Linear motion based martial arts, like the ITF Tae Kwon Do that I studied are like Roman roads. They are strong, straight, and fast. Most of the kicks are modified to travel in as straight a line as possible. A typical round house kick travels in an arch. There are a lot of physics that go into a round house kick, kinetic linking, centrifugal force, torque, leverage, and so one. I’m going to try not to bog you down in too much physics today. But to emphasis the positive attributes of linear motions and why they are used I will have to dip into how vision works.
Human vision is an amazing feat of science and architecture. For this article I’m going to try to explain a small part of dynamic visual acuity. Specifically, how the human eye judges speed, direction, and estimates point and time of impact. When you view an object, the eyes and brain use the background like a reference grid to calculate speed. This is only effective if the object travels horizontally across the visual plane, as in a round house kick. The Tae Kwon Do equivalent is the turning kick. The turning kick is design to travel straight at an opponent. By traveling straight in, it takes away the “grid” and the eyes and brain have no reference to calculate speed and direction. Therefore, it is more difficult to accurately assess the point and time of impact with these straight in kicks. This visual part of Tae Kwon Do doesn’t really help one to learn the tactile sport of BJJ. However, there are other elements of Tae Kwon Do that do benefit the practitioner after the initial adjustment period.
Tae Kwon Do fighters are trained to be fast and agile. Speed training sticks with you. It makes you faster at everything you do. The neural pathways are more developed(IMO). The muscles are conditioned to relax, so that you can move faster. One of the biggest problems people have with speed, is tension. I’ve seen professional fighters do this as well as recreational. They get tense; their bodies stiffen up. Muscles work in pairs. If your bicep is contracted tight (tense), it will not let the triceps move freely upon extension. Your muscles are literally fighting against one another. The trick is to keep all your muscles relaxed. When throwing a punch, you should maintain relaxed muscles through out the technique, except at the point of impact. The exact moment of impact is the only time you should tense up your muscles. Even then, it should only be for a fraction of a second. The withdrawal of a technique is just as important as the execution. Because the withdrawal, sets up your next move. If your withdrawal is slow, you will be countered before you can execute another technique. These concepts of speed do transfer over to BJJ. I can often execute a move faster than my opponent can mentally process it and form a reasonable counter move. One little detail that my son pointed out, is that I will appear to be “spazy” to some, because I move so fast.
Agility is defined as “the power of moving quickly and easily”. I think it also implies the ability to do complex sequences of moves with precision. There was a lot of agility training in Tae Kwon Do. It was a must because your primary weapons are your feet. Your feet are your base. When you pick one or both of your feet up you compromise your base. You’ve got to be agile to fight with a compromised base. The ability to move my feet quickly in complex sequences, does make it easier to learn some of the more technical moves that utilize foot placement.
Back to the linear movements, BJJ is more of a circular movement fighting system. The linear movements that I learned in Tae Kwon Do are of little use to me on the ground. However, the additional skills developed are very helpful. The speed and agility training has given me an edge, that a lot of BJJ practitioners don’t have. I’m fast, really fast. That alone frustrates many opponents.
I’ll be yammering on about circular based martial arts systems in my next installment of this series. That should just about cover the questions: Do you prefer standup or grappling martial arts? Does standup training make it easier to learn grappling? Oh, I forgot about the mental training. I might have to write another installment to cover mental training. Also it is important to remember that the thoughts expressed on this blog are merely my own personal opinions. They may not based in science or logic. So always do your own research and seek the help of a professional for your training.