In Search of Efficiency – Part Six: Empty the Foot (The Fourth aspect of movement)
If you have worked the drills outlined in Part Two on Structure then you know what I seek is the least amount of muscle engagement to hold us in structure. There will, of course, be some muscle tension or else we would just be a puddle on the floor.
If you take any fighting stance you will usually have one foot ahead of the other. Position and distance are immaterial for what I want to discuss here. Whether you want to move forward or backward or to the side there is one of your legs propping you upright and that leg is actually in the way of your movement. It is an impediment to you moving in the direction you want to go.
This impediment to your movement is often overcome in one of two ways. You either pick it up or you power off the other leg to drive over and passed the leg impeding your movement.
I want to offer a third way. This third way also taps into another principle we will be discussing further later on – gravity. Gravity is a force that is always with us and always available for us to use.
The first two ways, to either lift the foot holding you back or drive over the foot, require you to use muscle to accomplish. A good fighter will read muscle tension and use that to respond.
Therefore, instead of using muscle I want you to let go of muscle. I need you to engage your mind to learn to do this one.
I want you to think back to a time in an elevator when it dropped suddenly. The floor of the elevator felt like it disappeared beneath your feet.
Keep that feeling in mind. I want you to use you mind to release the muscles holding the leg in place and empty the area beneath your foot. This will feel a little like that elevator drop, like the ground disappearing and you will begin to fall in that direction (engaging gravity). Note before anyone thinks I have gone off the deep end – the ground does not really disappear beneath your foot this is a visualization. This release of muscles will initiate your movement and do it without the telltale muscle tension required to overcome that leg in the way.
The release of the muscles holding the leg impeding your movement causes a slight collapsing of the leg engaging gravity and that collapse removes that structure, the leg, from being in the way of you moving. That collapse initiates your body “falling” and begins the step, you simply then engage muscles to either dive off the other foot or to slide that foot in the direction you want to go.
We call this emptying the foot. This release process is used elsewhere in my principles but here in movement it changes a lot of things. Because no muscle tension is use to initiate the movement it will appear quicker to the person you are closing on (but not to a person viewing from side), and engaging gravity in this fashion will actually make the move quicker.
It takes some practice because using muscle to get passed this leg holding us in place is what we have conditioned to use and what I am recommending is a change.