Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Breathing & Tension

Breathing has been something which I have greatly overlooked when practicing out with the forms.
When observing ones breathing during training there seems to be a direct correlation between the breathing moving up from the dan tien towards the chest, usually due to loss of composure, and tension vastly increasing in the shoulders. Seems obvious when written down that loss of composure or inset of panic will lead to tension, the purpose here is to alleviate this issue. I also finds that, paradoxically, fatigue leads to use of muscle power as opposed to reliance upon technique.

To correct this problem I have a few possible solutions.

The first, which seemed to work for me many years ago, involves pushing beyond normal fatigue. When younger I used to train twice a week at class and most days with my neighbor. The tension in my shoulders subsided simply by grinding them down, adhering to continual chi sau rolling until the shoulder muscle has given up the ghost. This now appears to be a rather crude method and since having a period out of training I feel that a more involved solution may be required. My shoulders have developed more since my grinding down days and my life has ensured I do not have quite the same amount of disposable time. Looking at these two factors leads me to believe that this may be a very long, drawn out process which could land me back at square one were I to take another break from training.

The second solution is perhaps more obvious, sensible and cannot fail to be incorporated into my training. This will involve exceptionally gentle and sensitive contact with the arms of others in chi sau, drills and dan chi allowing me to breath naturally during training. Hopefully this will get my body into the habit of lowered breathing not only in excessively laid back training but all areas of my practice. I am not 100% confident that this will enable me to remain relaxed when being struck or finding myself in a rather compromising trap or lock.

Thirdly I cannot overlook the role of the mind.
Be it generating the panic or desperately seeking the hit even if it means fighting force with force, the mind is still major factor in the training environment. If I can't relax when training with someone I've known for years how can I expect to relax when under real pressure?
Aside from the obvious ways of using the mind to keep everything relaxed - pouring over eastern literature, meditation, chi kung (the eight brocade in particular) and almost anything related to taoism - I'm trying to devise exercises specifically related to my wing chun training.
By exercises I mean explicitly where my mind is located during training. I have usually kept my mind fairly absent from training using whatever happens to be hand - being in an almost meditative state, chatting with my partner about any day to day matters or explaining what I'm doing in a fairly detached manner.
It may be time to add a little more structure by using my usual method for most things in life, practicing two extremes and then slowly trying find the middle way by gradually combining them. The decision to be made is which extremes to use?
I've got to begin somewhere so I'll begin with total absorption in the training I'm doing and total concentration on my breathing and dan tien. I suspect it may be as much work to separate the two factors as to recombine them but I'm in no particular rush.

I will further endeavour to continue utilising the exercises that really brought this issue to the forefront of my practice - the eight brocade exercises within chi kung.

Finally to state that I do not intend to make use of my breath for striking or blocking purposes like breathing out with the strike and in as the hand returns. The goal is to achieve deep natural breathing throughout practice to maintain fluidity, and relax my bloody shoulders.

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