Category Archives: Strikes
Question: When we work with a single strike it seems clear – exhale at the very moment that the strike makes contact with the body, and then, follow up with Burst Breathing if it is necessary to recover. But what happens when there are multiple strikes?
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Student: Could you give a few tips on applying Systema Breathing to taking a punch.
Most people have the primary fear of contact. Of course the degree of fear varies from person to person. I have met some who came to my school afraid to get hurt to such an extent that they were shaking even in a peaceful setting of the gym. Learning to take strikes should follow a good progression.
One day at Mikhail Ryabko’s class in Moscow one of his students brought a friend who was not a fighter at all. In fact, the man had no experience in any martial art or any sport, he was from the world of science and classical music. He wanted to know how to take strikes, but was absolutely unprepared to have any contact with a fist. Despite his interest, he was completely unable to understand the principles of breathing and taking strikes. Even talking about punches made him panic.
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No matter how good a fighter is, sometimes he gets hit. Some strikes you just do not see, some pleasant ones may come from the back, unexpectedly, or can be more powerful than you anticipated such as when hit with an object or a weapon.
There is also an approach of taking strikes by withstanding pain, deliberately toughening up and tightening up various body parts. Aside from ultimately destructive effect of such practice, it would only work for a visible, anticipated strike, while in place. But what if you have not seen the strike come or if you were on the move then you would need alternate relaxation of muscles.
Here is a typical example seen in class many many times. A new student joined in, big and strong guy, experienced in martial arts. We began a mass attack drill where everyone comes to the center of the gym and is hitting in all directions, each man fighting for himself. Right away the new guy got punched on the head, he turned to see who did it ready to hit him back. At that moment he received a punch from the other side, with some anger building up, he turned to that side, his fist ready to fly in that direction. And then of course he was hit again from the opposite side. He was twirling like a good punch bag. Finally, he realized that a punch-for-punch does not work in a mass attack. So he exhaled and started punching those who were close by and not those who hit him.
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Written by Vladimir Vasiliev 2003
"In my understanding, there are stages to skill development.
In the initial stage, we learn the technical components while generally being focused and tense more than needed. This commonly produces the traditional fist where the thumb covers the index and middle fingers while the whole fist and forearm are tense. Moreover, because it is hard to localize tension it usually spreads all the way up the arm. Tension in the arm greatly reduces precision and that tension makes it very difficult to estimate the right striking distance. Tension also makes it impossible to deliver the right dosage of force in a strike. (As we know, excessive tension is totally counterproductive, it comes from fear and causes fear.)
On the next stage of training, our whole body becomes more relaxed. That leads to the fist being held more loosely as well; and you may loose some fist structure, the position of the thumb can begin to vary. When you train properly and become more calm, the whole arm may become too loose. At this point, you are acquiring freedom and power but the thumb can move to the side.
I sometimes used that fist position in demonstrations in order not to hit hard and to illustrate the loose hand positions. Also, those of you who are teaching will notice that when you are talking and explaining something to your students, you fist will automatically loosen up. It is natural that when we talk our hands and fingers move as well.
On the third stage, due to certain drills (such as fist placing, pushes and proper striking) you may start to attain what’s called the “alive fist”. Such fist has both sufficient power in it, you can control it independently of the rest of the body and at the same time, the structure of the fist is solid and collected. Everything falls into place comfortably, to the extend that it will be just as easy for you to hold a closed fist as an open hand. At this stage, the thumb is placed in its traditional classic spot. In real fighting when you wish to avoid injuries the fist has to assume the form that protects it the most. Correct technique without tension – power and precision without injuries – this is what we want. " Continue reading