Relaxation is the most important and probably the most elusive aspect of all of the training in VTK.
There are layers of meaning to the word relax.
When discussing relaxation, it may be with regard to the mind, needing to chill out and be open to the ideas, or to not be reactive in the training or in a fight, so that we can respond appropriately.
Perhaps the discussion may be about the biomechanics of the movement in question, about how tension may disrupt the flow of the motion or expression of power.
It may even relate to a student’s attitude to progression, wanting more than they are getting. Sometimes this can be a valid concern on the student’s part, but more often than not it is simply impatience.
Relaxation is also a beneficial topic with regard to management of pain while standing in stance for extended periods, or management of pain period.
Relaxation is greatly enhanced by the student’s developing understanding of structure. Close-packed joints act as a structure for force transfer, so the joint doesn’t need to be doing work, hence we can relax and allow the forces to flow.
It’s important to understand what a close-packed position is with regard to each movement. Close-packed relates simply to a positioning of the limbs, not to some kind of extra tension holding the joint in a certain place.
The more we think and move in terms of structures, the more we relax and the more powerful our actions become.
A great way to relax is simply to become aware of our breathing. A lot of peripheral stuff just drops away when we allow our awareness to rest with our breathing.
Stretching is important to maintain relaxed muscles when doing a lot of the physically demanding aspects of the training. We don’t tend to overstretch, especially before activity, because we want a certain amount of tension to be able to deliver power. We also however don’t want tension locked into the muscles, so we do some stretching preferably at the end of each day.
When we relax the smaller muscle groups, the larger muscle groups especially in the core can come into play. Also we learn to relax antagonist muscles when employing the agonist muscle. This way we express much more power without trying.
Another way to understand relaxation is with regard to softness. When we are deflecting our opponent’s arm eg with pak sau, if we use strength our opponent feels that and responds with strength. If we remain relaxed, using softness, the opponent isn’t asked to use strength so they won’t fight or struggle against our action.. they may not even feel it at all! We don’t want to alert the opponent to the fact that their strike is being deflected, that they are being turned off their facing. We want them to be confidently waiting for their strike to land, until they realise too late that it is them that has been hit.
When relaxed, we telegraph nothing, hit with everything.