In theater classes we used to do exercises to help us get grounded.
We’d aim to be physically grounded – so we wouldn’t lose balance from an instructor’s gentle push. We’d practice drawing power from that grounding – not only using our diaphragm to project, but drawing strength – our character’s strength – from that grounding.
Find your center and use it, the instructors would explain.
In case no one’s ever told you to find your center (did I mention I grew up in California?), it’s round about your stomach. About two inches north of your belly button.
Years later in Aikido classes, we did similar exercises with a different twist. The “ki” in “Aikido” is a kind of…personal energy that you can control and direct. You may have heard of this as the Chinese “Chi.”
Aikido as an art is particularly focused on harnessing this ki. The name, in fact, means…”the way of harmonizing ki.” Using Aikido, a smaller opponent can defeat a larger opponent, a lighter opponent can defeat a heavier opponent.
There’s a lot of physics involved, of course – you use your opponent’s inertia against them. But power in the physical sense is important here, too. If someone comes at you with blind power, and you are grounded, centered, you can redirect that power to their detriment.
In the strength training I do these days, core is the buzz word of choice. Lifting heavy weights isn’t about having large arm muscles. It’s about tapping into your core strength. Focusing your energy on moving efficiently with a burst of power. It’s about taking one deep breath and using your entire body to meet one goal.
All of these exercises have a physical component – literally generating energy and power from your stance, breath, and movement. But many of them have a…metaphysical component for lack of a better word.
In theater, you use your grounding to power your character. To have stage presence. To own the moment.
In Aikido, you use your center to defect someone else’s un-centered power. To stay calm, powerful, and in control no matter what is thrown at you.
In strength training, you use your core to power the physical movement, but you use your resolve – your mental toughness as one instructor calls it – it focus all your mental energy on a simple physical action.
In those moments, your mind is blank. Or toughened. You are one with your movements and wholly engaged in one task. And through this grounding, you remain calm and focused through the physical strain. Centered.
And it’s remarkable what you can accomplish.