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All posts for the month January, 2013

First and Foremost

Before asking anyone to reorient their stance on guns, I’d like to say, from the outset, that every single life is precious and worth saving. I cannot fully imagine the horror and grief that goes with losing a family member, a loved one, a friend, or even an acquaintance to (gun) violence of any sort. No words of sympathy can help. If it is possible, surely we civilized folk will work to prevent any undue deaths of our fellow human beings, and avoid it ourselves, too.

So, in considering policy on this issue, we must account for the lives lost in events like school shootings as well as the lives saved by people being able to defend themselves. The life of the child whose parent is able to repel a home intruder is as valuable as the life of the child sitting at his school desk. To best serve society our guiding imperative must be to understand fully what we are dealing with, and to make effective choices in solving our societal problems so we can best ensure security for all.

Those who have been killed, and their surviving families deserve the dignity of a contemplative, reasoned response rather than the disservice of a knee-jerk reaction. Any meaningful action demands that we consider and understand the facts at hand, first and foremost, and base any future decisions only on addressing reality instead of political expedience and prior agenda. The only thing that could be worse for the families and friends of those killed is for their suffering to be leveraged for political gain, especially if proposed legislation turns out to be self-serving, disingenuous and ultimately ineffective.

What’s more, this cynical labeling of guns as the catalyst in violence discounts and distracts from those murders not being committed with firearms. No less dead. No less aggrieved. But a parent can take solace in knowing his child was killed with only a kitchen knife, only a baseball bat, or only a soft, down pillow, right? No, that’s not right.

Let’s Look Closely

Some claim there is a gun violence epidemic in the United States of America, and that so-called assault weapons are at the source of this outbreak. And, the idea of imposing further restrictions on lawful gun buyers and gun owners is being heralded as some sort of single-dose inoculation. Facts, however, suggest we’re being sold snake oil.

Actually, the deceptive “assault weapon” moniker is a media construct intended to mislead the public into believing that civilians’ modern sporting rifles are military weapons of war.

Evidence

Despite local newscasts stoking public fear by regularly leading off their show by zeroing in on “another” shooting death, gun violence is really rather rare. Even as some politicians are trying to cajole the public into drawing a bead on those evil guns, their point of aim misses their ostensible target– public safety. While some people do engage in risky behavior, or live in risky areas– you know, drug dealers, gang bangers, and those living in poverty-stricken worlds where gun violence may indeed be endemic— for most of us the odds of being shot and killed with a firearm are slim indeed.

Statistics show that less than 4 people in 100,000 will be shot and killed by a gun. That’s below four thousandths of one percent (.004%)– a barely discernible measurement even for microscopes and micrometers. Clearly, any notion of “epidemic” gun violence can be dismissed straightaway.

In reality, the viral quality of gun violence is in how it’s being spread by media outlets and political opportunists. What’s underreported, even roundly ignored, is that as gun ownership has climbed to an all time high, violent crime in America has been sliding downhill! Access doesn’t equate to aggression. Not only, the idea that military style weapons pose any clear and present hazard, even considering anomalous mass shootings where an AR-15 may have been among the guns used– as tragic as they have been– is at best misguided. At worst, manipulative.

The 2011 evidence shows– and this is important– that those killed by a long gun of any kind accounts for about 8% of reported firearm murders. And rifles— a category which excludes shotguns and includes but isn’t limited to ARs and such– amounts to less than half of that, at under 4% of gun related deaths. Ironically, the single instance of a sniper attack was committed with a handgun. Of all US murders in 2011, rifles were used in 323 of the 12,664 incidences. That’s about 2.6%, and far less than the 13% of murders using knives, the 4% using blunt objects, and the nearly 6% using bare hands and feet. Together, the up close and personal slash, bash, and beat methods of killing constitutes a full 23% of murders in this country and heavily outweighs any assault weapon threat. This, even as wild-eyed yahoos have been buying up Bushmasters alongside baby formula at Wal-Mart.

I might also point out, whether guns are banned, or not, given the United States population of some 315,000,000 it’s naive to think that violent crime wouldn’t exist, or that now and again some whacko isn’t going to find a way of killing a large number of people. Not only, gun violence remains as part of English and Australian societies despite their severe gun restrictions.

But, some will argue that a recent attempted mass murder in a Chinese school left no one dead (this time) because the assailant had chosen a knife versus a gun, and that stands to reason. I would counter, though, that the same oppressive government in China that makes guns harder to come by is also responsible for mass murders (and other human rights violations) orders of magnitude beyond anything we’ve experienced here in this country. How many American citizens would trade places with their Chinese counterparts?

