When teaching beginners what are the 3 most fundamental things to stress and continue to stress so the student doesn’t ever forget?
Stand straight - good postural alignment is essential! The body must be pulled up to it’s full height, the classics say that the head should feel ‘as if suspended from above’, for every inch the skull moves off the top of the spine it doubles in weight, as the head weighs 10lbs to start with, just imagine the stress that puts through the body! When straight and aligned, the body is light, graceful and powerful with the minimum effort. Good posture is also essential for deep breathing, good health and positive body language.
Deep breathing – abdominal breathing is essential to take good deep breaths that calm the mind and body, utilise the lungs fully, get enough oxygen into the blood, carrying it to the brain to make the mind more alert and aware. Breathing is the one function that is shared by both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, you can think about and control your breathing and when you are not thinking about it you can still breathe, just like your heart beats and other internal organs function, therefore you are able to effect some control over your internal organs through control of the breath improving your general health and vitality. Abdominal breathing also connects the upper and lower body giving you that essential ‘core connection’ from feet right to your hands adding that ‘natural connected strength’ that eludes so many other people.
Aware mind – training the mind is the most difficult skill for most people, but the other two points, the posture and breathing are essential to be able attain the third. Once the mind is aware you need to discipline it by learning to focus and making it more sensitive. This can be done through meditation, neigong (internal work) and qigong (energy work). Discipline is attained by focusing your mind on one thing (usually the breath) and dispassionately keep bringing it back when it wanders, the qigong work is take the mind through the body until you are fully in touch with and understand the mortal coil you inhabit, this also helps you to understand yourself and others on an intuitive level.
So stand straight, breathe deep and have an aware mind – the 3 essential points from which to start your Martial arts training and 3 aspects that are also a never ending road of improvement!