THREE ELEMENTS OF POWER
By Scott J. DaDante
Three elements of power, what are they? How can they help you? Can they really restructure your form and technique? Could they tell you about your opponent or give you insight on how to defeat another style? The answer to all of these questions is yes.
The three elements of power is nothing new, they are as old as the martial arts themselves. But a lot of us dedicated martial artists overlook the theories that engulf the arts. Simply loosing these ideas of thought through lost translation that has been pushed down from generation to generation.
We have all heard of the stories of the little old man that has the ability to stand his ground and with the assistance of many men, who physically try and offset his balance by pushing him back, yet the old man is immovable. He doesn't move a muscle and comes across as not even being affected by the other men's actions. How can this be? Could we gain this type of internal power? Earth.
Another story tells us of another old man who is untouchable. When many men try to strike at him applying various techniques at multiple angles; he still is untouched and unreachable. The same motion that allows him to avoid all of these strikes fuels that same motion into knocking an individual out with one move. Again, how can this be? Surely, with no insult intended, an older man cannot move as fast as he once could, but yet he is capable of moving in and out of the line of fire smoother than he could have ever imagined even than when he was in his youth. Wind.
Last is a story of another old man who can strike with blinding speed, so fast that they say there is no one, and they stress no one, could avoid this old man's strikes because one would be struck by him before they would even see any indication of movement taken by the old man. Now let's be serious, an old man that's probably stricken with arthritis, possible bursitis; he's bones are more brittle, he's muscles are not as tight, he's reflexes are not what they used to be from the simple result brought on the by age, but yet he is still faster that lightning. How? Fire.
Ok let's talk. What are these single words that I end each story with: Earth, Wind and Fire? Are these the three elements of power? No! But, the three elements of power will allow you to capture these natural fighting postures as a result of the use of these key elements.
So what are these so called three elements of power anyway? Many styles and teachers have different names or interpretations for these elements. To me and the style that I teach, the NKK system, they are simply known as 1. Set weight, 2. Torque, and 3. Snap. These key three elements can enhance your abilities in not only the martial arts, but in all walks of life.
So let's break them down. The first being set weight, this is your foundation and as we all know any structure is only as solid as its base. Without a solid foundation one could not have the projecting power that radiates from a good base. This does not mean that one has to solely rely off a traditional stance or any type of stance for a good base because I believe you can portray good set weight while even in flight or with only one foot on the ground or even through your arms or any part of your body for that matter.
Set weight makes you immovable like the roots of a tree. Many of us have seen a tree that has been broken in two from a lightning strike, a car crash, winds, weight of fallen snow or many other factors, but the base or roots of the tree are still just as stable in the ground as they were before the incident. This tells us that solid roots or foundation will allow any structure to remain in tacked provided it has a strong base.
Many styles of martial arts utilize this theory of stability. For instance, Jujitsu practitioners have the ability to shift their weight while grappling, whether they are in a stand up position or on the ground. This ability allows the martial artist to distribute his weight to areas of the body to cause their opponent to deal with dead weight, which in turn causes their opponents difficulties in trying to apply their technique. This also allows the person who is shifting their weight the opportunity to apply reversals based off their opponent's struggles.
By learning how to shift one's set weight is a tool that one who is serious in the martial arts should know. If you have ever tried to help assist an older person in moving, from place to place, at times can be very difficult being that they sometimes work against you instead of with you. They in turn become dead weight, which causes the impression that they are a lot heavier than they actually are. For instance, let's say this older man weighs 150lbs. and as you try to help him move and he resists you by simply trying to move his own way instead of moving the way that is instructed for his own safety and convenience, this in turn makes him feel like he weighs 350lbs. Why? Because he has shifted his weight unintentionally into dead weight. This is why a lot of people who work in the assisted living field suffer from back problems by working with these elderly people who resist the support of the worker's simply out of fear.
So, by understanding your set weight and learning how to apply it; complimented by your ability to move with it. Your footwork and projection of power will increase immediately. This will allow you to better stand your ground and have the added stability throughout your technique to hopefully secure your success as a martial artist. This is why I label set weight as Earth.
