Experience with Escape Your Fighting Stance

Discussion in 'Flexibility, Mobility, and Movement' started by WhatWouldHulkDo, Apr 27, 2018.

  1. WhatWouldHulkDo

    WhatWouldHulkDo Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Bit of background: I'm inflexible. Have been since puberty, I suppose. There's been various times in my life where I've taken up a regiment of regular static stretching, with mixed results - never really achieved what I would call flexibility. And it's never taken me long to get back to being very inflexible when I stop. Getting back into karate a few year ago has helped, but generally I can't even touch my toes unless I've been stretching pretty regularly for a week or two.

    A month or so ago, with the help of this forum, I discovered that my DL form was causing me lower back pain, and decided that my lack of flexibility was a major contributor to my poor DL form. So, I decided to prioritize improving flexibility for a while. The end goal is really to injury-proof myself better.

    I've read Flexible Steel and liked the concepts, so I took up doing the "escape your fighting stance" sequence, along with KB good mornings. Today marks the end of week 4 of doing the sequence 4x a week. Figured that's a good milestone to put down some thoughts about it.

    First off, it's a time-consuming sequence. It takes me about 40 minutes to get through it all, so it doesn't leave room for a lot of other stuff when you're trying to keep your sessions to an hour.

    Stuff that I notice:
    • I've certainly gotten better at the movements of the sequence.
      • Initially I had a very hard time getting my hip (right side in particular) to the floor in the arm bar, that's coming pretty easy now.
      • Initially the tactical frog sequence was really uncomfortable, and it completely wiped out my hips - on day one, it made me so wobbly that I didn't think I would make it through the goblet squats. I can get a lot deeper into the frog now, though I don't have an objective measurement. And my hips don't feel so tired afterwards.
      • Have improved the depth in the kneeling lunch.
    • My standing toe touch is as good as it's ever been - which is still not all that good. I can get my second knuckle to the ground fairly easily, and can get the first knuckle to the ground if I work at it for a bit.
    • I think mission accomplished on improving my DL form - a little more hamstring flexibility is helping me get my knees out of the way, no back pain for the last couple weeks.
    • Interestingly, doesn't feel like my seated toe touch has improved much.
    • Haven't noticed a benefit in karate, but my training there has been spotty over the last month - really need things to get normal again before passing judgement.
    • The goblet squat in my S&S warmup feels easier, particularly with the 40 - that use to stress my upper back a little, I don't feel that anymore. Not sure if that's due to mobility, or just getting stronger.
    • I'm not injury-proof yet. I still appear to be capable of getting hurt.
    What next? I'm enjoying it enough that I'll stick with the 4x a week for another 4 weeks, see where it takes me. I've recently added in KB pullovers, try to improve my overhead mobility too - and I'm experiencing the same kind of initial growing pains with that movement right now. Might try to start doing some front splits work if I can find a slot in my schedule.

    I've heard people say that acquiring flexibility is a long journey, but once you have it, it's easier to maintain. Hopefully my interest in the acquiring part holds out long enough to find out.

  2. Geoff Chafe

    Geoff Chafe Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Bauer, Michael Scott and ali like this.
  3. North Coast Miller

    North Coast Miller More than 2500 posts

    @ WhatWouldHulkDo,
    Good to hear you've made progress on this - reading your training log that back pain has been persistently dogging you for quite some time.
  4. WhatWouldHulkDo

    WhatWouldHulkDo Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Thanks @North Coast Miller . There's certainly few things as motivating as "I don't ever want to feel like this again".
    North Coast Miller likes this.
  5. WhatWouldHulkDo

