Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Reclaiming the Scapula

Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared at Thoughts on Tai Chi, regarding the scapula. The full post may be read here.

This is probably the most important and meaningful post I have written and could ever write on this blog. Yet I know that not only the subject, but merely the title alone will make people ignore it, shun it. The scapula or shoulder blades will probably interest very few, except as maybe a trained physician for intellectual reasons. I know this even before I have publish it, that very few will read it. And with time it will be forgotten.
I know this not only because of my own experience of what interests people in general. The problem runs much deeper. Whatever we see, hear and experience, is understood in our own bodies through chemical reactions. Signals from the brain goes through the body and return with responses. The problem is that people have very little awareness in this area, the scapula, so when most people see or hear this word, there is very little response in their own bodies, in this very area. And therefore the probability that he or she will ignore it or find it uninteresting is very high.
But maybe if I have succeeded to pull your attention to this article by now, I might be able to keep you in here for a while. I hope so.
What it means by what I tried to explain above is that it’s very likely that you won’t understand the importance of this subject, this area in your own body, without proper guidance with a good teacher who can teach you specific exercises. You can only understand what you have missed by own practice, and by starting to regain what you have lost. Without learning how to actively use the scapula instead of just letting it hang there passively, you just won’t understand the advantage and benefits of actually being able to move and use it in another way.
Because this is an area of the body that most people don’t use. People tend to use their fingers and hands, most movements moving the hands and fingers comes usually more from the elbow joints and less from the shoulder joint. The whole of the back is usually mostly held passively. The activity going on in the back area is usually not about moving it, but instead about keeping it immovable and create tensions, as keeping the shoulders raised and the jaws clenched.
Even for people who exercises and deal with sports, they still make very little use of many core muscles in the back.
What happens for most people using the body, as people usually do in daily life, is that thick areas of fascia connecting the muscles together close to the spine, all the way from neck down to the tailbone, will contract, become harder and unmovable. This in turn will make the muscles in the back become stiff, tense and unmovable. The only way to reverse this negative development and to regain movability in the back is exercises that move the muscles in the back. The body needs movement to stay healthy. All of the body, not just the joints and limbs.
Some Tai Chi teachers regard scapula/ shoulder blades practice as secrets, or something kept for indoor students only, some teaches it openly and regard it as a natural part of the practice. But lets face it, basic IMA (Internal Martial Arts) movement is hard enough.  

Finding the correct balance and alignment, and dealing with body coordination moving from the core is hard enough. Before being able to make real good use of the scapula in IMA, or in martial arts in general, the practitioner needs to first have built a proper foundation. And this can take many years.
These principles we are discussing here are no secrets, and in fact they are here and there, and pieces of them are to be found everywhere. Many teachers have exercises and whole sets for activating the scapula and develop movability and movement. But the practitioners themselves rarely pay attention or understand the importance of these until they have reached a certain level of general understanding of body movement. And maybe also some degree of body awareness is necessary.

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