Increase Your Power by Improving Your Balance

Victory in combat does not always belong to the strongest contender. As demonstrated repeatedly throughout history, the weaker fighter can prevail, if they attack efficiently and deny their opponent the opportunity to strike back.

What can you do to increase the efficiency of your attack and defense, and overcome the odds?

An Army of One

Kali's extra arms make her a formidable fighter

A military commander may deploy thousands of soldiers, and millions of dollars of equipment, to ensure victory. Martial artists, however, must rely on the force generated by their own bodies. They cannot draft additional arms and legs, or call in air support to service their targets from a safe distance. Unlike an army, an individual human being can do little to increase their physical size. Fortunately, an individual has a nearly unlimited ability to increase their efficiency. And by becoming more efficient, they become more powerful.

Use the Force

An invisible and inescapable force influences your body at all times. By acknowledging and cooperating with this force, your movements will become graceful and effortless. If instead you attempt to disregard this force, it will certainly drain your power, and may even throw you to the ground! This mysterious force is named gravity, and your concordance with it is called balance.

Without balance, your strongest muscles are rendered useless. You cannot exert force on another body; you can only knock yourself down. Your ability to influence others—for constructive or destructive purposes—is dependent upon your ability to keep your balance.

Generally, we find it easy to maintain our balance while performing everyday activities such as walking, standing up and sitting down. Maintaining our equilibrium under attack proves more challenging. Under these stressful circumstances, it is easy to forget that the obstacles to perfect balance remain within ourselves.

Combat Meets Codependency

Consider the following statistic, which is accepted as fact by some schools of martial arts:

90% of all fights end up on the ground.

For the sake of discussion, let us assume this percentage is accurate, and also assume that the majority of fighters intended to remain standing. Why is it so difficult to avoid falling down?

If you are able to remain upright while practicing solo forms, but cannot do so when interacting when another person, you are probably making one of two fundamental mistakes:

  1. Using your opponent’s body to balance yourself; or
  2. Allowing your opponent to use your body in the same way.

By avoiding these two situations, you will dramatically improve your stability and balance.

Anatomy of a Push Hands Exchange

These bears have bad posture

This example uses Tai Chi push hands practice to illustrate the two balance problems listed above. However, this same issue occurs in Wing Chun, Aikido, and every other style of martial arts.

Imagine two students, Alice and Bob, engaged in a typical round of push hands…

  1. Alice and Bob make contact, and perform a few warm-up circles.
  2. Alice pushes Bob.
  3. Bob loses his balance, and leans on Alice to avoid falling over.
  4. Alice leans back on Bob, to avoid collapsing under his weight.
  5. Bob is heavier than Alice, and after a few seconds Bob knocks her off her feet.

This balancing method works for Bob, but only when he faces Alice. Alice cannot use it against Bob, because she is physically smaller. And neither Alice nor Bob can use it on abnormally large Carol!

Carol is no pushover

What if, next time, Alice denies Bob the opportunity to lean on her?

  1. Alice and Bob make a few more circles.
  2. Alice pushes Bob.
  3. Bob loses his balance, and attempts to lean on Alice.
  4. Alice immediately moves out of the way.
  5. Bob falls down.

Leaning on an opponent is like sitting in a broken chair. At first, they may appear to support your weight, but eventually they will collapse and you will follow.

14 comments on “Increase Your Power by Improving Your Balance”

  1. this was a very good article, and i like the example with bob and alice, but it dosent really tell how to improve balacne.

  2. That 90% statement is false. I’ve understood it traces back to a study made by Los Angeles police regarding their use of force situations. Which hardly is the same as “all fights” when the sole objective of a police officer is to immobilize the suspect. And the correct percentage in that study was 60, not 90.

    In later studies adult male vs adult male fights go ground on 40% of the cases mostly due pure fatigue or tripping on something rather than be tripped by the opponent. Female vs male or child vs child fights go ground more frequently due the nature of those fights. Women tend to get raped and children just want to control each other. Both are more easily done on the ground than on upright position.

  3. Hey, great article. I have to disagree with your commentator, kortty, regarding the 90% stat that you cited.

    Actually more like 100% of all fights go to the ground. At least one fighter or the other ends up on the ground in all fights. It pays to have some ground mobility skills…

  4. Perhaps Patrick has a good point on ground mobility skills, but it also pays to have good balance and the ability to move quickly to reduce the risk of falling.
    Gaining balance is largely related to leg strength, which can be increased by stance training. However, a relaxed body can also help you maintain better balance.

  5. P.Parker :: A _fight_ doesn’t go on ground if one of the fightERs go down even if he gets kicked. But this is merely semantics.

    Just wanted to point the 90%-BJJ-legend is a double mishap: wrong result of false sampling.

    Balance, still, is highly important in order to prevent getting down. And also to produce any kind of power from the structure.

  6. Nice site, Chris.

    That 90% thing sure gets noised around a lot, doesn’t it? Well, I’m sure we can all agree that /some/ fights go to the ground. However, proponents of that 90% idea should consider the following:

    1. What proportion of people in fights that go to ground are competent martial artists? Two drunks without any fighting experience are pretty likely to fall over just trying to punch each other.

    2. What proportion of such fights were, from the get-go, fights to the death? If the participants in a fight are just trying to beat one another up instead of kill one another, going to the ground would be more likely, wouldn’t it?

    Ah well. I’m preaching to the choir here. Most of you guys don’t seem to be groundfighting fanboys.

  7. Sir;
    I liked your site very much, but it is hard to renavigate once you have left a page, and want to go back to it. thanks and God bless
    1st.dan tang soo do

  8. The real key to impoving balance is to be aware of equilibrium at all times, the more aware of your balance you are the better it will become, also keep in mind that there are five given balance points on the human body which influence all positions and stances. Also be aware that as your stances go lower your primary balance point becomes higher.

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