Many times when I’m striking the heavy bag or a strike pad, (punching mitts, kick shield, etc.) I tend to put in a lot of emotion into my strikes. When I’m working the front (“This is Sparta!”) kick for example, I am envisioning kicking down a door where some psychopath has my children. I often find (and feel) my facial expressions and other body language quirks working overtime, showing my intent to tear into someone. Not to say this is “always bad”, but I noticed I, at times, show these same expressions when working off of the passive stance and pre-emptive work; which would undermine the behavioral manipulation we’re striving for (i.e. using a passive stance and congruous body language and choice words allows the attacker’s ego to rise while lowering their guard…slight shifts in body language that deny the behavioral manipulation will alert the attacker with your own intentions).
I decided to begin working on remaining expressionless (at least, striving to hide the anger/rage/fear) when I started hitting the bag. It can be harder than what it seems on paper, let me tell you.
It might seem simple, but when you truly and honestly evaluate yourself, you may catch yourself beginning to smirk, your jaw tighten up, your eyes squint, your upper lip beginning to snarl, your teeth gritting together – all before you actually let loose with your strike.
Why the importance of such a drill? Within the framework of Senshido, we strive to understand Aggressive Body Language (ABL) as a means to pick up on intent to act. Many times people will say Senshido practitioners move “faster” than others – when in actuality we train ourselves to move “sooner” than others, because we can pick up on the bad guy’s intent to act via having a comprehensive understanding of common ABL. Knowing this, isn’t the reverse true as well? If body language is between 60-80% of communication (depending on which study you subscribe to), even the slightest aggressive body language can drastically change the altercation, allowing the attacker’s guard to rise up and mentally prepare for your physical retaliation.
This drill is outlined for striking, but it can also be done with clinch work, ground work, etc. Your imagination is the limits.
How to internalize the drill:
With the daily struggles in life, the workload, family problems, people who don't know how to drive, etc. we often will exhibt various facial expressions and body language that shows how we truly feel in that moment. Sometimes, we are not aware of how others may perceive us - especially those closest to us. So, begin taking inventory of what your body language and facial expressions are at any given time of the day (in particular, pay special attention to these things during stressful moments with family, friends and co-workers). When you honestly begin to internalize the drill, you will become more aware of your body language and will have the tools to begin changing them and having a more proactive approach to the situation, instead of compounding it by any negativity you may exhibit.
Senshido International Team Member - Senshido Alaska