Basic Body Mechanics for Martial Artists (Review)
Title of the book: Basic Body Mechanics for Martial Arts
Author: Russ Mitchell
Date of Publication: 2018
Publisher: Happy Crow Publishers
Place of Publication: USA
Number of Pages: 89 pages
The title of the book Basic Body Mechanics for Martial Arts reveals a very important piece of information in the book which is essential to anyone who is involved in realistic combat or martial arts. We need to understand the basic body mechanics before learning how to do the required techniques. We are all trimmed and trained to condition our bodies and to absorb the shock of strikes as is the case in Karate Kyokushinkai, Muaythai, boxing or Savate or to endure the choking effect for some seconds to escape choke attempts in BJJ, Judo or Sambo or to break falls in Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling and Judo and when it comes to MMA our body needs to be conditioned to take all these extreme punishments at ease.
This way, we condition our bodies to take the pain and this is one of the pillars of any realistic combat art. This is important factor as the opponents we face in any combat situation do not sit around to be hit or to be submitted, they strike back making any combat situation a place of exchange of blows, throws and submission holds. We keep doing all these things and make the wrong assumption that our bodies can take the punishment forever without realizing that no matter how tough we think our bodies are, we are mere human beings subject to physical rules and limitations. We only realize it when one of our ligaments or tendons snap, a bone in our body breaks or we have any other injury.
The book Basic Body Mechanics for Martial Arts starts with the major injury of its author Russ Mitchell in the preface section who was preparing for his Silver Glove exam in Savate comprising a correct demonstration of a hundred and twenty techniques and sets, and sparring. Instead of listening to his body, the author mentions how he pushed in his warm-up exercises and as a consequence he ended up on the ground with his back in horrible spasms. The author points out to a major problem which unfortunately exists in some martial arts circles. Instead of helping him, his instructor was yelling at him and accusing him of not being tough enough. Russ Mitchell describes the process of a metamorphosis of how he went from a physically fit person who was able to hold groceries in his hands and open a refrigerator door using his foot to someone who needed to schedule half of an hour more to get to a campus. This has been my experience couple of times. My own back injury in 2004 and the PCL tear of my right knee in 2016. I needed years to recover from each injury and each time I needed to go through an extensive sport injury rehab program.
Therefore, this book is very important for any serious martial artist as its basic tenet is to provide a series of lessons to develop fighters' abilities to move fluidly, feel their bodies, find better coordination and develop athletic capabilities. These are the fundamental requirements for any fighter and martial artist - more important than any other techniques and combinations.
The book consists of the following lessons:
- Lesson one: Punching really hard. In this section nine exercises are offered. First of all, I would like to stress that anyone who has taken any serious boxing lessons knows that boxing comes from the torso and hip movements first and then the legs second. Any strength and flexibility training for these areas should take this into consideration. By explaining the famed concept of Jack Dempsey's "drop step", the author correctly refers to the differences of punching in different styles and coins the term "Keystone Arch theory of hitting". What he offers here is a set of interesting exercises determined to hit the opponent strongly without opening up to be counterattacked.
- Lesson two: Throwing people around. In this section, the author rightly mentions three prerequisites for throwing people: a) keeping good contact with the ground, b) having body contact with the opponent and c) establishing a point of stability around which the opponent will be moved. I would add, removing the hands which constitute the guard of the opponent. In free-style wrestling the hands are pushed up to go for a takedown or in Greco-Roman wrestling, applying armdrags make sure you get close to the torso of the opponent. In judo or jujitsu where a gi is involved, breaking the grip of an opponent is also a key factor before making any throw work. The author offers useful exercises for strengthening the torso in this section.
- Lesson three: Swing all the things. This part has eight exercises involving a stick and this moves away from the last lessons which use the body weight in training. For this exercise, the author suggests using a light stick and a heavier stick.
- Lesson four: Equals and opposites. This section provides useful coordination exercises for beginners to control their body in a better way. This section has seven exercises.
- Lesson five: Easy lunges. In this section, the author provides six exercises for improving the lunge which is necessary for European fencing.
- Lesson six: Kicking. This part is about improving kicking techniques. The author provides eight lessons and states that there is almost no faster way for a student to hurt themselves in martial arts than teaching themselves to kick. In my opinion, throws are the most dangerous and fastest way to hurt yourself in martial arts followed by kicking. The suggested exercises provide some basic moves which help you strengthen your related muscles and muscle memory. These exercises can be done by anyone as they do not require extensive stretching exercises.
In conclusion, I would like to stress that this book is important for any martial artist who would like to train their body to prevent sport injuries. Further, the readers will also find that these fundamental exercises will help them heal their injuries.
Dr. Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani