The main concepts related to balance
First of all, we must introduce a few definitions. Given a “perfectly flat” ground:
- Center of gravity – It’s the point of application of all weight forces on a body
- Point of support – It is the point where is projected the center of gravity onto the ground (eg. in the Ma Bu stance the base of support has no body elements touching it, read The correct position of the rider (ma bu))
- Base of support – It’s the safe area on the ground where if the point of support is included we can be stable (if we only lean on our feet, it cannot be larger than the circle that passes through the furthest points belonging respectively to each of our feet)
- Gravity line – It is a vertical line (perpendicular to the ground) passing through the center of gravity and the point of support
- Equilibrium – A set of instinctive adjustments that (fighting gravity and / or other external forces) allow us to maintain a position (eg. do not fall during the execution of a gesture)
In light of these definitions it follows that:
- The position of the center of gravity is variable – The position of the center of gravity changes according to the shape, position, momentum and weight of all the body parts (for example, for a man standing still, the center of gravity is located at the height of the navel)
- The reason why we lose balance – When the center of gravity is not aligned and moves towards the periphery of the base of support we gradually lose stability
- What we do when we lose stability – When we start to lose our balance we use muscle power to maintain the equilibrium (recalibrating the forces) or we make adjustments to the base of support
These assertions do not work only for human bodies but for every kind of animated and unanimated element.
The types of balance
In terms of biomechanics, in 6 Dragons Kung Fu, we distinguish 2 kinds of balance:
- Dynamic balance (read The concept of Dynamic Equilibrium)
- Static balance (read on)
In Kung Fu (and in general in martial arts), the biggest enemies of a good fighting equilibrium are:
- Poor training
- Psychophysical tensions
- The ignorance of the theory
To this must be added:
- Fat mass
- Everything that, connected to our body, can create involuntary fluctuations (even a backpack for example)
- The interactions with the fighting scenario’s element
How mentally improve static balance: a few tricks
Balance is not (only) a matter of body workout, it is our mind that gives an interpretation of the situation and tells to our muscles how to operate (always, even in the present moment).
In relation to this, let’s see a few effective tricks to do not lose our balance:
- Let’s try to maintain our head inside the gravity line
- Let’s imagine to lean on 4 imaginary walls around us (as if we were inside a cement cube)
- Let’s relax our body, avoiding any kind of tension and useless movements
- Let’s keep the point of support within the base of support
- Let’s use a correct stance to support our body without effort and to face the opponents in relation to us
- Let’s imagine to be a part of an enormous and extremely heavy straight pole fixed to the center of the hearth
- Let’s imagine sinking into the earth, nothing can move us
To improve balance we must also force us to constantly maintain a correct posture during the entire day (when we seat, when we walk, etc.)
How to physically work on our balance: exercises
The only moment when the human body does not actively confront with gravity is when we are completely lying down on the ground. In all the other situations we have to use muscles to sustain our stance (or to resist to an external element’s force).
For this reason, we need to build a good standing stamina to improve our stability.
Here we list a few basic exercises and tips:
- Let’s train to maintain the upper parts of our limbs motionlessly and parallel to the ground standing on one leg (in all the directions and symmetrically)
- Let’s train to maintain our fully extended limbs motionlessly and parallel to the ground (especially legs) standing on one leg (in all the directions and symmetrically)
- Let’s train to deliver powerful punches and kicks standing on one leg (first one then the other)
- Let’s train to deliver slow motion punches and kicks standing on one leg (first one then the other)
Each of these exercises can be performed starting from a few seconds to hours.
In the next article of this series, we will talk about rooting and the pyramid concept of human body equilibrium.
- Training for balance / rooting: feet on tires – A specific workout to gain an advanced level of stability
- An exercise for balance with medicine ball – A good exercise to develop balance (intermediate level)
Author: Master Kongling
Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.