I’m looking through some of my older posts in the Traditional Taekwondo Blog, tweaking them a little to sound less like a newb, when I arrived at this one ‘Chon-ji: Relaxedness and Rigidity.’ After the fluffy preamble, the gist I was trying to get at is that “a pliable, relaxed and responsive body” performs the block “dropping my enter body weight like a pile driver.”
Beginning student practitioners don’t seem to get it. Many people think to gain power, they must FEEL power. The power they feel indicates that what they are doing is powerful. In truth, the power they are feeling is the tension in their shoulder and neck muscles, and if they’re not careful they’re going to pop something. Real power doesn’t come from the end of the striking limb, it comes from the entire body working in unison. If you get that balance right and pulse the right tension throughout the body correctly, the body should feel ‘balanced.’ Meaning you can achieve a new upper limit of striking power by working the entire body harder.
The advice from the post is that you cannot be “tensed and relaxed at the same time.” In truth, when you start it is to your advantage to be as relaxed as possible. You learn proper application of tension as you gain in your understanding of what you are trying to do. It is always better to work on distancing, calibration, targeting, and of course the dynamics of the movements you are shown. Increasing tension and relative power into the technique slowly helps you learn faster!
How would you increase tension in your practice? Let’s start with your form. Most of the beginning moves require you to move your legs and then stop with a hand technique. I would say the best way to get the tension right is to start squeezing your breath out first with a low ‘ah,’ and continue this sound as your legs move. It gets louder and correspondingly the abdominal muscles get tighter toward the end. Then at the point of impact you exhale with a ‘ha,’ fully tensing your core and body at the same time. Hold and then relax to an ‘optimal’ tension for the next move.
Much of what I’ve just said flies in the face of many hyung performances on youtube, which seem to feature a very relaxed initial movement, a jerky end move timed with a ‘ch’ should that seems aspirated from the chest or from the mouth. This does not seem in line with the kind of breathing you need when you are under duress, and is certainly not something which I’ve seen practiced in any sparring, cage, or other type of fight.