We talk a lot about having ‘natural movement’ in our martial art. As important as it is, it can be just as hard to describe what that means. Sure, we want natural speed, relying less on fast ‘muscle’ speed. We want to use gravity and not rely solely on strength. We want to take away that which is unnecessary to make our movement more efficient. But just what makes for ‘natural’ versus something extra we’ve added isn’t always clear.
Having a toddler has shown me a whole new perspective on natural movement. When my son was a little younger, he would amaze me with just how fast he could grab something he wanted. It was, inevitably, something he wasn’t supposed to grab. It was also pure, natural movement. He wanted, so he went for it. There was no telegraphing. No need for anything extra. More than once at meal time, food went everywhere when he grabbed at a fork or plate. Even when I thought I was prepared to stop him, I wasn’t always. No one taught him that 4th degree skill of striking with little to no intention! For him it was just natural movement.
Interestingly enough, as he got a little older and started to understand there were some things he wasn’t supposed to do, some of that natural movement went away, and with it the surprising speed. A sly glance or slow step toward what he’s hoping to grab gives it away now more often than not.
These days his most natural movement is when getting picked if he doesn’t want to be. He suddenly becomes a gelatinous creature that oozes out of my arms and it takes multiple attempts to scoop all of him up and get him where he is supposed to go. No one taught him the defense against being picked up. For him it was just natural.
So how do we get our movement to be more natural and less forced?
Here are three quick tips:
1) Move slow.
This does many things, including showcasing where the extra, and unneeded, strength and tension is coming from.
2) Get out of your head.
This one is tricky, because in the beginning you may be learning something so new that you have to focus on every step. There is nothing wrong with that! But at some point thinking your way through a movement could hinder you. Try concentrating on your breathing instead of the technique (be sure you are following step one and going slow!) as a way to let go of the extra chatter in your brain. You might be surprised at how smooth your movement suddenly gets.
3) Train all the time
Alas, as we get older a lot of habits build up. Most of them have served us in one way or another. Some not. But many we need to let go of to get better at To-Shin Do. And that takes practice. Look for opportunities during your day to practice being natural. Are you in good posture during the day or are your muscles doing unnatural extra work to hold up your spine? Are you putting too much tension into everyday movements? What activities or hobbies work at undoing the movement we’re learning in To-Shin Do?
What do we need to let go of, so we can get back to natural movement?