16 October 2013

Power Postures

I focus a lot on posture during my martial arts training and teaching. Taekwon-Do, like Aikido, is very much an upright martial art that puts premium emphasis on good posture. This has primarily to do with Taekwon-Do's focus on balance and power.

I remember very clearly one of my first lessons I had with Master Kim Jong Su. Because I know that I often slack in my posture, especially when I'm tired, I tried hard to keep a good upright posture, yet Master Kim was not satisfied with me just standing nice and straight. "Push out your chest," he said, "look strong, look good". For him it was not merely about standing straight for the sake of good balance, but also looking proud and strong. Keeping in mind that Taekwon-Do's roots are in the Korean military, standing proud and strong makes a lot of sense; imagine soldiers standing on the parade grounds.

Super heroes standing in "Power Postures"

Watching the video below reminded me again of this lesson with Master Kim. In the video Amy Cuddy discusses the physiological effects that "power postures" have on a person. They had people stand in certain postures for two minutes and tested their hormone levels before and after. They found that people who stood in "power postures", for instance standing proudly with your chest out and hands on the hips like Superman or Wonder Woman or standing with your arms raised up in victory - had increased testosterone (the hormone associated with strength, confidence and competitiveness) and decreased cortisone (the hormone associated with stress). In other words, by standing in a "power posture" you literally change your own physiology, becoming more confident, yet calm in a stressful situation. This will not only improve your daily life and interactions with other people (even doing better at job interviews), but may also be advantageous to a combat situation.

ITF Taekwon-Do is constructed almost exclusively of upright postures, most of which can be described as "power postures". My suggestion, as conveyed by Master Kim to me, is that when you train Taekwon-Do, don't merely focus on having good upright posture, but deliberately focus on having "power postures". Expand you chest, let your back smile broadly, and look the world straight in the eye. In every stance, pose and posture, be a super hero. After all, when you recite the Taekwon-Do Oath, you are in fact reflecting the motto of a super hero when you say: "I shall be a champion of freedom and justice. I shall help build a more peaceful world." Now stand like you mean it.

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