By Alice Chng, 3rd Kyu
During one of the beginner's class in Changi Simei Community Club, I encountered an incident and it sets me thinking. We were practicing Tenkan [ 1 ] "Tenkan", turning with your back with one hand placed above the Uke's [ 2 ] "Uke", partner palm. This beginner whom I happened to be helping was struggling not to press his hand down and tenkan at the same time. I was a beginner myself and I'd been through this stage. So when I tried to help him by asking him to just leave his hand with the partner while he does the turning, the reply I got was "But this is so unnatural!"
Initially, I didn't get what he meant. But soon I got what he meant and was able to rectify the problem. Now, this incident sets me thinking. What is natural to us? The usual things that we do - holding one shoulder higher than the other; head stuck out like a turtle; straightening our legs by locking our knees; and the most prominent example: sticking out our elbows when we use western cutlery. Are all these natural or just habits that we've cultivated over the years?
What is our most natural stage? Personally, I believe it's during our babyhood. Yes, our Babyhood. No, I'm not trying to be funny. Have you ever observe a baby? I had the opportunity to observe my goddaughter. She's going two and for her age, she's considered plump. When I looked at her, the things that I've mentioned above do not exist. When she tries to eat her French fry, her elbow will drop downwards as she bends her wrist slightly rather than sticking out like a bird flapping its wings. You know - the gesture that we always do when we were younger - whenever we tried to imitate a chicken or teased someone of being a chicken. Yep, that's the one. She neither sticks out her head nor tuck out her tummy when she walks around with a diaper, if you know what I mean. She simply sticks out her butt and still manages to maintain her balance.
If you take time to observe a baby, you'll find that the way a baby holds it's body is somehow similar to the posture that we're trying to learn now. Or should I say learn again. Yes, learn again. We were babies once and that means we had that posture once. It's just that we've lost it over the time and now we're trying to relearn it.
For those who just join us, don't give up just because you think it's difficult to even get the posture right. All we need is some time to get back what we've lost as a baby. I used to have a very bad posture and I always joke with my Aikido mates about my once a "Ninja turtle posture". Even up till today, Francis Sensei still corrects my posture at times. And I personally, am trying to make a conscious effort to keep reminding myself about my posture and some of the habitual behaviours. It takes time but when you come to think of it, we did get our habit over some time, right? So whenever you catch yourself with behaviours for example, shoulders going up but not due to shrugging, think to yourself "Hey, is this behaviour natural or habitual?"