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Friday, 19 August 2011


Recently in class we have been working on the concept of "flow" in movement (shortly to be released as a DVD "Flow Motion"). Part of the training involved students giving one strike, then two, then three, then five. I asked if anyone knew what the next number in the sequence was - 1,2,3,5.........?
Well the answer is eight - and the sequence should more properly be written 0,1,1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34 etc It is know as the Fibonacci Sequence (FS) and is formed by adding the previous numbers together.

Fibonaccio (Leonardo of Pisa) was born in 1175 and, among other things, introduced the sequence to Western thought . As we have seen each succeeding number equals the sum of the two preceding it and in doing so we find some interesting relationships. For example when divided the numbers give us the "golden ratio" of 1.618...or PHI. This can then be developed into a logarithmic spiral which could be described as on of the fundamental shapes or building blocks in nature. It can be seen in everything from the structure of the cornea,  to the formation of seashells,  to the approach of a hawk to its prey,  to the spirals of the Milky Way.

In other words it is a fundamental aspect of ourselves and the world around us. It finds expression in art, mysticism, architecture, industrial design, even finance. My old pal Anthony Walmsley began researching this concept in relation to Chinese martial arts some 10-15 years ago and has produced a book covering this topic in detail.  Check out the links for further information as my space and mathematical ability are both restricted! 

So what does all this have to do with training? In terms of flow and movement - well all will be revealed on the DVD! But in brief, if we look at the FS in bio-mechanical terms then this model (and remember it is just a model!) is a step on from two dimensional representations of the body. Of course we exist in four (known!) dimensions and our work has to take all of those four into account - so an understanding of three-dimensional spirals in both form and movement is vital. We could say with some measure of truth that the body is not capable of a straight line movement as everything involves spirals of some description.

Our striking work shows how a short twist or spiral can increase the penetration of a punch. We know from basic grappling work that twising a person in three directions dramatically increases the effect of a throw , lock or takedown. We understand from our health and fitness work the effects of twisting and spiralling the body in terms of improved flexiblity and overall tone.

These are all quite basic things that should quickly become apparent with a little thought. But does the FS have wider applications in our work? I believe it does - and again this will be covered in the DVD. But in brief I think this sequence resonates with my previous descripton of fractal Systema - each part can be separated off but remains a reflection of the whole. If that sounds a bit vague or too philosophical simply consider it this way - everything that you are is reflected in everything that you do. There is something of you in all your actions, however impersonal or unemotional you think you are being.Everything that you do will have some effect on who you are. This is an important thing to bear in mind when you are training - because how you train can and will affect what you do. It is easy to understand this on a superficial level. Train hyper-aggresively - how do you think that will affect you? Train with no intention, drive or pressure - what will the result be? The problem is that while it is easy to see these things at the extremes, they are more difficult to notice when we work at deeper levels. Often we do not notice these things ourselves, but those around us do. Funnily enough we usually then blame the people around us for those problems. No-one is immune, there are very few people capable of totally honest self -analysis and insight -  but if one of the effects of your training is to diminish that capability I'd seriously call it into question.

Understanding this notion of spirals and structures in our own bodies I think leads to a greater appreciation of those structures in the world around - and perhaps give us insight into the natural world. It can change how you approach situations - from a principle point of view rather than a purely technical one. If you know the principles of how a bike works you don't need a different set of techniques for every new bike you sit on. Similarly if you grasp the underlying principles of movement, manipulation and body structure you can quickly get a handle on how to harm or help a person. Going further out still (or deeper in) still, understanding the dynamics and principles of social interaction will help develop your emotional intelligence and hopefully make you a more understanding and rounded person.

Outside of living history and re-enactment, does it make sense to try and slavishly emulate the way people trained in another culture 200 years ago? Does training solely for one type of situation or operational activity makes sense for people not in that line of work? Perhaps both approaches are a control / coping mechanism to ease the feeling that maybe the "real world" is just too chaotic to deal with?

However I believe that if you understand something of the Fibonacci Sequence and the related areas of sacred geometry, quantum physics and some of the latest medical research, not to forget the great spiritual teachings of course, you begin to see patterns beneath the chaos. That might lead to the conclusion that we are all inescapably linked together in ways we can sometimes barely imagine. Something to think about in these troubled times.......

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