The three components of effortless energy

March 21st, 2021

The principle of generating effortless energy lies in three basic components.

The first is to position yourself optimally, to allow energy to flow in your body unimpeded, with as little resistance as possible.

Martial artists refer to this body state as the rag doll.

This means holding your body with complete looseness (AOV principle 1), like a rag doll, allowing all the joints to relax with gravity, maintaining just enough energy to stay upright.

It also means not forcing your body in any way.

If the wrist wants to drop, let it drop; if the fingers want to rest, let them rest.

The rag doll state creates a well-oiled super efficient machine in your body and enables you to operate with freedom and maximum efficiency.

No energy is wasted fighting unnecessary resistance in the body.

The second component is in to connect your actions so that each action sets off the next in a continual loop.

Instead of thinking in isolated individual actions, think groups of actions, all interconnected, each one setting off the next.

The simplest way to understand this is to think of the piston action.

The piston consists of two actions—up and down.

The two actions work against each other. As one comes down, the other one is going up, the energy in one action producing the energy to drive the other one forward.

Transfer the concept to playing the guitar.

Let’s say you have two elements that you have to alternate quickly, we’ll call this the index and middle fingers.

Now you can try to move them individually as fast as possible or you can make them work with and against one another.

The first way produces tension, the very action of getting them to move as fast as possible will create tension that will ultimately slow you down.

The second way is the effortless way.

Instead of thinking of them as individual actions, you use the energy in one action to drive the next one forward, creating an endless loop of actions, each one driving the next one forward.

In the case of playing the guitar, as you move one finger down, you’re using the energy in that action to drive the other second finger up.

It takes a little practice but once you know how to produce energy this way, it’s effortless.

The actions almost play themselves, you just let them go.

But what if you have more than two elements?

You apply the same principle, except that instead of two alternating actions, you have three consecutive actions which we’ll call elements a, b, and c.

As you execute element a, use the energy in that action to drive element b forward, and as you execute element b, use that energy to drive element c forward, and as you execute element c, use the energy in that action to drive element a forward.

By working in this cyclical way, you’re connecting one action to the next, producing the same stream of interconnected actions.

Now take this further and bring in a more powerful source of energy to generate the initial energy.

This brings us to the third component, that of involving the core elements.

Core elements are stronger than secondary elements.

For example, the legs are stronger than the arms, the arms are stronger than the hands, the hands are stronger than the fingers.

This principle is mostly employed in performing groups of actions together.

For instance, if you have to pluck a series of chords, use the hand to perform the actions.

Instead of just moving the fingers, base your energy in your hand and arm, and let the fingers do the detailed work such as locating the strings and displacing it.

Playing this way will result in a bouncing action in the hand.

To the observer, it will appear as if the fingers are plucking the strings but in reality, the hand is behind the actions, the fingers playing only a passive role in the actions.

But the principle is also effective in producing an even stream of notes, especially useful in techniques such as the tremolo on the guitar.

The fingers on the hand are all of uneven lengths and strengths.

How do you get them all to produce an even touch?

By activating the strings with one entity—the hand— as opposed to four fingers, you’re able to apply the same force to each plucking action, resulting in even pressure and even tones.

This principle is the basis of the bouncing hand exercise which I have described elsewhere.

The difference in how energy is generated is the difference between those operating in virtuosity and the initiated.

The uninitiated sees the world in simplistic terms.

If you want more power, apply more force.

If you want more speed, make your body move faster.

The virtuoso understands that the reality is more complex, that there’re myriad ways to harness the hidden (hidden because it’s not immediately apparent) power in your body and sometimes, the straight line is not the shortest distance between two points.

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