Wednesday, January 25, 2012


The movement of a karate student is tense and stiff. Movement is slow and transitions are difficult. The instructor tells the student that they need to relax. Sound familiar?

Two examples:

My tai chi instructor would take one look at my movement and identify where I was holding stress. It usually manifested in my right shoulder. My movement was stiff and restricted. At work, I notice the tension in my right shoulder when I sit at my desk. I relax my shoulder and step away from my desk for a few minutes.

In the mid 1990’s, a teenage boy was a student at the dojo. I was a new class instructor and I freely admit…he made me nervous. I was concerned he would get hurt. His movement was extremely tense and stiff. I cringed during breakfall practice. His whole body was rigid and he would fall to the mat like a plank of wood. I have never seen anything like it before or since. If I close my eyes, I can still visualize him falling on the mat. I even remember the sound he made as he smashed into the mat. Splat! Despite instruction and guidance from a group of instructors, he never was able to relax and perform a proper breakfall.

Relaxing the body and mind are important components of martial arts training. What advice would you give a new student who is tense and needs to relax their movements? How did you learn to relax?


Ade Susanty said...

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Charles James said...

I refer to it in karate-justu-do as "positive relaxation" because one cannot be truly and fully relaxed.

I found in research that when one feels stress and/or tension they almost always feel it in the face and shoulders first.

To recognize it in the face and with breathing relax the entire face promotes easier relaxation of the shoulders.

Naturally the rest of the body follows along with the mind or the mind with the rest of the body.

chicken-n-egg thing there .....

Rick Matz said...

I began to get a handle on learning to relax through the practice of standing stake, or zhan zhuang:

Sue C said...

I think two things can help a new student to relax more:
1. learning to breath through techniques
2. Not trying to hard! New students often want to impress and put all their strength into every move causing the stiffness and rigidity. Explaining that good flowing technique has to come first and power comes later may help the student to learn things in the right order.