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?
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?