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Relaxation: the Explanation

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Relaxation and softness

It is very important not to confuse relaxation and soft. In the internal combat arts, we must acquire a certain force (as it is not sewing or ping pong), but without muscle tension. Practitioners must pass a “real” force stage and manifestations before they can “assimilate” this force and make it soft (as far as striking). The idea of an Internal, penetrating or vibrating strike, is soft for those who give, not for the receiver.

How to define the difference between “relaxed” and “soft”?

Relaxation: Action of relaxing

Muscle relaxation brings five interesting things to all practitioners:

* The availability of muscle for immediate use in a voluntary action (speed)

* A minimum use of opposing muscles that inhibit the action (power)

* An optimal recovery of muscle efforts (recovery)

* An economy of movement that reduces energy consumption (endurance)

* A possibility of “giving the force “(penetration).

The stage of “xin yi”, the “thought form”, is the ability to do what we want to understand how and what we do. We will create a link between our bodies and our minds, which will provide the opportunity to act without being paralysed by our compulsive thoughts. The reverse, ie to have a calm and available mind, is also necessary … but this is not the subject of this text.

A contracted muscle should relax before being available for new action. And relaxing the muscle demands a delay in the action which slows it. However, if we reach an optimal relaxation, the muscle is always available for action. This allows us to obtain a greater ability to stretch and contract muscles, tendons and ligaments involved in the movement: thus having more speed.

Despite the muscular relaxation, any movement leads to a protective action by the opposing muscle. These muscles protect joints against sudden movements that might injure them. In an action of punching forward for example, if we look at the arm and forearm, we see that the triceps is slowed by biceps. If the bicep is very tense, very contracted, it inhibits the action of the punch. Being relaxed, speed and power are increased (to do so, tendons must be strengthened).

The regular training can tire muscles. The specific exercises “pull” on the muscle chains. In both cases, if tension exists, it will go to the result sought. The explosion of brief movements, which are desirable in the arts of combat, are repetitions of “anaerobic” effort . This means that the muscle can not take its energy resources by the way of oxidation (oxygen). For all these reasons, the relaxation is important, through muscle relaxation further work in the effort becomes easier, with reduced production of biochemical “waste” (avoiding injuries, muscle tetany and aches).

Opposing muscles are not contracted, the muscles for action are free of tension all the way until use and the recovery cycles of cycles being easier, we consume less energy. The internal energy will therefore be available in an emergency. In addition, any long and “forced” action takes place under better conditions. Our body/machine remains in better shape longer.

The penetrating force, vibrating force, and all “small delicacies” of internal arts require a certain relaxation “course through the body.” We will not present this complex subject.

It should also be noted that throughout the world, China’s past and physiologists of today agree that a contracted muscle is associated with some psychological tension and vice versa. Muscle relaxation is not just availability of the body, but also a form of psycho regulation.

Softness: “Whom yeilds easily to pressure”

Par excellence, we must not yield to pressure. In a very “new age” of internal martial arts, people tend to turn into soft. They often switch into a sensing of “fantasy” energy. In this amateur illusion, the “new age” practitioner has often forgotten that a strike is a level of reality, he must therefore be forced “real and relaxed” to adapt and avoid a premature departure for the “Other Side”. it is not wise to practice whilst being in dangerous illusions.

Working without muscle tension

All strengthening exercises, all techniques must be done without muscle tension. However, there is no question of being soft or gentle. It is still the combat arts and we are seeking to incapacitate potential attackers. In a good and realistic training, practitioners will often go far in exploring the various pain related to internal strikes. It is painful and often bitter, but this must be done in the most relaxing way possible. It is amazing and sometimes unbelievable to see the damage that a strike that is relaxed but not soft can cause.

Repeat work: musculature “holding but not soft”

In a serious daily work of his art, the muscles will develop. This will not be a musculature similar to bodybuilding cultures. The muscles are still relaxed but energetic. The volume will be determined by his body and frequency of practice. In my school, we keep muscle mass up to the age 45 years and let it fall gently until his last years. If we are in a time of intense work of exercises, we will gain long and relaxed muscle mass. The feel of these muscles is very similar to rubber, soft but incompressible. If we train properly every day, it is not possible to be “without muscle” or “weak”.

Strengthening exercises: without tension

The exercises are repeated at length without tension, never. The speed of execution increases for some, it is sometimes slow to work. The muscles thicken at first, then stabilise. The muscles are not dry, the body is not that of an athlete. We can describe three main types of exercises:

* The work on speed,

* The work of the technique,

* The work of force.

For speed, it is clear that work on the relaxation of body and mind is a priority. It is habitual to “rush” co-ordination exercises, yet it is one of the secrets of speed. The speed request us to move quickly from one point to another. The release can overcome the clumsiness. We must have an intimate connection between what we want to do and what we do. This link is the internal by-product of a co-ordinated body. These exercises are difficult and painful, they help strengthen the body. We can distinguish different types of speed to work: speed of action, speed, reaction time, speed of decision, speed of timing and speed of perception.

The martial techniques are at the heart of the two person work. Only the practitioner will prepare his body, but during the course, he will train techniques with a partner. In the two person work we trade blows in an acceptance and with limits that depend on the commitment and purpose. Those working with the idea of being in better health can enjoy the arts of combat without going into the depths of this discipline. For those who choose the way of the warrior, in keeping with his body, he must go “test” what we learn. This is probably the most useful training, but also the most difficult. It includes all facets of practice, when we will face fear and verify his “presence”. We can distinguish three steps that will build gestures “correct” means a general preparedness to deal with qualities needed to acquire the techniques (motivation, attention, lateralization, learning ability …), preparation of specific gestures in defined order (parades, moving, distance, impact …) a versatile development in which priority is given to expanding the capacity of co-ordination. Blockages in learning techniques often come from when the basic co-ordination is too limited.

