The unbalanced athlete, motor pattern, team, joint etc…… is not efficient.

Like him or not, believing he should have lost his last fight (or not), Georges St-Pierre was/is one of the best MMA fighters of all time. He was once quoted as saying, 

“In fighting, in evolution, in life, efficiency is the key,” says St-Pierre. 

 ”It’s not the most powerful animal that survives. It’s the most efficient.

This certainly describes most of Georges fights. There were always bigger, faster, meaner, stronger opponents. However, most of his fights went the distance. Eight of his last nine fights went to a five round decision. Now, there are those who will say that he didn’t have the finishing power or submission skills to close fights in the earlier rounds, and that is debatable for sure.  However, there is no doubt that anyone’s best fighting attributes will diminish as the rounds progress and fatigue sets in.  But, perhaps this is an equalizer when someone doesn’t have one single “golden right hand”, or what have you.  Efficiency can be the great equalizer.

St-Pierre isn’t your typical fighter. He’s arguably the best mixed martial artist in the world, a 5-foot 11-inch, 190-pound destroyer. Up until his most recent fight with Johnny Hendricks, he had not lost a round in more than 3 years, that is pure efficiency ! Arguably, he is faster than other fighters, he is more fit, has a greater range of skills, has better endurance …  in a Darwinian sense, perhaps more efficient ?

Here at the Gait Guys we are always considering efficiency.  As you can see from the slide above, there are many factors that can diminish efficiency.  We strive for as much symmetry as we can because with neuromuscular symmetry efficiency can be maximized.  Keep in mind however, that total symmetry is not always possible. Most people have two different feet, often one is more varus because it sat against the mothers rounded belly in utero.  And, one tibia is often more bowed or torsioned than the other for the same reason.  So, perfect symmetry is not always possible or guaranteed. But, one can do alot to gain as much physical symmetry as possible through detailed study of your client. (Remember, just because things look symmetrical does not mean that they function symmetrically ! This game is not that easy ! But, for some of the uneducated, it may seem to be !)  When physical symmetry is regained often the sensory-motor nervous system becomes functionally more symmetrical.  And, this is a flippable phenomenon, when neuro symmetry is driven often physical symmetry will be driven in time.  

Think about the afferent input to the cortex from the peripheral receptors in the skin (Paccinian corpuscles, Merkels discs, etc); the joint mechanorecpetors (types I-IV) and muscle receptors (spindles and Golgi tendon organs). Generally speaking, they travel up the dorsal columns on the back of the spinal cord to the thalamus and then the cortex; up the dorsal spinocerebelllar tract, to the cerebellar hemispheres; the spino- reticular tract to the reticular formation, or in the case of the upper cervical spine, directly into or flocculonodular lobe of the cerebellum. This information needs to be equal and opposite from each side of the extremity (flexors and extensors) as well as the right and left sides of the body. This “Balance” or “Homeostasis” or what the Chinese called Yin and Yang is key to efficiency.

In your workouts and rehab, strive for symmetry. We like to say “Tailor your exercises to the weaker side”. This helps to create more equality rather than a larger disparity.

The Gait Guys. Making it Real…Each Day….On the Blog…

“Georges St-Pierre, MMA Limb Power & Spinal Stiffness” … Gait Guys style.

Here at ‘The Gait Guys’ we have been going at this teaching, writing and filming process for many years now. On our blog we have written over 900 articles, our YouTube Channel and Facebook page continue to grow  and our podcasts continue to be heard presently in 64 countries.  We have a long way to go to get our message heard but we trust that our message is clean and clear and based on science and fact. Today we share with you a video of one of our personal professors from our undergraduate studies in human kinetics back in Canada in the late 1980’s, the world renowned Dr. Stuart McGill. In this video he speaks some of these clear honest facts about the spine, movement, joint loading and the sport of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts).  Watch the video, but be sure to read on here, where we bring things full circle for our readers.