    WhatWouldHulkDo Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Update at 8 weeks:
    • Continued improvement in the movements themselves
      • Have progressed from rib pulls to the brettzel. Still can't come close to getting the opposite shoulder to the ground, but starting out I didn't have enough spine mobility to reach for the foot - some definite improvement there.
      • Upped the arm bar weight to the 20k, feels very stable.
      • When I started doing the frog, I had to point my toes to the back. More recently I've been able to turn them to the outside, and start working on trying to get the inner ankle to the floor. I can get all the way on the right, but the left is a problem. Working on this seems to have slowed my progress on getting deeper into the position (it hurts!), but I think getting comfortable there will be good for my kicking.
    • Between the arm bars and pullovers, my shoulders have been feeling very good. I think this is being reflected in more stability with the TGUs - the 40 has been feeling lighter and lighter there.
    • Standing toe touch continues to improve. It doesn't take much work to be able to get the first knuckle to the ground, but getting palms down still feels like it's a long ways away. Might be related to the next issue...
    • As before, no real improvement to seated toe touch. As I look at it now, that might not be a surprise - the EYFS sequence is about getting into extension, and a seated toe touch can't really be considered extension. But I initially expected some carryover from the good mornings. However, as I've continue to read the internets about flexibility, I'm coming to the conclusion that any work I've ever done in the past to try to improve my seated toe touch has really been putting the stretch into my back rather than hamstrings. And I believe I have a blockage at the hips - right now, in the seated toe touch, if I really focus on keeping my back straight, then I can't actually rotate far enough forward to stretch my hamstring much at all, I'm blocked at the hip. That doesn't seem to happen when I'm standing, not sure why. But I think the same blockage is preventing me from improving on my kicking, particularly the roundhouse. So, I'm adding a loaded "pancake" to my mobility sessions; seated straddle, put a light weight on my back, and rock gently back and forth at the hips.
    • Have been occasionally doing some work trying to get into a front split, though I haven't been logging that well. I use yoga blocks to support myself, and I'm probably 12 inches or so from the floor at this point. But at the same time, the position feels like, if I could get my hips to release, I could eventually get down there. Certainly haven't felt like a split was ever possible before, so that's encouraging.
    I'm shuffling up my training schedule to make room for some more endurance work, so for the next few weeks I'll only be dedicating 3 sessions per week to EYFS. But, will keep at it, and see where it gets me in another 4 weeks.
  6. WhatWouldHulkDo

    WhatWouldHulkDo Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    For posterity's sake, here's what a really inflexible guy trying to get into a pancake looks like:

    Hopefully show some progress in a month or two.
    Michael Scott likes this.
  7. Anna C

    Anna C More than 5000 posts Elite Certified Instructor

    Try easing into it less than that, not bouncing, and breathing slowly and deeply. On the inhale, elongate your spine up. On the exhale, move a centimeter or two forward. Wait out the tension. Give it a long 3-4 minutes, at least.
    offwidth and Shahaf Levin like this.
  8. WhatWouldHulkDo

    WhatWouldHulkDo Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    I've been debating with myself on how to approach this movement. I've read Relax in Stretch, and tried the approach here and there, but when I've tried it with this movement in particular, it feels like my back relaxes (sort of) instead of the hips, which I think puts me in a bad position - it gets painful in what seems to me to be the wrong spots. I'm not clear how to try to let the hips relax but keep tension in the spine - is that what you imagine should happen, or am I thinking about it wrong?

    One of the things I've enjoyed most about EYFS is that it's all movements, as opposed to just sitting and waiting - psychologically, I feel like I'm accomplishing something, making something stronger, like a training session. That's how I arrived at what I'm trying now - it at least feels like I'm working on pulling at hip, attacking a perceived weakness.

    Appreciate your insights.
    Michael Scott likes this.
  9. Anna C

    Anna C More than 5000 posts Elite Certified Instructor

    Well I'm only slightly familiar with Flexible Steel in general and EYFS in particular, so I may not be the best person to answer. But I'll give you my thoughts.

    I just had the thought that a bouncing movement like that generally has no effect (or if anything, a negative effect) on a muscle's tendency to let go of its residual tension, which is what you are trying to do. You have to relax into stretch.

    Keep the spine tall (energized) and gain all of your centemeters foward by tipping the pelvis forward, or in other words, tipping forward at the hips. Don't try to gain any ground by bending forward.

    Tighening the quads and then relaxing them can also have a relaxing effect on the hamstrings. So, again, use the breath -- inhale while elongating the spine upward and tightening the quads, exhale while relaxing all the muscles in the legs and tipping the hips forward.

    The breath is key! Breath deeply and diaphragmatically... this tells your body it's OK to relax.

    "pulling" and "attacking" are both working against the objective, which is to relax into stretch. Breathe, relax, and let the muscles dictate how freely they will let you move into it.
    Lee and offwidth like this.
  10. Kiacek

    Kiacek More than 500 posts

    Hey, just a couple thoughts that may help...
    -in straddle it's extremely helpful to reach for the walls through your heels throughout the stretch and relax your torso (if you can't relax your torso in straddle you've gone to wide or you don't have the flexibility to do straddle flat on the floor and need to throw a couple books under your butt to lessen the pull on the hamstrings)

    -while in straddle spending a little time turning your hips to face each leg alternatively

    -rotating your legs in straddle (focus on rotation by pointing kneecaps at each other and then away from each other, it's to easy to miss hip rotation if you pay attention to your feet)

    -when you do lean forward (without flexing your back) rotate your legs again in this position. Then practice rotating your hips to face each leg at this leaned position.

