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Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc.



Drills for overall body relaxation

By John Perkins, Al Ridenhour, and Matt Kovsky

Looseness Drills

The point of these drills is to develop the overall body feel that characterizes looseness. If you focus on pummeling your target or your partner, you’ll miss the whole point.

Relaxed Breathing

The key to developing looseness or pliability is relaxation, not only physical but also mental relaxation. Remember, the mind controls the body. When the mind is agitated, so is the body. When the mind is calm and focused, the body becomes more responsive to whatever the mind wants it to do. Conversely, if you practice with a loose, relaxed body, the training acts as a moving meditation, and the mind becomes relaxed. This drill helps you focus on relaxing your breathing, thereby relaxing your mind and body.

1. Stand in a relaxed stance, feet shoulder-width apart, and sink your weight into your legs. Keep your back straight, knees slightly bent, and arms hanging at your sides like wet noodles.

2. Empty your mind of all the day’s tension. Relax your upper body and breathe through your nose deep into your belly, loosening your diaphragm. (Note: Breathing high in the chest, the way most people do, creates neurological tension and anxiety.)

3. Imagine your skin is inhaling also, absorbing fresh air and sunshine through every pore like a sponge. Feel this absorbed air and energy adding relaxation, gravity, and blood mass to your body and limply hanging arms.

4. Feel your stomach actually expand like a balloon with each inhalation of fresh, soothing air.

Exhale by releasing your expanded stomach so air flows out naturally through your nose (don’t force it out). Imagine all negative energy leaving with your expended breath. Feel fresh blood pumping into the vessels of your arms, adding weight and liquid relaxation.

5. Feel the movement of air across your skin. Imagine a gentle breeze swaying your body like a blade of grass.

Fold Like a Napkin

This kind of looseness is not combative because you are not going to purposely collapse in a fight. However, because the concept of completely relaxing local target areas of your body is so alien, we are going for total surrender in this drill.

1. Stand with your eyes closed.

2. Have one partner stand behind you and one in front.

3. Have your partners take turns slowly pushing you.

4. Let your body be so relaxed that as soon as you’re pushed, you fold like a napkin and fall totally limp into the arms of the other partner. Let yourself go completely (obviously you’ll need partners you can trust).

Dead-Fish Arms

So how do you know if you are relaxed? Try this:

1. Stand with your arms hanging at your sides.

2. Have another person take your arms by the wrists and raise them outward for you. Do not help in any way! You’ll be amazed how difficult this is for most people. They try to raise their arms themselves. They simply can’t let go.

3. Let your elbows hang loosely below your wrists and shoulders (since this is the "folding point" of the limb).

4. Let your arms flop to your sides like two dead fish when your partner suddenly releases your wrists.

5. Have your partner place his or her hands under your armpits and push straight up. Most people will be immovable because their shoulders are locked to their trunk. If you are truly loose, your shoulders will rise independent of the rest of your body, as if you were shrugging.

6. Let your arms and shoulders flop down like two heavy, wet noodles when the upward pressure is released.

Weaving Python

The sort of body isolation and pliability you demonstrate with this drill is vital to your survival. You must assume that every person who attacks you is far stronger than you, is deadly serious, and can hurt you wherever he strikes.

1. Stand with your arms hanging at your sides.

2. Have your partner place one hand about 6 inches (15 cm) away from the center of your chest, palm in. Your partner’s other hand should be 6 inches (15 cm) away from the center of your back, also palm in.

3. Without moving your feet or raising or turning your body, expand your chest directly outward so you can touch your partner’s hand. This requires you to throw your shoulders and arms back, loosen your stomach and pectoral muscles, and bend your knees further to sink your weight backward into your hips and buttocks. This is a compensating move to keep you from falling on your face (figure 3.8a).

4. Reverse the movement and touch your partner’s rear hand with the center of your back (figure 3.8b). You will have to cave in your chest and throw your shoulders and arms forward, loosening your back muscles. You’ll also have to rotate your pelvis down and forward and sink your weight into your knees to avoid falling backward.

5. In one loose, continuous movement, like a python weaving backward and forward, touch one of your partner’s hands and then the other repeatedly. Keep this motion completely horizontal. Your head should remain the same height above the floor. Your knees should remain bent and your feet flat on the floor.

What is the point of all this? If the two palms were knives, it would be immediately apparent. Try this with every part of your body.

The Hula

You want to keep your weight low and balanced, like a downhill skier or a middle linebacker, rather than high and precarious like a ballet dancer. This drill encourages you to keep your root mobile, like a big jungle cat or a tank on ball bearings.

1. Stand with your arms hanging at your sides.

2. Imagine that the air has weight, like seawater. Feel the currents drift across your skin. Feel that your arms, indeed your whole body, could easily float in the air through no effort of their own. Imagine, however, that your pelvis is attached by a steel cable to a 500-pound (227 kg) weight hanging below you.

3. Gently raise your arms in front of you, about as high and wide as your shoulders. Help raise them by straightening your knees slightly. While doing this, use only enough strength to keep them up. Keep your upper and lower arms totally flaccid without any muscle tension whatsoever.

4. Practice raising your arms up and down, back and forth, in a super-slow, graceful manner like a drunken hula dancer, keeping your feet well rooted to the ground. As if your whole body is moving in a current of water, your legs, hips, back, and shoulders drift with your arms as they move. Breathe slowly and deeply into your belly at the same time.

5. Perform this while walking around slowly with knees bent like an ice skater or Groucho Marx.

At first your arms may feel unnatural and heavy, but as you become more accustomed to this exercise, you will notice your arms beginning to feel weightless. Develop the sensation that your arms are suspended on a cushion of air, so light and responsive that a fly landing on them would cause them to move. Apply this sensation to your whole body. This is what it feels like to be loose. Remember, though, that a 500-pound (227 kg) weight is keeping your pelvis anchored low to the ground. Although your hips and knees can sway with the current easily, you are rooted to the ground through your feet like an oak tree. A common mistake, however, is to glue your feet to the ground and refuse to move them, even if you’re losing your balance. This is both unnecessary and dangerous.

This is an excerpt from Attack Proof, Second Edition.


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