Flow or Structure… or both? – Terry Trahan

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Mobility vs. Structure; Power vs. Flow

I have been noticing recently a seeming debate in the martial arts world. Like everything presented in an argument, it is put forward as a binary choice, either choice A or choice B, left or right, etc… In this case it is related to the title topic. Like most things in life, it is not so black or white.

For the sake of my little discussion here, the argument put forth looks to me like structure and power go together and mobility and flow goes together, and they never meet, mingle and have offspring. Now, for a good explanation of mobility and flow, I would refer you to the article on the KSMA blog authored by Bobbe Edmonds. Bar none, Bobbe has the ability to flow like no one else, so his article comes from a place of deep knowledge and I happen to agree with what he wrote.

From what I can understand there seems to be a meme floating around that states that if you have flow, you don’t have power. IMO, this usually comes in the beginning stages of training in a flow based art like silat or kali. What I think is that you have to immerse yourself in the study of flow deeply, almost to the exclusion of any other aspect of martial arts, due to the foreign nature of moving this way to the western body and mind. When you have such a concentration in a way of moving, it is highly possible to lose sight of how what you are training fits with all the other components of the art you are studying. When you are mobile and flow, you are moving your body. When you move your body efficiently, you have structure. When all these are combined you generate great power.

I mean, face it, when you are moving your body, that is the strongest you get. When you flow, you are moving effortlessly and efficiently, and are able to deliver all that body weight in to your target with very little interference in the chain of movement thus depositing a very strong shot into your opponent. It all works together to make your hit the best it can be.

In the beginning of training you have to isolate the motions and methods to train them to the best you can. After proper training, it seems effortless. Now there is a school of thought that teaches power up front, and I happen to teach in a manner that somewhat mimics this. This school says that it is all power and structure all the time and flow doesn’t work except in training. For some people this may be true, and in the beginning of training, power does seem to trump the other aspects.

When you train all the aspects, and then start to integrate them, it becomes a compound that is stronger than its constituent parts. We do not need to promote one over the other, or proclaim one is wrong, along with the people teaching the way opposed to ours.

A quick example of what I am talking about. When you watch any of the Dog Brothers fights you see amazing amounts of power and crushing hits. I also see an incredible amount of mobility and flow in getting to the point of being able to deliver those hits. Both are working together to do the job needed, and that is what we all should do. I started in power and structure based fighting, due to my outlook and physicality. I was later introduced to flow and didn’t appreciate it as I should have. Then I was shown how they integrate and I wouldn’t go back. Flow is simply moving your body to where it will do the best job it can while making your opponents job all the more difficult. It is not an exclusive either or choice, you need all of them to fight in the most efficient manner possible, which increases your ability to survive the encounter. So, look into it all, train it, and become better.

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