The power is developed in a priority in styles of combat. Whether to defend or attack, either to wrap or break the opposing force, it takes power. The exercises of power are absolutely necessary for a physical confrontation. All these exercises are in total muscle relaxation, or at least the most relaxed as possible. There is no tension in the exercises of our internal school , awareness without contraction. The types of force that are worked:

* Maximum force (possibility of uniting the entire body for a global force)

* The explosive force (capacity to achieve the greatest increase in force in the shortest time possible)

* The initial force (capacity of explosive force at the beginning of muscle contraction)

* The force of speed (neuro-muscular ability to overcome resistance with the highest speed and possible reaction).

* Co-ordination: Handling the unpredictable

The capacity of co-ordination is a process of knowledge of gesture and of movement that allows for

implement right actions in predictable (stereotypes) or unpredictable (adaptation) situations . The co-ordination is not skill. The skill relates to acts partially automated and not of our own liberty, they are stereotyped gestures. For example, a very good karateka blocks brilliantly powerful attacks from another karateka at a very good level. He knows the precise gestures of his style and knows the parrys (skill). The same good karate practitioner may be in difficulty in front of a good “punch from a thug”, thrown randomly and nasty. It is no longer the framework of gestures they know and they must adapt their ability through their co-ordination to match the unknown.

Co-ordinationwhich is nourished and developed has a range of capabilities:

* Separation and union of the body,

* Ability to analyse,

* Balance,

* Sense of Space

* Rhythmicity,

* Reactivity,

* Adaptation.

The dissociation and union body is a necessity to achieve maximum force. For the chi kung, the art of combat and daily life, it is beneficial to work with the body in one effort. This effort, because it is spread over the whole structure will not be “difficult”. The energy expenditure is the minimum and relaxation is maximum. Similarly, in an action that requires that part of the structure, there is no need to cause a contraction throughout the body. To do this, listening of the internal system can identify and use without being stressful to the rest of the body / mind. While the body will go to a coherence that simplifies the action. From experience, we see that it is easier in learning to dissociate than to unite rather than vice versa.

The capability of analysis is a harmonisation between the various phases of the movements and the movements of different body parts. This harmonisation is reflected in high precision and high economy of movement. The more relaxed, the more we can listen and hear the body in the context of a gesture fully in line with our intention.

The balance is a complex capacity which includes several types:

* – Static equilibrium (alignment)

* – Dynamic balance in transfer (straight line),

* – Dynamic balance in rotation (circles and curves).

Not only does the balance permit the realisation of the training of the deep relaxation, but it is also the secret of sustainability of the practice. Indeed, the more the balance is more deeply rooted in us and the less we will face a deterioration of our level of technique and gestural. The principle of balance is one of the great principles of our system.

The “sense of space” to determine and change the position and movements in space and time. This is done according to the field of action (dojo, play, ring, metro) and the objects in this field of action (furniture, opponent, witness). The sense of space is linked to the vision, especially peripheral vision, and proprioception (sense of self in space managed by the kinesthetic, touch). It permits the evaluation of the distance and the evolution of gesture in time and space. The sense of time, what we call the “timing” is a determining factor in the success of the action.

What is meant by rhythmicity is the ability to understand a given rhythm from the outside and to reproduce them identically or follow a change internally. Understanding the rhythm of his opponent can disrupt, moreover, creating a rhythm one permits one also to position themselves for a right gesture. Relaxation is necessary for an immediate response within the moment of perception. Tension produces a dead moment which desynchronises the perception and action.

The reaction permits the intervening as quick as possible on a given signal. In making a conscious choice, we must have the shortest time possible between the perception of will and action itself. In the action, we need to unite as many possible qualities: strength, speed …

It is possible that a practitioner has all the qualities necessary but has not developed the responsiveness: he is unable to act in response to external stimuli. This quality is one of the most important, it is related to working the co-ordination.

The adaptation is to turn the engine running to adapt to a new situation or continue in a different form. This “change” in the action should be relaxed but held to keep the qualities of strength and speed of the original gesture. The adaptation is closely linked to the capacity of reaction and anticipation that a decisive influence.

The work of the development of the co-ordination is done with three major components that influence and determine the capabilities we have just discussed. We will therefore:

* – Motor control (to distinguish his left, the right ,the up and down)

* – The ability of learning (to the right to the left, following an example),

* – Adaptation engine (reverse, modify or unite with an action known).

The illusion of relaxation

This illusion is seen in the non co-ordination and mental stiffness. The inability to adapt his gesture, move while accomplishing an action, are signs of tension. A health body over the long term depends on this relaxation. Joints, the health of muscles and spine will grow old in good conditions if we are relaxed. All the abuses, excesses, we will pay for, for many years. Nothing is free: if you do not need to defend your life every day, there is no need to destroy your body with a tough training for a confrontation that will perhaps never take place. The conditioning of repetition is sufficient, a hard and specialist conditioning is often dangerous. It is more useful to live long and healthy rather than malign for a few years and, then limping for the rest of his life or not to be able to use his hands.

It is impossible to physically remain weak if we follow a daily training without muscle tension. This training can be done over a long period in which the years do not have a regressive technique. It is a practice of living for the duration of it. Relaxation is the key to this sustainability.