From De Re Militari by Flavius Vegetius Renatus – (This book is thought to have been written between 375 and 392, which is a realllly long time ago.)
“The first thing the soldiers are to be taught is the military step, which can only be acquired by constant practice of marching quick and together. Nor is anything of more consequence either on the march or in the line than that they should keep their ranks with the greatest exactness. For troops who march in an irregular and disorderly manner are always in great danger of being defeated. They should march with the common military step twenty miles in five summer hours, and with the full step, which is quicker, twenty-four miles in the same number of hours. If they exceed this pace, they no longer march but run, and no certain rate can be assigned.”
As a biomechanist, it seems I am cursed to enjoy my life from the perspective of a gait laboratory.
I had a great time at our town’s Fair Parade this weekend, watching the floats, listening to the music, and analyzing the gait of the marching bands. (Doesn’t everyone do that??) And it just happens that I am in book-writing mode, in the chapters of “history of gait patterns”, of which MARCHING plays quite a role.
Now most of us have been walking for years, but what you may not know is how your walking pattern came to be. Like all animals, we learn the bulk of “how to be” through observation. Your walking or gait pattern is based on how others walked around you when you were growing up. If you spent time in ballet class, Cotillion, or the military, then you furthered your development by adding additional information through mimicry or direct instruction.
It is widely known to most physicists that most people are not walking anymore, but are instead falling in a controlled manner. What is the difference between falling and walking? Well, the only way to move forward on this planet is by pushing backward. Imagine swimming, or paddling a boat. Think of the tires on your car or the thrust from the engines of the space shuttle. The motion is always in the direction opposite to the desired movement. So, actual WALKING requires you to push your leg behind you…kind of like ice skating. If you’re not pushing behind you, then you’re simply lifting your leg out in front of you and then leaning forward slightly to generate momentum to help you fall forward.
Body parts that have to dampen the force when you fall forward=Knees, Hips, and Spine
My brothers, father, and grandfather were all in the military throughout the world. How about yours? Because gait patterns are learned primarily through visual input, our culture’s rich military history has had an impact on the way we move as a nation, and, the way we are ailing as a nation. Especially when it comes to ailments of the joints, bones, and musculoskeletal system. These are injuries we are creating ourselves due to the fact that we have never been instructed how to move in a way that is controlled, metabolism-enhancing, and joint conserving. Biologically we are designed to walk from the hips, generating a “push-off” from the large muscles of the hamstrings. Our Western gait pattern, however, has evolved to match one closer to marching, i.e. lifting the leg out in front from the hip, which makes us walk “from the knees down” – over using the knees and underusing the hip joints. This is a similar gait pattern you get from walking on a treadmill – a big no-no if you want to walk with an efficient, non-joint damaging gait pattern. Because the treadmill belt is moving backward, you have no choice but to lift your leg out in front of you and lean forward (it’s very small, and sometimes easy to miss, but check out the torso angle on the people walking and jogging in your neighboorhood or gym and see how they lean forward.)
Check this parade clip and see if you can observe the unnatural but not uncommon walking pattern of kicking the lower leg forward, using the knees instead of the hips! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IV4vrg-GfGE
From My Reveries upon the Art of War by Marshal Maurice de Saxe -
“Have them march in cadence. There is the whole secret, and it is the military step of the Romans. That is why these musical marches were instituted, and that is why one beats the drum; it is this which no one knows and which no one has perceived. … All this may seem extraordinary. Everyone has seen people dancing all night. But take a man and make him dance for a quarter of an hour only without music, and see if he can bear it. This proves that tunes have a secret power over us, that they predispose our muscles to physical exercise and lighten the exercise.”
Well anyone who has an IPOD could have told you that