THE HUMAN MACHINE
The human body is a perfect machine. In order to get it to the highest state of perfection, perfect body mechanics, perfect coordination, and perfect execution, you need to know the simple secrets to ultimate performance that I discuss in this article: The Human Machine.
he human body is a perfect, natural, machine. It strives always, to do everything with the least amount of effort and to the most benefit for itself. In everything we do, it searches for perfect rhythm, balance, and timing. These traits or attributes are part of the overall package that has enabled us to survive on this planet in one form or another for the last six or seven million years. It has an unarguable, proven track record.
The human body has perfect body mechanics. What are body mechanics, you ask? Quite simply body mechanics are the physical movements performed by the body needed to accomplish an action. Standing up, walking, swimming, or throwing a knockout punch are all the result of body mechanics. The real important questions are these; what are perfect body mechanics? Can I get them? How do they affect punching power?
Unfortunately in some regards, we humans have been blessed with higher thinking capability, a more developed cognitive sense which gives us the ability to analyze, judge, and interpret everything that comes across our radar screen. It has enabled some to flourish, such as Mozart, Shakespeare, Thomas Jefferson and Britney Spears. Unfortunately, this ability also enables us to override many aspects of our natural behavior. It’s too bad that the body mechanics of our perfect human machine is one of those attributes that we can over-ride. By the way, I’m just kidding about Britney. I bet you thought I’d just blown all my credibility. Anyway, back to the questions regarding body mechanics.
What are perfect body mechanics? This is the body merely trying to get the most done with the least amount of effort. No unnecessary, extraneous or exaggerated effort. Perfection in this regard is efficiency. No wasted motions and more importantly no wasted energy.
Can I get perfect body mechanics? You already have perfect body mechanics! All you have to do is scrape away the eight layers of paint you covered them with to expose the bare natural wood that lies underneath. Then with a little sanding and polishing you’ll have that beautiful natural grain once again. I will help you do this.
How do body mechanics affect punching power? The mechanics of throwing a punch involve the entire body, right from the toes to the top of your head. It takes all of them working in unison to deliver a correct punch with power behind it. Anything that is out of rhythm, not in balance or out of sync takes energy away from the punch. Remember, less energy delivered = less power. Yes, you can still punch without everything being perfect for you. In fact in a real fight or even a match, it never is perfect for you so you’re going to want as much going for you as you can. Knowing and training for perfect body mechanics will give you more power even when things are not perfect.
Let’s take a look at body mechanics from the ground up. I’m going to dissect this subject bit by bit and I fully expect you to think, “This guy has too much time on his hands.” Actually I don’t. I have several companies to run, a family of five, and a horse ranch. I have no time to waste. So when I train I want to get the absolute most out of every moment I’m in my gym. If I put the gloves on, I want to practice exactly the way I want to be when I’m in the fight. That is why I’m going to make this statement in Big Bold letters.
“If You Don’t Practice Perfect, Then you’re Just Practicing Mistakes.”
I don’t want to waste my time or yours.
Pick a Model – A Good One
Here is a big secret, Please don’t tell the bad guys. If you want to be perfect then model yourself after perfection. This really is one of those secret keys to success and I’ve taught people how to use it as well as having used it myself since I was in grade school. I was doing this for 25 years before I even knew what I was doing or just how valuable it really was. I was just doing something that seemed natural and worked for me.
As I said before I was a pretty good athlete and I have to believe that it was in a significant way due to what I now know as modeling. I wanted to be a pitcher so I modeled myself after my Baseball hero Sandy Koufax. I wanted to be a quarterback so I modeled myself after Bart Starr. When I got interested in Boxing I modeled myself after Muhammad Ali and Alexis Argüello.
What the heck is Emerson talking about? You should ask. When I talk about modeling I don’t just mean to be inspired by a chosen model. What I mean is that you imagine yourself as that individual. Hey, I’m not getting weird here. I’m only referring to this during training. As a young little leaguer I tried to pitch just like Sandy Koufax. I tried to mimic his stance, his wind up, the long step he took forward, his delivery and his finish on the mound. For those of you who do not know Sandy Koufax, he was one of Baseball’s greatest pitchers with ERA stats and strikeout records other pitchers dreamed about. There was something about him that was so smooth, so natural, and so effortless. When it came to football, Bart Starr was the same, effortless, graceful and effective. Could it have been their body mechanics?
