With regard to Balance, I’m fairly sure that the layers are limitless, and that I’ve barely scratched the surface.
The basic balance walk exercises (Ninja, Vacuum, Crazy walks and variations) help you gain subtle muscular control over your center of gravity while standing on one leg and while transitioning your center of gravity from one leg to the other. Do it for a while, upping the level of difficulty (by slowing down, closing your eyes, using wobble boards, etc.), and you’ll begin to subconsciously make connections between your balance, looseness and body unity.
All of the principles, of course, are connected, and culminate in the singular quality of adaptive movement that is Guided Chaos.
The basic footwork exercises (stepping over the line, switch foot, box step variations) help you gain control over your center of gravity during whole-body movement while building efficiency and precision in movement (assuming you’re forcing yourself to do the drills correctly). This enables you to instantly find your root no matter how you’re moving or being moved, and no matter how you need to move to resolve a situation. As you up the difficulty from the most simple (yet essential to practice) steps to 270-degree forward and reverse box steps landing on one leg and instantly kicking in all directions with your eyes closed on wobble boards (um, good luck, and don’t blame us if you break yourself trying this too soon!), all with the efficiency, ease, grace and silence of a cat flipping through the air and landing as if nothing happened, it will be increasingly difficult to find situations where you are off balance. Anywhere you can place your foot, you can automatically control your body to find a deep and sure root point. Connect this with your looseness and body unity, and it won’t matter what else is happening to the rest of your body. You can isolate where necessary to find your balance and then connect to your balance to create the effects you need. Hacky Sack, Puppeteering and especially Psycho Tango can all help with this.
Now here’s the possibly disappointing news: No amount of the solo practices described above will allow you to begin peeling back the deeper layers of how balance applies to combat. When we talk about balance applied to combat, we get into a lot of proprioceptive stuff that simply doesn’t exist in other endeavors in the same combinations. A ballet dancer obviously has superb single-leg balance, and a gymnast can “stick” a landing better than most box-steppers, but without specific training, neither the dancer nor the gymnast can adapt his or her balance and other attributes to combat.
Some additional GC solo exercises can help. The Dynamic Balance Contraction exercise, for example, was instrumental in helping me discover how balance connects with body unity and alignment to produce seemingly effortless power. However, the key training needed to continue to uncover the additional layers of balance is Contact Flow.
You need the interaction with another person, with another center of gravity, to discover more about controlling your own center of gravity as well as his. Contact Flow gels and merges the principles within your body into that singular quality of subconsciously driven adaptive movement that is needed in that life-or-death split-second.
From regular, proper Contact Flow training, sooner or later you’ll discover feelings such as:
--Feathers in your body but bowling balls in the bottoms of your shoes
--Aligning your feet to hit with your skeleton
--Stepping on the enemy’s center of gravity
--Walking through the enemy with no care nor commitment
--Sucking all change into the ground and sending it back out
Is this starting to sound like some badly translated Chinese martial arts text? Go figure, as I said before, it’s hard to put these feelings into words!
They all, however, have to do with balance, with how your center of gravity interacts with the ground that’s supporting it.
The layers are there to be discovered, but you have to put in the leg work, so to speak. You need to gain ever better control over your own body via the solo exercises. This subconscious control will allow you to relax more and feel the possibilities and details during contact flow. The good news is, the greater your self-control (mental and physical) develops, the faster and wilder the discovery ride becomes. . . .