Monday, November 2, 2015


Tension is the enemy.  There are arts out there that like generating tension - like weightlifting, or arm wrestling, but for the arts I practice and the arts many of you practice, tension is just a pain in the ass.

Too much tension in the legs means you can't use the body to power your moves.  Too much tension in the shoulders kills the arm's ability to truly unleash its full potential.  And tension in one place causes tension in other places, possibly in your entire body.  Don't believe me?  Clench a fist.  Your entire arm is involved, all the way up to your shoulder.  If there's tension in your shoulder, there's tension in your neck and torso, and so on.

When you relax, you let your body act much more efficiently, enable gravity to help, let your body absorb shock easier, and can react much quicker.  I don't know that I'm saying anything people don't believe, but the problem is making the body listen to what you want it to do.

Tensing is so natural, so easy to do.  It's almost like we're wired for it, so we have to learn HOW to relax.  As I've said before in previous posts, when you start a drill with the intention of relaxing, it's almost unavoidable to repeat many of the habits you're trying to break.  Learning small adjustments in the face of established habits is reaaalllly hard.

So I recommend putting yourself in a position where your habits have nothing to grab on to - no familiar footholds, in other words.  Try moving from a place of extreme relaxation.  Be sloppy, with just enough energy to keep you upright.  If it's something like taiko, maybe you don't let the bachi rebound off the head.  Or you collapse your weight down into the floor like a mini-squat.  Something like karate might have you almost falling after a kick or a turn leaving you all twisted up.  That's fine.  In fact, if you're comfortable in this state, then odds are you're not really putting yourself into the drill and holding tension.  Get wobbly-relaxed!  Breathe out when you move.  Take a lot of time between individual moves.  And DON'T WORRY ABOUT HOW IT LOOKS.  As soon as you worry about that, you'll want to adjust.

Keep in mind that relaxed doesn't always mean slow.  You can still accelerate a technique, but not control it.

This is where you can feel the extremes of relaxation.  And from here, you can start making adjustments.  Just a little bit, here and there.  Juuuust enough tension to keep your posture upright, or just enough to keep your arm from bouncing at the end of a movement.  Doing small adjustments back towards the "norm" can teach you a lot more about body awareness than trying to start at the "norm" and adjust from there.

So try a drill, song, form, whatever - and do it so relaxed to where you feel silly.  Can you still make a sound?  Can you still do it with speed?  Can you still connect your body?  Then small steps up, focusing on stay relaxed.  What do you learn?  What can you retain?  How different does it feel?

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