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Stillness is closely related to breathing.

Stillness and motion

The martial arts are about using your strength to overcome an opponent.  Some martial arts are “hard” styles, they meet force with force, using blocks more than relying on deflections. However, without weakness, you cannot measure strength. Without soft, there is no hard. This idea of contrast or balance is best symbolized by the concept of Yin and Yang, where dependent opposite forces are must always be in balance. For martial artists, one of the most important principles of Yin and Yang is the relationship between stillness and motion.

Stillness is the natural state before movement begins, and yet it is also the basis of all movement. A technique that begins from perfect stillness enables you to relax and release unnecessary tension and execute the movement in a coordinated and efficient manner. From a state of stillness, any movement is done with complete awareness and true intent. Your actions become the embodiment of quality and perfection.

Once you have a feeling of perfect stillness you will be able to call on it whenever needed. In a pattern training, you may only be still for a split second between moves, but if it is perfect stillness, then the transition between the moves becomes flawless.

Stillness training also strengthens muscles but is a different type of strengthening than gained from weightlifting where we break down muscle tissue so it grows back stronger. Rather than breaking down muscle, stillness training tones the fibers of the muscle tissue. While it does not expand the size of your muscles, it does help make them stronger.

Practicing stillness

The best way to learning the principle embodied in stillness and movement is to stand completely still. To begin, choose a position from your favorite pattern, get into that position, and remain completely still. The goal is to achieve total, pure stillness. This is different from just getting into a stance and holding it. The goal is to make absolutely no movement; no adjustment, no weight shifts, nothing. With practice, you will become aware of all your muscles and their relationship. Then the quality of your movement will naturally move toward perfection.

Once you have achieved stillness, relax the focus of your eyes and bring your attention inward into your hara or dantien. Begin slow abdominal breathing, but keep completely still in every other way. Hold the position for as long as you can without moving. When you cannot stay still any longer, slowly shift your position so that you are in a mirror image of the original position and hold still again for another session.

  • Hoopes, A. (2002). Breathing Training For Martial Artists. Shotokan Karate Magazine. (Issue 72); Generating Ki through Breathing. Shotokan Karate Magazine. (Issue 73); Stillness Training, The Basis of all Movement. Shotokan Karate Magazine. (Issue 72).
  • Sonnon, S. (2001). Oxygen Debt Does NOT Equal 'Cardio Training. Dvizheniye Journal July/August 2001. Available:

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