The Rubber Band Lesson

Rubber Hand training

Rubber Band training

Teaching martial arts is more than just pointing out mistakes. In addition, I try to introduce new ideas in a format that will allow students a little “play,” even if they cannot identify these new feelings. I often borrow methods from Tai Chi to highlight the details of these key concepts. Tai Chi’s slow-motion movement and focused concentration seem to lull students into a state of receptivity. Even difficult Kung Fu concepts may slip more easily into consciousness with a little push from Tai Chi Mind.

Take, for example, one of the toughest challenges for any Kung Fu teacher: explaining galloping energy. A student “gallops” when he performs a given movement, then immediately releases all the tension from his body only to try and call it up again to start the following move. If this were archery it would be the equivalent of shooting an arrow, unstringing your bow, restringing, then shooting the next arrow. From Day One, sustaining proper continuous tension is a challenge. The music may pause but it should never stop.

rubber band kung fu training

rubber band kung fu training

I use Tai Chi methods to let my students at least approximate the antidote: what I call “rubber band energy.” Give it a try: Stand in a comfortable, shoulders-wide position. Slowly separate your palms in front of your chest, pulling them apart from one another inch by inch. At the same time, imagine both wrists stretching a single, huge rubber band. As you pull your arms 12 or more inches apart the rubber band subtly persists in its tendency to contract. In other words, separating your hands does not stop them from also being simultaneously attracted. This secondary feeling should never be as powerful as the prime force with which you stretch this big rubber band.

rubber band and ball

rubber band and ball training

Now, replace the rubber band with an imaginary rubber ball. You bring your palms together slowly, easily compressing the ball, yet it never ceases to try and expand back to its uncompressed shape. It never overpowers you, but it continually pushes outward, always adding that outward dimension to your primarily inward movement.

For the full, deluxe effect alternate the expanding and contracting actions until you ALWAYS feel a slight reverse pull from whatever direction you go. This complementary force is never powerful enough to impede your actions but it also never goes away. You should start with just moving your palms back and forth but, as your skill increases, try to encourage more and more of your body to participate in the process.

This may seem physically difficult, but actually it is not, once you have some training. The hard part, and the part that inspires a little borrowing from Tai Chi, is the goal of keeping this contrary INTENT always activated, as dependable as a night light.

This is a living, breathing example of the martial face of the Yin and Yang philosophy. The trick is to find out how this duality relates to your object of interest, whether it be fighting or flower arranging. This rubber band force is one example of Martial Yin and Yang. It is a feeling that exists in pretty much every movement in Kung Fu, including weapons.



One Response to “The Rubber Band Lesson”

  1. J. Andrews says:

    This a very clarifying explanation of a very basic principal! I have known about the idea and experimented with it, but never have I understood it as well as I do after reading this. It makes the movement in Tai Chi make more sense–the universal roundness that can immediately change into many specific moves. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

What do you have to say?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.