Being told to "relax" during kata even when I am relaxed

ThatOneCanadian

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On one hand, I am putting forth almost a daily effort to training kata, not just through training the katas themselves but through improving my physical fitness. Not only that but I am specifically working on improving my relaxation during kata. On the other hand, I keep being told to "relax" when I do kata.

This confuses me, not just because I make a conscious effort to relax and contract with each movement, but I also consciously use my lower body to drive my upper body's techniques, which is what I am supposed to be doing to achieve this relaxation. I use every trick in the book, i.e. contracting the lats, pushing off the back leg, hip vibration vs. rotation, not moving the shoulder, sinking with each movement, etc. I have been studying/training kata as well as kata-related mechanics for years. And yet for some reason I keep being told that I am doing it all completely wrong by tensing up, even though I feel absolutely no tension in the places that should be relaxed.

Keep in mind that I am not some casual practitioner who mindlessly makes rookie mistakes; I am someone who is consciously aware of what not to do and yet for some reason people keep telling me that I make these mistakes, even though I do not see or feel them at all.

This is getting extremely annoying. Does anyone have any advice?
 

seasoned

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On one hand, I am putting forth almost a daily effort to training kata, not just through training the katas themselves but through improving my physical fitness. Not only that but I am specifically working on improving my relaxation during kata. On the other hand, I keep being told to "relax" when I do kata.

This confuses me, not just because I make a conscious effort to relax and contract with each movement, but I also consciously use my lower body to drive my upper body's techniques, which is what I am supposed to be doing to achieve this relaxation. I use every trick in the book, i.e. contracting the lats, pushing off the back leg, hip vibration vs. rotation, not moving the shoulder, sinking with each movement, etc. I have been studying/training kata as well as kata-related mechanics for years. And yet for some reason I keep being told that I am doing it all completely wrong by tensing up, even though I feel absolutely no tension in the places that should be relaxed.

Keep in mind that I am not some casual practitioner who mindlessly makes rookie mistakes; I am someone who is consciously aware of what not to do and yet for some reason people keep telling me that I make these mistakes, even though I do not see or feel them at all.

This is getting extremely annoying. Does anyone have any advice?
It's called the karate drum. Stand in an open leg ready stance with shoulders down knees bent. Slowly swing your arms as you twist your body right to left. Completely relax, as you feel your arms slap across your body, generating movement from the hips only. Pick up the pace to a comfortable cadence as you think down with your mind. As you feel any tension in your body let it drain through your arms as they slap against your body..... Tension comes from the mind which should remain empty or void of thought once you feel comfortable with this movement.
 
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isshinryuronin

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I make a conscious effort to relax and contract with each movement, but I also consciously use my lower body to drive my upper body's techniques, which is what I am supposed to be doing to achieve this relaxation. I use every trick in the book, i.e. contracting the lats, pushing off the back leg, hip vibration vs. rotation, not moving the shoulder, sinking with each movement, etc.
This is your problem. You are trying too hard to relax. IMO, none of the above will help. Quite the opposite, actually. Interesting you did not list breathing. This may be your key. It may be mental attitude. Try not being so conscious. Hard to tell without actually seeing your kata.

It's also possible you're concentrating too much on the technique. Try not doing the technique as a karate technique - make it into a natural everyday movement. For example, if your punch is too tense, change it into something you naturally do in a relaxed manner: Visualize yourself extending your hand to take a glass of wine from someone, or to shake hands. The movement is very similar to a punch, but done in a very easy, relaxed, natural way. You hardly consciously think about it!

Body "feel" is very abstract. It may take a year, or five years to feel comfortable in your karate skin. I do know that trying too hard will only delay obtaining what you seek. As a Zen master (or Yoda) may say, "Do by not doing."

Hope some of these ideas can put you on the right track.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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If not, that's fine, but could you post a video of you doing kata? That may help us give more relevant advice, rather than the general advice you've received so far.
 

Bill Mattocks

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When I tell a student to relax, it's not because they are relaxed and I just feel like messing with them. It's because they're stiff. They may believe they are relaxed, but they are not. Like others said, a video can help.
 

