Relax Damn It! Let go, let the motion be, dont try to do the technique, let it flow through you. I have found myself saying these words over and over again in the dojo. And yet the words seldom sink in deep enough to cause real change.
Modern life, especially with all of the technology we have is driven by stress. Unless you actively get on a program to de-stress as a martial artist, you are in serious trouble. Why should you care about it?
An increase in stress releases what Scientific and Psych Press calls public health enemy #1 - Cortisol. Numerous studies have shown an increase in cortisol levels leads to reduced learning capacity, reduced retention of long term memory, reduced immune function and bone density while severely increasing weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease.
As a martial artist this has severe implications. Some of the effects of this on you will be:
- Being in fight - flight mode all the time leading to
- Fear-based decisions
- Vision constriction (fovial instead of peripherical)
- Not learning & optimally processing lessons vital for survival
- Alpha brain waves are needed for optimal learning and stress usually lives in high beta waves
- Incapacity to instinctively draw on the necessary techniques
- Learning is state-based, meaning your ability to draw upon a technique will be limited to the states you are in
- Inability to maintain a fighting fit lifestyle due to
- Increased weight
- Spikes in cholesterol and blood sugar
- Heart diseases
- Severe drop in flexibility as stress causes muscles and ligaments to contract/tighten
- A huge increase in injuries
- Above all it is not a fun way to live
So once again I repeat “For F*** Sake RELAX! DAMNIT RELAX!"
How does one do this effectively? Some of my students complain it is easier said than done. Well, it is hard only if you try to force it. In fact the key is letting go. I will share some of the key methods MA can use to relax.
Autogenics: This is a relaxation technique developed by the German psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Schultz and first published in 1932.The Eastern Block specialized in these methods with great success as they prepared for their Olympic wins in the 1970’s. These methods are very well documented in the book SuperLearning. I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. If you are a martial artist searching for elite performance click here http://amzn.to/1BZuIKw
Dissolving: This is a method I learned from Bruce Frantzis, the Taoist Master. The process, superficially, is to stand and consiously relax/dissolve all stress in the body. The important thing is to begin from the head and go down into the feet to the earth. I recommend going to study this from one of his instructors or BUY HIS BOOK “The Power of Internal Martial Arts.” This is perhaps the best introduction to the Internal Arts. Treat yourself and begin the journey into yourself. Buy it here http://amzn.to/1QpKJoM
Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When the mind is trapped in the past it brings depression, and when it is always flirting in the future it results in anxiety/stress. So the trick is to bring that open awareness fully into the present, live in the moment and fully experience life. The best way to do this is to become acutely aware of the body and focus on deep, smooth breathing. I frequently do my forms and shadow boxing in slow motion, becoming aware of everything. Yes, it can end up looking like Tai Chi - but it will quickly relax you and encode the learnings deeply.
Change Your Diet: Cut out the coffee, soda and energy drinks. Cut out as many processed sugars and foods as you can. Increase your water intake to 3 liters a day and increase your intake of B vitamins, fresh greens and seasonal fruit. Personally I have found drinking a green juice every morning has changed my life. For more information on Artful Nourishment to reduce stress and increase vitality refer to the web. If you are a vegetarian like me, then set up a consult with Roopam at Artful Nourishment (I am baised here, but she is REALLY EXQUISITE. She gently changed my food habits for good.)
Set up Tech-Free Time: Yes, seriously, you do not have to answer every email and phone call. I seldom answer calls or email past 8 pm, so I may begin the phase of going into deep relaxation.
All this for Martial Arts you say?? YES! Being a warrior-scholar is a lifestyle, it is not just something you do. The health public enemy #1 Cortisol has to be beaten, so that your weapon- your body-mind is capable of functioning at optimal levels.
So, I say to all Martial Artists again “Relax, Damn It! And then Relax some more."
Mahipal Lunia, Sensei