006) Week of 9/29/08: Shisei
We can spend a life time in training and still discover deeper understandings through the focus on the basics. One of the most important basic is Shisei. This Japanese word conveys more that just posture. This word conveys the importance of being able to harness and utilize positive Ki through posture.
We typically stand in an unbalanced manner that facilitates a way of walking in which we dynamically maintain our balance through unbalanced movements. When a correct posture is assumed, it becomes next to impossible to walk in the manner in which we typically move without unbalancing our posture!
Students are tested almost every class to see if they are standing with a vertical orientation through their spines. Initially, the slight push on the chest or back moves the student, clearly indicating that the person is not standing with a correct vertical alignment. When I make the necessary adjustments in the standing posture, students notice that they cannot only breathe deeper (a clear sign of the benefit of proper posture) but the back muscles actually relax.
This proper posture is critical for several reasons. First, we have a limited amount of body energy at any one point in time. If we are not standing with a proper posture, our bodies are utilizing a significant amount of energy to keep us stabilized. This energy expenditure occurs at an unconscious level, but it none-the-less deprives that person of potential available energy to direct to other purposes. Second, we had discovered in class that excessive muscular tension in our bodies inhibits our ability to allow force to pass through us and to be able send energy outward.
In martial terms, our ability to be able to effectively neutralize somebody else’s force, while at the same time, delivering the optimal amount of energy directed into the attacker is a critical ability base. Maintaining proper posture throughout movement effectively maximizes our martial effectiveness.
We spend quite a bit of time “relearning” how to walk in a balanced manner. This movement style maintains our proper posture throughout our movement series. Learning how to consistently walk in this manner is not an easy task. It is not simply enough to be practicing how we stand and then how we move in the dojo. This needs to be applied in our daily lives in order to deeply “rewire” our bodies to operate in this manner under stressful conditions.
How many of us ask ourselves “am I standing properly” during the course of the day? Use tension or lack of tension in your back muscles, along with breathing as feedback signals to help you develop better posture. I think that people will be surprised as to the many benefits that will be uncovered when they consistently focus on standing and moving with good posture. The link between good posture and positive energy is a hint to what lies ahead.
Marc Abrams Sensei