Like it or not, evidence shows that while gun ownership is prevalent in the United States, guns are far from being some pervasive scourge. In reality, guns serve the public good.

You can’t get around the image of people shooting at people to protect their stores and it working. This is damaging to the [gun control] movement.

—Josh Sugarman, Washington Post, regarding Korean shopkeepers during the L.A. riots.
Executive Director of the Violence Policy Center
1993-05-18

It’s Gettin’ Real

The legitimate defensive use of guns in America has been documented. The results corroborate what responsible gun owners have always maintained, that every day guns are used by intended victims to thwart a perpetrator’s actions against them, up to 2.5 million times per year. By any measure the proportion of lives saved by guns eclipses the total number of murders in the United States. In short, evidence supports that guns in the hands of ordinary Americans serve a vital protective role in society. Guns save lives.

Incredibly, in his comments on the Kleck and Gertz findings, the late criminologist Marvin E. Wolfgang agrees.

I am as strong a gun-control advocate as can be found among the criminologists in this country. If I were Mustapha Mond of Brave New World, I would eliminate all guns from the civilian population and maybe even from the police. I hate guns–ugly, nasty instruments designed to kill people.

What troubles me is the article by Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz. The reason I am troubled is that they have provided an almost clear-cut case of methodologically sound research in support of something I have theoretically opposed for years, namely, the use of a gun in defense against a criminal perpetrator.

Can it be true that about two million instances occur each year in which a gun was used as a defensive measure against crime? It is hard to believe. Yet, it is hard to challenge the data collected. We do not have contrary evidence.

The Kleck and Gertz study impresses me for the caution the authors exercise and the elaborate nuances they examine methodologically. I do not like their conclusions that having a gun can be useful, but I cannot fault their methodology.

— Marvin E. Wolfgang, “A Tribute to a View I Have Opposed,” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Fall, 1995, Guns and Violence Symposium, Page 188.

The Gun Violence Myth

Yes, guns are involved in about 2/3 of all murders, but despite media and political flame fanning murder is still rare. What’s more, it’s handguns– including five-shot revolvers, and excluding menacing looking rifles with cosmetic and ergonomic features– that are used in nearly 3/4 of these incidents. So, since the evidence debunks the myth of a gun violence epidemic, why are modern firearms– if you can call a fifty-year-old design “modern”– becoming the scapegoat for the media and a handful of political zealots?

Who’s Behind The Curtain?

What can a reasonable person make of this video from 1995 featuring U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder– who was then the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia– saying that he supported using Hollywood, the media and government officials in order to “really brainwash people” into opposing firearm ownership? Facts being what they are, one must ask, “oppose firearms for what purpose?”

And, who really stands to benefit from the United Nations plan to take guns out of the hands of average citizens, the citizens or the government? Is a civilian population more or less free than when armed? Who enjoys greater freedom, and who suffers governmental and criminal abuse, the armed or unarmed civilian? I might point out that over the last 100 years more than 160,000,000 people have been killed, directly killed– that is murdered!– by criminal governments. Civilian disarmament preceded these atrocities. Would armed resistance to genocide have made a difference?

Now, It’s Gettin’ Surreal

After a successful sting operation on March 27, 2014 media headlines revealed that the FBI Arrested California Anti-Gun State Senator, Democrat Leland Yee on Firearm Trafficking Charges! Here, check this out, from the Forbes Magazine article, Senator Yee Knew Conspiracy Would Send Money To Islamic Militants And Arms To North Africa, by reporter Greg McNeal:

While Senator Yee has focused much of his attention as an elected official on anti-gun legislation, he seemed to have substantial comfort with guns. In planning the conspiracy, Senator Yee sought to reassure the undercover FBI agent that another co-conspirator was a “gun lover” and had no moral arguments against selling weapons. Senator Yee also noted how on a trip to Mindanao in the Philippines, he had an opportunity to shoot some of the weapons he was helping to broker. Moreover, Senator Yee, who campaigned against the influence of violent video games, seemed unconcerned with leading a conspiracy which would send funds to individuals who had no problem, in his words, “kidnapping individuals, killing individuals and extorting them for ransom.” In exchange for those funds, weapons would be imported into the U.S. and eventually distributed to unknown individuals in North Africa and Italy.

