Adult Student’s Corner
What does it mean to be fluid, and why does it matter in Kung Fu?
In the last issue I talked about fluidity and its importance in Kung Fu. I thought I would give you some suggestions for how to develop it. I’ve tried some; some I’ve only read about, but they may be interesting to experiment with.
One key to becoming more fluid is the development of a deep awareness of your body and the sensations you experience at any moment. In order to be fluid, you need to be relaxed – people often carry a lot of tension in their bodies, most of which goes unnoticed, and therefore unaddressed. This tension inhibits fluid movement because it makes our bodies rigid.
Meditation helps us become aware of our bodies and identify and manage tension by moving us into a very relaxed state. Meditation needn’t be stationary and seated like we do at the start of each class– I will sometimes move through a series of Kung Fu moves and techniques in a Tai Chi like manner coupled with deep breathing – it helps me to get into the fluidity mindset before class. When I do this, I try to mimic water by thinking how it flows and I let my body move like whatever I am envisioning in my mind. Water can trickle, rush, or do anything in between; sometimes it is calm, and sometimes it is quite violent and crashing, but it is always fluid.
Another effective technique is to periodically go through your forms as if you were doing them in water, or if you were water. You don’t need to worry about speed or strength or even accuracy – just flow. It’s a unique perspective on our forms.
Dance (!!) is an awesome way to become more fluid. Latin dances like Flamenco and Salsa, interpretive styles of dance, and even Swing are particularly useful for developing fluid motion. But it doesn’t really matter what type of music it is – groove to whatever makes your body move!
If dance isn’t your thing, try shadow boxing to music – don’t just shadow box with music playing, but actually shadow box to the music. Or, try shadow boxing without actually executing any strikes. What that means is you are moving your torso and the rest of your body as if you were shadow boxing but you’re not actually striking. I have not yet tried this technique and I’m sure it feels awkward at first, but I can see how it might help.
Lastly, there are some “professionals” out there who specialize in helping people develop more fluid movements – whether that’s for dance, martial arts, boxing, running, football or whatever. If you’re interested becoming more fluid, consult the Google Gods and see what you find. My current fave is Ido Portal – he can be found at www.idoportal.com, but just googling him will deliver a multitude of videos and articles about his work, (most recently with Conor McGregor and Gunnar Nelson). If you have been in my classes, some of the staff drills and movement exercises we do are from his curriculum.