Apr 26, 2008

The Physicality of Tea Practice

For those who study martial arts or are involved in sports, tea practice looks like it is sedentary, not a physical activity. After all, it is done sitting on tatami and it is quiet and calm. But there is a physicality to tea practice that is sometimes much more difficult than that of moving your body vigorously.

Tea practice is about control. To be able to move slowly, precisely and gracefully takes long practice. To be able to make it look effortless and easy takes even more practice. To know where your body will end up when you sit down takes practice. To put utensils down in the proper place (a centimeter off is in the wrong place), takes experience to know where in relation to your body it should go.

Most excruciating of all is being able to make tea and drink tea while sitting in seiza. Being uncomfortable and still be able to do what you need to do with your whole attention and awareness is mostly mental. But physical endurance is also important. It takes training to work up to sitting for hours on tatami in seiza, but if you sit for a little bit each day and gradually increase your time sitting, your body will adjust. The thing is to stick with it long enough to build up your endurance.

It is funny when sensei tells tea students that it is time to take a break, so everyone should stand up to rest. Only in the tea room.

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