Ironically, Leland Yee had been one of California’s most aggressive gun control proponents, and was running for CA secretary of state. Oops. As American patriot and rock musician Ted Nugent likes to say, “Are you kidding me?” But this is no joke. You see, politicians like Yee seek to profit by arming criminals and terrorists even as they are trying to disarm their constituents. You and me!

Shocking. Outrageous. Scandalous.

But no one in America is really trying ban all guns, or do away with Second and Fourth Amendment protections, right? Rather, the outcry is for “sensible” gun laws— as though some 20,000 laws currently on the books aren’t enough. Wrong!

Waiting periods are only a step. Registration is only a step. The prohibition of private firearms is the goal.

—Janet Reno, U.S. Attorney General, 12-10-1993

If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them . . . Mr. and Mrs. America, turn ’em all in, I would have done it.

—Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), 2-5-1995

In fact, the assault weapons ban will have no significant effect either on the crime rate or on personal security. … Passing a law like the assault weapons ban is a symbolic — purely symbolic — move [toward civilian disarmament]. Its only real justification is not to reduce crime but to desensitize the public to the regulation of weapons in preparation for their ultimate confiscation.

—Charles Krauthammer, “Disarm the Citizenry, But Not Yet,” Washington Post, p. A19
4-5-1996

Forget what our forefathers said.

—Dominick Potifrone, ATF Special Agent (Retired) “On the Inside: The BATF,” Discovery Channel 2000

To hell with the constitution…

—Mike Roos on the constitutionality of the Roberti-Roos assault weapon ban. Assemblyman (CA) 1989

What’s The Endgame?

Ya don’t have to look very far back in history to recognize that despotic governments are the worst of mass murderers, even justifying systematic killing of their own citizens. Hitler. Stalin. Mao. Hussein. But, it can’t happen here, right?

Not so fast. Remember that power is intoxicating. Corrupting. And, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Because people are people, all of us are susceptible to the allure of power. Once in power people are naturally prone hold it, and to abuse it…unless checked. With a disarmed and vulnerable population, what’s to stop government leaders from taking advantage of their position? Their good conscience? Many law abiding, responsible, gun owning Americans would rather imagine the worst than actually try living it first hand.

George Mason remarked to his Virginia delegates regarding the colonies’ recent experience with Britain, in which the Monarch’s goal had been “to disarm the people; that [that] . . . was the best and most effectual way to enslave them.”

And, as quoted from Chapter 12 of Bernard Crick’s George Orwell: A Life biography:

“Even as it stands, the Home Guard could only exist in a country where men feel themselves free. The totalitarian states can do great things, but there is one thing they cannot do: they cannot give the factory-worker a rifle and tell him to take it home and keep it in his bedroom. THAT RIFLE HANGING ON THE WALL OF THE WORKING-CLASS FLAT OR LABOURER’S COTTAGE IS THE SYMBOL OF DEMOCRACY. IT IS OUR JOB TO SEE THAT IT STAYS THERE.” (CAPS in original.)
–The Evening Standard, 1941

Of course…

Gun control is not an issue of left vs. right, or urban vs. rural. Liberal icons such as Hubert Humphrey and Eleanor Roosevelt recognized the right to arms as fundamental to preventing large-scale tyranny by criminal governments, and small-scale tyranny by ordinary criminals.

—David B. Kopel, The Truth About Gun Control

And, as it happened…

The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed the subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the supply of arms to the underdogs is a sine qua non for the overthrow of any sovereignty.

—Adolf Hitler, Edict of March 18, 1938, H.R. Trevor-Roper, Hitler’s Table Talks 1941-1944 (London: Widenfeld and Nicolson, 1953, p. 425-426)
1938(9?)

Ideas are more dangerous than guns. We wouldn’t let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?

—Josef Stalin

If the [political] opposition disarms, well and good. If it refuses to disarm, we shall disarm it ourselves.

—Josef Stalin

Every good Communist should know that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun, and that gun must remain firmly in the hands of the state.

—Mao Tse Tung

Even as we are being reminded:

All too many of the other great tragedies of history – Stalin’s atrocities, the killing fields of Cambodia, the Holocaust, to name but a few – were perpetrated by armed troops against unarmed populations. Many could well have been avoided or mitigated, had the perpetrators known their intended victims were equipped with a rifle and twenty bullets apiece, …If a few hundred Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto could hold off the Wehrmacht for almost a month with only a handful of weapons, six million Jews armed with rifles could not so easily have been herded into cattle cars.

—Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

It’s unfolding again, here & now, from what’s widely held as the political playbook of Bill & Hillary Clinton, along with Barack Obama…

The tenth rule of the ethics of rules [which] means… that you do what you can with what you have and clothe it in moral arguments. …the essence of Lenin’s speeches during this period was “They have the guns and therefore we are for peace and for reformation through the ballot. When we have the guns then it will be through the bullet.” And it was.

—Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals — P.36-37

And it follows…

“I just want you to know that we are working on it,” [Sarah] Brady recalled the president telling them. “We have to go through a few processes, but under the radar.”

—U.S. President, Barrack Obama during 03-30-2011 meeting between Jay Carney, Jim Brady, Sarah Brady, and President Obama, quoted in the Washington Post, 04-12-2011.

Sometimes with bald-faced cynicism…

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste…and what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”

—Rahm Emanuel, as then-incoming White House Chief of Staff, Wall Street Journal interview, November 19, 2008.

Could the intent be any clearer? Or the likely result?

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

—George Santayana

Strong Words?

Yes. Because as an American citizen, I’m concerned. When elected officials begin wielding tragedy to begin forcing their fears, emotional sensitivities, and personal prejudices into private lives by attempting to dismantle Constitutional protections we should notice the red flags waving. When our Nation’s peacekeepers are coached to view even non-violent protestors as low grade terrorists, alarm bells should start ringing. Government by fiat and extremism is a hallmark of despotism, and not the American way.

Citizens, Subjects or Slaves?

Fortunately we have within our Constitution mechanisms to ensure our individual liberties. Our civil rights. Our natural human rights! We owe it to those who came before us, and to those who will come after to work within the system to preserve our Republic. While each and every American matters, this struggle is about more than one single life. Even so, to honor that one single life our policy decisions must also honor our national heritage.

Former US Marine, Corporal Joshua Boston, in his recent letter to Senator Feinstein, reminds her of her place in society…

I am not your subject. I am the man who keeps you free. I am not your servant. I am the person whom you serve. I am not your peasant. I am the flesh and blood of America.

Perhaps she, and the rest of us should take this to heart.

Gun Control Is Way Off Target

The facts reveal that the idea of a gun violence epidemic is a myth, a contrivance. Worse, firearms restrictions fail to protect the public at all. (In fact, the only gun law that does prevent crime is one that provides for concealed carry, as researcher John Lott Jr. shows in “The Bias Against Guns“!) So, when you answer the question “Where is this rush to disarm America headed?” you may find yourself writing, emailing, or calling your elected representatives in the House and Senate right away. Why? Because you want to tell them their political future hinges on doing right by our Country and its Constitution that they’ve sworn an oath— not to dismantle, nor to edit, but— to uphold. That means, in no uncertain terms, that they…

immediately stop squandering limited resources on ineffectual gun restriction measures and begin working to commit Washington’s political will to those less sensational day to day issues that are known to actually improve ordinary American lives, and thus reduce violence in general.

Links & References

American Gun Facts— Because facts are facts.

FBI stats show violent crime down; gun sales spike over I-594. More Guns = Less Crime. Again, exactly what I’m saying above!

Armed Resistance to Genocide: I was present at this talk delivered in Los Angeles by David Kopel, hosted by the Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. Highly enlightening. Sobering.

Forbes Magazine Senator Yee Knew Conspiracy Would Send Money To Islamic Militants And Arms To North Africa

NRA-ILA FBI Arrests Anti-Gun California Senator on Firearm Trafficking Charges

LA Times’ Contrasting Take on Yee’s Arrest

The Huffington Post’s Curious Take Yee’s Arrest

Think the NRA is Racist? Check This Out: Black American History and the Second Amendment

FBI Statistics: “Crime in the United States, 2011

Violent Crime is Down, as per Bureau of Justice Charts

Again, Violent Crime Is Down to a Forty Year Low, But It’s Under Reported In Mainstream Media.

The Truth About Gun Control — A brief video history from David B. Kopel.

FactCheck.org: “Gun Rhetoric vs Gun Facts.

Reality Check (FOX): Piers Morgan’s Anti-Gun Claims.

GunCite.com: Gary, Kleck and Marc Gertz, “Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun,” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 1995, Vol. 86 No. 1. See also, Table 1.