I would practice throwing baseballs at a chalk drawn strike zone on the side of a brick building for hours throwing just like Sandy Koufax. When I started playing football, I would throw a football through a hanging tire for hours. I was Bart Starr.
Think of it like this. Remember guys who would imitate movie stars and politicians. They were called impersonators. They would study all the nuances of their subject, their voice, their speaking rhythms, their expressions, their gait, and any other nuances they could find.
Well I found that the more I did it the better I got at it. Someone could say, dribble like Elgin Baylor or shoot like Pistol Pete Maravich and I could imitate them, reasonably well. What I didn’t realize was that this form of imitation, this physical imitation, had helped me develop my athletic abilities immensely. By imitating these superstar athletes I was developing my body mechanics, my rhythm, my balance, and my power. Since I admired the pro stars of my time, I was copying if you will those who had become superstars for a reason. They were the best at what they did.
I didn’t try to imitate the fat guy down the block shooting hoops in his driveway. Would you? There were reasons these guys were good and a large part of it was their form, their athleticism, and their Body Mechanics. When I got into boxing I learned to mimic the jabs, the footwork, and grace of Ali. My jabs got better, my footwork got better. When I imitated Joe Frazier my hooks and overhand right got better. When I imitated the perfect form of Alexis Argüello my form got better.
Here’s a quick tip I learned from Muhammad Ali. Ali had what a lot of Boxers (mainly his opponents) called a ghost cross. It comes out of nowhere and bam! Lights out. Most fighters throw their punches in a rhythmic pattern 1, 2 – 1, 2 or 1, 2, 3 – 1, 2, 3. They throw their jabs bring it back and throw the cross. Now if you look back on some of Ali’s films you will see him throw the cross, his ghost punch, directly behind the jab. One clearing the way for the other. What he does is to let the jab go and throws the cross while the jab is still on its way, not even to the target yet. The difference is like this; Bam dot Bam (conventional) and BaBam! From Ali. Now, bear in mind that he did not do this all the time because he needed to establish a rhythm or pattern to fool the opponent and set the opponent up so his ghost punch would work. He created a false rhythm then broke that rhythm completely baffling his opponent time and time again. Try it yourself on the heavy bag and just remember there’s quite a difference between Bam dot Bam and BaBam! That’s the difference. No boxing coach ever showed me this and I never would have learned it if I had not been modeling Muhammad Ali.
Modeling has worked for me in shooting, fighting, training, speaking and teaching. It is a multipurpose tool that you should definitely add to your training agenda.
There are four basic things you need to model successfully.
- Believe that there is someone who is better than you so you can accept improvement in yourself. You should call this: Realistic Self Evaluation.
- Pick a good role model(s). Don’t base it on your likes or dislikes, or your instructor. Pick the best. For example, when I was bent on increasing my power I used Mike Tyson. Do I like Tyson? Absolutely no. But at that time he was the youngest boxer in history to win the Heavyweight title and his first 8 or 10 fights were knockouts in the first minute of the first round. Bad Guy – Furious Puncher.
- A mirror. You got to be able to see yourself, your moves, your motion, and your progress in order to improve.
- You need to think of yourself as a human tape recorder. Train yourself to be able to physically imitate others and you will see and feel the benefits of imitating someone who is not just better than you but the best at that they do.
Have you ever seen or known a natural athlete? The kid in school who was good at everything. The one that every sport just seemed to be easy for them. While you and I struggled to perfect these skills they would just show up and shine. Well it took me a long time, almost 30 years to realize that we all are that natural athlete. We are the culmination of human evolution. We are alive, not because we understand physics or can create great works of art or music. We are alive because our ancestors could stay a couple steps ahead of that saber-toothed tiger. We are alive because our ancestor could jump over the trap that the bear fell into. We are alive because our ancestor could throw a rock so hard it could kill the sloth so everyone could have dinner that night. Just because we can go to the moon doesn’t mean we have lost those abilities, those attributes, and those skills.
