The principles of movement
There are three basic principles of movement within Systema Kadochnikova. Within this article I shall look at each of these principles.
The issue of relaxation is often misunderstood within Systema classes. It is not a case that the students should be floppy though I have known this to be a stage that some travel through in their search for relaxed movement. Relaxation is achieved when only the muscles needed to support the body’s structure or perform a movement are used. Unnecessary tension in the antagonistic muscles is at a minimum so that the muscles that tense to create the body’s movements do so against minimum resistance and therefore with the least energy expenditure possible.
What is interesting to note is that tension is not wrong. It is just inappropriate muscle tension that will cause less efficient movement. In some cases tension is essential. In a situation where the body’s structure is being attacked it may be necessary to use selective tension to prevent damage being caused.
Part of the relaxation equation is form. This is one of what Vladimir Vasiliev’s students describe as one of the four pillars of Systema. A body correctly aligned while stood or performing a movement will support more of its mass on the skeletal system than one stood in an unnatural position. The most economic for our body to stand in is described by Alexander Maksimtov using the following list of key points:
- Feet shoulder width apart and pointing with the toes forwards.
- Knees slightly flexed.
- Pelvis slightly tilted forwards.
- Arms down by the side hands open.
- Shoulders relaxed.
- Spine straightened as if you are being pulled upwards by the head.
- Face relaxed with a slight smile.
- Jaw relaxed and mouth slightly open.
When I studied with Vladimir Vasiliev I had an interesting conversation about posture. A number of times he pointed out I was tense in the chest area. After a few weeks at the Toronto HQ I realised that the posture he taught was the opposite of what I was told as a child and later as a military cadet. There I was told to stand with my stomach sucked in and the chest puffed out, but Vladimir advocated relaxing the stomach and letting the chest hollow. When asked if my observation was correct Vladimir stated that it was and that the reason for my previous posture related to having too much pride. It is not an accident that the phrase, ‘Puffed up with pride,’ is used to describe the feeling of pride. It directly relates to the physical manifestation that this emotion can have on our body.
Whole body movement
One way to imagine the body is as a series of carriages pulled by a locomotive. In between each carriage there is a linkage that has a small amount of slack in them. If we compare this to the body the force of the foot pressing on the floor or pressure from our opponent on our body is the locomotive. The carriages are our bones and the joints are the linkages. What this means that all movement is driven from pressure on the floor or from contact with our opponent. This is then transferred through one linkage at a time from bone to bone until it reaches its target. The technical term for this is a kinetic chain. In the train analogy the last carriage in the chain moves fastest.
Another way of thinking of the kinetic chain is as a whip. When a whip is cracked the end the whip travels fastest and imparts the most energy into its target that the whip is capable of generating. This is where the concept of wave movement comes from in Systema and is an integral part of striking in all, but Ryabko Systema, which has different mechanics.
In application what this means is that during a strike using the hand the movement starts with pressure on the floor from the foot. This is transmitted through the ankle to the shin and then through the knee to the thigh. This movement is then transmitted through the hips and then vertebrae by vertebrae up through the spine to the shoulder. This movement is the transmitted through the shoulder to the upper arm and then through the elbow to the forearm. Finally the movement is transmitted to the hand and into the target.
Continual movement of the centre of gravity
In Systema Kadochnikova they explain that continual movement is achieved through two movement patterns. The first is through the circle and the second is the figure eight movement.
If an object rotates around a circle in one direction it can continue to do this indefinitely, but if it needs to change the direction of travel to the opposite direction it is done through half of the figure eight. By dividing the circle in two on a diagonal and then re-joining the circle the rotation will be in the opposite direction. If this repeated on the opposite diagonal it can be seen that it draws a figure eight.
Even when the body appears stationary if relaxed there will be small movements and this should be a continual figure eight. This is used to move the hips and the rest of the body and is known as the body’s internal pendulum.
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