Thursday, April 12, 2012

Refining the Wrecking Ball

Previously, I discussed the pendulum effect that comes about when turning the torso by opening and closing the hips. Since becoming aware of this effect, I've continued to recognize it in more places - most notably in circle palms, single whip, brush knee, and divert & draw - and I've been working to refine my use of it.

First, I'd like to clarify that I called this the 'wrecking ball' not because it's so devastating but rather because I had to completely relax my ab muscles in order to relax my hips enough so that they would open/close easily, without torquing my knees. And with my abs completely relaxed, my belly looks more like a wrecking ball then a pendulum.

Second, in subsequent discussions with Mike and Keith, both note that as the pendulum swings towards an extreme - i.e. a leg - you need to sink that leg down towards the center to absorb the energy/weight shift. If you don't, your weight floats upward and you are easily uprooted. Metaphorically speaking, while it's good fun, it's not really a good idea to go swinging from vine to vine ala Tarzan.

Thinking on this issue has led me to refine this move such that, as I turn from one leg towards the other, the leg I'm turning towards relaxes the hamstring muscle and sinks down into the center of my foot while the leg I'm turning away from lengthens to keep the center that foot connected to the ground. In both cases, of course, I have to focus on keeping the knees properly aligned and on keeping my hips at a level height. Even though I try to keep the leg movements subtle, it does involve more muscle movement - i.e. shortening/lengthening the hamstrings/quads - which makes the overall form more challenging and my legs are pretty sore these days.

On a final note - sometimes, when I'm working on this refinement, I find myself falling back to my original approach of trying to force the torso around with my legs and I get myself confused. When this happens, I find it best to start back with relaxing everything and just opening/closing the hip and then slowly adding on the sinking/extending (absorb/project).

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