Wind and Water Force

Over the last few years I have been harping on about how rooting is a mistake in martial arts. A mistake I might add that dancers never make. Which is why dance is such a great way to learn about power in the martial arts. This is one of the benefits of thinking about martial arts as performing arts. 

In the Chinese theater tradition, the internal martial arts have been on the stage for at least six hundred years. This martial prowess of enlightenment is called jindan, neidan, or liandan (golden, inner or lotus elixir). In the theater sometimes it comes from taking a pill. But just as often it comes from retreat into a mountain or a cave for years of meditation. It is like a montage in an action movie when they have to train-up the hero quickly. 

When gods, demons, and immortals fight in the theater, they often have some kind of magical force they draw on. This force is always a metaphor. Wind and water are common metaphors used to describe that force. I will return to this below.

In the past when I have railed against rooting as a way of generating force in the martial arts, I have pleaded with people to stop using goat power--what Rory Miller calls force-against-force. It is unbelievable how many Chinese martial artists use rooting power almost exclusively. Because they make this error, they become an on-off switch constantly changing lines of force to avoid force-against-force. 

To understand what I am saying here, think of a motorcycle. A motorcycle uses continuous rooting power much better than humans do. If you get hit by a motorcycle that has gotten up to speed you are going to be damaged. But if you are facing a revving motorcycle with your hands on it, you have a good chance of getting out of the way. If you could get to the side you could pull on the handlebar or just pull or push it over. If it was a front-wheel drive motorcycle (okay stretching the metaphor a bit) you could pick up the front wheel and it wouldn't be able to get traction. Even better, if was on ice and you weren't, you would have a lot of ways to knock it down. That is the problem with rooting power, it can be uprooted.

Contrast that with wind or water. How can you uproot a wave? How can you uproot a blast of wind? You can't. That whole category of strategies is now off the table. That's why people get crushed against the rocks in the ocean, there is nothing you can do to mitigate the impact. When wind hits you, there is nothing you can do to reduce its power. That is also true of a motorcycle that has gotten up to speed, but if you can suddenly put ice under the motorcycle the driver is likely to get really disoriented and crash.

Humans are great at balancing on two feet--but not even close to motorcycles when it comes to rooting power. 

That is why all the advanced power training I teach is without a root. I want people to experience your punches like a massive wind or a big wave. If you are near Boulder, Colorado, come down and feel what I'm talking about. Or catch me when I'm traveling (see my schedule at the top of this page). 

And if you want to learn more Chinese martial arts secrets which are hidden in theater and religion, buy my book!