Posture is an important ingredient of a strong and beautiful kamae – which, in turn, is a prerequisite for beautiful kendo [Kenshi247_Kamae]. Indeed, Miyamoto Musashi and Noma Hisashi address posture, respectively, in the section “Stance in Strategy” in The Book of Five Rings [Musashi, p. 14] and in Section 6 “Shisei” in [Hisashi, p.14]. In addition, a good posture can help a person look (and feel) taller, stronger and more confident. It can also reduce tension in the neck, shoulder and back area [BackMD] [Clark].
To drill this concept into new students with hunched shoulders or a head projected forward, you have probably witnessed a sensei instructing them to stand straight in kamae. Indeed, the same instruction can apply to those at higher levels. In an instructional video for 4th and 5th Dan shinsa candidates, the sensei’s call out certain candidates to correct their posture in the upper torso and area around the head and neck [DVD08]. Examples of common postural problems are shown in this image [MusclePainSolutions] and in the first minute of this video [CalisthenicMovement].
I present a quick way to check your posture, from a structural perspective, and a list of tips to improve it if necessary. Please see the disclaimer below.*
Wishing you a good posture and strong kamae!
An Easy Way to Check One’s Posture.
As explained to me by my chiropractor and a massage therapist, one can perform a “Wall check”. This involves finding a wall and standing with one’s back against it with the following body parts (ideally) touching it: the buttocks, the shoulder blades and the back of the head (with the chin tucked down towards one’s chest). For those familiar with yoga, this is essentially a vertical version of shavasana – also known as the “dead man’s pose” – where one is standing instead of lying down.
Here’s a few images and videos which describe the check:
- “One Minute Posture Test & Exercise for Adults & Growing Children,” PhysicalTherapyVideo (1:47mins)
- “‘Wall Test’ to Achieve Perfect Posture / Fight Neck Pain, Headaches & Pinched Nerves / Dr. Mandell,” MotivationalDoc (1:23mins)
- “The Wall Test: Have Great Posture and Relieve Back Pain,” 1minuteHealthTips.com (0:48mins)
If one of the aforementioned parts of the body cannot touch the wall or your posture needs tweaks, here’s a list of tips to improve it that I have learned over the years from massage therapists, my chiropractor, yoga instructors, colleagues, friends, videos and articles.
Tips to Help Improve One’s Posture
- Imagine the top of the head pulled upwards with a string when in kamae, standing or seated.
- Position the ears above the shoulders (rather than in front of them) with the chin tucked in.
- Move the vertical edge of your shoulder blades together (towards the spine) and rest the shoulder blades on the rear portion of your rib cage.
- Tighten the abdomen and rectum muscles towards each other.
- Some yoga instructors suggest tightening the ab muscles toward the spine.
- Breathe in and out deeply such that the lungs are filled and emptied as completely as possible.
- Sense the tailbone and direct it towards the rear instead of the front when in kamae, standing or seated. Or, imagine a tail and wag it towards the back.
- This teaching, courtesy of Keita Kasahara-san, though somewhat bizarre, seems effective as it helps pivot the pelvis away from a tucked forward position towards a straightened one that supports the spine.
- Stand or walk with the arms extended, palms facing forward and the thumbs pointed outwards away from the body [Gainesville14].
- Hold the shavasana (wall check) posture in a horizontal (or vertical) position.
- Sleep on a firm but comfortable surface.
- Indeed, there are some who advocate sleeping on a firm surface without a mattress [Paleo].
- For more serious issues, seeing a specialist may help. Seeing my chiropractor and massage therapist helped get me started.
- Here’s additional references with more tips [McKay16] [Greenfield13] [WikiHow_Posture].
[BreakingMuscle] Wall Test (JPEG image).
[healthdigezt] “Quick Test to Check Your Posture,” (JPEG image).
[KendoInfo_Kamae] Geoff Salmon, “The importance of good kamae”, Kendoinfo.net, Sept 2013.
[Kenshi247_Kamae] George McCall, “Kamae equation,” Kenshi247.net, Nov 2011.
[MusclePainSolutions] “Standing Postures” (JPEG image).
[WikiHow_Posture] “How to Improve Your Posture,” WikiHow.
* Disclaimer: the content herein is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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