Concentration on Performance
Concentration on Performance
One of the best examples of concentration building can be seen in the practice of karate and judo because both these disciplines work to achieve a state of self-effacement on the part of the performer. American fighting legend Louis Delgado compares his feeling during kata to a response that parallels what occurs during an acting performance. “When I perform my ‘kata’ it flows through my body and I think of nothing. I am shut off from everything. I do not see the referee, the crowds. I do not hear anything. My whole being is in kata.”
Kungfu is another good example of concentration building. In this form of training, concentration and balance cannot be separated. In Kungfu, concentration is performed using the entire being. Here, physical and mental balance become one, therefore, if the mind wanders, the judo practitioner’s physical stability will be weakened and he or she can be brought down. A very important part of concentration is ‘relaxation.’ Unnecessary tension – muscular or mental – will block the full activity of the mind and thus disturb balance. From a Zen point of view, then, the practice of balance through judo or karate will help in the growth of concentration control and thereby, in the relaxation of the actor.
In a discussion of relaxation, Stanislavski tells the story of an American woman who had devoted many hours to the study of balance, equilibrium, and the center of gravity. Though this woman would allow herself to be pushed and thrown around, yet she would not lose balance or be knocked down. She had developed such remarkable control over her own body and had understood the laws of motion so correctly, that she could readily tell if others were off balance, and could easily knock them over. Stanislavski was very impressed with the degree to which this woman had trained her body. The close similarity between this woman’s skill and aikido is indeed striking.
The ability of aikido artists to defend against being knocked down comes as the result of a thoughtful and meditative kind of self-study, in which both mental and physical powers are united. The balanced aikido practitioners must be able to focus their mental energies upon the center of balance located in the abdominal region (hara) at any given time. As a female assistant aikido instructor explained: If you imagine all your energy coming into your body at a point in your midsection, running down through your legs and running up through your trunk, through your arms, and up into your head—and then, with your mind, you project this energy through your body in the direction you wish—you can be said to be extending your ‘Ki’ (an available inner strength that expands the concept of one’s own resources). ‘Ki’ can be sent in any direction, depending on what you plan to do. ‘Ki’ exists in all of us.
The concentration upon this most important area keeps the mind from wandering during a practice or a self-defense encounter. Such wandering of the mind is undesirable, not only for ‘aikido’ but also for ‘acting’.
In reference to the union of mind and body, Stanislavski discusses the Hindu concept of ‘prana’ (vital energy radiating from the brain and solar plexus). In Eastern fashion, the great Russian director and actor tried to bring about a communion between the two vital centers (mind and body), an experimentation that caused him to feel “not only that they existed, but they actually did come in contact with one another.” Due to this energy, Stanislavski was able to connect spiritually with himself on the stage during an acting performance.
Talking of the power of concentration, ‘yoga’ is without doubt a major help. Yoga is a way of life, an art of moral living or an integrated system for the body, mind, and inner spirit. This art originated, was practiced and perfected in India thousands of years ago. The references to yoga are found in Upanishads and Puranas composed by Indian Aryans in the later Vedic and post-Vedic period. The main credit for organizing yoga goes to Patanjali, who wrote Yoga Sutra, the most important basic text on Yoga, 2000 years ago. It is this basic treatise through which the essential message of yoga spread throughout the world.