Saturday, December 28, 2013

Tool Wrangler

I was partnered with a guy at the gym the other day who was having a hell of a time working out how to hit a tire with a sledgehammer. He had no point of reference as to how to even start, and obviously no previous experience with tools or how to wield heavy objects without getting himself in trouble.

I tried to give him a visual mirror to copy, breaking down the move, but the 45 second time interval was too short and he couldn't get the hang of it, so the coach took him aside to practice by himself.

Now I understand how hard it is to learn a new physical skill, it's taken me quite a bit of practice as an adult to be able to throw a ball well (yes, I throw like a girl. OK threw like a girl, through lack of experience doing it as a kid), but there's another problem, some of the folks at the gym who can do the movement pretty accurately (and by that I mean that their body mechanics are good and they are not hurting themselves) would be useless on a construction site because they are purely doing the move, not using the tool for what it's FOR - i.e breaking things.

Their motion is contained, gentle, and balanced, in the same way that you see most Tai Ji practitioners do the strikes and kicks in their form, no force potential whatsoever, and what I mean by that is that if they actually made hard contact with something, it would be them that would fall over, with no effect on the thing they struck.

So I propose that a great addition to a martial arts curriculum or to a 'functional' gym workout would be to do some demolition. Not mindless thrashing, but the way the construction industry does it when they want to take out certain elements of a structure, save some of what they take out, and leave other parts intact.

Demolition with hand tools would be a wonderful way to learn the about the mechanical advantage of levers, heavy weights and gravity, alongside accuracy, physiology, efficiency and safety.

You would also get to break things using your own power - which is enormously satisfying - and as an added bonus, the accuracy part and the safety part would demand intent, calibration to the task, and the ability to adjust and adapt in a dangerous environment.


Jake said...

I like this idea.

I have a female student for whom power generation is a big issue, and it occurred to me reading this that part of the problem may be that she's never actually learned how to hit something with an intent to break it. She's got the mechanics, but there's something missing.


Maija said...

Yeah - I think we are taught as kids not to break things, to be careful, so it's hard to get rid of the conditioning.
Now, I know that breaking boards etc is part of some martial arts, but for some reason that I can't put my finger on, doing it with a tool seems much better. Perhaps because it teaches you how to move with a weighted object that is not 'you', so the manipulation and recycle become important, or perhaps it is because you can use as much power as you have without fear of injuring your hands/feet ...? Not sure, but I love the sledge hammer or a mattock/maddox. You can swing it overhand of course like an axe, you can swing it underhand like a croquet mallet, use it like a pool cue in any direction 9throwing the heavy end away from you), and on ....
Another great tool which I found really helps you understand how to use your weight as power is a rebar cutter - that would be an easy addition to a gym :-)

Jake said...

I hadn't considered the "don't break things" as much as just the "I've never deliberately TRIED to break something." Makes sense though.

Board breaking, etc. never really clicked with me either. I did it a few times, but it struck me as a parlor trick, even when I was doing it. The whole act felt...dishonest. That's a personal judgment, of course, but I couldn't shake it.

A rebar cutter you say...hmmm...

Scott said...

Breaking down a chicken is a good way to learn about small joints.
Don't forget that we used to put prisoners in the rock quarry. Skill with an axe is pretty great too. Michael Jordan when asked about why he did so much weird stuff with his tongue explained that he learned it from his father who always did that when he chopped wood.
I've always thought demolition would be a good way to start the day. I don't think I could ever be with someone who couldn't wield a sledge.