Physical Tension - Another Thought
Physical Tension - Another Thought
Last month (Nov 09) I attended the Breathing, Health and Combat Seminar in Toronto, Canada and had my eyes opened to many new thoughts and views with regard to the correlation between breathing and movement. As often happens at these events the interaction with our fellow students helps us to see the material for different perspectives. Ten of us can participate in the same training and come away with 10 different points of view, this is the reason for circling up at the end of class to share.
During some down time I was talking with Kaizen Taki, an instructor in Seattle. For those of you that have not met and trained with Kaizen I fully recommend the experience. Our discussion was long and covered many topics, hence I do not recall the exact lead in on how we got on the topic of tension and moving tension around the body. This is probably a good thing as it keeps me from story telling and gets me directly to the point.
In a nutshell Kaizen used the word pressure to describe tension in the body. While Kaizen told me Vladimir has used this change in words before it was the first time I had heard it. Kaizen had me grab him and bend him backwards. We could both fell where his body was tense (pressurized) and discussed the different points and identified the point of greatest tension/pressure.
Once we identified the areas of highest tension/pressure Kaizen said all he had to do was equalize the pressure throughout his body. In a sense spread the pressure out over the whole instead of allowing it to stay in specific areas of the body. He demonstrated this very smoothly and with great ease. By releasing this pressure Kaizen essentially regained his structure and altered my structure, all with no external movement. Way cool!
In the past when I was aware of tension I tried to release it. This worked to varying degrees of success and always started with me becoming aware of increased tension in my body. What Kaizen shared with me might not seem much different but it has drastically helped me in many different ways.
First I connected with the word pressure to a greater degree than tension, especially pressure created by an outside source like in the example above of being bent over by a second person. The first step in dealing with tension is to be aware of it, if one is not aware of it consciously or sub-consciously then there is no hope of making proper adjustments. Monitoring pressure changes in my body seems easier than looking for tension changes. This could be semantics but it is valuable to me.
Secondly I was no longer attempting to totally eliminate or remove tension from my body, I was accepting it and equalizing it over my entire body. With this thought I am not focused on the body part that is holding the pressure, I am becoming aware of my entire body as I move the pressure evenly into the entire body. Releasing tension from one specific spot can be a daunting task, now I am simply spreading it everywhere. Somehow this just seems easier to me and I feel the full body awareness is a plus.
Lastly this concept of moving pressure throughout the body is easily tied to the breathing methods taught at the seminar. At one point during the seminar Vladimir mentioned using the breath like an air pump and pumping into or out of the body. I can use the same visualize of an air pump and pump the pressure from the high pressure areas to the low pressure areas until everything is equalized. Visualization can be a great tool to help us get started. Eventually one would not need this aid and equalizing the pressure would simply become natural. Our bodies generally seek comfort, equalizing or releasing pressure is a comforting act, hence all we have to do is teach ourselves how to respond in such a manner.
A simple solo drill for training this is to lie on the ground and relax completely. Once relaxed slowly start to move with the intention of getting up. When you feel the slightest change in body pressure halt your movement and try to spread the pressure throughout the body. Once equalized, begin moving again until the next pressure change. Sometimes it will take several attempts to make the easiest of motions. While doing this drill I have become aware how I tend to rely on the large muscle groups and power through movement instead of finding the most efficient method of movement. This has forced me to explore different methods for generating motion. Additions to this simple drill are to explore how to use movement to release pressure and how to use breathing to release pressure.
Some other interesting drills built from the work we did in November are:
• #1 lays on ground and bends himself into an uncomfortable position, holds his breath as long as possible, noticing where the tension starts to build from then holds the position and uses breathing to recover. Note that the uncomfortable position means the body starts with increased pressure. #1 attempts to equalize this once he assumes the position and throughout the drill. While holding the breath the body will also build pressure, perhaps in the same area, #1 should likewise attempt to equalize this pressure/tension.
• Pair up and now #2 bends #1 into uncomfortable positions of his choosing and follow the same process above. Having someone else control your body adds another layer of difficulty.
• Repeat this drill but now #2 should begin to add his body weight to increase the fear and perhaps even place a forearm on the face or other sensitive areas to increase the difficulty.
• Repeat the drill but now when #1 is recovering and release all of the tension he should try to move a little to feel how his elimination of tension affects the structure and form of #2. Hint: When relaxing some of the smallest and most subtle motions can have dramatic affect but do not try to move #2 simply move where and how the body naturally wants to move.
• Note the same series can be done standing up and becomes the basis for escaping from holds.
This type of work can be added to in a progression style training method to build all the way up to freestyle wrestling. This concept of monitoring for pressure changes has been a nice change for my ground work. Now when wrestling I focus on the opponent less and less, instead focusing on my breathing and changes in body pressure. I make sure I am breathing and use that breathing with my motion to constantly equalize my body's pressure. When doing so I am far more relaxed and options continually appear, which means I am not struggling against my opponent. With more training I hope to make this my norm.
Take care and Merry Christmas,