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View Full Version : Heavy and Light: A Discussion of Balance, Movement, and Weight Shifting



Gabriel Suarez
04-13-2019, 09:55 AM
I was doing some research on Karate stances and footwork recently and saw that images of the old masters showed relatively normal stances. More like "real life" than anything you might see today. Today everything is exaggerated. A front stance is like a deep lunge for example. And many modern schools - never having learned it properly - promote the deep stance thing. But I believe the original purpose of these was to teach a shifting of weight and a sense of the transition from a sense of heaviness to a sense of lightness.

One founder whose name escapes me wrote that he never spent much time training stances, but he spent a great deal of time training moving from one stance to another. In essence, the meaning foiled by language and cultural barriers, the man was describing the shifting of movement and weight.

I first learned this when we were taught Sanchin. Its a very simple movement pattern but it is intended to teach the development of that sense of heaviness, and to access it quickly and instantly to deliver a strike or to reduce it for quick movement. Brent was telling me of his old teacher who simply noted that "Everything was Sanchin"...meaning that the characteristics of sanchin, or the ability to access the sense of heaviness or lightness, was present in every movement pattern if the user realized it and used it. If you have ever bee fortunate enough to be hit by Brent while he is casually standing in front of you, you have experienced this.

What does this have to do with "Close Range Gunfighting"?

Your ability to explode dynamically and at speed, with perfect balance and control, from a position of rest is greatly facilitated by the ability to integrate this sense of weight shifting from heaviness to light. Some people may do it instinctively, like animals. Mostly combat athletes, and students of other similar disciplines that require the ability. I have seen football players do this without any issues, and I have seen very fit runners not be able to do so at all. Hopefuly in the class later this month, Brent and i will be able to elaborate on this more.

For now, here is a quick exercise.

Stand at ease and as silly as it may sound, think of yourself as heavy. A good visual is to imagine as if your feet are melting into the floor. Sometimes you will have an advanced and properly trained man have one or two guys push on him for resistance. For now just the develop the sense of "heavy".

From there release that sensation and study a feeling of lightness. The weight should feel more in the hips...higher up.

Do that a few times and then add a sudden and untelegraphed take off.

Fighting is fighting and it has so very little to do with stances and range work that I am astounded that these are still a focus for so many. Enhance your ability to shift weight smoothly and suddenly like this and watch how your ability to move improves dramatically.

Brent Yamamoto
04-13-2019, 03:40 PM
Excellent.

Old pictures of well known Karate teachers indeed show natural “stances”. These are obviously more useful and realistic.

The deep stances that you see today do not show up in historic photos until late in the game. The first one I am aware of is Funkoshi’s son Gigo:
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I have a theory about why Karate stances moved from natural postures to exaggerated, deep stances. One - we are told that historically Karate was taught in very small groups on Okinawa (at least until it began being taught in grade school). Small classes allow a lot of interaction between teacher and student.

When Karate was exported to Japan, it took off in a big way, particularly in the university. Large classes developed, challenging the ability of the instructor to devote time to individuals. A deep stance allows the instructor to see at a glance where the student’s weight is, whether forward, back, or evenly distributed. So from a mass instruction standpoint, it was efficient. I can tell you from experience, it is easier to teach and develop a large group using big stances...at least in the beginning. (But that doesn’t mean it is better...just easier).

Two - a large part of the effectiveness of Karate is based on the ability to create “structure” (a balanced firing platform that doesn’t wilt on impact). Structural integrity, combined with effective shifting of weight, creates the ability to project powerful strikes.

It is easier to take a raw beginner from 0 to 50 with power generation using big, deep stances. But in my experience this quickly hits a plateau. The deep stance is actually less structurally sound (“breaks” are created in the hip and low back), limiting power generation.

A more natural posture does not create these breaks. It allows for much greater power generation, not to mention mobility, but it is harder and takes longer to develop. It is more complicated and IMO requires hands on interaction with a good instructor.

I think the deep stance thing is a product of practical, if lazy, adaptation to large class size, as well as the loss of knowledge, let alone ability to teach, how to create power and mobility from more natural postures.

I will say that big stances are useful for exaggerating and illustrating the shifting of weight. I approach this through exercises rather than classic Karate training of basics and kata. Big stances don’t exist in my classes, because I think kata should be performed as we fight. Exaggerated stances are for yoga...a fine fitness activity but nit fighting.

Brent Yamamoto
04-13-2019, 03:52 PM
That was a longer side note than intended...

There are a lot of important factors to fighting ability. Fitness being first. But from a technical perspective I have come to think of structural integrity and the ability to shift weight effectively and immediately as perhaps the most important.