SAF.org: Marvin E. Wolfgang, “A Tribute to a View I Have Opposed,” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Fall, 1995, Guns and Violence Symposium, Page 188.

The Blaze: “Will Banning Guns Stop Homicides? Stats from England and Australia Show…

Oleg Volk: “The Proud History of Gun Control.

Oleg Volk: “Why Does Anybody Take These Fiends Seriously?

Wikipedia: “Gun Politics in Australia.”

Katie Pavlich: “Gun Crime Soars in England.”

The Atlantic: “The Secret History of Guns.”

Senator Ted Cruz, Gun Related Facts.

Testimony of Gun Violence Victim

Chicago Tribune: Owning Guns Saves Lives by prosecutor Michael Boomgarden, Naperville, Ill.

Reason.com: Yes, Guns Are Dangerous, But They Also Save Lives and Secure Civil Rights by Damon W. Root.

Do Gun Control Laws Control Guns? by Thomas Sowell, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

The Bias Against Guns: Why Almost Everything You’ve Heard About Gun Control Is Wrong, by John R. Lott, Jr., 2003.

Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals, by Saul Alinsky, 1971.

Related Blog Posts—

Christopher Drozd: Danger to Self and Others

Christopher Drozd: Emotions in Motion

Christopher Drozd: The Heart of the Matter

Even A Caveman Could Do It

What if, along the lines of the Geico commercial, running could be so simple that even “a caveman could do it?” Of course, cavemen ran– they had to. Yet, today, probably because running has devolved from efficient survival-oriented locomotion into recreation and sport, it has become laden with excess. It’s no longer simple, and the forest is lost for the trees.

It doesn’t help that all the wild and wooly dogma of natural running gurus, and coaches, sports scientists, biomechanists, and physical therapists regarding running form echo those proverbial blind men describing the whole of an elephant from each of its disparate ends. They’re all as wrong as they are right. Yes, elephants have trunks, and ears, legs, bellies, and tails, but we know it’s only by stepping beyond a limited reference point that lets us appreciate the whole beast. So, it’s only by gaining perspective that we can understand how, regardless of their methods, runners all run the same way– by harnessing gravity. This is the elephant in the room that until now has been roundly ignored.

Our modern sophistication blinds us to the fact that humans developed within Earth’s gravitational field, and therefore we are ideally suited to redirect this universal force as well as any other animal. And, we’ve been doing it successfully without outside support for millions of years. While the underpinnings are pretty complicated, Nature’s already done the math. All we’ve got to do is get out of our own way…and run.

Consider This

In running there are variables and invariables. An invariable is common to all runners. A variable is something that could be added, but doesn’t have to be. For instance, shoes are variables. Even feet are variables. Legs, however, are invariables. You must have them to run. Of course, you can keep your feet, and your shoes, and as you step through this sample running stride with me you’ll learn to recognize the parts of your own running form you will want to keep, or release.

But, why would changing or refining running technique be important at all? Can’t we just run? Well, if there could be such a thing as correct running form wouldn’t it just make good sense that by using it we may be able to run farther, run faster, and run with less chance of injury?

So, consider that correct running form asks only that runners eliminate the variables, and reinforce the invariables. We’ll start with landing, and conclude with leaving the ground.

Heel Strike

Common to about 75% of runners, the heel strike has been routinely maligned and celebrated. What’s it all about?

Initial Ground Contact: Heel Strike Landing— well ahead of the GCM

A heel strike landing actively swings the foot well out in front of the runner’s general center of mass (GCM), into a braking position. Imagine repeatedly reaching out with a straight leg and a heel edge that collides with the ground to hold off the body weight on… BAM… every… BAM… single… BAM… running… BAM… stride… BAM… BAM… BAM… BAM. Ouch! Right?

Can you say,

  • Knee pain?
  • Hip pain?
  • Back pain?

Yeah, I thought you could.

Yes, the body makes some concessions for heel first landings by rolling at the ankle and rotating at the hip, but, in spite of Olympian Jeff Galloway’s description of its being “cushioning,” a heel strike adds a lot of noise to an otherwise elegantly quiet system of support.

You see, a heel strike adds what’s seen on a graph as a force spike well ahead of our natural supportive loading. This impact at touchdown sends a tremor of about two times body weight straight into the foot, through the leg, and into the hip and back. You can even hear what Hunter S. Thompson called “a hell broth of slapping and pounding feet” as any group of actively landing runners passes. Check out Dan Leiberman’s Barefoot Running: The Biomechanics of Foot Strike video clips and realtime force plate graphs and you’ll immediately see how this undue loading of the runner’s body occurs through the severely active landing of a heel strike.