Our ancestors weren’t 9 feet tall and they didn’t have 3 arms or 4 legs. They were just like you and me in almost every detail. Hell, a Neanderthal or Cro-Magnon man could pass you in a mall and you’d never even-know it, except for the grunts, the club and the woman he was dragging by the hair. Seriously what I’m getting at is this, we still possess these skills and we are alive because our ancestors were the strong ones, the smart ones, the natural athletes. However, we don’t have to fight for survival from the moment we are born, like they had to. I’m willing to bet the average 12 year old cave boy could run, jump, and fight pretty damn well, by anyone’s standards. He had to, in order to survive. However, as a whole we do not now need to practice these skills in order to survive. That’s why we now have obese children that already have elevated cholesterol levels by the age of eight. But I digress. Where am I going with this anthropology lesson? I’m going back to the natural athlete. Conversely, how many of you have known someone who just wasn’t coordinated. The kid who was clumsy, uncoordinated and maybe just sucked at sports. Perhaps it was me or perhaps it was even you. If you were that kid or if you are the guy who always has said, I’m just not coordinated, I’ll never be as good as him. I’m here to tell you that’s B.S.; capital B period, capital S period.
A martial arts student once approached Bruce Lee and ended his conversation by saying “I’ll never be as good as you. You have a natural talent, a gift. Bruce looked at him and simply said “If you trained 16 hours a day you’d be as good as I am.”
We are all gifted. We all have these natural talents. It’s just that if you don’t use them, if you have never used them then those skills, agility, balance, and power won’t be as sharp or efficient as they would have been in a highly trained individual. You would be the “un-coordinated” guy. But if you have mentally convinced yourself that you are not “coordinated” then you have to change your mind first. If you can’t change or throw out and completely destroy that mindset, then you will always be uncoordinated. But if you can, if you can truly believe that you are capable of perfection in motion then you can fulfill that goal. Training your physical skills is the easy part, and proper training can address that, training your mind is the difficult part, if you don’t believe. If you don’t believe in yourself then you can never reach your personal ultimate performance potential. I don’t just want you strong. I don’t just want you stronger. I want you to be as strong as humanly possible. That’s the goal, brother. Why have I been talking about all this “in your head,” stuff? Because you have to have to believe you can get better, stronger, and faster. If I were able to look you directly in the eyes right now and you were to tell me, “I will never be able to be better,” I will be the first one to call you a liar.
The Mechanics of Mechanics
Let’s get to the mechanics part of body mechanics.
Some of the key issues in any training regimen are the perfection of the basic fundamental skills. It has been said that an expert is merely one who has mastered the basics. Unfortunately, most of us view the basic skills in any learning progression as just some things to get out of the way so we can get to the fun stuff. I wonder how many people have been accidently killed by a gun in the hands of someone who did not have knowledge of basic firearm handling skills but knew how to pull the trigger?
Well in the case of developing proper body mechanics, it’s all about fundamentals, but they must be the right fundamentals.
Now, if you were to come to me and say, Ernest give me 30 seconds of advice that will improve my skills the most. I would say, “Spend at least an hour a day practicing footwork drills.” You would look at me with the “That’s it?” look. Believe me I’ve seen it many times before. And I’ve always said “Yeah that’s it.” If you ever ask me anything, be prepared for an honest, forthright answer. I’m not here to impress you or myself. Those days are long, long in my past. I’m here to give you something that’s going to help you – nothing more, nothing less.
Let’s face it; footwork skills are the basic fundamental skills that must be the foundation for skills in any sport, except maybe chess. Is that a sport? It’s your feet that move you and they are the building blocks upon which everything else is built. Look at it this way. I could build the most solid brick wall in the world, rebar, concrete, bricks, everything done right, but if my footing (foundation) is sitting on a pile of soft sand I can tip the wall over just by giving it a good shove. Now my strong wall is sitting on its ass. Don’t let that wall be you.
