Staying Loose

Keep your muscles relaxed, and only tense them to finish an already successful attack.

Be mindful of your muscle tension.  Pay conscious attention to whether you are tensing up, or being relaxed and fluid. Stay relaxed up until it’s time to attack.

Usually the best time to attack is when you can create a dominant angle, effectively disrupt your opponent’s alignment, or they are caught in a dilemma where there are no good moves left to make.

You want to avoid tensing your muscles unnecessarily because:

  • it fatigues your muscles
  • it telegraphs your intentions
  • tense limbs are easier for your opponent to control and manipulate.

Muscle tension is a natural fight-or-flight response to danger.  It’s common, and natural, to tense up when you feel threatened.  This is why beginners are often tense when they roll.  It takes discipline and training to learn to stay loose under pressure, calm under fire.

If the majority of your techniques focus on intense muscle exertion, and you find yourself constantly exhausted, this is a good indication you’re not doing the technique properly.  You’re trying to rely on strength, rather than efficiency, to finish a technique.  Work with your training partner to find the more efficient method.

There is one situation where you should tense your muscles: when you have successfully secured a technique, your opponent cannot defend it, and you are already being as efficient as possible.  When a move is already being applied with maximum efficiency, it’s okay to use strength as an “exclamation mark” to amplify the power of the move.

To recap:

  • When to tense your muscles: To add a bit of power to an already efficiently-applied move
  • When to relax your muscles: Literally every other situation.

“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.” — Bruce Lee

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