But, because most runners today are wearing big, bulky shoes they’re not going to feel very much regardless of how they interact with the ground. In fact, many runners don’t really know whether or not they heel strike. They’ve probably never thought about it because they never felt the need. Take off those clunky shoes, though, and run barefooted over a paved surface and any heel strike becomes a concern right away. That’s because instead of a thick, wide, and heavily padded shoe bottom they are now subjecting their small, hard, naked heel bone– hardly the body’s favored touchdown point– to an unforgiving ground. They’ll quickly put their shoes back on or run start running differently.

Now, since there are some 25% of runners who do not “naturally” heel strike (and without shoes there would surely be a whole lot more) it’s clear that heel striking is a variable part of a running stride.

Mid Foot Landing

Since the actual “mid foot” is a series of bones at the apex of the arch it cannot actually function as a landing pad, right?

Skeletal Diagram of Foot— note “Midfoot”

So, what’s really meant by “mid foot” is a flat-footed landing where both heel and ball of foot touch the ground simultaneously. This is mostly a visual illusion. Shoes tend to have elevated heels which would favor a forefoot landing…er, a heel strike… er, a flat-footed landing, but it’s hard to tell because it can’t really be felt, anyway. It can be measured by pressure sensitive devices, but typically contact occurs at either the forefoot or the heel.

One characteristic of this active “mid foot” landing is that it occurs, like the heel strike, well in front of the body’s general center of mass (GCM), so again, it’s a braking force. While it usually doesn’t produce an impact transient that’s as abrupt as the heel strike, an unnecessary force is still present.

Initial Ground Contact: Midfoot Landing— well ahead of GCM

For such an active landing the penalties may include:

  • Sliding inside the shoe– friction equals blisters and toes being jammed into the toe-box can result in black toenails;
  • Muscles absorbing greater loads, for longer periods, increases fatigue;
  • And, the delay of falling into the new stride just perpetuates this cycle.

Another negative with a flat-footed landing is that it bypasses, and thus wastes, the metabolically free elastic rebound inherent within the foot, and the coordinated mechanisms of the ball of the foot and the ankle joints. Worse, plenty of people when learning to run barefooted, or with minimal footwear, or even when trying out a forefoot landing in any other shoes tend to add unnecessary effort. They errantly reach out toward the ground to find their next support. This active landing pits firing muscles– calves and quadriceps– and a misaligned skeletal structure against gravity during landing. Injury often follows. Sadly, blame is normally directed at the (lack of) footwear rather than at runners’ faulty form.

Again, since some runners do not land on their so-called mid foot, it too is a variable component of running.

Paw Back

The idea that a runner can slam their foot into the ground to catapult themselves over that point of contact, and into the next stride is again a visual illusion, a mistaken interpretation of hamstring muscles activity prior to ground contact, and a gross misunderstanding of biomechanical function. For now, because paw back so convolutes any reasonable concept of a natural landing in running we’ll leave it as just another affectation that adds damaging impact– a variable.

The Running Pose

Every runner, no matter how they get into it, reaches the running Pose. Some land in it as they are touching down. The rest progress into it following the aforementioned variables above.

Initial Ground Contact: Landing Close to Pose Position

And, into the Pose Position…

Pose Position

The running Pose is seen as one singular point in space and time that separates the previous stride from the next. Its key visual characteristics are that bodyweight is on the ball of the foot, the ankle and knee joints are bent, and the swing foot is tucked up beneath the hip. The less obvious indicators of the running Pose occur when the runner’s general center of mass (GCM), the swing leg’s center of mass, and the ball of the foot (BOF) are all aligned. Ideally, this happens right at the “vertical moment” but it’s often realized just slightly beyond (as above, and as detailed below). Until you reach this position you’re still in the previous stride.

The Vertical Moment

What’s important to note is that by landing in the running Pose the loading curve of ground reaction is smooth and gradual as the lower limb is allowed to exercise its natural biomechanical springiness. The two to three times bodyweight load of ground reaction applied here is exactly the force that modeled our running bodies, and is distinct from impact, the undue shock created by those active landings above. I might point out that the vast majority of running injury stems from landing. Landing in the running Pose eliminates one of the prime causes of injury.

From the running Pose– the first invariable— emerges a standard from which to distinguish incorrect and correct running form.

