I’ve been talking about excess tension in some of my recent classes. No doubt every one of us has been told to relax at some point in our training. But that language can be confusing. How can one be relaxed when you’re in the middle of a fight? What is really meant by that is to take away any unnecessary tension. Whatever tension doesn’t serve that moment just gets in the way. It can take away power, slow a technique down, and create stagnation rather than freedom.
Here’s a simple exercise to try. Throw a cross punch, then freeze with your arm all the way extended. Now tense up all the muscles in your arm. Obviously that is too much tension. Now slowly start to relax the various muscles. Experiment with what muscles can relax, what tension you can remove, and what tension you need to keep to keep your arm in that position. Once you’ve tried it with way too much tension, throw the same punch the way you normally do and go through the same exercise. Find any tension that wasn’t needed? Pay extra attention to the shoulders, as that is a place where excess tension often hides.
Advanced training has a lot to do with finding those parts of our movement that aren’t needed, that don’t serve us, and getting rid of them. Sound easy? It probably doesn’t. Unfortunately it’s even harder than it sounds, because we’re dealing with habit, and possibly emotion. But once you start removing some of the extra tension and unneeded movement, it makes our techniques, and our thoughts, feel lighter and freer.