Isolate then Integrate

The following is a comment on the blog from Dave Chesser of Formosa Fitness:

Regarding isolation, master physical trainer Paul Chek said it best, “Isolate, then integrate.” This isn’t something you will ever hear from the IMA community unfortunately. The idea is that you isolate the weak parts of the chain until they’re stronger THEN incorporate that new found strength back into the whole body movement …

I have been thinking a lot about the above idea of isolate, then integrate.  In the techie world, there is a similar saying: “A system is only as fast as it’s slowest component”.  In my research about knee pains,  I’ve reading that pains can be a result of an imbalance of strength between the hamstrings and quads.  Did I work on my hamstrings to try and correct this imbalance?  No.  Instead, I focused on the alignment of my knee over the toe.  While focusing on the alignment is not a bad thing, I think I was just too lazy to try and work on my hamstrings.

Dave just wrote a new post that specifically addresses the role of shoulders in Internal Martial Arts (IMA).  His post brings up some topics I mentioned in The Position of Shoulders in Opening the Chest.  Dave describes the situation and offers some exercise videos to address the problems.  I tried doing the shoulder dislocate exercise, and it’s pretty good at increasing the range of motion of the shoudlers.  At first, I was unable to do it holding onto a belt, but after I switched to using an exercise band, things are coming along nicely.  Check out Dave’s post at Opening the shoulders, generating power, improving posture | Formosa Fitness.

For me, P90X is bringing to light a lot of my own weaknesses.  I could definitely lose a few pounds.  Additionally, I know some parts of my body are physically weak and could be kicked up a notch. I don’t have aspirations of becoming a body builder, but I would like to know that I could easily lift my own body weight if need be.

So, what have I been doing with my own time? I am proud to say that I’ve been sticking with the P90X program. In fact, I did the shoulders, triceps and biceps routine on a late Friday evening, because I’m hardcore like that 😉  Note, I normally don’t workout on a Friday eve, as that’s generally dedicated to “chill time” that consists of having a beer while watching a movie with my wife.

However, Saturday was a different story and I didn’t do the Yoga-X workout. The weekend was just too busy with family activities of going to the library, rollerblading, going to a corn maze, etc. I don’t feel so bad as rollerblading gave me a good sweat. I had forgotten how tiring blading can be, especially when you’ve got a 40 lb little dude leaning on you because it was his first time rollerskating!

Has P90X affected my taiji training time? Yes, it has.  I actually haven’t really been doing much of taiji or meditation lately. Previously, taiji and meditation were more of a stress reliever for me.  The P90X physical workouts are pretty good at relieving stress while making me healthier at the same time. I am not giving up on taiji/meditation, they are just taking a back burner for now while I focus on my physical health and well-being.

Whenever I think about physical health and well-being in relation to martial arts, I often think of the following quote:

… Additionally, I would consider the ability to personally maintain a healthy body weight, an excellent state of overall physical fitness, and the ability to apply the Form Postures to self-defense as a soft style internal kung-fu art. In the end, whatever is expressed outwardly….our personal demonstration…is a reflection of what we think and feel inwardly.

Personal Demonstration of Skill


About wujimon

taiji, meditation and health
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10 Responses to Isolate then Integrate

  1. colman fink says:

    I forgot to add in Exercise 2 # 3 that you have to also try to bring your shoulder blades together behind as much as possible. This is important to the exercise.

  2. Matt__A says:

    I've heard good things about the p90x program, it's good to hear that you'll be able to integrate it into your other styles. The isolate and integrate mindset is also something I've used to recognize some of my weaker techniques and aspects of strategy that I utilize.

  3. colman fink says:

    Hmmm. I see my comment did not get posted but my second did. Do you want me to post it again?

  4. colman fink says:

