Monday, May 18, 2009

Restful Activity

After taking a week from writing and blogging I realized something very important that we seem to neglect in our lives. The need for restful activity. We have a tendency to run at breakneck speed and in many cases, disregard the messages our bodies send us. We trade off hours of sleep for imagined productivity, and we quickly descend into the mindset of "everything has to happen yesterday."

Every so often we need to take stock of the situation and engage in some restful activity. It sounds like a paradox- being active while resting, but making time for rest while being less active helps us to de-stress and recharge. Restful activity can be any activity you can do while still maintaining a posture of rest. Reading a good book, having a great conversation, meditation, kata practice, and writing are a few of many activities you can enjoy. You may notice I did not mention any activity where your mind is not engaged. This is not what many consider "vegging out." Your brain and mind should be part of whatever activity you undertake, while your body benefits from the lowered demand and rests. If we practice restful activity at least once a day we will notice that we have more energy and vitality. With this practice in place we can offset the effects of stress, and enjoy the benefits of a centered life.

Sensei Orlando

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What is Zanshin?

There is an old story about a young man who sought teaching from a great swordsman. After being accepted, the student endured several years of personal service -- cooking, washing and cleaning for the teacher. Then his lessons began, but not practice with a sword. His teacher began to surprise him with incessant attacks with a practice sword -- when the student was cooking, sleeping, anytime. Over time the student's pains and bruises lessened as he gradually learned to avoid and dodge the attacks. Finally the student asked the teacher when actual sword training was to begin. The teacher then replied that he had been taught all that he needed to learn. This was zanshin, such total awareness that the student could sense and then avoid the attacks.
The story illustrates the awareness we all seek to attain. Zanshin loosely translated means the state of total awareness. It means being aware of one's surroundings and enemies, and also being prepared to react. It is what I call developing radar and taking in not only the person that seems menacing or off, but your surroundings as well. The only way to cultivate this type of awareness is through practice and being immersed in the type of situations that would warrant using and needing this type of awareness. In many schools attacks are non linear or you face several opponents at once. In other schools, blindfolds are used to heighten the remaining senses and create a state of Zanshin.

Whatever your method we can all benefit from walking around more aware of our surroundings. Take stock of where you are and who is around you. Take in the surroundings. Are they dangerous? Do they have the potential to be dangerous?

There is an old samurai saying, "When the battle is over, tighten your chin strap." This refers to constant awareness, preparedness for danger and readiness for action.

Even when it seems things are not dangerous, maintain a state of readiness. It is always better to be prepared and not need to take action than needing to take action and not being prepared.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body

Sensei Orlando

Monday, May 4, 2009

Active Self Defense - Working from your Center

In our most recent Self-Defense class we worked on using the center. It is an easy concept to understand, while also being one of the most difficult concepts to practice.

The premise is that if you are being attacked or are fending off an attack you want your opponent off balance and off center. You never want your opponent squarely over his base of power and at the same time, you want to remain over yours.

What comes into play is learning how to gauge distance, how to use your body and learning how to apply torque and twisting movements as well as when to take a step back, forward or to either side. Everything we do in self defense uses the concept of centering. When an arm is presented, if you allow the attacker to keep his arm close to his center, this provides leverage and makes it difficult to apply the correct biomechanical response to your advantage. When the same arm is moved away from the center, it becomes much easier to apply force and reinforce the biomechanics of the body, this allows for an easier execution of the self defense technique.

Likewise if you are being attacked, you should remain over your center and control where your balance and power are derived from. Remembering that much if not all of the power is generated from your hips using torque, centering becomes even more important. A lack of awareness in this area will result in poorly executed techniques and a lack of power in strikes.

Remember to always stay centered.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body

Sensei Orlando