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Tune In to Your Instrument

My late brother was a phenomenal guitar player, and completely self-taught. It was his instrument. Each time he took his guitar out to play it, before using it he first spent time it, checking it out the guitar body and neck, listening to the sound each string made as he struck it, and tuning it if necessary.

As I wrote in my book, The Jeet Kune Do Guide to Equipment Training, “As a martial artist, your body is the ‘instrument’ you use to communicate in combative form. And the more finely tuned your instrument, the higher degree of efficiency and effectiveness it can express, and the greater your ability to move your body and adapt instantly and harmoniously to whatever type of opponent happens to be in front of you will be.”

For the martial artist, tuning in means learning to hear and see. And in order to hear and see you have to listen and look. Before training, when you tune in to your instrument you focus your attention on your thoughts, feelings, and internal signals; the information your body and mind sends you about your various physical, mental and emotional states. Are you mentally uptight about something? Do you really want to be there and doing what you’re going to do? Your state of mind will influence your training; every thought will affect your movements.

While you are training’ tuning in is about being aware of and noticing your body’s response to movement, noticing shifts and changes – excess tension, areas of inflexibility, etc. It’s noticing when your attention flags or when or how you become distracted for some reason. It’s understanding that every thought that crosses your mind during training will influence the result of your training.

Tuning in is not about control, but rather consciousness. It’s about being aware of what you need to do, each day, moment to moment. Every training day is a new day, every training session a new session. And as with the Zen saying “You cannot step on the same piece of a river twice,” you cannot train today with yesterday’s body and mind. You need to acknowledge your body and mind today. You need to tune in to it today.

How can you tune in to your instrument? Become attentive to your body. Enter into a dialogue with it. Start by taking a deep breath and experiencing yourself as being where you are. Close your eyes and notice what’s happening inside. Scan your body for areas of tenseness, or pain or distractions. If you find any, use relaxation and breathing exercises to help remove them.

When you are training, immerse yourself completely in the moment. Fully experience your body; your muscles, joints, limbs working. Utilize body feel in all of your actions. Work with yourself and not against yourself.

As I said at the beginning of this blog, for a martial artist, their body is their instrument, and the more finely tuned their instrument, the better they will be able express themselves with it. It’s important for you to be in tune with your instrument. Tuning can bring your body, mind and spirit into harmony, clear of any internal static which might disrupt or impede performance. Maintain an intimate, positive connection to your body, and before every training session, remember to tune in to your instrument.

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