Trust Your Core


I don’t know if this has ever happened for any of you, dear readers, but there have been times when I’m going about my day to day and something will be said, something massively profound, and I’ll stop and think, there’s a lesson in that. Has that happened to you?

The other day, at Muay Thai, our class had a substitute instructor. Since the class was small that day, and the instructor was unaccustomed to working with several people at once (his speciality is one-on-one training), we were given a lot of space to free style. This afforded me the opportunity to work on some of the areas that I struggle in. 

The area I chose to hone was my switch kick. Just a little catch-up here. In the martial sports, there is a specific stance you must assume in order to effect maximum ease and fluidity of movement as well as channeling of body force. 

The inimitable Bruce Lee said it this way:

The arms and kicking leg are important only because they are the vehicles of body force. They, the tools, only give expression to body force when the body is in proper alignment. The position of the hands and arms and of the legs and feet that facilitate easy body expression is important.

Since I am a righty, I stand with my legs shoulder width apart, my left foot forward and my right foot behind me, keeping my pelvis tucked and my weight balanced. From this position, I’m able to throw my rear kick (which is with my right leg) and achieve maximum impact.

The switch kick is when I switch my stance, bringing my left leg behind me and my right forward. This movement is very quick. After the foot positions change, I kick with my left leg. The strike is never as strong with my switch kick as it is with my rear kick. 

Of course, there are many factors that contribute to this. I am dominant on my right side; therefore, my right hip flexor is more open allowing for more rotation. I also balance more easily when I kick from my right side. 

The switch kick is difficult for me. (My sub instructor assured me that all newbies struggle with their switch kicks, which was a nice thing for him to say, but still didn’t make me feel better about my performance.) My left hip flexor is not as open, so the necessary rotation feels awkward. The only way I can describe it is that it feels tight. 

So, in free style, I thought I’d work on it. However, I kept making the same mistakes. I didn’t have the balance necessary. I kept tilting. And, I knew my shin wasn’t landing as it was supposed to. And, the strike was embarrassing. Mercifully, my instructor noticed my mounting frustration and stepped in. 

Firstly, I was standing too close to the bag, which meant that I couldn’t get the necessary rotation in my body in order to open up my hip flexor. Secondly, I wasn’t rotating enough (see the firstly for why). Thirdly, I needed to lean more when I was throwing my kick in order to balance my body when my left leg was in the air.

Amending these things, I did do a better switch kick. My instructor stood there and watched me throw several before he stepped in again and gave me one piece of advice. 

Trust your core, lean, and the kick will follow. 

I wasn’t trusting my core enough when I leaned to help me maintain balance. I was leaning, sure, but I wasn’t leaning enough. But, when I engaged my core, I was strong enough to lean further than I thought I could and, of course as the instructor predicted, my kick followed. 

Trust your core. 

Those are profound words, arching over into far more arenas of life than just Muay Thai. 

What is the core? 

According to the OED, the core is the innermost part, very centre, or ‘heart.’ In this context, it’s used in a figurative sense, denoting the central nucleus as the seat of strength or resistance. The core is the seat of strength, and from this seat of strength, I can affect a stronghold to resist what comes against me. 

Your core is massively important. It’s the starting point. If it’s weak, you aren’t fit for the fight. You can get the stance right, but if your core isn’t strong, you won’t be able to punch, kick, or move in the manner necessary to dominate your opponent. In essence, you’re gonna get taken down. 

Do you remember when I wrote about getting aggressive? (See post here if you don’t.) I was talking about pursuing your dreams and being aggressive in doing so. I exhorted you (and myself) to make a stand and remain steadfast in that stand. Notice anything interesting about that verbiage? 

Make a stand. Stand. See how close that is to stance? If I want to stand and remain steadfast thereof, I need to make sure my stance is right. I can’t just stand there all lackadaisical. I have to engage. I mean, I’m aggressively holding ground. I’ve marked territory in my land of dreams and I’m not giving fear or doubt or insecurity an inch.  I’ve got to get in fighting stance. I’ve got to position myself thusly to make certain that I don’t get blown over by every wind that buffets me as I press into uncharted territory. 

What does my core have to do with this? 

When it comes to your dreams, your core is paramount. In this context, your core translates to the heart of who you are, the reason you tick. Your core is your why. When you know your why, you know where you are headed. From this solid spring board, you can launch boldly into pursuit of your dreams. 

Trust your core. Engage it. Marshal your stance thusly. From this position, you can strike down doubts and fears. Insecurities run in the face of such bulldog tenacity. 

You’ve heard of bulldog tenacity, right? Did you know bulldogs were bred for combat? They were bred for the specific purpose to be placed in a bullring and square off against a bull. Have you seen the size difference between a bull and a bulldog? It’s quite disproportionate and not in the bulldog’s favor. However, a bulldog is a mass of muscle. It’s compact, with a girth that is often as wide as its height. His core is solid muscle, and because of this, he is able to subdue a behemoth more than four times his size. And how does he subdue the beast? Through bullbaiting, he lures the bull to him and attacks the throat, biting down hard, and maintaining that lock jaw until the bull comes to its knees. He doesn’t give his opponent an inch. And neither should you.

When it comes to holding onto your dreams, be like Zucchini with her string. Lock jaw and hold fast.

When it comes to holding onto your dreams, be like Zucchini with her string. Lock jaw and hold fast.

So, when you’re aggressively standing steadfast, actively chasing your dreams, there’s one thing you most definitely need to do. When you feel discouraged; when you’re not sure you can stand anymore; when you doubt your ability; when the dream looks like something distant, a glimmer in a galaxy far, far away, you must trust your core.  

Work it out. Strengthen it. Remind yourself of your why. Write it down. Put it on a poster. Tape it on your mirror. Keep it continually before you. Filling your vision with your why will keep it strong, and from that seat of strength, you can resist any doubt, insecurity, or fear, no matter how big they seem, that marshal themselves against you. 

Trust your core, dear readers. It’ll help you do things you never thought you could do. It’ll take you further than you thought you could go. Trust it.