O'Malley

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I've been trying to relax my shoulders since 2013 and I'm not there yet. You can probably relax more.

Try to use your breathing to release tension. For me, it feels like softly pulling threads on a knot as I exhale, untying the knot. Massages and proper posture help, as well as healthy habits (I've changed the way I sleep and drive as they messed up one of my shoulders).

Keep at it! :)
 
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ThatOneCanadian

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When I tell a student to relax, it's not because they are relaxed and I just feel like messing with them. It's because they're stiff. They may believe they are relaxed, but they are not. Like others said, a video can help.
I'll definitely do that and include it in the initial post.

I do have a video of Chinte that I posted but that video is quite old and I don't know if it's relevant to my current ability:
 

wab25

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So, I watched you Chinte video (did not read any other posts there yet... I wanted to comment here on what I saw, not what others said about what they saw)

I can see in that video where the relaxing could be helpful. Its time to take the toy out of the box and play with it. Sure, it looks great up on the shelf, in the shiny new box and yes the toy is still perfect, with no blemishes... but it also has never been played with. Toys are meant to be played with.

Start doing things wrong. Make it an ugly kata. Do it slow, put no energy into it at all. Heck, do just the foot work part, but with tiny steps. Pretend you are going on stage in some talent contest, but right now you are back stage... you want to run through it a few times before you go, but there is no clear floor, people are running all around... you are forced to take small steps, you can't actually extend your arms, you can't even do the right timing. Use minimal half hearted motions. Change the timing: if you normally do quick, quick, powerful, pause, quick... do slow, slower, quick, slow (notice I skipped the pause). Get a glass, fill it with water to the top, even with the top edge, do your kata without spilling any. Do the hardest workout you have ever done, so that you can't hardly even stand or raise your hands... now do your kata. Doing things like this will help you learn what relaxed feels like. How little energy can you use? Can you do the whole kata while waiting in line for movie tickets, without people looking at you funny? Now, start to bring back the energy... but only in parts. Pick one strike that you will put the energy into... everything else is a setup for that strike. The setup is to make the other guy think you are drunk and about to fall off your feet, then BAM!

Change the techniques. If its a punch, make it a push, make it a parry, make it a redirect, my it a wrist lock, make it an escape from a grab, make it a throw... Change which technique is the finishing technique. Change the timing... the kata says quick, quick, power... so surprise the other guy, do quick, power, slow.

Now, when you go back to doing you kata properly, your body should be able to bring with it some of the lazy relaxed nature you got from doing these terrible kata. You will start to blend one move into the other better, you will be defining where the power is, not putting power here because sensei said so. Most importantly, do the terrible kata practice on your time, your sensei will get ticked off. But, take it out, get it dirty, get it smudged up a bit. A toy kept in its box all nice and shiny is worth the money that collector can get for it... and it will be remembered for the dollars it brings. That well loved toy, with all the dings and scratches, won't be worth very many dollars, and not many people will want it... but to the owner of that well loved toy, it will mean the world.
 

mograph

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This is getting extremely annoying. Does anyone have any advice?
The advice here looks good. I'd offer two things that might be helpful, or not.
  1. concentration is not so much about bearing down on one thing, it's more about gently removing the unnecessary things from your attention. By this, I mean rather than focus on the things you're supposed to do, focus on nothing in particular and just experience the sensations of your practice as you know it. You probably don't need to tighten this, loosen that, but if you just feel the ground and do your normal practice thing, you might end up more relaxed.
  2. According to Waysun Liao, Cheng Man Ching once said that his taijiquan improved noticeably after having a dream where he had no arms. The application of this idea might be to do your kata while letting your arms hang by your body. Then you gradually, mentally inflate them just a little bit so they rise up slightly, and start to approach a rough, rounded approximation of where they are supposed to be; but they still follow the motions of your center. They don't lead. Make them "dumb," but compliant, sort of. Filled with air, like an inflatable man.
Hope that helps.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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do your kata while letting your arms hang by your body.
This is a good advice.

You can also consider

- the end of your current move is the beginning of your next move.
- use your body to push/pull your arm/leg.

