This month's "The Mirror" column was written by Janet Rosen © 2012, all rights reserved.
Above image - © Green Dreams Photography, All Rights Reserved
Five times in the past eighteen months, highly experienced practitioners or teachers of budo have stopped short, cast a critical eye at me, and pronounced my posture a problem. Not, mind you, my stance or my "finishing" pose; nope, just me standing there, being me.
Since working with structure and internal issues has become the key focus of my training, it struck me that I'd better act on the problem so that I'm not fighting myself or trying to graft new skills onto a poor foundation. I had received some sound advice early on, including a referral to a good book. But simply paying attention and selecting some exercises was clearly not doing a darn thing, since I kept hearing the same critique from these folks both within and outside of aikido.
I had already been thinking about Rolfing®
for a while because of a twenty year history of chronic neck pain that has proven unresponsive to pretty much every other non-invasive modality. While living in San Francisco, the price tag had kept me from pursuing it. Now, living in a rural area, thinking about the time and the gas money to get to the nearest practitioner sixty miles away made it even more daunting.
But being at the end of my rope on the neck pain plus feeling that my aikido training was going to be as firmly stuck as some of my muscles if I didn't address my posture finally tipped the scale to where I had to reframe the expense as something essential to my health.
As I write this in late May, I've been to three sessions. My practitioner's initial assessment was in line with what everybody else sees: my head is held far too forward and tilted up (well, what posture do you expect will be developed by a pugnacious, severely myopic runty little girl from Brooklyn?) and my shoulder are nicely "down" but roll forward too much. She also noted what I have seen, which is that I'm starting to develop an upper back hump. My lumbar curve has flattened, which is pretty funny, because at times in the past it has been too extreme and at times too flat - a reflection of my very odd ability to feel incredibly slight differences in my body yet lose the sense of where to find neutral. She has also identified the odd holding and skewing patterns I've been aware of yet could never undo via other bodywork for more than a few days.
Most interesting to me, though, was something she asked at our second session. Longtime readers of The Mirror or the Aikiweb forum will know that I often refer to myself, only half jokingly, as a badger: small, round, low to the ground, generally inoffensive but not to be messed with. My energy is always earthward; my natural tendency on the mat is to find the downward spirals.
Carole, my practitioner, knows nothing of this. She has no martial arts experience. She moved her hand here and there while I was standing still, getting me to make a couple of small adjustments at the knee, low back and neck. I felt like I was getting taller. She very casually asked if I had a tendency to be more focused on "down" than on "up." My roar of laughter sent her stepping back, blinking in surprise...
So while she has focuses on the palpable problems that are holding me back, she has already given me valuable feedback to take directly back to training. My baseline posture is a work in progress, but I can better activate "up" when working on solo standing forms and I'm trying to keep that activation with weapons kata and when training with a partner.Janet Rosen
"The Mirror" is a collaborative column written by a group of women who describe themselves as:
We comprise mothers, spouses, scientists, artists, teachers, healers, and yes, of course, writers. We range in age from 30s through 50s, we are kyu ranked and yudansha and from various parts of the United States and styles of aikido. What we have in common is a love for budo that keeps it an integral part of our busy lives, both curiosity about and a commonsense approach to life and aikido, and an inveterate tendency to write about these explorations.