One analogy used in martial arts concerns bow’s within the body. I first heard of this from Steve Rowe at Shikon then later Steve Morris. I didn’t find it all helpful initially but now I love this analogy and, importantly, it’s useful in getting the body to generate power ‘naturally’.
Steve Morris blogged about bows in the article ‘loading against the curve’, referring to the construction of a reflex bow. While this helped I still didn’t quite get it at first, but now I do. If you imagine a springy branch that once pulled, wants to ‘ping’ back to it’s originally shape, that’s like a standard Western bow. The reflex bow, in contrast, has increased ‘spring’. This is due to it’s construction from a c-shaped piece of wood bent back on itself, i.e. against the c-shape. This greatly increases the tension and so power of the bow when firing arrows. Therefore, the bows in the body need to be bent against tension in order to generate great power. If a bow is bent ‘loosely’ power is diminished.
During a striking action, a bent ‘body bow’, such as the one across the shoulders, helps increase the loading of the strike. Muscle stretch at the shoulder activates the elastic component of the muscle providing potential energy. Tension at the shoulder joint augments this potential energy allowing greater force to be exerted when this energy is released. If the muscle stretch at the shoulder is soft/loose the resulting strike is comparable to the Western bow rather than the reflex bow. You have to play with this concept to get it. As an aside, the tension referred to here should not be confused with the dynamic tension that you often see used in the performance of sanchin kata. The striking action is NOT stiff!
It follows then, if we combine more than one bow we get a cumulative effect. This is something we have been working on in our club. We ‘created’ a strike we called the Superfrau which is like a close-in version of a Superman punch, which bends the bow of the back. We got a lot out of this. Then we added the bend of the shoulder bow, thus utilising two bows in one strike. It’s some hit!
The analogy of bows bending to fire shots works well once you get your head round it. So long as tension is maintained in the bow, power strike after power strike can be fired. I think of the body being charged, through tension, ready to fire. The image of the wrestler jumping from the corner of the ring onto his opponent illustrates the charged image I have. Chest protruding, arms splayed ready to explode inward! Although it should be present in something as mundane as the Goju kata’s sanchin and tensho.
The bow analogy can be used as a model allowing us to harness natural body resources to produce powerful strikes. These resources can be manipulated to find further ways of implementing power in strikes. It’s all good.