IMO, the following clip is a very relax form.

 
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seasoned

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I just watched your kata video. It appears you are retaining tension from one technique to the next instead of letting it go. Strike relax, block relax so you can transition from one technique to the next smoothly. It's not a matter of doing more kata but instead learning to relax between moves and not carry the tension throughout the whole kata....
 

Kung Fu Wang

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I just watched your kata video. It appears you are retaining tension from one technique to the next instead of letting it go.
I think the concern is he didn't completely release his power.

Instead of compress 100% and then release 100%, compress 100% and then release 100%, ..., he my just compress 100% and release 75%, compress 75% and release 75%, ... There are always 25% power inside his body that has not released through his form training.

Some people may think those reserved 25% power can enhance the body structure. I believe it can make one to feel tired faster.
 

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Wonderful answers so far!

Just a note, sometimes for those of us with chronic tension issues (my hand is raised!), we may feel like we've relaxed as much as possible, but because of an incredibly tensed muscle group with potential trigger points, it can still show. And no matter how much we "try" to relax, it will still appear tensed or engaged because if the muscle is in a chronically shortened position, if will pull or act on the specific joint regardless (eg pull our shoulder girdle upwards or rotate it inwards).

If this may be the case, perhaps getting some massage and deep tissue work could help, or self massage at home with whatever you have, foam roller, hard lacrosse ball, shiatsu cushion etc. A professional will be more helpful but just another option. For me I've really been focusing on massage stuff, and also making stretching and hot baths very regular!

I remember going through a kata in front of my instructors once, and they told me afterwards to relax, that I was too tense. So the next few I really was consciously aiming to not be as tensed and be smoother in my movements, and they still said I was too tense haha.

So this may very well not be purely a technical issue! Although I feel that will still be a factor.
 

_Simon_

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And by the way I absolutely empathise with you brother.

Please let us know how you go and if you find anything that has helped. Will be helpful for us all :)
 

Kung Fu Wang

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To relax your body like a pile of mud is easy. To relax and still be able to generate power is difficult. If your energy can be sent through your shoulder joint, elbow joint, wrist joint, and finally reach to your finger tips, that's the kind of relax that you want to achieve. How to achieve that? It may require a lot of training.

Here is one suggestion:

Stay in horse stance.

1. Rise your right palm next to your right ear. Chop to the left side of your left knee (loose shoulder joint).
2. Bend your right elbow and straight your right elbow in front of your chest but still keep your wrist bend (loose elbow joint).
3. Swing your right arm 45 degree upward to your right and straight your wrist (loose wrist joint).
4. Drop your right hand straight down next to your right knee with finger tips pointing downward (send energy to the finger tips).
5. Repeat 1 - 4 on your left arm.

When you can do this so fast that your arm is just like a blur, you will then achieve true relax mode (you can't move this fast if you are not relax).

This clip is not the same but similar.


摮典云喳箸砍2---銝訛曇悖閫憸
 
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drop bear

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The inherent faults of relying on competence being decided purely subjectively.

OP. Relax better.
 

punisher73

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Some good ideas on how to relax.

But, I would strongly suggest talking to your Sensei and directly asking him what he is seeing in your kata and what he is meaning by relaxing. This will give you an exact target to aim for in practice. Without knowing what he is specifically talking about you may or may not correct it by using a general approach.
 
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ThatOneCanadian

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To relax and still be able to generate power is difficult.
You hit it right on the noggin. I always warm up with a "relaxed" version of my kata but it comes out looking weak. I'll try that exercise + consider what Simon mentioned (I've never actually had a massage :oops:).

Some good ideas on how to relax.

But, I would strongly suggest talking to your Sensei and directly asking him what he is seeing in your kata and what he is meaning by relaxing. This will give you an exact target to aim for in practice. Without knowing what he is specifically talking about you may or may not correct it by using a general approach.
I've asked him on countless occasions and gotten quite in-depth answers but even targeting these problems has caused minor improvements at best.
 

drop bear

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Op. Do you spar? Because that might give you the foundational relaxation that apparently you are missing.

 
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