Structure is is INCREDIBLY important to H2H fighting. It is a key factor for marksmanship, we all know that we must support a gun through our skeleton rather than forcing things into place with muscle. In the 0-5” environment, it’s important because that is gunfighting that requires H2H skills. Retention, just for one example, is eased greatly through solid structure.

Mid-range shooting (outside arms length but within point shooting range) relies less on structure. Unlike a punch or a kick, the bullet does the damage for us. We need just enough structure to hold the gun steady. That’s no big trick with most defensive hand guns (though VERY useful for something like a Stakeout shotgun).

Likewise, shifting weight for POWER GENERATION, while key for delivering H2H impact, is not as important to guns...again, the bullet does the work. But weight shifting for MOVEMENT, that is incredibly useful.

Brent Yamamoto
04-13-2019, 04:00 PM
IMO stances are useful training tools but they are like the mold for a casting. The mold is only important for a time, it is thrown away when no longer needed.

Developing structure and ability to shift weight is what is important. Developing ability to create and maintain structure WHILE MOVING is important. Martial arts guys end up spending too much time on what the mold looks like, and not enough time on what the mold is intending to create.

This is why I can hit pretty damn hard standing on one foot, leaning back in a lazy, compromised posture. That’s not to brag but to show what is possible. It looks nothing like Karate, but that is what Karate training can produce (any good system will teach this if they know how).

Brent Yamamoto
04-13-2019, 04:13 PM
“Feeling heavy” as Gabe describes is important. Useful for hand to hand, useful for shooting, useful for grappling. NECESSARY in fact.

If you cannot access this heavy feeling, you simply will not hit as hard as you can. If you already hit hard, you can hit MUCH harder by becoming heavy. Ideally you shift your weight into your fist. Guys that can do that punch well above their weight.

For grappling on the ground...well if you can’t learn to relax and be heavy, forget it. You will not last long unless the script is on your side.

Feeling heavy is perhaps not so practically useful for gunfighting outside arms length, but developing it is certainly useful for learning its opposite, feeling light. More on that later.

Feeling heavy first involves relaxing. I need a better word because relaxing implies limp noodle, and that is not what we mean.

“Relaxing” in this context means using just enough muscle to feel engaged. Muscles are primed for movement, they are not at total rest. This is a state where the engine is idling, ready to apply power immediately. Overly tense muscles are slow and wear out quickly.

The most obvious illustration is grappling. Grapple with an experienced ground fighter and a newby - you will instantly feel the difference between overly tense muscles and a relaxed but heavy and primed body.

Brent Yamamoto
04-13-2019, 04:23 PM
The exercise described by Gabe is excellent.

Feeling heavy is good for contact with the other guy. Hitting, pushing, resisting, throwing or grappling. Behind a rifle while prone.

Feeling light is necessary for movement. No one can move fast while they are being heavy.

This doesn’t mean big guys must move slow. Anyone who has trained with Dorkface knows how quickly he moves. I showed Chrisnobody a couple tricks to the takeoff and on the next round he was running over guys half his size.

The key is the ability to shift from heavy to light, instantaneously and without thought. It must be trained to the point of automatic reflex. Thus the reason Gabe and I believe so strongly in kata.

I like Gabe’s analogy of the feet melting into the floor for feeling heavy.

Now imagine the opposite. Imagine your hand touching a hot stove. Most of us move VERY quickly in that circumstance. Imagine your feet touching a hot surface and see how light they get.

Brent Yamamoto
04-13-2019, 04:53 PM
And the real trick in H2H is being light on feet and heavy in your hands. Look at guys like Dempsey and Ali.

Doing both at once maybe not so important for gunfighting, at least outside arm’s length. But being light on your feet is necessary for quick movement.

Practice walking across the floor as quickly but silently as you can. Practice a short sprint making as little noise as possible.

Making noise means impact. Good for stomping on stuff but not so good for movement.

Jim Miller
04-14-2019, 05:10 AM
Excellent points, all.

Two things came to mind reading this. First, old karate was more concerned with being able to move, since not being where the bad things are coming is a great way to survive. When it's a real fight, not a sporting match, you don't know what the other guy has brought to the fight. So the ability to move off the line of attack (hmm, or off the X) is much more important.

Second, in the Book of Five Rings, Musashi wrote that your everyday stance should be your fighting stance.

Jim Miller
ISA 6:8

Mike OTDP
04-14-2019, 10:37 AM
There's something else worth noting. The mind affects the body. Think "heavy" and you will be heavy. The same with lightness. This technique can be used to do many things, whether it be the correction of stance problems or adjusting mobility.

