What is The Alexander Technique? アレキサンダー・テクニックとは何だ？
I want to introduce a very interesting technique that is not too well known among karate practitioners. It is quite famous and popular among musicians, singers and dancers. The more I learn about this technique the more I am convinced that all of us should learn about it and possibly utilize it so that we can improve our karate performance as well as our karate teaching skills.
I believe the concept of “The Alexander” technique is quite simple and can be mind-opening to many. It is amazing that this technique has been around for over 100 years. We, as karate-ka, may already be familiar with the concept, however, unfortunately, only a few of us are, I assume, seriously exercising it. This technique, in short, is a way of learning how we can get rid of harmful tension and unnecessary automatic reactions in our physical movements. In other words, by teaching how to change faulty postural habits, it enables improved mobility, posture, performance and alertness along with relief of chronic stiffness, tension and stress. It sounds simple but it requires lessons and coaching. It is a skill for self-development teaching us to change long-standing habits that cause unnecessary tension in everything we do.
Interestingly we are to pay attention to the alignment of our head, neck and back. This technique is recommended for those who have pain in their back or hips. Another reason people take these lessons is to enhance performance. Athletes, singers, dancers, and musicians use this Technique to improve breathing, vocal production, and speed and accuracy of movement. I believe this can be of great benefitto karate practitioners.
Lessons in the Alexander technique, named for Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869 – 1955), teaches people how to stop using unnecessary levels of muscular and mental tension during their everyday activities. It is an educational process rather than a relaxation technique or form of exercise. Most other methods take it for granted that one’s “awareness of oneself” is accurate, whereas Alexander realized that a person who had been using themselves wrongly for a long time could not trust their feelings (sensory appreciation) in carrying out any activity. Practitioners say that such problems are often caused by repeated misuse of the body over a long period of time, for example, by standing or sitting with one’s weight unevenly distributed, holding one’s head incorrectly, or walking or running inefficiently. The purpose of the Alexander technique is to help people unlearn maladaptive physical habits and return to a balanced state of rest and poise in which the body is well-aligned.
Alexander developed the technique’s principles in the 1890s, as a personal tool to alleviate breathing problems and hoarseness during public speaking. Interestingly, he credited the technique with allowing him to pursue his passion for Shakespearean acting.
The Alexander technique is a way of learning to move mindfully through life. The Alexander process shines a light on inefficient habits of movement and patterns of accumulated tension, which interferes with our innate ability to move easily and according to how we are designed. It’s a simple yet powerful approach that offers the opportunity to take charge of one’s own learning and healing process, because it’s not a series of passive treatments but an active exploration that changes the way one thinks and responds in activity. It produces a skill-set that can be applied in every situation.
Whatever your age, they claim the technique can help boost one’s performance in any activity and relieve the pain and stress caused by postural habits, like slouching or rounded shoulders. Everyday things like tensing when the phone rings, rushing to your office or worrying about deadlines lead to physical and mental strain. Over the years, this accumulates and can cause illness, injury or common aches and pains that may seem to come from nowhere.
The most interesting reason why people study the Technique is to achieve greater conscious control of their reactions. Most of us have many habitual patterns of tension, learned both consciously and unconsciously. These patterns can be unlearned, enabling the possibility of new choices in posture, movement and reaction. During lessons you’ll develop awareness of habits that interfere with your natural coordination. You’ll learn how to undo these patterns and develop the ability to consciously redirect your whole self into an optimal state of being and functioning. Through direct experience you’ll learn how to go about your daily activities with increasingly greater ease and less effort.
The technique teaches us the skilful “use of self”, i.e. how we use our body when moving, resting, breathing, learning, organizing our awareness and focus of attention and, above all, choosing our reactions to increasingly demanding situations.
Changes brought about by good habits of diet and exercise are well documented. The long-term effects of good habits of the “use of self” are not as well known, but equally life-changing. In karate we teach the same concept. The maladaptive physical habits stated here is called Kuse 癖 in Japanese and we are taught to unlearn the bad or harmful Kuse. We must learn to become aware of, and then gradually strip away, the habits of movement, tension and reaction that interfere with natural and healthy coordination. It is difficult for us to recognize the bad habits in our karate techniques but this is really the only way for us to improve our karate. If you are serious about improving your karate, you may want to find out more about this technique and also where there is a class so you can take some lessons. I believe it can be a good investment. What do you think?
For more information on the Alexander Technique:
Some of the videos of Alexander Techniques exercises:
How to rise more easily from a chair:
How to climb stairs:
For Improved Posture, Try Thinking of Your Body As a Wave:
Improve Posture – Your Body As an Archer’s Bow:
For posture, point your spine: