I wanted to write about something amazingly simple but very useful that with your overall physical health as well as your mental health and your confidence.
It’s kind of funny how simple it is, but as my teacher Grand Master Philipman Chow says simple; useful.
I’m talking about Chambering; a very basic position in martial arts that often gets overlooked because there’s nothing too glamorous or fancy about it.
I was reminded about this whole lesson actually by one of my students, who’s a great massage therapist and they were teaching some of their clients to chamber their hands like we do in Kung Fu to help with their posture and it helped them a lot because they’re typically hunched over all the time like a lot of us are. Our shoulders are getting rounded out and our neck is arching forward from sitting at a desk so much. Now, this obviously has negative physical effects, but one thing we don’t think about enough is the effect it has on us psychologically. One very important thing Kung Fu taught me when I was young, which has had a profoundly positive effect on my life is that the body follows the mind, and the mind follows the body. Meaning what we think will affect our body, but also, how we position and use our body will also affect our thinking. It’s not a one way street. The problem with bad posture when the shoulders are sunken and rounded forward is only party physically detrimental. The other part we need to consider is what it does to mental health. If we know the body follows the mind but then the mind follows the body what is this posture if held consistently doing to us psychologically.
There’s a fantastic book called the Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. In it he talks about how confident people walk on average 25% faster and stand up straight. He talks about what he calls walk watching, a hobby he started at a young age, and how you can tell based on their walk as they walk by you whether they’re content or not, happy and confident or not, you can often tell by their posture, by their walk, by the way they hold themselves up. Now at first if we were in a negative mindset it would be easy to say, yeah, well easy for them they don’t have the problems that I have and they have it better than I do, but if we tell that stupid voice to shut up for a second and we think wisely we’ll realize that that walk and posture to an extent may not just be the result of their circumstance but it’s also possible that their circumstance is the product of their walk and posture. It’s not a straight one way cause and effect relationship. When we give ourselves a nudge to start standing up straight and walk with a little quicker pace we do start to feel more confident and capable. We teach a version of this to our young students on their first lesson. We teach them to make eye contact. Someone who’s confident will tend to make more eye contact with others but likewise when you nudge yourself out of your comfort zone and make more eye contact then you eventually become more confident as a result.
That posture of sitting up straight is important for more reasons than just impressing your chiropractor and nowadays we have to compensate for that even more because we spend more time at desk in front of a screen or leaning over our phone. It’s interesting to note that depression and anxiety seems more prevalent now than ever. Maybe just a coincidence, but I’m sure at least to some degree it’s related and I can’t help but think if we made the habit of sitting up straight with our shoulders back it would likely have a positive effect on our mindset and possibly our overall mental health.
The interesting thing about that, again, going back to chambering, which is a very basic posture in martial arts that we do on day one, a lot of people throw it out the window as an old thing we do for the sake of tradition and not being practical, but we can see that when you’re training this chamber position consistently it’s helping you pull your shoulders and keep your head up straight.
People know generally that training martial arts teaches confidence but they don’t typically why or how exactly. A lot of it is because of that, posture which induces a more confident state of mind. When he hold confident positions we tend to feel more confident as well and that makes us feel more capable which makes us happier with ourselves.
So when you’re chambering, don’t take it for granted and think you’re just doing because it’s traditional, there’s a lot of benefit to that. When we do it, we put ourselves up straight, we pull our shoulders back and we work against that rounding out of the shoulders we get when constantly at a desk or on our phones for so long. When it’s a habit it also has a positive effect on our mind which helps us avoid defeatist states of thinking where we don’t see our potential and we see limits instead of possibilities.
There a couple ways of doing this, in our style we hold the hands up here in line with the solar plexus. Sometimes it’s taught down here with the hips which is ok, but we teach and prefer up a little higher so it’s more stretch and it improves elasticity in the shoulders with a better stretch. You can still do that with the hands down here but I find it easier to still drop the shoulders so you just have to be mindful of that.
If you don’t want to train this position because you’re not training kung fu yet, then at least realize the importance of posture and make sure you’re sitting up straight, because the body follows the mind and the mind follows the body. Also, observe the way you walk. If you’re walking slouched over and you’re walking slow what does that typically say about you, that you’re not really confident and don’t have anywhere special to be, but if you just give yourself a little push to walk a little fast, and a little more upright, then very soon you’ll start feel more confident already and then you’ll find you do have somewhere important to be, because you ARE important
Please keep this in mind and realize that good Kung Fu is about the little hinges that swing big doors. Too often there’s subtle valuable lessons that people overlook in martial arts because they’re so wrapped up in the punching and kicking and this style is superior to that style, the magic of martial arts training has much less to do with fighting than you would think. When you walk confidently with a smile and you look capable, people are going to be much less likely to be predatory towards you and want to punch you in the face anyway. Grand Master Philipman Chow says, your best defence, is a warm smile.