The Power of Balance

By Glenn Catania, shidoshi

One of the most overlooked weapons in our taijutsu arsenals is balance. This simple thing, this fundamental tool, is so often missing. What I mean by balance is the ability to know where you are in a movement.

I was working on a technique in class recently and stepped out after my turn. I glanced around the room and noticed the movement of one of my training partners was looking very good. What was different? What had they done that they weren't doing before?

Then it hit me. Her knees were bent and she knew where she was. By this I mean she was not extending behind her opponent, giving him more strength. She was actually in line with him, and this gave her arm lock the angle it needed to correctly execute the move. 'Wow,' I thought, 'that really looks awesome, she really knows where her body needs to be in relationship to his.'

This took my thought to a different place: "muscle memory." This is what we are all really training for. I have heard my teacher talk about it many times. After several years of training, your body just begins to remember. A sense of balance and muscle memory are one and the same. We train in repetition, so that our bodies instinctively give the response that we are looking for. When punches have been thrown at you ten thousand times, if a real attack is coming, you should naturally step to the side and block, without thinking.

There should be no thought, no idea of what you are going to do, no plan. This is the point where your body feels comfortable and does what it is supposed to do. When my friend bent her knees and kept in line, the look on her face told me she wasn't thinking about it, she was only listening to her body, feeling the balance of where she should be and correcting it naturally. The key is listening to your body and paying attention.

I have seen many people get so caught up in the technique that they really don't realize where everything is. They want to get it done, so they don't pay attention to their balance. They stand straight up and try to find strength in this, rather than bend their knees and have the taijutsu do the work for them.

I think we should all pay full attention to what our bodies are doing and let it happen; not be reckless, but give ourselves a little credit and let our body find the position it is looking for. Sometimes it is better not to *think* too much, but to *feel* where you body needs to be in relation to your opponent.