Archives for posts with tag: biomechanics

When you encounter an attack, there are only four options: Resist, yield, avoid, or submit to the attack. Let’s take a moment to examine the idea the most difficult of these four options: yielding.

Unlike dodging, when you yield to pressure, you’re not avoiding contact altogether. Yielding involves allowing the opponent to make contact with your body and letting a portion of the force pass through your body. To yield is to receive the opponent’s force, and to yield well is to receive it safely. Many times it involves redirecting the opponent’s force, but it can also involve moving the opponent’s target out of the way so that the force passes through harmlessly.

Unlike resisting, yielding does not attempt to stop the incoming force abruptly. To yield is to meet hardness with softness. However, not all softness is yielding. If a person collapses under pressure, that is not yielding. That is submission. Instead, yielding requires a base level of resistance. For example, you must have enough structural tension to maintain your balance in spite of the incoming force. Wing Chun practitioners might think of bang sao(aka bong sao), an arm position which is often used for yielding. Bang sao only works if you have enough bodily tension to keep the elbow from collapsing and keep it in its proper position. By relaxing certain muscles and tensing others, you are manipulating the path of least resistance for the force, making it easier for the force to go where you want it to go while making it more difficult for the force to go elsewhere.

Yip Man and Bruce Lee practicing Wing Chun. Bruce Lee is performing bang sao with his right arm, a technique which requires some structural resistance in order to yield.

Yielding does not necessarily neutralize the force. For example, Aikidoka often yield in order to turn an attack back against the opponent. In this case, yielding is used to redirect that force, not just to absorb it safely.

The goal of any martial encounter is to maintain control over yourself and, secondarily, to gain control over your opponent. The basic problem of yielding is that you need to stay in control while allowing the opponent to affect you. What makes yielding dangerous is that it comes close to giving that control to the opponent. This is why yielding usually requires more timing, sensitivity, and subtlety than resistance or avoidance. It’s hard enough to manipulate the path of least resistance for an unchanging force, like digging a canal for a stream of water. But when that force is actively changing direction and magnitude, then it becomes very complicated to yield.

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Martial artists know that posture is important because it affects how your body is balanced. But the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology has just published a study relating posture to pain tolerance. The study is entitled “It Hurts When I Do this (or You Do that): Posture and Pain Tolerance.” In short, they found that adopting a more dominant, powerful posture actually reduced the amount of pain that a person feels. Rather than butcher the results with too much simplification, I’ll let you read the abstract (emphasis mine):

Recent research (Carney, Cuddy & Yap, 2010) has shown that adopting a powerful pose changes people’s hormonal levels and increases their propensity to take risks in the same ways that possessing actual power does. In the current research, we explore whether adopting physical postures associated with power, or simply interacting with others who adopt these postures, can similarly influence sensitivity to pain. We conducted two experiments. In Experiment 1, participants who adopted dominant poses displayed higher pain thresholds than those who adopted submissive or neutral poses. These findings were not explained by semantic priming. In Experiment 2, we manipulated power poses via an interpersonal interaction and found that power posing engendered a complementary (Tiedens & Fragale, 2003) embodied power experience in interaction partners. Participants who interacted with a submissive confederate displayed higher pain thresholds and greater hand-grip strength than participants who interacted with a dominant confederate.

If you’re not familiar with the importance of posture when it comes to technique, here is an excellent demonstration: