Kyoshi's Technique of the Week

Thought/Technique Archive

Technique of the Week (June 23rd, 2008)

From Lisa Harvey

Northampton Ueshiro Karate dojo

Northampton MA.


As some of you may know, I have been a horse-woman for over twenty-five years, and a student of Shorin-Ryu Karate for almost ten years. In addition to this, I have been a student and teacher of the Alexander Technique for about twenty years. Why am I telling you this?
As a teacher, I am always looking for the common threads between our different activities. There are many for me, but there is one fundamental thing we all share. It is this: The most important thing we bring to everything we do is ourselves. We are in fact the thread.
Because how we move throughout our day is what we will bring to the deck, we can be improving our karate every day by becoming more aware of ourselves in any activity we engage in. Of course, the same is true in reverse. If we pay close attention to our use ( how we move and how we react to stimulus) on the deck, we can reap the benefits of a strong body mind and spirit from our karate training.
The trick in this is that we spend maybe three to six hours weekly training on the deck and we use our bodies in some way, all day, every day, 365 days a year our whole lives. This means we bring more of our habits to the deck than we may be aware of. Three to six hours of training mindfully could in fact counter act much of the habitual misuse that creates physical tension, mental fog, and feelings of stress. If we then continue to be mindful of our use off of the deck, we can effect positive change no matter what our rank or skill level.
So how to be more mindful in our training is the question. Slow down! Keeping the count in all of out training to a two second pause is very important. There are ways to make our workout aerobic, but counting too fast is not one of them. For the purposes of learning to do karate technique, and to work with an awareness that develops or sense of our selves and our surroundings, we must pause between the movements.
In that pause, we can release tension in our muscles so it does not build up, (or hold the tension properly as in naihanchi kata). we can breath, we can make small adjustments to our stance, we can observe ourselves and our surroundings. So much can happen in that pause, use it well.
Use the mirrors. Not just to look at yourself, but to really see yourself. Do I reach with my shoulder when I punch? Do I raise my shoulders unduly when I block? Do my knees move over my feet when I bend my legs? Become aware of these kinds of things and know you probably do many of the same things off of the deck in similar movements. Be aware of your habits and you are on your way to changing them.
And finally, understand that you don’t change a habit of movement by making more effort. You change a habit by releasing it. So if your shoulders are forward, release the muscles in the front of the chest to allow the front to open and widen. Then the back musculature will engage more naturally, creating a balance and ease in your shoulders.
We can use our karate training to change our habits, both in thought and in movement, if we are mindful in our training. And, as E.W. Nicol offers us in Moving Zen, “Through concentration on perfection, the mind is released, and a great calm, in which the body moves, is achieved.” And so, it is with great respect for each of you that I offer these thoughts in hopes they may help you on your path.

Lisa Harvey