Besides being a great Jackson Browne song, “running on empty” was something that I found going through my head today as I ran my nearly 4 mile course around Kiwanis Lake this morning.
About halfway into my run, my legs were hurting pretty good. My lungs were burning. My brain was on overdrive, coming up with excuses to stop and walk it out. But I kept pushing myself. And as I pushed myself, I noticed something somewhat profound:
I was carrying a ton of completely unnecessary tension in my body.
Why were my shoulders firing so much? Why were my quadriceps pushing more than necessary? Why did my biceps need to be working so hard?
As I pondered this, I consciously started willing the aforementioned über-fatigued muscles to release and stop working harder than necessary. Almost instantly, doing so gave me back a lot of not only physical, but mental stamina as well. That feeling (and possibly the old Marine who, upon seeing my Air Force hat, told me on my 4th or 5th lap, “One more, you can do it!”) lead me to push harder. The best way I can describe the feeling I experienced is that my body felt more “empty,” even lighter.
What does this have to do with Aiki Budo? Lots, I think. How much unnecessary energy are you spending in your everyday life? Think about it. Just stand in shizentai and explore how many of your muscles are working when they don’t have a functional job to do at that moment. Extrapolate that into tandoku undo, then kata, then randori. How too-hard are you working? How “empty” is your body when it needs to not be so “full?”