Mastering Balance~~Natural, Varied Terrain

by R.Eady, KR Therapeutics

One day a young Samurai approached a revered teacher of swordsmanship and begged acceptance as a student.

"You must do everything I ask you without question." The teacher warned. The Samurai agreed without hesitation. "Hai," said the teacher. "Go to the Dojo and walk along the edge of the Tatami by placing one foot in front of the other."

Perplexed the youthful Samurai did as he was told but after a week of this, he became impatient to pick up a sword. After the tenth day, he could take no more and angrily questioned the teacher when they would begin serious training. "Very well." Said the teacher. "Tonight we will begin serious training."

That night under a full moon, the teacher took the youngster up into the mountains until they came to a deep and narrow gorge. Spanning the gorge was a fallen tree.

"Here we begin training." said the teacher, "cross over the gorge."
"But the tree is too narrow." countered the young pupil.
"It is much wider than the edge of a Tatami," replied the teacher.
The Samurai jumped up on the fallen tree but as he began to step forward the dim moonlight and the sound of rushing water beneath him seemed to pull him off balance.
"I cannot cross," said the Samurai.
The teacher simply replied, "Well then, how can you expect to master the sword when haven't yet mastered walking?"

Balance is Mobility

The sense of balance is one most of us take for granted, and assume we will develop naturally. Yet in the traditions of every martial arts discipline, mastery of balance played a primary role in developing mobility and skill. One reason is the greatest strategic advantage lies in mobility. For young martial artists, mobility requires both strong legs and excellent balance which is usually best enhanced in outdoor settings, under a diverse range of natural conditions.

The story indeed teaches a lesson about the true sixth sense: balance. The ability to master one’s senses and control perception is an important foundational skill to enhance every other. In the case of the Samurai and the gorge, it was his inability to master his perception of balance that prevented him from crossing.

To master balance, one first needs to understand how the sense of balance is accomplished.

Varied Terrain
In China and rural Japan, children are encouraged to spend time in physical activities outdoors, in the parks, along beaches, and in the mountains. These varied conditions improve balance and stability to deeper levels than the uniform flat surfaces we usually spend our days.
Experiencing movement on different terrains and conditions expands your experience with varied conditions, so you can better react and move under a greater number of situations. Practice form on hills, along the beach, on rocky ground and during inclement weather. The first thing you will notice is the incredible strain this puts on the legs spurring the development of stronger leg muscles. You’ll also learn to move more perfectly balanced since the ground is often unreliable, unforgiving of any degree of error.

A lesson to visually demonstrate to children is in this video. About finding proper support through the skeleton such that the musculature of the body can be used at its utmost efficiency, lightness and quickness. Lesson called "Four-Points Personal". Done outside on uneven surface is easy for children to emulate...

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