For more stability when your feet leave the ground, Kathryn Budig steals tricks from martial arts.
“Everybody was Kung-Fu fighting…” should be the theme song for inversions and arm balances. I jokingly use the cue “Jackie Chan” as a way to teach my students to find stability by adducting the arms and engaging their serratus anterior muscles. To teach this cue I mimic a martial arts stance used by my karate master called “elbow position,” that’s essentially feet wide, elbows bent, hands in fists and tight to the ribs. Like this:
This adduction of the arms—think hugging everything in to your midline—creates an almost unbreakable foundation to balance on. Without this awareness, the arms easily buckle and allow the rest of our body to collapse. The “Jackie Chan” action recreates the about-to-pounce commitment of hugging the arms into the body to create external rotation and stable muscles.
3-Step “Jackie Chan” Action for Arm Balances + Inversions
This action can be applied to straight arms (Handstand), bent elbows (Forearm Stand, Crow Pose and other bent-elbow arm balances) or even fingers interlaced (Headstand). I normally start my students off with bent elbows and a good martial arts battle cry to make people laugh, and make it easy to access the muscle group. Here's how:
- Start standing or sitting upright. Keep both of your arms directly next to your sides, but bend your elbows.
- Extend your forearms so that they are parallel to the ground. Keep your palms facing upward.
- Now squeeze your biceps into your sides, energize your arms and hug everything to the midline so much that you feel a slight tremble. I recommend a good battle cry to accompany this action!
Now that you know how to fire the muscles, try it with straight arms overhead. Then interlace your fingers behind your head and repeat the same actions. You can find “Jackie Chan” in all of your poses to create stability. Now go practice hand balancing
NOTE No need to do a battle cry every time you arm balance or go upside down. The big dramatic rendition is just to learn the actions. The action should eventually feel strong but relaxed and calm.
WANT MORE? Watch Kathryn Budig's Video Build Essential Strength for Inversions