The way our bodies move is the basis of all karate technique. Our training should include methods to correct postural imbalances, which inevitably inhibit movement. Too many older martial artists cripple around from years of abusing their bodies and just “pushing through” the pain. That’s not fighting spirit, it’s just stupid.
Correct alignment, or being “stacked,” is the beginning of efficient body use. We have to learn the feeling of being truly balanced. I used to think having good balance was a technique, like juggling. If only I practiced enough, I would get it. That’s not the case.
Everything about our posture and movement has to do with muscle conditioning. Without using muscle, we would just be a pile of bones on the floor. Our bodies are designed to function a certain way. If muscles are too tight, they can limit our range of motion. Also, we get in the habit of using the wrong muscles for a particular movement, because the right ones aren’t strong enough. The more we move that way, the worse the problem gets. It’s a vicious cycle.
Irregular movement patterns, or “compensations,” are signs of dysfunction. I’ve been working with Bob to correct the problem of my right foot turning out. This occurs primarily because I’m using my hip flexors, instead of glutes and hamstrings to stabilize. So, we begin with SMR (Self-Myofascial Release) using the foam roller and stretching to “turn down” those hip flexors. Then, we do specific exercises to strengthen the “underactive” glutes and hamstrings, like Romanian deadlifts.
My balance has improved, and I feel less strain in my knees and hips. Ironically, as my muscles become more conditioned, I experience fewer “feelings” of muscular strength. When things are working the way they’re supposed to, I’m just moving around fluidly and not really feeling where my power comes from.
Unfortunately, this condition is not permanent. We must continually maintain proper function and work to correct any irregularities that arise. Fighting is tough. If we train realistically at all, our bodies will have to endure a certain amount of punishment. And, we are likely to develop some new bad habits down the road. It’s an ongoing process.