I'll confess to drawing a good deal of satisfaction reading pieces like this. I've been working with Okinawan Karate (Matsamura Orthodox, to be precise) since 1985. It's not fancy, just effective. And yes, we teach fighting from a natural stance. Mobility is critical, particularly the body shift (Get the body off the attack axis...just far enough to make the opponent miss or strike a glancing blow. Then hammer him into the dirt.).

Gabriel Suarez
04-14-2019, 02:37 PM
And discussions like these are wasted on 90% of "gun people" who masturbate to videos of Instructor Zero. Thank God we are NOT them.

kabar
04-14-2019, 03:48 PM
Boy this talk really makes some lights go off in my head when thinking about the Shotokan dojo I spent my 20's in. It was all about the big, deep stances, but thinking back, I can't recall the Sensei ever getting down low in those exaggerated stances. The guy was middle aged with bad joints and not exactly fast, but he was basically untouchable as he had an uncanny knack for not being in the same spot you were attacking. I remember thinking many times, "How the heck did he get behind me?"

Dorkface
04-14-2019, 03:50 PM
Practice walking across the floor as quickly but silently as you can. Practice a short sprint making as little noise as possible.

It freak people out when I do that lol. "How does someone as big as you most that quietly?!?" some have said. Its basically like making your legs totally shock absorbers. Everything from your toes and feet to your knees and hips are slightly activated to allow for body support but not braced for maximum stability. It reminds me of someone playing Full/Half back in football. Move fast and then hit hard. I wonder if there would be any utility in the footwork drills for some. Who doesn't want to do tire or rope drills? :firedevil:

I have always thought of the deep stances in Karate and the like as a place to end up momentarily when getting hit and counter attack. When Brent would be showing us different things and he would throw a punch at me I always want to move into it. To basically punch his fist with my chest as I would set up to hit someone. I see that as how one would end up in a deep stance to setup an attack as it would then put you in a perfect position to launch towards them from a loaded stance. Instead of smashmouth football it would be smashmouth fighting depending on the situation.

Gabriel Suarez
04-14-2019, 05:03 PM
AND...you do not step into a deep stance...and then hit. Nor do you step, hit, and stay there stopped. Nor does the foot precede the fist. It is movement forward...and through. The problem with only hitting bags or punching posts is that by necessity, you remain stationary. Same with too much g**da*** moth******* range work and live fire. The necessity of the training environment or drill develops horrible habits.

A proper punch begins in the mind...the eye looking at the target. The hand begins to move toward the target as the feet follow. Then as the hand connects, the lower body supports it and drives through as if hitting with the ground itself. That is the timing. Feel light and then heavy, driving and crushing...then light again. Its a timing...same as the dynamic move off the X in Diagonal Lines and Watch Your Back has a timing from heavy to light and then heavy again as you change directions.

Gabriel Suarez
04-14-2019, 05:07 PM
Boy this talk really makes some lights go off in my head when thinking about the Shotokan dojo I spent my 20's in. It was all about the big, deep stances, but thinking back, I can't recall the Sensei ever getting down low in those exaggerated stances. The guy was middle aged with bad joints and not exactly fast, but he was basically untouchable as he had an uncanny knack for not being in the same spot you wer, e attacking. I remember thinking many times, "How the heck did he get behind me?"

I get chastised at the dojo I train at (not a teacher there). Its a Shotokan JKA school and I am learning useful things there...but for them the preservation of JKA doctrine is of greater importance than my taller lighter stances, tucked chin, and such. Its ok...I am there to learn and I smile.

MichaelJames
04-14-2019, 11:11 PM
If they think the high stances are disconcerting, wait until they catch a kick to the thigh....

Gabriel Suarez
04-15-2019, 07:43 AM
If they think the high stances are disconcerting, wait until they catch a kick to the thigh....

There may have been one or two of those.

wheel
05-04-2019, 08:02 AM
I use a tightening/clenching of the fists, locking the muscles momentarily and then exploding with an Open Hand Technique covering the High/Low Line instead. My version of Light and Heavy.

An example of covering the High Line is the part in JOIN Kata where you turn to face back to the front again after having turned to your right, completed the Break-Out, Front Kick and 3 Punch Combination.

Next in the Kata you perform an Open Hand Head-Block, Head-Block and Reverse Punch Combination. You then repeat this Combination twice more.

The Open Hand Block shooting up as fast as possible simulates bringing my hand back up from the wheel covering the left side of my Face/Neck, having being forced to drop me left hand to make a left turn. The strong Head-Block, tightening the fists and locking the muscles of the arms momentarily trains a strong Stop-Hit where I thrust both arms out at the same time. Intercepting a powerful Slash/Stab-When the attacker accompanies the Stab/Slash with a step, instead of just throwing out small sniping attacks out of range.