Next is torque, this element is often overlooked by most martial artists and this element is by far one of the most important factors in producing power behind your technique. I stress this element with my students but also inform them that this element is not as valuable without set weight backing it. There is a reason why set weight is number one, remember set weight is your foundation and stemming from that base is the strength of your structure, your technique or your torque.
Torque allows you to move with a strike. For instance, if one tries to push your right shoulder and you freely move with the strike offering no resistance, simply going with the flow, you absorb the impact of the strike without any injury sustained to yourself. In turn the motion of their strike could also contribute to you moving into a better suited position, say stepping back into a fighting horse stance, this in turn promotes you to naturally set weight while redirecting their strike. In a sense, using his energy to insure your safety and depending on how much energy he projects, it might possibly off set his balance by forcing him to over extend since his strike had no surface to connect with. This theory is highly recognized in styles like Aikido.
This theory proves that torque naturally moves you in and out of the line of fire. Going back to that same technique mentioned above, we can see that torque absorbed the strike and assisted in applying set weight into your technique. Now what proves true for reverse motion also applies for forward motion and torque again is the answer to this. By turning your body back to avoid the above stated strike; this same motion drives the front of your body forward closing the distance between you and your opponent. This type of motion allows you to not only to avoid strikes but in turn set up for your strikes.
We cannot see or catch the wind, but know it exists. It can be calm and refreshing or it can have the strength to knock over the most stable of things. That's why to me torque represents Wind.
Think now on how torque in the same sense can also increase your blocking and striking range by the motion that it provides us with. We all know that the closet distance between two points is a straight line. Torque promotes us by encouraging our course of motion based off our opponent's technique and torque gives us the added strength behind our technique by smoothly applying set weight. This in turn speeds up our technique naturally by cutting angles, closing the distance and grounding our opponent. Torque is surely a prized element.
Last is snap and so many martial artists only concern themselves with this element. Speed might be attractive, let it be known I train for speed everyday and it's very appealing to the spectator's eye, but without set weight or torque behind it, to me snap is nothing more than a pebble hitting a windshield. Sure it might make a scratch or dent, but the vehicle will still be fully operational. With the other two elements backing snap it converts the pebble into a brick, which in turn takes out the whole windshield and also damages the internal contents of the vehicle. The vehicle may still be able to operate, but it will defiantly not be able to perform at its peak performance. A style to compare this to is Kali.
Snap is proven to increase your speed and turns any move into a strike. It's the icing on the cake, the final element that puts it all together forming a powerful technique. By applying snap into our moves it promotes the destruction of our opponent limbs and by adding it to the very technique mention above it will surely assist in destroying the very same arm that was trying to push us. How? Simply by moving in the same manner above, but adding say a left inward block to the back of their right triceps. Attacking their limb with the snap of the strike fueled by the motion promoted through torque and by stabilizing your set weight. The destruction introduced by the whole move will destroy the attack at its source.
Snap is aggressive in nature and if controlled right it becomes a helpful tool to your arsenal, but again it is only minor move without the other two elements backing it; that's why this element is number three in order. With all three combined your technique becomes an inferno of power destroying the exterior as well as the interior. This is why I label snap as Fire.
One move converted into a compound motion providing you with one over all strike. If done correctly the damage induced on your opponents arm will be enough to end the confrontation due to the simple fact of their loss of motion. This one simple motion has now attacked first their skeletal system by off balancing them and grounding the attack, second by attacking their repertory system by the pain placed on the muscle and their struggle to breath properly and third their nervous system by the shock placed on them and their inability to move their arm effectively.
But then again that's only one example. How can you interpret these three elements into your style? There are no wrong answers, but only better choices. Keep an open mind and experiment. Watch with an open eye and see things from a different perspective: the attacker, the defender and the bystander. Remember you can learn from everyone.
Secure your technique through the "Three Elements of Power!"
Respect and Honor.