    (Looks like there are still some technical difficulties so I'm posting my first comment again with the correction from my second comment)Here are some exercises that you might find useful. I've been doing these in my Posture Alignment classes for my Tai Chi students.First some terminology just to make sure we're on the same page:dorsiflex the wrist – to put the wrist in extension like this > These are two of some of the exercises that I do to loosen and work the shoulders. Like in Tai Chi, try to keep relaxed at all times which could be hard to do in these shoulder exercises. Exercise 1:1. Bring your arms straight out sideways, palms facing down and on same horizontal plane as your shoulders. From one fingertip to fingertip of the other hand, it should be a straight line across the shoulders. 2. Now turn your forearms at the elbows so that your fingertips point directly to the front and your forearms will now be parallel to each other.3. Keeping your forearms parallel and horizontal, pull your elbows backwards and slightly downwards (4-6 inches) as far as you can go.4. Now dorsiflex your wrists (fingers pointing directly up) as much as you can.5. Hold for a couple of breath cycles or whatever you feel comfortable withExercise 2:1. Point your arms down sideways at an angle of 45 degrees to the vertical like an inverted V2. Shrug your shoulders up (up towards your ears) as high as you can (still maintaining that inverted V)3. Holding that shoulder shrug, rotate your hands as much as you can (looking at your hands, counter-clock for the left and clockwise for the right). Also at the same time, try to roll your shoulder blades behind towards each other.4. Now dorsiflex the wrists as much as you can.5. Hold for a couple of breath cycles or whatever you feel comfortable withExercise 2 is my adaptation of the Yoyer Shrug used by some body builders. Here's a link on it > Guy Voyer is a brilliant French osteopath whom I've been following closely. He has done a lot of research into the fascia of the body.Regarding your knee problem, it could be that your psoas muscles are pulling hips slightly out of alignment hence contributing to pain in the knees. A good indication of this is when you stand up straight naturally, your feet do not point out straight (not parallel to each other) and your hands are not next to your hip joint. This is all due to the pull of the fascia. In fact a lot of times a mis-aligned hip could pull the shoulders out hence contributing to the “Yang disease”. We do other exercises in our Posture Alignment classes to reset the musculoskeletal tension imbalances across the whole body.Keep well,Colman Fink

  5. Dave Chesser says:

    Wuji,Glad you liked it. Hope it helps and that your fitness/fat loss continues to improve. If I can help in any way, let me know.As to your spending more time doing this than taiji, for me the martial fitness has become my martial art. I'm working on many of the same problems as when I was doing pure IMA but now I'm letting the martial fitness take me where I need to go. No forms or baggage about fighting, etc. Mostly just martial conditioning, joint mobility, and power training.

  6. wujimon says:

    Thanks for exercise suggestions, Colman! I just did them both and found them very beneficial! I'm glad you included a link to a picture for dorsiflexing the wrist. When I stand up straight naturally, my toes point outwards a bit. Also, my hands are about 6 inches in front of my hip joints. I tried to stand up straight with feet parallel and hands next to hip joint and can definitely feel the difference. I didn't realize how many issues I had in m shoulders!

  7. wujimon says:

    Hi Dave. I like the idea of “martial fitness”! I will definitely look more into the kettlebell training in the next couple of weeks or so. I already feel much stronger and healthier after just a little more than a week of P90X

  8. wujimon says:

    Hi Colman.Thanks for taking the time to outline some of the exercises! I reallyappreciate it and I'm sure other readers will too! Regarding the knees andfascia, this is a new topic for me and something I will be exploring infuture posts! Thanks for your insights and stay tuned for more info on thiswhole fascia thing 😉

  9. colman fink says:

    Wuji, it's a pleasure. I see @Disqus did fix the technical issue so now there are duplicate postings.Anyhow judging from your description of your posture, it seems like your pelvic girdle is being pulled forward by tight hip flexor muscles of which the psos is one of them. See This results in your feet being everted (pointed out like /) and your shoulders slumping forward resulting in your hands being 6 inches in front of your hip joint. The human body is an amazing piece of machine, it is just making the adjustment to your pelvic issue. I would concentrate on correcting the pelvic alignment first. It is really too much to put in a posting and the the best book for that is In the book the supine groin stretch is one of the exercises that will help tame and stretch the strong hip flexor muscles. Remember any strength exercise that uses the hip flexor muscles could actually make them tighter and stronger hence making your posture worse so you need to balance that out with stretches to elongate the muscles. On youtube you can find many other exercises that will stretch the psoas muscle.I've incorporate many of those stretches from the book in my own personal training to reverse the effects of a lot of hard training and injuries of my early days.I hope this helps you.

  10. Hi,Great article. I am teaching tai Chi on Phuket Island and I found the sentence “Isolate then integrate” most meaningful and beneficial. Practicing every stance for several weeks isolated is a great preparation for the actual flowing form. Muscular strength is developed that way and so during practice one isn`t exhausted easily. Concentration and a correct form is thus more possible. Thanks for reminding me of that important point.Best regards

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