We have been on a long academic quest when it comes to learning about different types of movement and we are willing to go to great lengths to humble ourselves to further this mission. Many of our long time readers are aware by now that at the end of 2012 Dr. Allen completed 3 years of private study of smooth and Latin dance to better understand the intricacies of core strength, foot work and complex limb coordination amongst other things. If it was good enough for Bruce Lee (1958 Hong Kong Cha Cha Champion) it is good enough for us ! Just like Tim Ferris, one of the modern day bio and brain hackers, who also took up the Tango to put to the test some facts about brain learning, we too are in it to learn and take things to the highest level possible.  You can read more about some of Dr. Allen’s neurologic and orthopedic revelations over the 3 years of dance study here in these articles he wrote with Dr. Waerlop.

Many of you by now know that I have moved on from dance (for now) into a different kind of study in human movement. I have now committed my brain and body to learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under the instruction of World renowned World Champion Professor Carlos Lemos Jr. and Champion Professor Ryo Ominami. You can read about them here, Gracie Barra Downers Grove

There are many similarities between dance and jiu-jitsu (believe it, it is true) and we have completed a comparative article which we will post on The Gait Guys blog in the coming days to validate these thoughts on the human frame in both sports.  However, this is not the point of this brief blog article today, our point was to share the teachings of one of our mentors Dr. McGill.  In this video, showing the research of human movements of Georges St-Pierre and David Loiseau, Dr. McGill discusses the basic tenet that the hips and shoulders are used for power production and that the spine and core are used for creating stiffness and stability for the ultimate power transmission through the limb.  He makes it clear that if power is generated from the spine, it will suffer.
McGill implies that martial artists find themselves near the top of the heap when it comes to power, strength and speed with an ability to contract muscles with great velocity but also the ability to relax the muscles with a terrific rate of speed. It is this ability to effectively and timely contract and relax that gives a martial artist the advantage.
However, these advantages can only be realized with a special ability to create spinal stiffness effectively, efficiently and with speed and coordination. These are huge advantages when in combat. We all hear about the importance of the core but these are the tenants that are key when referring to the core. And as McGill states, in martial artists who kick and punch, there must be an ability to create an initial pulse of energy, premised off of a stiff and stable spine. This is then followed by a relaxation of some of the limb muscles to ensure maximal velocity (a kinetic chain whip effect, like snapping/flicking a towel) and then followed by a sudden and timely re-stiffening of the spine, core and limb muscles to ensure that maximal force is transmitted to the opponent.
The spine and core must present sufficient amounts of recruited stiffness, yet mobility where necessary, to enable the power and velocity of the movements of the shoulders (punching) and hips (kicking) which are the two main portals of limb movement off of the spine/core.  These principles holds true in gait as well. For example, in human gait the psoas is not a hip flexor initiator when it comes to leg swing, it is a hip flexor perpetuator. The initial hip flexion in human gait comes from derotating the obliqued pelvis, via abdominal contraction, on a stiff and stable spine.  Once the pelvis rotation is initiated, the femur can further pendulum forward (via contraction of the psoas and other muscles) on the accelerated pelvis in the hip joint proper creating an energy efficient movement (again, the towel flick/whip effect). So, this premise holds true in gait, in an effective martial arts kick or even in a soccer kick. This is a solid principle of effective and efficient human locomotion. This principle also holds true for a punch or throwing an object, the stable torso/spine provides a stable anchor upon which to accelerate the arm in order to create a high velocity limb movement with power.

Watch the attached video of Georges St-Pierre, David Loiseau and Dr. Stuart McGill. These are foundational principles of movement in many sports and the martial artists seem to have it down pretty darn well.  These are the things we study and write about here at The Gait Guys. We are more than just gait.
Dr. Shawn Allen (white belt Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu)
Dr. Ivo Waerlop (black belt in neurology)
visit our daily blog: or our other social media sites, YouTube Channel, Facebook, Twitter etc
copyright 2013 The Gait Guys/The Homunculus Group. All rights reserved. Video remains property of said owner.