Martial Art is the Path to Awareness

By: Rosendo Lopez

As you learn how to combine different techniques into fluid movements, the proper amount of relaxation plays a vital role. What I mean by the proper amount is the right balance between muscular tension and relaxation. These are the basics of improving physical awareness or kinesthetic awareness. Let me tell you why.

Once you learn a new kick or throw, you must pay attention to your body to see if you are doing it correctly. This constant attention allows you to become aware of how you are moving and how tense or relaxed you are. Hence, the term body awareness. If you want to be successful in any sport you must be able to master body awareness.

There are a couple of items in your training that can help you enhance body awareness. One is your breathing. Breathing allows you to use energy more efficiently by exhaling out as you strike or inhaling in as you prepare to punch, kick or throw. What you must avoid is holding your breath or breathing too fast in the heat of battle because this can lead to over exertion.

Another vital component of breathing is focus. Breathing affects the brain by slowing down the brain cycles and therefore, improving your focus. If your focus is off your body awareness is off. When you are focused, you are able to pay attention to your body easier then when you are distracted.

During sparring your breathing must be even and deep from the lower abdomen or dantien as it is call in Chinese. Dantien means center of energy and there are lots of them in the body, but the one I'm referring to is the one below your navel. This kind of breathing allows you to be centered and aware of your surroundings and it is the door to the elusive Zone or body, mind and spirit working together as one.

Relaxation is the second component of body awareness. Breathing and relaxation are like day and night, both are necessary and they depend on each other. When you practice deep breathing like in Chi Gung, your body gradually relaxes. Chi Gung is a Chinese martial art that teaches how to use breathing to develop Chi, or internal energy.

What a lot of beginners and even black belts find hard to achieve in improving their body's awareness is the balance between tension and relaxation. They are either too tense or too relaxed. When you are too tense, you become very slow and waste lots of energy before you get to the opponent. If you are too relaxed, your technique may not have enough power. It is in this balance that you can easily become more aware of your body.

Another great tool for developing body awareness is meditation and all martial arts implement some form of meditation. Meditation combines breathing and relaxation, allowing you to pay close attention to your body. Meditation also helps with your mental awareness by letting you see the thoughts that come into your mind and by clearing out unwanted thoughts and improving your focus. Martial training without meditation is like going in the water and not knowing how to flow with the waves. The waves (physical training, fighting or sparring) will crush you pulling you down into the depths of the sea.

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