Lesson of the Month #20 (7/98)

For safety and best results, read instructions before doing lessons!

Throwing Arrows

These movement are adapted from an outside-in middle block from tae kwon do; they are really about coordinating the whole body into a strong twisting movement , which can be applied directly to walking, running, kicking, or swinging a baseball bat, golf club, or tennis racquet, as well as a staff or sword. I like to think of it as "throwing arrows."

Works with:
Head, neck, arms, shoulders, and chest, especially in relationship with waist, hips, and legs in rotation and counter-rotation.

1. Begin in a standing position…just stand for a moment, and then walk around the room…bring your awareness to the way you walk…when you step ahead with one foot, what does the rest of your body do?…notice your shoulders and arms, your hips, your head and neck…everyone has their own way of walking…just observe yours for a few moments…

2. Lie down on the floor on your back, with your legs extended and your arms by your sides…check in with yourself…how do you feel against the floor today?…then bend your knees so your feet are standing, and explore a movement of bringing your arms across your body, and toward the floor over your head, as in taking off a sweater…notice how easily (if at all) your shoulders allow your arms and hands to come to rest on the floor over your head…repeat that a couple of times…and rest.

3. Do the same movement as #2, but now lift your pelvis away from the floor each time as your arms begin to lower toward the floor overhead…it makes it easier…then, with your pelvis in the air, lower your arms to the floor and extend them overhead…then let your pelvis down while you bend your elbows and drag them on the floor down toward your waist, returning your arms to your sides after you lower your pelvis to the floor…and rest.

4. On your back, stretch out your legs…leave your left arm alongside, and bring your right arm up so the elbow is on the floor to the right of your right shoulder…bend the elbow so the fingers of your right hand just touch your face or head somewhere…and then, leaving the hand loosely against your head like that, lift your elbow toward the ceiling several times, and set it back down on the floor…see how that is…and rest.

5. Same position…now make a loose fist with your right hand, and place the knuckles against your cheek as if punching yourself…leave your elbow on the floor, more or less, and explore a movement of rotating your forearm along its axis, so your fist turns against your cheek…just do it several times…and let it go and rest.

6. Same position…this time as you rotate the forearm and the fist, bring your elbow forward in front of you each time…your fist turns loosely against your cheek…the knuckles are against your cheek at the beginning, and the inside edge (pinky side) of your hand is against your cheek when your elbow is forward…repeat it several times…and rest.

7. Same position again…now let your fist break contact with your cheek and straighten the arm a little as you do the movement…and after your elbow is forward in front of your shoulder, let the fist drift out in front of your face or upper chest a foot or so…your elbow stays bent somewhat …and reverse it and come back...bring the fist all the way back so you drop it to the floor behind your right ear each time…do it several times, and notice what your head wants to do…let your face roll right as the elbow and hand go forward, and to the left as the hand comes back to the floor…repeat it a number of times…and rest.

8. Same position, but now place your left hand over the pectoral muscle on your right upper chest…and repeat the same movement of your right arm as before, but now feel that you contract the pectoral muscle each time you bring the elbow forward…you feel it bunch up under your hand…your chest rolls a little left each time…and let it go and rest.

9. Now, bend your left knee so your foot is standing under the knee, more or less…and several times explore a movement of rolling your pelvis to the right, lifting your left hip away from the floor…your right leg rolls to the right somewhat…keep the left knee more or less over the left foot as you lift…don't take it to the right…and rest.

10. Left foot standing as in #9…right hand on the floor behind right ear...repeat the earlier movement of swinging the elbow forward, only now imagine you have a quiver of arrows on your back, along your spine, and you begin the movement by reaching back toward the large vertebra at the top of your spine, and grabbing an imaginary arrow by the feathers...then you swing the elbow and hand over your head as if extending the arrow out of the quiver and throwing it out directly in front of you...as the hand and arm come forward, you lift your left hip…and as the hand becomes fully extended, you open your hand with the palm up, releasing the imaginary arrow...then you lower the hip and return the arm to neutral…repeat the cycle several times…alternately let your head roll comfortably as it would like, and then also try it with the eyes staying oriented forward…and let it all go, stretch out, and rest on your back…observe your breath and your contact with the floor…see what has changed.

11. Repeat #2 through #8 on the other side.

12. Gently bring yourself to standing with your feet parallel about shoulder width apart…slide your left foot forward a comfortable step, and stay there…bring your right hand up behind your neck to the imaginary quiver of arrows...and repeat the same movement you did lying down in this position…your upper body turns left as you throw with the right hand…then reach up with the left hand and throw...notice how your weight shifts, how your body twists, and how your head wants to move…slowly and gently repeat that several times, going from side to side…and rest.

13. Repeat #12 while walking forward...the left foot is forward while throwing with the right hand...then turn your left foot to point to the left, shift weight onto left foot, and step forward with the right foot as you reach behind and throw an arrow with the left hand...then pivot right foot on right heel to point right, shift weight onto right foot, and reach up and throw with the right hand again while stepping forward with the left foot...try to find a smooth rhythm...these movements are very similar to the "brush knee and twist step" movements in t'ai chi, so find a "t'ai chi" rhythm...and let it go and rest.

14. Find a way to do #13 walking backwards...what is that like (it is like another t'ai chi sequence, "step back and repulse monkey")...the right hand reaches up as the left foot steps back...right hand throws as weight comes onto left foot...left hand reaches up as right foot steps back...left hand throws as weight comes onto right foot...(easier if you set each foot down turned out to the side)...repeat it for several cycles...and let it go and rest.

15. Stand and walk around the room…feel your body twist…imagine that with every step you are repeating the movement…as your weight comes on to your right foot, feel your upper body turned to the right…and as our weight moves across the right foot, the left hip comes forward and your upper body turns right…and similarly on the left…so just walk this way, imagining these movements with your arms and hips, and noticing how this engages a new kind of power in your walking.