Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Drop Step

Written a couple of posts recently, but haven't been happy with them. Might be able to get them in reader-worthy shape eventually.

One of the things from Violence Dynamics in Minnesota. The drop step is everywhere.

Not going to go into too much detail on what the drop step is. You can read that here.
Just the basic Dempsey drop step generates enormous power. But it also increases speed. Gravity is faster than you. And, if you can let the drop happen instead of make it happen, it's untelegraphed. Gravity doesn't flinch. It increases your range. It allows you to make powerful strikes (fast and untelegraphed) to your rear flank. And that's just the basic drop step.

Drop steps can be loaded or natural. A natural drop step, you just lift a foot and start to fall. A loaded drop step you shift weight towards the foot you intend to lift so the CoG is farther from the (single foot) base that will remain. And there are dramatic ways to load a drop step. Look at the way a pitcher raises his center of gravity and extends the natural stride length to maximize speed in a throw.
In martial terms, baseball pitchers use a crane stance to load power into a front stance. Good body mechanics are universal.

The sutemi-waza, judo's sacrifice throws, are another variation. And they work almost always-- provided there is no telegraph. Once you clinch up with someone, you can choose to see yourself as a bipedal greature with a base and a center of gravity in a contest with a different bipedal creature who also has a center of gravity. Or you can choose to see the entirety as a four-legged creature with a shared center of gravity. And you have absolute control over two of the legs. Removing your two legs puts the CoG well outside the base instantly. Too fast for the opponent to read and recover. Again, all assuming there is no telegraph and you truly drop. You can't do a controlled lie-down.

Sosuishitsu-ryu has a body mechanic for power I haven't seen elsewhere, but at its root it is a loaded drop step for that four-footed animal. Trying to describe in words: You are locked up with uke, either in a tight clinch or a joint lock (do NOT try this at home with locks. Some of the koryu were very good at preventing uke from doing a proper breakfall and a few of the kata have uke landing on locked joints, including the neck. Really, really dangerous. Not something you want to experiment with without expert supervision.) Anyway, with that tight grip, you are one animal. Tori throws his left foot up as if he is doing a spinning crescent kick, turning to his left and throws the crescent kick coming all the way down to his left knee, spinning 180 degrees with uke attached. It's brutal. And there's a variation which takes the spin to 360. It is also very hard on your knees over the years.

On the ground, you can get wicked speed in some spins by creating spaces and falling into them. One we used in Minnesota was for weapon retention while face down. Bad guy is on your back going for your holstered gun. Not going into the mechanics of the technique here, but creating a space and falling into it correctly usually whips the bad guy off of you, even if there is a big size disparity. And crushes certain precious small bones, which is a bonus.

But the drop step is everywhere. Experienced people don't split wood with just their arms. With every swing they raise their center of gravity and let it fall.
That's another thing. Gravity never gets tired.


Jason Azze said...

I don't disagree with the value of the drop step. I've watched you do it, and you've taught me to do it! But I have to call BS on "Gravity is faster than you." Not by a longshot. You can accelerate a mass (your fist, your shoulder, a brick, whatever) faster than earth gravity can.

I did some searching for numbers to back up my claim. I found this paper, "Biomechanics of the head for Olympic boxer punches to the face" here

They've measured average linear acceleration of a fist (across a bunch of boxer weight classes) at 58Gs if I'm reading Table 1 correctly. That's 58 times greater than acceleration due to Earth's gravity.

But you don't need a paper to prove this to yourself. Imagine yourself on your knees with two identical stones in your hands. Let one drop to the ground using nothing but gravity. Accelerate the other to the ground using using your arm strength (still holding the stone). You can easily get your stone to the ground faster than the earth's gravity can.

So the drop step adds to speed, yes. Removes telegraphing, yes. Puts the mass of your body behind your weapon of choice, yes. But you're still faster than gravity alone.

Michelle said...

I always assumed Rory was referring to gravity working instantly, with no lag due to reaction time or nerve impulse travel time. As in, gravity being faster just means it activates more quickly than any muscle action, even when the muscle action results in a larger acceleration.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Rory! Yes, I agree that the "drop-step" is a great striking move. And thank you for emphasizing, "the drop step", in your classes. I enjoy reading your blog. I also enjoy reading your wife's blog (Kamilla Miller - "Jestablog"), as well. You know what they say: "Behind every good man, is a wife that will most certainly kick his butt..." :) Rory, I have learned much from your classes. But I have also learned much from what you have subconsciously taught, as well. Hope to see you in the New Year! :) - Azar Hassan :)

Jason Azze said...

The 58G acceleration I cited above was for the "head" being struck. I thought that number seemed high. It looks like the fists were accelerated at only a couple of Gs.

Rory said...

Jason- Thanks for calling bullshit. Keeps me on track. And I agree that hands are faster than faster than falling. that's why we can catch things we drop. I want to say moving CoG is faster by drop (otherwise the world record for the 100m would be better than 4sec) but even that's not accurate, the first half second or less is what counts. But it is free speed, and adds to any muscle speed you use. Is there a better way to say that trying to control it costs you speed?
Michelle, yes, but... One of the challenges with teaching drop step is getting people over the idea that they can control it and make it better. I let that become more important than being ruthlessly honest. Mea culpa.
Azar- Hope to see you too. I'll be back in Ontario in May. First get-together after knee surgery.

Anonymous said...

OK, Rory, see you when you come to Ontario this May! :)
- Azar Hassan

Anonymous said...

P.S. Hope your knee surgery goes well! :)
- Azar Hassan