Relax is not a letting go or collapse, relax is the due amount of tension for the activity.
Think of Usain Bolt, it was measured that with each step he produces reaction from ground equal to 1000lb, that is a lot of power, yet his face appears totally relaxed, he put all the tension where it should be.
I picture sensei Nishiyama’s punch and it is always seem effortless, that is for the same reason, no tension is used that is not contributing for the purpose.
For me the best way to describe it is the right amount (of muscle activation) in the right time in in the right segment.
Sensei Nishiyama used to say “keep your very center and contact area strong and everything in between soft”, and that is also tricky, because he spent a lot of time trying to explain what strong means, it is not tight, it is firm, sometimes Sensei will say “put ki energy in center and contact area and that is it”.
The wrong tension is like pushing the brakes while you are driving, it kills speed; it will create contradictory and extraneous energy.
Bud Winter was at one time the coach of all sprinting events world record holders, he coached his athletes not to extend a 100-percent effort. He claimed and proved that far more can be achieved with a four-fifths effort.
He encouraged athletes to use four-fifths effort and get timed. You will find it faster than 100 percent, even though it will not feel as fast.
How much contraction is necessary? How do we become more relax? In the next article.