Thursday, June 15, 2017

But I'm not tense!

Tension is your enemy.  And it's insidious, in all the places you're not aware of, creeping in often as soon as you turn your attention elsewhere.  It's even worse when you know it's there but can't get rid of it!

A few weeks back in the dojo, talking with a student about sparring, I told him that he was way too tense.  His response was, "but my shoulders aren't high up!"  That response took me aback a bit because it was a almost a non-sequitur at the time.  How did that matter?  But it did make sense, in that I understood what he meant...even though he was completely missing the point.

When I'm teaching at the dojo or working with people newer to taiko (or just our style of taiko), I'm often telling students to relax.  Sometimes it's as easy as reminding them to breathe!   One of the most visible signs of tension is when the shoulders are up too high.  If you've ever had a massage, you'll know there are a lot of sore spots on the upper shoulders and lower neck!  That's where tension likes to creep in, especially those of us who work on a keyboard a lot.

And this is what that student was getting at, thinking because his shoulders weren't scrunched up high, he wasn't tense.  Thing is, you can be tense no matter what position you're in, no matter what's up or down.  You can drop your shoulders and tense up to a painful degree.  If you want to be technical, unless you're lying down flat (and maybe even asleep), you're probably holding tension. Are you standing?  Well you'd collapse if you didn't hold some tension, so...

People may not feel tense, but the human body is great at compensating.  When something hurts, other muscles take up the slack.  When I hurt my back, my core muscles did a lot of the workload and I was told the strength of those muscles was the reason why the pain wasn't as bad as it could have been.  Stress is uncomfortable to the body, so think of it as a form of pain - and so the body will naturally try to compensate, so that you don't have to feel it.  Problem is, sooner or later, you *will* feel it, in soreness or injury down the line.  If you're younger, you won't feel it maybe for some time, but trust me, if you're ignoring stress now, you'll pay for it later.

So when you can, when you're practicing, instead of thinking, "am I holding tension?" think instead, "where am I holding tension?"  Find it, at least some of it, and try to get rid of it.  Breathe, stretch, collapse, shake it out, whatever.  And you have to assume it's there, because if you're in any sort of stance, if you're moving your arms up and around, you have tension.  If you think you don't, unless your art involves you lying in a puddle on the floor, you're sorely mistaken.  And maybe just sore!

image credit:

No comments:

Post a Comment