Fighting Erect, by Stephen Johnson
My back is very tight today, tight enough that I can already see I'm going to be popping Naproxen and lying down on the floor in my office periodically to try to get it to loosen up. It's been over a year since I've had it spasm enough that I have had to pull my legs in with my hands when getting into my car, and I am glad to say that I don't think it's that bad. It's just tight enough that I can feel it even when I sit and there is no position that feels "right".
The strange thing is, I had fight practice last night and I actually had a pretty damn good night. I won the grand melee twice, beat some really good fighters - both young and old - and ran around like a maniac during some dot-the-i, cross-the-T drills.
When I headed to practice last night, my back was already achey. I went anyways, of course, and don't regret it one bit.
I noticed early on that I wasn't able to lean forwards easily when I was warming up. My stance when my back is acting up tends to become much, much better.
I fight erect.
By that, of course, I mean that I don't lean forwards. I don't have much of any mobility at the waist because if I overextend in a lunge and wind up leaning forwards too far, I risk really tweaking my lower back and having it spasm on me. That would mean having to lie down for a bit, or worse - having to skip the gym for more than a day, or having to skip the next week's practice.
I definitely think I'm a better fighter when I can lean a bit and add more movement to my fighting style. Any experienced fighter knows that an extra inch can mean the difference between a hit and a miss, and the ability to lean forwards can give you that extra inch. It's frustrating as hell that on some nights I just can't pull that off.
I think it's fascinating that my style has adapted to my injury and that I'm still able to be competitive. The funny thing is, when my back is tight and I'm "fighting erect" I think I get hit in the head less and I probably have better form. Leaning puts your head into range and is something I've long taught young fighters to avoid.
I used to ask young fighters to tell me what they would see in their mind when they pictured a Buddha. They would invariably say he was smiling but they would usually recognize that he has a big ol' belly. When you push your belly fowards, your shoulders stay back. Fighting like that will keep your shoulders and head over your hips and if you try to lunge while pushing your stomach forwards, you will wind up with remarkably good form. I would call it "happy Buddha" style in the hopes that an odd name would help it to stick in their minds.
When my back is tweaking out on me, I'm not generally very happy. It hurts or is at least distractingly uncomfortable, and keeps me from fighting to the best of my ability. I wouldn't pretend to have it as bad as other well-known (and better) fighters who also struggle with and fight through back problems, but I definitely have bad days with plenty of discomfort if not outright pain. It isn't fun and I wouldn't recommend it to a friend.
That said, I suspect that in the long run I'll be better served by continuing to call the style "happy Buddha" instead of "fighting erect".
I'm 44 and don't know how many good years of fighting I've got left in the tank, but I'm definitely at the stage of my Realms career where the last thing I really want to do is get known as "that dirty old man". Therefore, I will continue to use "happy Buddha" to remind myself and my trainees to keep their shoulders over their hips and not lean when they don't really need to.
You should too... it's a good reminder to keep your head back out of the way of those pesky head-shots that can end a fight practically before it's begun.
Yeah... but in my head? I'll be "fighting erect", baby.