So it is: Shooting the Open Hand up as fast as possible, locking both arms for the Block and then immediately relaxing the fists to execute a fast Reverse Punch,waiting to the very last moment to lock the arms out again. Then when the fists relaxes again it acts as a starter pistol to shoot the Open Hand on the opposite hip up as fast as possible.

As I repeat this drill the Open Hand Block becomes faster and faster.

I take this piece of the Kata and see how many reps I can perform in a minute. It is a better use of my training time than performing the whole Kata-It takes me about 2 min. to do the Kata. I average 80 reps a min. instead staying static. So that is 180 reps versus 9 reps in 2 min.

I will add some of my other Karate drills to the workout creating 3 min rounds switching between drills every min. Or using the min rest between sets on Pressing days.

FOOTNOTE: A bonus is that I get an AB workout in as well, the tightening and relaxing of the muscles of the body acting as an isometric workout.

OSSU!
Elfie

Christopher Calhoun
05-04-2019, 09:24 AM
Interesting to read this and think back to when I was 18-19 and a brown belt.

I had a guy start class a few weeks after his son did as a black belt in some form of karate.

During the “forms” and movement teaching portion of the class, he was missing it. Couldn’t kick, punches looked stupid, and over all he was slow and clumsy.

During the sparring portion of the class I got cocky. He and I squared off and he got in this deep and low stance. I mean, movie style, super low horse stance. So heck, I did too because I’m a 19 year old badass right? Every time I would advance he would sweep my leg and do a kind of push/punch move so I would get up and get low again thinking, “okay this crap is working for him so I must be doing it wrong,” and each time same thing. At one point I heard my instructor yell, “Chris...get off the floor and start fighting!” But I just...wouldn’t, because I kept copying him, because I was comfy but unsure of myself.

As you can see from the photos, I didn’t actually fight/spar like that. I mostly stood upright with my chin down and moved. (I’m in the red shirt). These are from about 1998-2000. Two are my senior photos...clearly...and in the one where I’m standing, my lead hand was down for the look of the shot, but it usually stays up to protect my head. Otherwise, that’s my fighting stance in karate.

https://uploads.tapatalk-cdn.com/20190504/2ec0f3483b526d3b9b3e135de679c80f.jpg

https://uploads.tapatalk-cdn.com/20190504/d80ba9ed551e3a05631a2960892a4514.jpg




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mross
05-15-2019, 08:04 AM
Brent, interesting take on the teaching aspect of the deep stance. Makes sense, I can see that giving an instructor more control over the class. The teachers I had taught me they deep stances where good for getting a "feel" for your body and how to transfer energy to your delivery system. The secondary use was power development, I took that to mean strength training. We where never taught that as a fighting position because it left you immobile and vulnerable. Love discussing this with folks who actually use it for real as opposed to just dance.

Greg Nichols
05-15-2019, 09:09 AM
AND...you do not step into a deep stance...and then hit. Nor do you step, hit, and stay there stopped. Nor does the foot precede the fist. It is movement forward...and through. The problem with only hitting bags or punching posts is that by necessity, you remain stationary. Same with too much g**da*** moth******* range work and live fire. The necessity of the training environment or drill develops horrible habits.

A proper punch begins in the mind...the eye looking at the target. The hand begins to move toward the target as the feet follow. Then as the hand connects, the lower body supports it and drives through as if hitting with the ground itself. That is the timing. Feel light and then heavy, driving and crushing...then light again. Its a timing...same as the dynamic move off the X in Diagonal Lines and Watch Your Back has a timing from heavy to light and then heavy again as you change directions.

What I see with a lot of this is what I do/have done, when training myself with something new. Even if the action is semi-familiar, if I'm working with something new I exaggerate the movement very deliberately in practice and then gradually introduce speed as it becomes more natural. As the speed is introduced the exaggeration is reduced, or as I have said hundreds of times "get it right, then get it fast". I tend to do this with everything from double clutching in a car, BJJ moves, and weapon manipulation, to foot work.

As you build the "feel" of your structure when you get something right/correct your speed will increase because it will feel right /correct. Once you build that "feeling" into your psyche, make it unconscious, own it, you become efficient and it becomes natural. I don't want to train the exaggeration to be natural but I want to train the process to be natural. I want to work the process until the speed, power, balance, and consistency all exist in the movement. When I know the feeling of the entire process when it's right, consistent, and fast, it allows my mind to quickly shift to a different solution if it doesn't come off as expected.