What I mean by “contextual hip loading”

Introduction

I have written a number of articles concerning what I call “non-contextual” hip loading or pre-loading (starting with "Whole lotta shakin': pre-loading the hips"), however it occurs to me that people might not realize what I mean by this.

When I refer to loading the hips “contextually” I am not referring to “loading them against an opponent”. I mean loading up naturally and appropriately in the circumstances, rather than artificially.

Artificial hip loading in hip isolation exercises

So what is “artificial hip loading”? Artificial loading of the hips is something one would, and should, do in hip isolation exercises. A good example of such an exercise is where you are punching a makiwara or other striking surface.

In this case, you can load up as much as you like and take all the time you want, because the makiwara “sure ain’t going nowhere”. It is clearly “artificial” loading because a resistant opponent would not give you such an opportunity. But in the case of makiwara punching, “artificiality” is irrelevant. You are engaged in an isolation exercise, the whole point of which is to load the hips as much as possible. After all, there must be some point in practice where you get to exercise a full, ideal movement.

Nor is it necessary to have a makiwara or other striking surface. You can do hip isolation exercises in the air. I certainly do this, and I find it very useful (in fact, necessary) for beginners who are learning the basics of good hip technique (ie. correct, efficient hip use with no extraneous movement etc.). Consider the video below of my brother Nenad executing the basic gyaku zuki (reverse punch).


My brother demonstrates the basic reverse punch, which features artificial loading

This is an exercise we teach beginners. Note how Nenad’s hips are isolated: the rest of his body movement is kept to a minimum so as to learn efficiency. His hips are, however, loading to their fullest extent. The next step is to start striking something – eg. a makiwara.

Hip loading is necessary – but not if it is always artificial

So I have nothing against hip loading. It is manifestly necessary in martial technique. In basic, hip isolation exercise it can be done artificially.

I even understand why some folks choose to dedicate a particular kata to this task; while I have previously written about my preferences regarding naihanchi/naifunchin kata, I certainly respect my friend and senior James Sumarac’s use of that form as a hip isolation training platform.

James’ excellent (and varied) hip use is testament to many hours of isolation practice. Good hip training (of the kind James does) teaches you that there is much, much more to hip use than the simple lateral/horizontal hip torque so commonly seen in schools that focus on “koshi”. There are multiple angles and planes of hip use and a martial artist needs to be aware of each of them. Consider the video below where I demonstrate the 45 degree forward and upward hip use at 0:18 seconds:


I demonstrate a variety of hip uses – note in particular my use of the 45 degree forward and upward hip use at 0:18

It is where artificial hip loading intrudes into all kata and basic technique that I have an issue. It is particularly worrying when it replaces natural hip loading that is already present.

Consider the solo part of this sequence:


A video in which I demonstrate contextual hip loading for combination strikes

It comprises 3 air punches, each with its own hip movement. Each of these hip movements: powers its punch; and simultaneously loads the hip contextually for the next.

In other words, one strike with hip positively powered/turned (jun kaiten), one strike with hip negatively powered/turned (gyaku kaiten).

Now imagine if I inserted an extra hip reversal and return into each movement to create a "wobble" before each punch. That would be non-contextual. It would fail to capitalise on the natural hip loading that the sequence contains. And it would do so for no benefit. In fact it would deprive me of the natural momentum arising from the sequence by interrupting the flow of one technique to another.

Double or triple?

Some folks call their artificial hip loading the “double hip”. But this is a misnomer. In fact, it is typically a “triple hip”. Why do I say this?
  1. Your hips will naturally be turning into the strike (hip movement No. 1).
  2. You then have to stop that movement and reverse the hip to load it artificially to its maximum extent (hip movement No. 2).
  3. You then finally turn your hip back into the strike again (hip movement No. 3).
Some practitioners of this “triple hip” do all of this remarkably quickly – so quickly that you’d be forgiven for thinking it was fast enough to allay my concerns about the “dual evils” of (a) the extra time it takes; and (b) the telegraphing of your intention. But it just isn’t quick enough. Nothing changes the fact that you are replacing one hip movement with 3. It might take you only 0.2 seconds longer. But that is an extra 0.2 seconds you really can’t spare.

What’s it all for?

And what is it all for? The answer “triple hip” practitioners give is “extra “power” (ie. force). But there is much more to martial arts than force gained by loading the hip. A well-rounded martial artist will appreciate the fact that a substantial amount of the force behind a punch is gained from your whole body movement (eg. a lunge). Keeping a natural flow of movement enhances this application of force, as I argue in my article “Internal arts fact and fallacy: double weighting”. And extra force from hip loading matters little if you don’t land your punch – and get hit instead!

Hip loading occurs naturally – you don’t have to force it, but you do need to train for it

In the adjacent picture of me doing a gedan uke, you see my hip loading for a counter. But that hip load is powering my gedan uke as well as setting me up for the counter. There is one hip movement for each technique and it is the one arising naturally out of the context of the sequence.

This sort of hip loading occurs all the time in sparring and other martial practice. It should occur in any civilian defence encounter if you are properly trained.

And here’s the rub; to maximize your hip use, you need to train to exploit situations where it occurs naturally. If you replace all the natural hip loads with artificial “triple hip” movements, you will rob yourself of the opportunity to identify and harness realistic opportunities for hip use in a dynamic, resistant environment.

Conclusion

So artificial loading (non-contextual) hip loading is fine when you are practicing isolation exercises – be it in the “air” or against a makiwara. But there is simply no reason to insert such artificial hip loading into every single kata or other practice technique. To do so supplants hip loading that occurs naturally in a dynamic context. A martial artist needs to be aware of, and harness, these contextual hip load opportunities. You can’t do so if you are constantly inserting artificial hip loads all in the name of “extra force”.

Copyright © 2011 Dejan Djurdjevic