, and grip.
- If your weight is dropped properly into the feet, flex your muscles to create s statue-like form.
- Now, rotate from the floor (right foot) with your hips and your core – without using the arms. Remember, the students should look like statues rotating at the waist – no movement or independent effort from the arms.
- Lastly, watch physically smaller students move the larger ones!
If you were to employ the principles that allow this drill to work into your striking, you will find much more power and connection than in previous efforts. This drill tends to force larger students to realize that weight and raw power are not enough and smaller students recognize they can succeed by using their bodies as a powerful, single unit.
Good luck with it! Check out the video…
…walk in peace.