    Also, as for hamstring flexibility that you can feel in everyday life this drill from Gray Cook is golden...
    One way to do it is the following
    -lie on your back and raise one leg (leg straight knee locked) perpendicular to the floor (or as close as you can get it)
    -raise and lower 5 times
    -in raised position rotate the leg 10 times
    -lower and then raise 3 times
    -in the raised position make 5 circles each way with the leg
    -lower and reraise
    -in the raised position point and flex your foot 10 times
    -lower and raise 2 times
    Repeat on other leg

    This drill will often address the true reason your hips won't open up, but it feels much more like work than normal stretching.
    It's one of the best drills I've come across for hip flexion.
  11. WhatWouldHulkDo

    WhatWouldHulkDo Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Thanks @Kiacek ,this sounds like interesting stuff, will give it a try
    Kiacek likes this.
  12. WhatWouldHulkDo

    WhatWouldHulkDo Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Check-in at 12 weeks

    • Down to 3x a week with the sequence now, but that seems to be plenty to keep improving
    • Progress in the movements
      • Upped the weight to the 20k for good mornings, pullovers, arm bars & GSQT. Particularly thinking about how stressful the pullovers felt with the 16k when I first started doing them, this is encouraging.
      • I've been looking at how to progress further in the arm bar, since I don't think more weight is the answer right now. Looking at a few videos (links below) of people who know what they're doing, I notice that they're able to get their head off of their opposite shoulder, down to the floor. I'm stuck solidly on top of my shoulder - will start working on moving my head.

      • Hindu pushups are getting easier. When I first started, had to throw in just a pump a lot of times, now always doing the pushup. There's an interesting phenomenon where something is extra tight in the bottom of my right foot during the very first rep, but loosens up immediately. Kinda feels like a tendon starts off in the wrong place, and immediately moves where it's supposed to go.
      • Particularly with the brettzel and frog, I notice that the first round through tends to have a lot less range than the second - it takes the first round to shake the rust off. I'm trying to put some focus on pushing the first round. Ideal (unrealistic?) world, I'd like to just wake up feeling as mobile as I feel after the second round.
      • I'm doing the kneeling lunge with a 20# KB, and still don't feel like I have the shoulder mobility to lock all the way out in that position. Trying to focus a bit on that.
      • As I'm increasing weights and trying to push depth further, I'm finding that sometimes I need some additional recovery. Particularly since upping to the 20k, my hips sometimes feel completely wiped out after the frog & GSQT. I'm used to thinking about mobility work as recovery, so it's humbling. Hoping that in another 4 weeks I'll have developed a better tolerance.
    • I feel like I've been hitting the volleyball better lately. No so much that I'm hitting it harder, but I feel like I can get a hard hit even with some poor sets now. Might be an expression of better shoulder mobility.
    • TGU continues to benefit from the shoulder work as well - I feel about ready to try some with the beast.
    • Doing DL 2x a week now, without back pain.
    • Noticed in karate over the last couple weeks that my front snap kick has improved - good height and snap. But my roundhouse is definitely still getting pinched by my hip mobility.
    • Standing toe touch has stagnated a little - still can get first knuckle down, but it takes a little work, and palms are a ways away.
    • I've temporarily abandoned work on front split to instead focus on pancake. I'm still doing the rocking stretch I described at last update at the end of my EYFS sessions, but per @Anna C advice I've started trying to do some RIS-style pancakes after some of my evening sessions. But I find that I can't get forward enough to accomplish anything unless I have something in front of me to grab on to (a heavy kettlebell), even if I'm sitting on a yoga block to get some elevation. Between the two, it feels like I'm making some progress, though it's slow going. I'm figuring, I will replace the rocking with the drill @Kiacek described, continue some RIS work, and hope that in 4 weeks I don't need the crutch of grabbing on to something.
    Motivation remains high for this mobility stuff, will keep up for another 4 weeks.
    Michael Perry, Bret S. and Kiacek like this.
  13. WhatWouldHulkDo

