I was listening to this radio show about extreme sports… Among the various neurotransmitters rushing whenever we are exposed to danger is adrenaline. Adrenalin rush affects our body in various ways – among these, it helps fixation of memories. Experiencing danger triggers adrenalin release, making such experience extraordinary and unforgettable. This seems to have a pedagogic purpose: our body learns how to act efficiently even when we have no time to think. This is beyond instinct; rather, it is an unconsciously acquired skill.
I often think that Noh offers many situations of danger, which can be both ‘artistic’ (in Noh there is very little room for improvisation, hence the condition of constant ‘alert’) or physical (i. e. the danger of falling of stage). Performing Kiyotsune last week provided the chance to feel adrenalin rush on various occasions. Other situations of danger, giving rise to heightened senses, are okeiko (lessons, in the traditional arts) especially when my teacher is not in a particularly good mood (or when he is). As I progress on the way of Noh my training becomes stricter, and I noticed that my teacher tends to put more pressure on me when he teaches me, often interrupting my movements to briskly correct, hammering on the same gesture, expecting repeated correct executions before moving to the next step, etc. These are not straightforwardly ‘perilous’ situations, but they still retain a certain degree of danger, as failure to live up to a certain standard will result in my teacher’s disappointment. Exams are dangerous. In other words, strict, tough training, sometimes even involving physical contact of sorts, can effect our brain positively, inasmuch it helps ingraining the teaching in the body. The following step is learning how to manage the rush effectively as it happens.
In conclusion I wanted to add that adrenaline is released in dangerous situations along with another hormon, dopamine, a chemical whose effect we common describe as ‘pleasure’. I will let you draw your own conclusions on this…