One of the hardest lessons for a student to learn is how to relax effectively.
I put special emphasis on the concept of “effectively” because this goes beyond just knowing how to relax. This goes into utilizing that relaxed state to accomplish more.
Many Martial Artist at some point or another will be shown or taught techniques to meditate. Meditation is a very nice compliment to Martial Arts training because it teaches the mind to disengage from all the noise around us and focus on the immediate present. For those that also study the chakra’s, it also opens our “third eye”, which is the source of our mental processing abilities.
People who come out of these meditative classes or lessons often express how relaxed and refreshed they feel. It’s like having a nap without actually going to sleep. They might use the techniques they learn to help them rest at night or calm their nerves before a big event.
But that’s where the story ends for most students. They have learned to relax but not to do it effectively within Martial Arts. The minute they get on the floor to spar or start to do their form, all thoughts of relaxation have gone out their head. In other words, they only relax when they aren’t doing Martial Arts.
In order to master Martial Arts, the practitioner must learn to take this relaxed state through everything they perform. The great Bruce Lee understood this and preached it often.
“Everything you do, if not in a relaxed state will be done at a lesser level than you are proficient.” – Bruce Lee
So you can do Martial Arts (or anything in life for that fact) in a tense state and perhaps even accomplish greatness. But if you learn to do it in a relaxed state, you’d excel even further.
So how do you reach this relaxed state?
For a Martial Artist, there is no easy or shortcut path to learning how to relax effectively. Simply put, it takes years of being willing to work and repeat and work and repeat. A student must view their Martial Arts movement as a “meditation through motion.” Their aim should be to reach the same state they might have in a meditation class but while they are doing their movements.
This can’t be done if the student is still trying to learn and memorize the steps they are trying to perform. That’s why the most effective and proficient Martial Artist often practice the same movement thousands upon thousands of times. The repetition allows the body to reach this meditative state.
Students who have reached this state often have a whole new perspective and view on the forms or movements they are executing. They often appear to almost “float” in their movements and be able to predict or see where their opponent will go next. They have a natural rhythm to their movements that blends with their surroundings.
Don’t believe me? Just watch the great Bruce Lee in action. When he is “tense”, screaming out his “ki”, he isn’t moving. In fact, he’s often frozen because he has left the meditative state to deliver the final blow. But every motion and movement before that point flows as if it is almost effortless and without thought. In fact, it probably was executed without conscious thought and is rather a part of his effective relaxed technique.
So next time you’re training and feel your muscles ache or sigh because you’re teacher has told you to perform the same routine yet again… consider this. Can you take the opportunity to learn how to relax effectively?