One of the main aims of martial arts training is to enable a smaller opponent to beat a larger opponent through the use of technique and skill. This is obviously composed of a number of factors: Placement, timing, experience, speed, and efficient technique. One of the most important though is leverage. Give me a lever and I can move the World Archimedes is supposed to have said. The original concept of Kano’s Judo system was just this; that a clever technically competent player could throw a much bigger man. The greatest embodiment of this was Mifune who had one of the softest styles, yet could throw you as you were throwing him. Mifune went with the flow and used leverage to the maximum. A slight man he couldn’t fight his opponents using strength but had to use their strength against them. Helio Gracie the leader of the Gracie Jiu-jitsu family as we all know was also a very slight man. Everyone I’ve spoken to who grappled with him said he just used leverage to the maximum. Setting his body so you couldn’t crush him and using the stronger parts of his body in unison against weaker parts of yours. Both these men embodied the true martial arts way. Sparring and training against all comers until a very old age. Wisdom and leverage are a potent component.
Lauding leverage as I am doesn’t mean that strength isn’t to be sought after and used. It’s great to have strength and conditioning but these are easier for everyone else to also attain. The downside is it requires hard training and lasts only as long as you keep up the conditioning and strength programme. Training with strong people you realise that they don’t use half of their potential because generally they can power their way against less strong or less big opponents. I’ve been working with a number of large strong opponents lately and we’ve been sharing our experience. They’ve blasted through some of my tricks and I’ve been showing them how they can be stronger and make their techniques more painful by just focusing on improving the leverage of their techniques.
Initially this can just be making the lever arm of the technique longer. Think of an arm bar where you’re grabbing the wrist then move it up an inch or so towards the hand and you’ve almost doubled the force. Similarly use the whole of your body to put on locks not your arms. Standing arm wrenches and arm bars are much more effective when you rotate the whole body and on the ground using the hips and legs to do the work rather than the arms turns you into a superman. Even hitting or kicking I see people just hitting with their arms or legs and not their body as a unit plus not using gravity to help. Think of gravity as free bonus leverage points
There’s also lots you can do by hitting at the leverage sweet spot where you get the most power. (Think of a tennis player on his serve and you’ll know the sort of place) Distance makes a big difference as your lever arm is longer as does bringing more levers to bear on the problem. When using arm bars it’s also important to use the fulcrum well. Many people have a sort of blurred fulcrum using all of their chest to do a two on one instead of focusing your power on his joint by rotating and making the shoulder a sharp fulcrum. Where you put the fulcrum in relation to his joint is also hugely important. Do it in the wrong place and he can counter or power out of it. Do it right and it’s like turning on an electric light it’s so fast, and painful too.
You can see that it’s not more technique that’s important but understanding how to get the most out of what your doing. Above all look at, and polish, everything you do to see if you can make your levers more effective. If you have to work hard or use lots of effort thats not it. Feel the grain in the wood and go with that, not against it. Going with the flow is leverage in another way. You’re leveraging the moment. This approach makes training very Zen like. Is this easy? No but that’s the art.
Sometimes you have to have it done on you or be shown the way to appreciate how great it is when done well, but once shown you have to do your own research. When you can, use leverage principles in other areas of your life. Where can you get the most for the least effort? Above all don’t beat yourself up about any of this the most important thing is to enjoy your training and enjoy it’s ebb and flow. Like all arts, it only takes a lifetime!