Relax to be Powerful

There's a lot of personal trainers around these days, I notice. 

Some good, some not so good

And the trend at this moment in time is to lift weights rather than do cardio

Because the bigger your muscles, the more powerful you are right?

Wrong. Sorry to burst your bubble, but there are lots of small people who generate tremendous power.

Heck, now how does that work? Here's a couple of tips that may help.

First, don't isolate muscles that you think you'll use to perform a task. I've known some martial artists for example, that train with weights to make their triceps bigger, stronger in the belief that it will improve their punching.

Not in my experience. You don't punch with your ’arm’, you punch with your whole body. The whole body works together to generate the force for a punch, you can't isolate a muscle or muscle group independent of the others it's supposed to work with and expect it to perform better.

If you'd like to experience how useless it feels to punch with just the arm, hold your fist in front of your shoulder and punch it forward without moving ANY other part of your body. Try it as hard as you can. It's frustratingly weak and ineffective isn't it.

Any movement that needs to be strong and powerful is a function of the whole body. Throwing the ball for your dog or skimming stones is a good example too. Try throwing without moving the rest of your body and you won't throw the ball or stone very far.

When you throw, you take a step (or lunge), twist your spine one way then release it and push with the arm and it’s this combination of all the body parts from head to foot that makes for a powerful throw.

For all you martially minded people out there, have you heard the term “throw a punch”?

Secondly, relax. Relaxing allows the body to unify more effortlessly. It allows for connections to be made readily through the body so that the body can work as one complete unit.

In Taiji and qigong we aim to relax and unify the body constantly throughout the practice and I'd like you to consider the following passage (Chapter 76) from the Daodejing by Laozi

“When people are born they are supple, when they die they are stiff.
When trees are born they are tender, and when they die they are brittle.
Stiffness is thus a companion of death, flexibility a companion of life.
So when an army is strong, it does not prevail.
When the tree is strong, it is cut for use.
So the stiff and strong are below, the supple and yielding on top.”

You don't need to make your body and muscles hard. Sure, they need tone but you can move powerfully, elegantly and gracefully far more easily by training in Taiji and qigong than with anything else I've encountered so far.

Enjoy your practice today.