The Science of Balance: Taking Your Martial Arts Training to a Higher Level

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Superficially, good
balance is looked at by most as the avoidance of getting knocked over.  Therefore, martial artists are
considered to have great balance because they spend so much time performing
power movements on one leg (i.e. kicks). 
Today there are so many tools and applications available to improve
balance on a microscopic level. 
Some may question why this would even be necessary for a martial athlete
if throwing power kicks doesn't cause the kicker to wobble or fall off their
feet.  But balance has far more
layers to it when understood from a kinesthetic perspective. It is time for the
martial athlete, regardless of their competitive realm, to understand the
layers of balance training and how it should become a purposeful integration
into their weekly workout regiment.   

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Identifying efficient movement is what helps us recognize some of sports greatest athletes. This type of efficiency is achieved by controlling your center of gravity while experiencing the stresses of your sport and without incurring any injury. This is referred to as agility. Agility is the ability to move gracefully or proficiently.  The body prefers the ability to move its joints smoothly through a full range of motion without friction.  As elements like speed and sport stress increase, the joints can experience more stress and the ability to control center of gravity and range of motion become affected.  Through balance training, the body can experience similar sport stresses in a dynamic re-enactment of sport play.  By doing this, balance and agility are improved.  On a microscopic level, this type of training can prevent injuries and ultimately improve the integrity of the joint, tendons and ligaments.  In other words, balance training increases kinesthetic coordination and proprioception.

If you are a fighter, kinesthetic awareness should become a
priority when designing your training program.  Do not get lost in the science of balance training, simply
put: kinesthetic awareness training refers to participating in exercises or
drills that improve the proprioception of the joints which will help them to
stabilize under stress.

So when you are kicking and fighting for a base, your
body is trying to keep its centre of mass within your base of support, ie with
your trunk aligned over your feet. In the past, we have tended to believe that
perfect balance was best illustrated by standing on one leg and remaining as
still as possible. However, this is not functional, especially for fighting.  Even in an attempt to create this
stillness, our body is constantly oscillating, transferring energy and
adjusting to stabilize the joint. 
These adjustments are proprioception in action or the body's kinesthetic
awareness.

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Training on the platform side of the BOSU is an advanced exercise. Do not start in this position.

Adding Balance Training to Your Program:  The Bosu is an amazing tool for balance
training.  It can provide your
training regiment with a multitude of uses beyond improving balance, including
strengthening the joint s and core, as well as training your anaerobic
threshold.

Starting Out and Progressing

1. Begin by doing
visual tracking drills while standing on the bosu. While standing still, move your hands through all planes and follow your finger tips. Don't just move side to side, but lift your arms above and below your head and allow your vision to track your fingers even when swinging your arms
in circles.

2. Try basic athletic movements like squats, single leg balance, stepping on and off
without looking at your feet. The
progress to a single leg squat.

3. Now try throwing
some kicks, elbows and knees.

4. Add dynamic movement - jump off two feet and land centered on both feet. An obvious progression is to land on
one leg and then lower into a single leg squat without falling off the bosu. Do not rush into this challenging
drill.

5. You can use other tools
like medicine ball tosses in all directions or with your squats.

6. Take your weight
training onto the bosu.

7. Finally set them
up in front of some heavy bags and work your basic stand-up drills.

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