One of the world’s greatest guitarists is a man named Steve Vai. This is not just a public accolade. The entire world’s other great players look at Vai and just shake their heads. “He can do things other guitarists don’t even dream about.” Well guess what? Steve Vai has followed a grueling 10 hour guitar workout for years, that’s right, 10 hours. Remember Bruce Lee, 16 hours? Anyway, three hours of every workout is devoted to practicing scales, one of the first things you’re taught when you begin to take guitar lessons. In fact scales are fundamental to the mastery of any musical instrument, they are the footwork drills of musical mastery. Are they fun? Not for most people. Everyone just wants to pick up that axe and jam because that’s the fun part.
Back to my answer to the 30 seconds of advice; I spend at least an hour of every workout on footwork drills. Granted, I mix a lot into the drills such as bobbing, weaving, ducking, and shadowboxing but it is while I am shuffling forward, backward, sidestepping, circling and generally doing all the dance steps of boxing. The paradox is that if I could teach the way I really want to I would devote half the training to footwork drills. I can guarantee that I would have better fighters in those classes but no one would want to attend the seminars, on top of the fact that everyone would be worn out after the first hour of class. So what I’ve done is fold-in and also disguise a large amount of footwork training into drills that the students aren’t even aware of. They think they’re doing one thing but I’m really training their feet.
So here we go. Now it would seem there must be thousands of drills to teach footwork skills the way I’ve described so far. In reality there are not. You can make unlimited combinations out of just the two basic steps I’m going to describe. Just as there are only eight notes in the musical scale, by varying their timing, their pitch (sharps and flats) and the combinations of notes (melody) songwriters and composers have written millions of beautiful yet wonderfully different songs. It just depends on how creative you are, or want to be.
There are two more things that I want to say and stress before I get to the training. I will from time to time state that something is a rule. I have to call them something. Maybe fundamental principle is a better descriptor but saying rule just sounds more authoritarian. This is where I’m going with this. There are rules and there are no rules. There are rules about stance, footwork, combinations, defense, and offense that we’ll talk about. But remember this point, you gotta learn the rules before you can break the rules. For example; Pablo Picasso, the famous artist is generally known as the guy who painted noses on the sides of heads and ears in the wrong places. Well, he could still draw and paint contemporary art at a level as good as any world famous artist. He could create images, just like Caravaggio, Van Gogh, or Monet. He just chose to break the rules. It didn’t mean he didn’t know the rules. Muhammad Ali broke almost every fundamental rule of boxing throughout his career. Angelo Dundee said Ali had ruined more boxer’s careers than anyone else in history with his hands down boxing guard. You had to be as good as Ali before you tried using antics like that. And remember Rope a Dope? He just let the opponent pummel him over and over while he leaned back on the ropes. No trainer or coach would ever recommend such unheard of behavior. Angelo Dundee would go hoarse screaming at Ali to get off the ropes but in the midst of this terrible fusillade, Ali would suddenly sidestep and hammer his opponent with a flurry of damaging punches.
Ali knew what he could get away with because he let his body, his machine run without letting his mind get in the way. He was an improviser. And speaking of improvisation, if you ask any real musician what is the pinnacle of the musician’s art, they will tell you that it is improvisation. They will also tell you that it is the hardest thing they had to learn to do. The reason is that in order to improvise, to just flow, you have to disengage your thinking brain and just feel. You just let the music pour out. The Japanese Samurai called it “the loss of self.” It was a state of mind where conscious thinking and essentially you ceased to exist. This was because if you were engaged in a deadly duel with lethal swords and the difference between life and death was measured in milliseconds, well you just did not have time to think. If you had to think, you would die. It takes almost a lifetime of study in any endeavor to get to the degree of innate and intimate understanding to be able to let go of your conscious mind. Part of that understanding is the knowledge and acceptance that the human body is that perfect machine that I talked about at the beginning of this article. Once we accept that fact, we just need to let that perfect machine do its job.
Copyright 2017 Ernest Emerson