So it’s here, from this Pose position, the runner stands on the precipice, ready to give himself to gravity, and begin falling forward at 9.8m/sec./sec. into the next stride. The goal then, and what defines correct running form, is to get into and out of the Pose position– onto and off of support– “on time.” We’ll get to that in a bit.

The Fall

Opinions abound with regard to the propulsive phase in running. Where and how it happens continues to fuel heated exchange between authorities, with perhaps their sole agreement being that it occurs during ground contact.

From the Pose Method perspective the drive in running comes from gravitational torque, rather than by muscular efforts. In short, muscle elasticity (quads / calves) lifts the body in a fraction of the second following mid stance, and muscle activity (glutes and hamstrings) stabilizes the body through the duration of the Fall. This just happens for every runner. Small children do it naturally, and the most highly coached runners do it often in spite of their training. The Fall is how we redirect the downward pull of gravity, and translate rotational motion into horizontal movement.

Once the runner reaches the Pose position he immediately begins falling forward like a felled tree. This occurs in an instant, and within a narrow range. Imagine a pie slice between 12:00 and 12:04 on an analog clock face. That’s our usable range of Fall– 0° to 22.5°. Identify this visually: the runner holds the Pose position, and tilts forward on the ball of the foot. Note that the heel comes off the ground as the runner pivots on his support (BOF) through his speed appropriate range of Fall. This Fall continues until the Pose position is dissolved. That happens when support ends, meaning when ground reaction drops below “one bodyweight.” This is seen when the swing foot is untucked and begins reaching for the ground.

From here…

Beginning Angle of Fall

To here…

Ending Angle of Fall

Ultimately, no one runs until they Fall. The Fall, then, is the second invariable component of running.

Active Knee Drive

Even within the inertia of the conventional wisdom, that is, that running is a result of muscles’ efforts, disagreement with regard to knee drive stirs up further confusion. Some describe the swing leg recovery phase as reflexive, which it is. The thigh, when left to its own function, simply rotates around the hip in synch within the runner’s stride. Others advocate strong volitional hip flexion, but still argue over whether it’s an upward or a forward drive, and what final purpose it’s serving. Does it add to stride length, increase horizontal speed, or just result in greater vertical oscillation?

To be sure, some runners flex at the hip quite a bit, some don’t. In fact, the previous “World’s Fastest Man,” Michael Johnson was known for, among other stride anomalies, low knees— anathema to sprint culture. Go figure.

So, “active” knee drive is a variable. What’s more, because the knee can only trace the arc of a circle, since it hinges at the hip joint, any notion of forward or upward knee drive is imagined.

Paw Back, Foot Drag

Common descriptions of the propulsive phase of running include explanations like…

The extension of the hip is where the power comes from, not from pushing with your toes or other mechanisms which are commonly cited. The hip should be thought to work in a crank like or piston like fashion. This speed and degree of hip extension is what will partially control the speed. A stronger hip extension results in more force application and greater speed, thus how powerfully and rapidly the hip is extended helps control the running speed. — Steve Magness

…and…

[With paw back you] help propel your body forward so that your center of gravity is as far forward as possible prior to the push-off. — Michael Yessis, Ph.D.

…and…

[As per Sir Isaac Newton] in order to create horizontal propulsion, we must pull straight back against the ground instead of pushing down into the ground… [which] involves pivoting the leg backward from the hip with the entire leg as a fixed unit… — Ken Mierke

So, as far as I can tell, the gist here is that the runner should try to pull himself across the ground with great muscular contractions. Problem is, the posterior horizontal ground force always remains below bodyweight meaning, as per Newton’s Third Law– equal and opposite– that that sort of horizontal acceleration just doesn’t add up. What’s more, the proponents of foot drag or paw back seem to turn a blind eye to the reality of the runner’s GCM actually bouncing from stride to stride, and swinging around its support on the ground (as described in Pose/Fall). Actions such as paw back and foot drag can certainly be introduced into a running stride, but, in general, runners– including Usain Bolt, and you, too– can be seen running perfectly well without such variable affectations.

Push Off

Though it’s an illusion, typical pictures of runners sure appear to be powerfully launching themselves forward stride by stride.

Push Off

Here’s one explanation…

The key action that occurs in the push-off is ankle joint extension. Push-off is not, as commonly believed, caused by the glutes and hamstrings being involved in hip joint extension or the quadriceps driving knee joint extension. Observe the ankle joint… and you can see it goes through a substantial range of motion. — Michael Yessis, Ph.D

.

