Sunday, 3 April 2016

You Might As Well Jump!

As I mentioned in a recent post, jumping is something that has occupied my mind recently.
While I was writing the bayonet (or rather, bayonetless!) sections of Crash Combat I came across suggestions that a soldier should jump to change facing, or even to move around. If terrain is uneven jumping has obvious advantages over the shuffle step often suggested for martial arts or bayonet training.
Joseph Wayne Smith’s book on Wing chun notes that jumping up and jumping down from heights is a good exercise for a martial artist. He doesn’t make the logical leap that jumping may be part of the solution to some of the deficiencies in manoeuvre that he identifies.
Other than some rather cinematic techniques such as flying kicks jumping is something that many martial arts overlook.
In Viktor Suvorov’s book “Spetsnaz” he relates how spetsnaz puts great emphasis on a soldiers legs and jumping ability.

“And there is good reason why the training of a spetsnaz soldier starts with the training of his legs. A man is as strong and young as his legs are strong and young. If a man has a sloppy way of walking and if he drags his feet along the ground, that means he himself is weak. On the other hand, a dancing, springy gait is a sure sign of physical and mental health. Spetsnaz soldiers are often dressed up in the uniform of other branches of the services and stationed in the same military camps as other especially secret units, usually with communications troops. But one doesn't need any special experience to pick out the spetsnaz man from the crowd. You can tell him by the way he walks....I shall never forget one soldier who was known as `The Spring'. He was not very tall, slightly stooping and round-shouldered. But his feet were never still. He kept dancing about the whole time. He gave the impression of being restrained only by some invisible string, and if the string were cut the soldier would go on jumping, running and dancing and never stop. The military commissariat whose job it was to select the young soldiers and sort them out paid no attention to him and he fetched up in an army missile brigade.... The officer commanding the spetsnaz company noticed the soldier in the missile unit who kept dancing about all the time he was standing in the queue for his soup....”
This energetic soldier was there and then immediately recruited into spetsnaz.

“The long jump with no run has been undeservedly forgotten and is no longer included in the programme of official competitions. When it was included in the Olympic Games the record set in 1908, was 3 metres 33 centimetres. As an athletic skill the long jump without a run is the most reliable indication of the strength of a person's legs. And the strength of his legs is a reliable indicator of the whole physical condition of a soldier. Practically half a person's muscles are to be found in his legs. Spetsnaz devotes colossal attention to developing the legs of its men, using many simple but very effective exercises: running upstairs, jumping with ankles tied together up a few steps and down again, running up steep sandy slopes, jumping down from a great height, leaping from moving cars and trains, knee-bending with a barbell on the shoulders, and of course the jump from a spot..... At the end of the 1970s the spetsnaz record in this exercise, which has not been recognised by the official sports authorities, was 3 metres 51 centimetres.”

Where I work is a popular area for parkour training. As well as the more spectacular techniques I also observe apparently more mundane drills such as jumping from post to post.
Parkour itself has been described as a non-contact martial art. As originally conceived it placed considerable emphasis on self-discipline and humility. That is something a number of sportsman and modern martial artists would be advised to emulate. Like many martial arts parkour is in danger of having its core values diluted by pressure to create a sporting, competitive form
Parkour has a number of things that the modern martial artist can learn from.
A fate would have it a movie featuring parkour/freerunning was on the other night. The athleticism and coordination was impressive as always, but I was also struck by the realization that the techniques themselves were relatively simple.
I noticed that two landing techniques were often used. One was obviously an adaption of the parachute landing fall. As owners of my first book or Crash Combat will know, I include this technique alongside more traditional breakfall techniques. It use in parkour is logical. The second technique commonly used was the shoulder roll variant of the forward breakfall. Some websites on parkour have some nice sections on how to perform this technique. If the forward breakfall is something you need to improve you could do worse than have a look at how the parkour community learns and practices it. They are making it work for 20 foot jumps down onto concrete, after all!

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