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Slack Lining & Other Exercises To Improve Balance For Sports & Martial Arts
I've been training in martial arts for years and have also been doing a job for some time now that requires me to have good co ordination and balance. I work up high and I know that if I fall off a roof then I'm dead which tends to focus the mind. As a consequence of these two activities and focussing on improving my balance skill in my spare time, I now have excellent balance.
It's great to have good balance if you're into most physical activities, not just martial arts and it can also make you safer and less likely to fall over, stumble and generally land in a heap on the floor in your day to day life. That may sound daft and implausible, but if you have good balance and slip on ice for example which is not totally unknown, then you should be able to save the day. Without it, you might land on your teeth or just go tumbling over like the unfortunate person in the picture below, who is unable to walk properly.
She is so unsteady, she's unable to walk without overbalancing.
Balance for martial arts
Having good balance helps out a lot if you're a martial artist. If you watch people that have just started training, they tend to stumble and overbalance a lot, which often means that it's really easy to tip them over, that is if they don't fall over themselves when doing a throw or takedown. Ideally you want to be able to maintain your balance no matter what body part is in contact with the floor, so you should really be able to balance perfectly well on tip toes with your arms above your head for example, or on one leg while people are pushing you around. If you can do that, it will really help your technique.
Try it. Stand on tip toes and reach your arms above your head and try and touch the sky. Can you balance perfectly, or do you find yourself tipping back and forth, before eventually losing control and landing on your feet? The thing about balance is that your body naturally has a mechanism in place to help you to balance. A large part of acquiring an excellent sense of balance is allowing the mechanism in your inner ear to do its work naturally, without throwing it off with spasmodic jerky movements as you try and take over and overcompensate.
One way of doing this involves relaxing your mind with various mental techniques, which you can do while trying to balance quickly. One such technique that I was taught years ago is to think about your centre of gravity, your core. If you need to balance you imagine there is a beam of energy that goes from your core hundreds of feet down straight into the ground. It's purely a mental technique, which allows your body to relax and not overcompensate. The more frequently you do it, while practicing balancing over objects, on your tiptoes, people trying to overbalance you etc, then the better it works. I still find myself doing it. I guess I focus on imagining the energy going into the ground, which takes my mind off trying to balance and allows my body to just do it.
Practicing the physical side of balancing as well is needed to get really good balance. To start with, practice standing up and stretching towards the ceiling on your tiptoes. This is simple, or should be, but to do it without wobbling needs balance.
After this, another way of practicing is to stand on one leg, tuck the foot of the leg you've lifted onto the back of the calf/knee of the supporting leg and practice balancing. You can put your arms wherever you like, but I prefer to have them in front of me. Then get someone to push you. Of course the first time you do this, you will probably need to put the other foot down to stop yourself from falling. However if you can practice this with a partner and imagine that you're rooted with the energy technique I mentioned earlier, you'll quickly find that you can usually maintain your balance, even if you have to hop.
As you progress, you can move it to being pushed from any direction, with varying force and after a while work up to being attacked and managing to defend yourself and take down your opponent while still balancing perfectly on one leg without kicking. When you can do that, then you know your balance skills are improving. Then try it with your eyes closed!
If you actively practice balancing regularly, then you will find your sense of balance improves rapidly. Another item that is excellent for developing your sense of balance and your core is the slack line. You tie it between two trees or whatever you can find in the garden and practice walking between the objects. It is tough, but if you stay relaxed and practice a lot then you will improve your balance.
I hope this article was useful and gave you a couple of ideas on how to improve your balance. If you have any comments then please leave them below.