Healthy Tension & Limits of Relaxation

Discussion in 'MMA' started by lansao, Dec 14, 2016.

  1. lansao

    lansao Purple Belt

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    In sampling a few arts, I've heard a variety of thoughts on relaxation and would love to get thoughts on this from an MMA perspective. How relaxed is too relaxed? How much tension is too much tension? What complementary muscle groups do you activate/deactivate in different scenarios?
     
  2. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    Reasonable questions. I'm not sure if I am qualified to answer, but I will try.

    Relaxation is key to many aspects of martial arts, IMHO. Being able to generate power using body mechanics as opposed to pure muscle are the reason behind that. When a punch is thrown with the power of the hips, shoulder, rotating spine, etc, it can have a great deal of power, especially as opposed to simple 'thrust' made using with only the power of the muscles in the arm and/or shoulder.

    Too much relaxation? Not sure. One has to remain upright for punches and kicks, I guess. And there is a tightening upon impact that is important - this is sometimes referred to as 'chinkuchi' in several Okinawan karate styles - or 'the tension of the body upon impact'. I don't want to get drawn into a side-argument about what the word means, because it's one of those religious arguments that nobody wins and everybody gets their feelings hurt, but as I understand it, it refers to the moment of impact, when the punch or kick lands, and the muscles and body structure are aligned, and for a brief moment, locked. So that much tenseness would be required, I would guess.

    However, I commonly see new students who have a very difficult time relaxing, and they are very tense at all times. This seems to adversely affect nearly everything they do in martial arts. They are not balanced when they strike; they lean forward, trying to drive in the strike. They tire easily - being tense all the time burns a lot of energy! They tend to forget to keep breathing while they do exercises or kata or even spar. They are quite easy to anticipate, since their strikes and kicks all require mechanical wind-up to generate power before being thrown.

    I cannot punch someone by pushing a rope at them. However, I also cannot transfer all of the potential energy my entire body can generate by pushing them with a stick.

    Consider a whip. It is relaxed. When it is used, it hits with tremendous power, but the strike must be calculated to arrive at the peak of the power curve of the whip. If it arrives before or after the 'crack', it doesn't do any real damage. A wave is a similar concept. Water flows back and forth, and you can stand up in in hip-deep water at the ocean's edge. But when the wave hits, it moves you. If you are at the point of the crash of the wave, it can knock you silly, drag you under, and kill you.

    The wave and the whip are relaxed, very relaxed. They move easily and freely through space until they reach their point of focus, and if that point is also the point where you happen to be standing, you're going to feel the power.

    So for me, relaxation is the key. Tenseness is what I expect in the moment the strike lands. Soft, fluid, fast, and then BAM hard; with all the muscles and bones of my body lined up to contribute to that impact.

    Hope this helps!
     
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  3. Tez3

    Tez3 Sr. Grandmaster

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    Too relaxed in MMA is being on the receiving end of a RNC. :D
    There is no difference between MMA and other martial arts which of course it is...
    The question is the same for all martial artists, the answers maybe different according to the person but MMA doesn't have different answers just because it's MMA.
     
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  4. lansao

    lansao Purple Belt

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    Thought it might be a healthy common ground. Maybe the general forum would have been a better place.
     
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  5. Kenposcholar

    Kenposcholar Orange Belt

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    I'm looking for a research article to reinforce the statements here. Does anyone know of any research done on physical relaxation in sports?
     
  6. Tez3

    Tez3 Sr. Grandmaster

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    I don't think you need a research article for my statements, that MMA is the same as other martial arts is proven by it's name...mixed martial arts. :)
     
  7. Kenposcholar

    Kenposcholar Orange Belt

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    I completely agree with you and I should have been more specific in my request for supporting data. I was looking for research regarding relaxation in physical sports. In my experience teaching for several years I have no doubt that relaxation benefits power and speed in MMA; however, I would be grateful for something to provide new students who would like evidence.
     
