by David Wilson (1st Kyu)
Good Posture: Alignment is Everything
Head over chest over hips: the posture mantra. When you have good posture and maintain it throughout a technique, you stand a far better chance of keeping proper maai (the distance between you and your attacker), of moving from your center, of unbalancing your attacker and of using chi and physics rather than force. But good posture can be elusive. Many of us think we have good posture when, in fact, we are leaning forward (or back), leading with our chins or looking down at our hands.
Here are a few simple ways to develop good posture:
1. Stand parallel to a mirror in hanmi. Turn your head and look at yourself. If necessary, correct your posture and pay attention to how proper posture feels different than the way you were standing at first. It might feel quite unnatural if you are used to leaning forward or back.
2. Sit in seiza parallel to a mirror. Again, turn your head, look in the mirror and take note of your posture. If need be, make corrections and take note of how proper posture feels. When I did this for the first time, I was shocked to see that my default posture when waiting for an attack was to lean back. And it felt so right even though it was so wrong.
3. Strengthen your legs. It is almost impossible to maintain good posture while bending your knees if you have weak legs. Any number of traditional exercises can help you with this. My favorite exercise for this is the lunge, but squats, wall sitting or chair step-ups will also do the trick.
4. Practice getting up from seiza and sitting back down in seiza from a standing position while maintaining good posture. It can be devilishly difficult but you get to practice it many times during class. A hint: focus on gently pushing your hips forward so they are in line with your chest and shoulders before you attempt to stand up.
5. Take stock of your posture at the end of a technique. This also helps you to develop zanshin (awareness after a technique has been executed).
Working on good posture is yet another way that aikido changes ourselves rather than the other person. It is a fruitful and subtle practice.