Iron djuru number two is called the, “Gelek”. My best interpretation of this Indonesian term is, “spiral”. It’s twisting on your axis. It’s a consistent part of Indonesian martial arts involving, stepping, [Langka] and position. It is a method to change height zone and width zone as well. It can be brutal on the legs and quickly highlights weakness in mobility and special strength.
The bottom position, seated on the ground as exhibited in the feature image, is called, “Siloh”. Most individuals will have a difficult time sitting in this position. Even for those who sit in this position, moving in and out of it gracefully will be difficult. The idea of adding weight slowly to this movement over days, weeks, months and years is even more daunting. However every journey begins with a single step.
The legs and hips have the capability of rotational movement. The hip of course is a ball and socket joint with a greater range of motion. The knee is a hinge joint, but a bit of internal rotation of the lower leg/foot, is possible. External rotation is of course greater. By taking these joints through rotation, you are encouraging strength gains, stimulating flexibility and enhancing mobility. There is a saying that, “knees are escape valves for the hips”. So if your hips are glued to a narrow range of motion, forces to the lower body can transfer to the knees and create havoc.
No argument or discussion should exist about the SQUAT being the king of exercises. The high loads and range of motion of the Olympic or Power squat create a systemic and local effect that is profound and is of high priority in training. The “Gelek”, simply unlocks movement, then over time, that movement is loaded lightly to stimulate development of the muscles in the extreme range of motion. By ONLY doing the Gelek you will not develop some “secret strength” that enables you to jump tall building in a single bound. The movement is both developmental and forensic. It develops mobility that can resist injury and improve performance. It is an exercise, not magic.
The first part of the drill is the same as the Chinese martial arts, “Dragon Twist”. In their thought process, the dragon represents spirals [Gelek] and the drill develops, “Low Basin Energy”. Here is a photo of Kettlebell Guru, Steve Cotter at the bottom of the Dragon Twist with a sizeable load.
Note that Steve’s posture is perfect. Alignment is good and support is appropriate. The lead foot is externally rotated to a range that is comfortable to your current ability. Don’t exaggerate it, however don’t ignore it either. When teaching this drill the two mistakes are NOT rotating the foot position and NOT maintaining good posture.
While Steve is doing a loaded drill, I HIGHLY suggest you start with a broomstick on your shoulders. This will instill proper posture and help you focus on lower body movement versus flapping your arms around. Begin the drill in sets of 5/5. That is, start with feet about shoulder width facing forward with the broomstick on your shoulders, externally rotate the right foot and twist to the right while bringing the knee within kissing distance of the ground, preferably padded. Your descent should be smooth. Try to look straight ahead and not down. In martial arts when students look at the ground, the teachers remind them they are looking at their own grave. Now smoothly reverse the motion, which is both elevation and rotation to the neutral or facing forward position. Continue and repeat the process with your left leg bending and your right knee coming close to the ground. That is ONE repetition per side or 1/1. Repeat until you get 5/5. That is ONE set. I’d like you to repeat this for FIVE sets.
At the end of 5 sets, your hips, thighs, hamstrings and possibly calves, will be quite shaky and have a good pump. Rather than have you drop down in the lowest position and strain, we will focus on resting in the “Siloh” or bottom seated posture. This will be developmental for further gains in motion and restorative in the sense that you are stretching the muscles that you just worked. You can hold this stretch for up to three minutes on each side. Just learn to relax. If anything gives you undo resistance,.. like a tight muscle or cramped foot, just back off a bit and try again next workout. Gaining seconds each workout is called consistency. When you string together lots of sessions, nothing can stop you as long as you don’t strain or push it beyond the bloody edge.
The next phase beyond doing, “Dragon Twists” and stretching in the, “Siloh”, is to do the Gelek or spiral, top to bottom. While limb length, genetics, fatness, size and previous injury all have a role,.. the very act of working towards the full Gelek will get you much further than sitting around eating donuts. Simply begin with the Dragon Twist and rest your knee gently on the ground. Control your descent with your arms or holding onto any upright, stable, device available until you are in the seated position. Try to maintain a neutral lumbar curve. To reverse or stand up, rock forward slightly and load your foot. This is the toughest part of the movement and often the limiting position. Make this transition smooth and the only way to get smoother is to practice. Spiral out of the position and repeat on the other side. This drill is brutal and lets you appreciate how Western living has changed the adaptation of the lower body. Once again I recommend FIVE sets of 5/5. The lower reps avoid much of the muscle soreness that high reps create. They also keep the quality higher. Frequent, fresh, practice is best.
The last step is loading the Gelek. The load at first should be held at the solar plexus with both hands securely. A weight plate, dumbbell, kettlebell or even a rock will work. Another variation is to hold it behind your back in the “Handcuff” position. The advanced loading methods are racked at the shoulders which stimulates activation of the torso muscles. Finally the weight can be held overhead in the lockout position. This is QUITE intense and precarious as well. Use your judgement.
Here is a short video of the Dragon Twist for those who need to see things rather than read them.
I think this exercise will add a lot to your game in terms of health, mobility, strong hips that avoid replacement and added ability if you are a martial artists. Try it and contact me with questions at Physicalstrategies@gmail.com
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