Now, here’s another.

Recall the pie slice range of Fall from 12:00 to 12:04– any push can only be upward. Further, at the point of greatest apparent push, vertical ground forces have dropped below body weight, and the “pushing” foot is, right then, being pulled from the ground. The biceps femoris is starting to bend the knee, and Achilles tendon activity reflects an elastic component rather than muscle action.

In any event, while some runners do try to push into the ground, and others just leave their foot there for too long, the support leg may indeed straighten at the end of ground contact. This certainly looks powerful and Puritanically significant, effort-wise. But, a push only hinders the runner by preventing him from changing support in a timely manner, and burdening his mind and body with misdirected attentions. Since many elite and recreational athletes– and skilled Pose runners– release the ground with a bent knee and a neutral ankle joint, the so-called push off is yet another variable.

Pull

To run we must change support. It’s self evident– the foot has to let go of the ground. So, the Pull is the third invariable.

Pull— release the ground to change support

But, there’s a variable within this invariable: “when?” On time! That means once the Fall is complete, which for most is around 5° to 20°. But I’m not taking a protractor out with me to run, and I’ll wager neither are you. Ultimately, we need to know by feel when it’s time to pull the foot off the ground.

In a perfect world the Pull is handled reflexively. In our world shoes blunt our natural feedback mechanisms, the sensory acuity that provides for precise timing. As well, any willful intent of trying to do more– paw, push, what-have-you– as the foot is being drawn away from the ground only muddles this timing.

Plus, and perhaps a surprising piece in this puzzle, is that we’re also subject to our natural fear of falling (one of two innate fears, the other being of loud noise). Fear of falling can have us reaching out with the swing foot to find terraferma as we continue clinging to the ground behind us. Running, then, looks a lot like walking.

But what if we reframe this fear as a cue? That is, simply, that our support or the security of one body weight is coming to an end. Then, things can change. When you get comfortable giving yourself freely to gravity and feeling the Fall, you’ll begin reacquainting yourself with the primal grace that our earliest forebears enjoyed. Your senses will awaken and will tell you exactly “when.” The Pose Method gives you renewed access to these perceptual fluencies, and it gives them a voice– Pull!

An Aside

While this isn’t an exercise article, per se, it is worth pointing out here that using specific drills are more valuable than, for instance, just mindlessly increasing training mileage. We, as runners, want to reinforce these invariable elements of running which refine the specific skills set that ensures our most precise movements, and ultimately leads us to heightened perception. As well, training with without shoes and on bare feet helps to revive our natural physical and mental awareness, too. Less is more!

Insofar as performance, endurance and speed rely on consistent execution– high quality technique. Technique depends on precise neural conditioning, which stems from increasing our awareness of incorrect and correct…timing. Drills are the direct route to becoming a safe and efficient runner, and training volume is valuable only insofar as your good technique can be maintained.

Conclusion

Again, I look back to our prehistory where once down from the trees and exploring our new world with the great strength and dexterity of our hands and arms, the task of bipedal ambulation was relegated to lower nerve function. Over time, as our intent carried us farther from our arboreal habitat and demanded greater levels of mobility our bodies morphed into their present iteration. All this was occurring because we were unconsciously working with the dominating force of gravity to effect such physical changes. Cavemen probably didn’t think much about running form, but you can be certain that because for survival they had to run, and run barefooted at that, they ran right– like any other wild beast.

You can witness this primal awareness in children as they routinely test the boundaries of balance and motion while learning to stand, to walk, and then to run. They use just the invariable elements– Pose, Fall, Pull. It’s only later, after their senses and freedom of movement have been blunted by footwear, and their inherent understanding of movement have been skewed by the prejudices of others that they must be taught, or more accurately reminded, of correct running form.

So, yes, running is so simple that even a caveman could do it. The question is, now that it’s been distilled for you, down to its simplest form– Pose, Fall, Pull– can you do it, too?

Notes:

  • Vertical Moment, Beginning Angle of Fall, and Ending Angle of Fall stride analyses are from a running stride presentation by Nicholas Romanov, PhD. at the American Pose Coaches Conference, 2012. Photos of presentation by Charles Blake, DPT.
  • This post was inspired by the collaboration between Severin Romanov and Charles Blake, DPT, and the “Anatomy of a Stride” presentation by Severin Romanov, at the American Pose Coaches Conference, 2012.