    WhatWouldHulkDo Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Week 16 in the books.
    • Seem to have stagnated a little on hamstring flexibility. Still feel like I'm getting something out of the good mornings, but thinking I need to add a regiment of some static stretching to get past the plateau that I'm at.
    • Pullovers feeling very good - I'm looking for way to advance. I don't want to go more weight, looking at if I can elevate my back some to allow a little more backward reach. Still doing some research on this.
    • I love brettzels. Still a ways from getting that shoulder to the ground, but it just feels good now, and getting a good quad stretch out of it.
    • Have been working on getting the head down in the arm bar. Just today, I was able to touch my forehead to the ground on the right side. Can't do it on the left. But that feels like progress.
    • I need to get more spine mobility out of the hindu pushups. For the next few weeks, going to transition that into a harder cobra pose.
    • I'm finding that as I continue to press the frog harder, it's starting to require some recovery. I've had several days where, after a good session, I continue to feel the fatigue in the hips until late into the day. Hard to know if it's really a result of pushing the mobility further, or maybe if its the max strength training I took up over the last 6 weeks. Either way, I may need to start budgeting some recovery time to mobility work.
    • GSQT keep feeling easier and easier - not just in EYFS, in my S&S sessions as well. And real world example; I can drop into the squat to catch when my daughter is pitching softball, no pain/discomfort - I can sit there for a while. All good stuff. I keep hoping that will eventually translate into some ability in the pistol squat, but it ain't there yet.
    • Did my first TGU with the beast. At one point during the second rep, the bell started to rotate on me - very dangerous. Had to stop the movement, lock the shoulder, and turn it back into position. Thank you, arm bars.
    • Progress on pancake stretch has been very limited. I always feels like my groin has to fight against my hips, not convinced that's a good thing. I can lean forward enough to find that feeling without having to grab something, so I suppose that's progress.
    • I've start to learn how to throw the javelin. The backward-C position you want to hit ahead of the throw is pretty much a brettzel. Applied mobility.
    • The Cook drill @Kiacek suggested has shown me a couple of things:
      • My ability to rotate my hip outward is pathetic. There's some work on this in EYFS as well, going to try to hit that harder.
      • My strength endurance in my hips is similarly pathetic. My hips are not strong enough to hold these chunky legs up. Hence, I am still not able to apply much of this to my kicking in karate.
    So, my mindset at the moment:
    • My level of flexibility in the hamstrings/hips is unacceptable for someone who wants to get their black belt. And I think EYFS, while it incorporates some aspects that I sorely need, is not the way to get to where I need to be in this respect. I think I need to start incorporating a static stretching regiment that complements some of the things EYFS does not address.
    • I do think that EYFS is doing good things for my ability to throw stuff far, another of my long list of goals. And it has been great for my shoulders.
    • Need to do a lot more leg raises. I suspect that a lot of my hip mobility issues stem from poor hip strength to leg weight ratio.
    I need to do some program planning, so I'm not completely sure where I'm going at the moment. I will be doing a minimum of 2 EYFS sessions per week for the next 4 weeks, but I'm not sure if I'll get 3.
    Michael Scott, Bret S. and Kiacek like this.
  14. Kiacek

    Kiacek More than 500 posts

    Congratulations on all the progress you've made!
  15. WhatWouldHulkDo

    WhatWouldHulkDo Quadruple-Digit Post Count

  16. Michael Scott

    Michael Scott Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Yes, congratulations indeed......I am envious. I may have to start working harder on my flexibility, of which there is not much. I am happy when I can almost touch the top of my foot, below mid-shin.

    As for upper body mobility, @Anna C shared some really good T-Spine Mobility videos, about a year or so ago, that really helped me loosen up the upper body. They should be in her log, somewhere. The three exercises she demonstrated loosened me up, and I still practice them about once a week or so.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2018
  17. Anna C

    Anna C More than 5000 posts Elite Certified Instructor

    Here's the video, made for a student in my office... not so good quality, but shows the 3-way T-spine mobility referenced by @Michael Scott ... I learned these from Master SFG Karen Smith.
    Michael Scott likes this.
  18. Michael Scott

    Michael Scott Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Yes ma'am, that is the video I was referring to, that has done a lot of good work for me. Thank you for sharing it again!

    Anna C likes this.
  19. WhatWouldHulkDo

    WhatWouldHulkDo Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    @Anna C , are you a brettzel practicioner?

    One of the EYFS steps is rocking in and out of the brettzel - which, between that and the arm bars, I think aligns with the first two movements in your video. The third movement, with the circle at the shoulder, is something I haven't seen before, interesting.
  20. WhatWouldHulkDo

    WhatWouldHulkDo Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    My advice would be to dedicate a session or two a week to it. I've come to the conclusion that for a lot of us, mobility/flexibility isn't something you can just throw in as a 10 minute afterthought after your regular sessions. It takes some serious time to make progress.
    Michael Scott likes this.

Share This Page