“In karate, there is an image that’s used to define the position of perfect readiness: “mind like water.” Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm. It doesn’t overreact or underreact.
The power in a karate punch comes from speed, not muscle; it comes from a focused “pop” at the end of the whip. It’s why petite people can learn to break boards and bricks with their hands: it doesn’t take calluses or brute strength, just the ability to generate a focused thrust with speed. But a tense muscle is a slow one. So the high levels of training in the martial arts teach and demand balance and relaxation as much as anything else. Clearing the mind and being flexible are key.
Anything that causes you to overreact or underreact can control you, and often does. Responding inappropriately to your email, your staff, your projects, your unread magazines, your thoughts about what you need to do, your children, or your boss will lead to less effective results than you’d like. Most people give either more or less attention to things than they deserve, simply because they don’t operate with a “mind like water.”
-David Allen, “Getting Things Done”
“The Natural Classical Guitar” by Lee F. Ryan is an important piece of my music pedagogy library, as well as “Effortless Mastery” by Kenny Werner, and “Zen Guitar” by Philip Toshio Sudo. None of these books are Method books, but what they teach is to put exactly the right effort at the right place for the the desired outcome. It’s within this context that I also sometimes reference Aikido in lessons, because it’s primarily focussed on the management of physical and mental, even spiritual energies. In music, too much force results in a poorly executed note, too much tension results in plodding, uneven rhythm, too much energy results in playing too fast and making sloppy mistakes, too much focus on one section of music can cause one to forget about other parts.