Marriage of Gravity
In this lesson, we cover one of the most important fundamentals of almost all martial arts – the marriage of gravity. And while there is no wedding involved, the concept of marriage of gravity should be wedded to your techniques from day one. To simplify things, marriage of gravity refers to putting your weight behind your techniques. Instead of just using your muscles for power, you use your body weight to help derive a lot more power and intensity in your techniques. The motions you will see drive the force, in, vertical, and downwards – it also directs us to move the opponent upwards, shifting their center of gravity and throwing off their own internal power. In addition, it means solidifying your stances so that you can transfer the motion you are performing more effectively against the friction along the floor. It is the unification of all these components which lead towards the fullest potential of the marriage of gravity concept – in essence it’s directional harmony in motion.
The Scale and I
Go find yourself a scale to stand on – preferably one that can support more than just your body weight (with a little give and room – the big industrial weighing scales they have at supermarkets are good ones to use). Step on the scale and wait for the scale to balance out. Next, explosively bend your knees, drop your body weight downward, like you are preparing to jump upwards. What happens to the scale? You should notice that the action of dropping your body weight, changes the forces the scale is measuring, and that through the motion, you should have an indication at the level of power you can elicit when using the marriage of gravity in your techniques.
So the question now becomes, how do you translate this vertical force into a force directed in other directions? This is where the marriage of gravity comes into play.
From Infinite Insights we have following definition of Marriage of Gravity:
The uniting of mind, breath, and strength while simultaneously dropping your body weight along with the execution of your natural weapon(s). Timing all of these factors with the dropping of your body weight greatly adds to the force of your strikes. This combined action literally causes a marriage with gravity, and makes vertical use of BODY MOMENTUM while employing the dimension of height.
To further aid in understanding, Body Momentum is: Body weight used to increase the force of your action. it involves the coordination of mind, breath, strength, and body weight so that all forces are moving in harmony in the same direction (DIRECTIONAL HARMONY.)
Just as a side note, I would highly recommend any avid kenpoist to pick up the complete 5 volume set (you can get it from amazon here). It contains a lot of background information and more expansions on topics you learn in your studies, and is an invaluable resource for learning Kenpo. It also should be your first resource to turn to when looking for answers about a particular concept or technique. Note, that while not all techniques are described in the manuals, the concepts are.
Translation, the mark of a seasoned Martial Artist
You see a distinct difference between novice students and those students who have been studying for long periods of time. Novice students attempt to use their muscles to power through their techniques – and while this is a valid way to perform your material, it also limits the amount of power you have to your muscles alone. Some of the most difficult students to teach are those who are naturally stronger, because they already have power in their techniques, it becomes difficult to get them to modify their body mechanics to emphasize form over raw muscular power. As the student progresses, you see them start to use more torque and more body mechanics behind their techniques – becoming more efficient and more powerful at the same time. The students who are around the longest, not only have these mechanics down, but they employ the full range of marriage of gravity, sinking into their stances and translating their vertical power into horizontal thrust.
One way we get students to this level of using gravity and their body weight is through exhaustive training practices – the scene where the martial artist in the movies is practicing punches 10,000 times comes to mind. By the time you get to 10,000, you either have a huge amount of endurance (not the goal), or are punching so efficiently that they become effortless, and your body mechanics are contributing to the power, not your raw muscular strength. If the student can do 10,000 and is all due to endurance, you push them to 100,000, then 1,000,000 until they can’t help but use the proper mechanics in the movement.
Practicing this concept takes nothing more than grit, determination, and a ton of practice. If you have access to hand targets and your partner, or a heavy bag, start off your practices by performing your techniques against your partner for 2 minutes, then 5 minutes, then 10 minutes. The goal is not to build endurance (although this will definitely be part of the result), but rather to fatigue your muscles to a point where in order to get the strength and power behind the movements, you will need to use your body mechanics rather than raw muscular strength. If you’re at the point where your first punch is as powerful as your 10,000th punch and you arm’s aren’t too fatigued, then you’ll be finally training with the proper mechanics.
Three Carat Karate Diamond
There are 3 key points in working on your marriage of gravity:
- Ensure you have a proper base and solid stance
- Ensure you have proper form in your techniques (torque and forward motion)
- Ensure you are sinking into the movement rather than just throwing it out there
Although kenpo does not stress super low stances, it does stress solid stances, so the first thing you need to work on is ensuring your stances are solid. Get into your stance, and have your partner push you from different directions – if your stance is solid, you will find that many directions it is pretty difficult for them to move you, while other directions relatively easily. Once you find those directions, work on solidifying your stances and resist your partner’s pushes. If you don’t have a partner, a solid wall (not just drywall) will work the same. Go up to the wall in the stance you are practicing, and push against the wall. The idea is that you should not be able to move yourself when pushing against the wall, but keep the solid stance locking you onto the floor.
The second thing to work on is ensuring that your techniques are executed properly – this is why it is very important to get feedback and mentoring early and often in your martial arts training. We offer free video mentoring to review your material to ensure your techniques are being performed as expected. It behooves you to take complete advantage of this service. The motions that both your hands and feet take, along with the motion of your body all are incorporated into proper technique form. Each strike has a proper form, and you need to make sure that for each part of the technique you are executing proper form. It also means that you need to be practicing the technique with a partner so you can understand how both you and your partner will react when the strikes are thrown. Once you get the motion down, it just clicks and starts feeling right.
Finally, and most importantly, when you are throwing strikes, you need to make sure you are not just throwing strikes for the sake of throwing strikes, but connecting with both body momentum and sinking your stance to drive home the most powerful techniques. In the video I demonstrate the difference between just punching with the arm, and sinking the strike. Even though the “sunk” strike has the same muscular power behind it, the sunk strike also has behind it body weight and power, the results are striking. When practicing with your partner, or against a heavy bag, try both ways of striking – first with just your arms, then with your whole body behind the punch sinking as you strike. If done correctly you should notice a huge leap in the overall power of the technique.
Marriage of gravity is one of those concepts that never goes away, and when it does start working, everything just starts to make sense. It will take a lot of practice, and corrective feedback to get the concept down, but the results is well worth the effort. Continue your practices, focusing on ensuring that all of your techniques utilize some form of marriage of gravity, and be sure to send us your videos so we can provide feedback and reviews to keep you moving in the right direction.