In martial arts, how can I learn to physically relax more and rely less on muscle strength, more on posture/leverage? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Relaxing between contact in martial arts is really important because it improves reaction time and really cuts down on fatigue if the contest gets drawn out.
I've had instructors try to teach me to relax in different ways. I've had instructors have us do hundreds of punches and kicks. It's impossible to do that unless you force yourself to relax between technique. I never liked doing that because although it helped me to learn correct technique, I didn't think it carried over to sparring.
After achieving a certain level of ability, being physically tight is a mental thing more than physical.
I've had other instructors that have coached me to relax by teaching me not to worry about the outcome. They've often used the term "mind like water." Those instructors could clearly do it themselves because they seemed so relaxed and effortless as they sparred even when striking someone hard enough to put them on the ground. They encouraged the students not to care about winning or losing, to not care about getting hurt or injured (or in the old days, killed). Then with the mind relaxed and accepting of any outcome, the body relaxes, and the technique is delivered correctly; smooth, effortless and yet fast and powerful.
That never worked for me because although I didn't mind getting hit, I disliked getting injured which set back my training for months. (And if it were the old days, I would have really hated getting killed).
The short answer is that you have to be practiced enough to be comfortable with your ability and have confidence that you can do as you were trained when confronted with an equal or superior opponent. That's not easy and takes a lot of time doing hard sparring with different opponents.