  8. lansao

    lansao Purple Belt

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    Some supporting (although somewhat abstracted) research. It's kind of a read it, whisper "what the ****?" to yourself, put it down, pick it up again in the morning thing.

    Muscle Physiology - Functional Properties (more formal and comes with .edu extension)
    Force of Muscle Contraction (I think a better explanation)

    It's abstracted because it's not in the context of fighting or describing the force of impact of the knuckles through a target. It's describing the speed of contraction of muscles and the force generated as a result.

    I'll keep on the look out for any studies involving fighters and force generation. That would be the empirical approach, the theoretical might have more material but be subject to anecdotal evidence.

    ~ Alan
     
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  9. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I do not believe that the issue is really about relaxation. Rather, it is more about understanding proper technique.

    If you understand how to get a greater amount of power when you properly engage the full body, then being relaxed is part of how you do it correctly.

    If you do not understand that, and if your only concept for generating power relies on raw muscular power, then you will muscle through your techniques, for example throwing punches with the raw strength of the arm and shoulder.

    The issue is not simply being relaxed. The issue is properly understanding good and efficient biomechanics that allow you to be physically powerful without relying on raw strength. Being relaxed is a byproduct of that.

    If one does not understand this, then one will be tense when training no matter which martial art they practice.
     
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  10. KangTsai

    KangTsai 2nd Black Belt

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    The real skill of relaxing and tensing appropriately comes in the wrestling and BJJ aspect of MMA, rather than the striking.
     
  11. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    It is a genuine issue in both.
     
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  12. Tez3

    Tez3 Sr. Grandmaster

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    Why do you think that?
     
  13. KangTsai

    KangTsai 2nd Black Belt

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    Striking is more of a battle at range, and intensity and tension comes with reliable intervals for relaxation. It's easier to learn to relax standing. Grappling is more a constant scramble for control in which unnecessary tension will rapidly drain stamina and unnecessary relaxation will spell loss of control. It's easier to screw up in grappling than in striking in terms of how strength is applied.
     
  14. Tez3

    Tez3 Sr. Grandmaster

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    I've not found that when grappling, apart from beginners who do scramble all the time for position, it's even tiring to watch. Experienced grapplers can allow their opponents to use their energy and conserve their own. I've seen a lot of ground work that is very relaxed until just the right move is made by the opponent and then wham they have them in a submission hold. Perhaps I just know a lot of relaxed BJJers lol. I've also found groundwork to be 'two moves ahead' thing, when you work to get what you want rather than a frantic scramble to do something.
     
  15. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    That applies to standing grappling, as well. The principles are the same, and the newer students are just as exhausting to watch. In freestyle grappling, I've had inexperienced partners wear themselves out working really hard to move me around, to no avail (think of that video of Rickson Gracie playing with the white belt - white belt is sweating and Gracie looks alternately amused and almost bored, until he "suddenly" takes an opening). I've had partners with experience rag doll me with much less effort (probably what would happen if Rickson Gracie got ahold of me on the ground). I've also been both of those partners in my time.
     
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  16. marques

    marques Master Black Belt

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    I will try...
    If you cannot stand up, it is too much relaxed. If tension is making you slower, it is too much. If your muscles are working against you, it is too much. Another thing is tension and relaxation is a continuum and constantly changing according to the circumstances. It seems too generic and simplistic, but in fact it is not easy to put in words.

    I think it could be answered, as an intellectual exercise. I doubt it could improve our motor skill or athletic performance. Just do it. :cool: No thoughts.

    Anyway, I would like to hear the Systema, Tai Chi, and the like guys about this subject...
     
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  17. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Except that a whole lot of people tense up and "muscle through" their striking techniques. They don't know how to do it any other way. It's pretty common.
     
  18. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    There is, in fact, a thread on that very subject that was started recently.
     
  19. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Ayup, I was there....:)

    Seems to be a recurring theme at the moment.
     
  20. KangTsai

    KangTsai 2nd Black Belt

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    That's my point.
     

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