Friday, December 28, 2012

Breath reveals quality of technique.

I wrote in the previous article that Aiko San could correct my technique without looking at me, just by listening to the breath.
Why is that important? because while at the beginning levels we focus on external form, and mechanics of technique, at the higher levels the breath controls the techniques, all aspects of it, and the mechanics and form should be forgotten, or not consciously attained.
For example breath initiate the technique, is like the trigger that controls the timing of the technique.
If we cannot apply the concept of “breath triggers technique”, we cannot talk about breath reaction (rather than conscious, analyze than decision reaction), since action and reaction must be one, without space, and that is only possible if the breath makes reaction and initiate technique. Also, the concept of breath tune to opponent rhythm while creates potential energy in our foot work, is not possible to apply if breath does not make and match our footwork and technique.
Or, as Sensei Nishiyama used to say “kiai destroy opponent”, since the breath controls the muscles activation at kime, it controls pressure to the floor and the total muscles contraction in shortest time to line of technique in case of “todome” or continuous contraction in case of push and pull technique, in other words breath make kime and also controls type of kime and type of energy appropriate to purpose.
When we say “kiai destroy opponent”, it includes intention, since if intention is “to destroy opponent with kiai” the muscles will be recruited more sharply, more fully and to the right direction and according to purpose.

Now this is not an easy subject, proper breath is not simply blowing the air out, I would not be able to understand the breath without countless demonstrations and feedback by Sensei Nishiyama and Aiko San. With this being said anyone can attain those levels, if you are athletic or not.
We must study deeply and diligently, be patient. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Aiko San always surprised me with her depth of understanding, intuition and wisdom.
One evening about 10 years ago, I was doing kata and Aiko San was standing with her back to me, and all of the sudden she turned around and said: “you are using too much top power”, and I felt it was true but asked her how could she tell, since she did not look at me, and she replied that she knew by the sound of my breath.
Since than she surprised me over and over, without looking at me she told me if my elbows were disconnected or my pelvis was misaligned, or I did not use the stance well, she was always right, and only by listening to my breath.
It should not be such a surprise since the breath should activate the muscles in the right sequence and in the right amount according to the purpose, the breath should match the muscles action and timing of the technique.
Now, I constantly listen to my student breath, and try to know their movement by the breath, and by doing so I get more tune to my own breath, muscle action and technique synchronization. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Body Shifting - understand to use effectively.

In karate body dynamics and inside muscle action are the main sources of power (of course, controlled my the mind, so we could say the mind is the main source of energy).
Body shifting is one of the 6 body dynamics. Shifting is used to produce force as well as to adjust distance, and it is generally used to apply techniques in longer distance.
We use straight shifting, such as in case of Oi Zuki, or side shifting, such as in Yoko Enpi Ate (side elbow smash), and kizami Zuki in longer space.
Yori Ashi, Tsugi Ashi, Fumi Ashi can be used as means of shifting.
In the case of Oi Zuki for example, pure straight shifting should be used, introducing any rotation cause energy to split, since we want straight energy line. 
In some cases shifting and rotation are combined, and shifting is mainly for purpose of distance, such as when stepping with Soto Uke or Age Uke, shifting does not produce force to the side or upward, therefore rotation is main energy.
Or when executing Mae Geri with back leg (stepping forward), main body action is pendulum action (which is rotation around an axis parallel to floor), shifting is not optimal for the direction of the kick, therefore is secondary, and used to allow transfer of momentum forward and setting optimal angle of support leg to body center to kick for energy transfer.
Or think of Yori Ashi (sliding) with Gyaku Zuki, first we shift and at last moment, as the front foot enter the floor, use rotation which is the main power.
In the above case, straight line energy is changing and adding into rotational energy, but shifting is secondary, since shifting needs big space to produce sufficient force.
If rotation starts as we start shifting, rotation will take place over long period and will be slow and ineffective, and in addition, our body center will be exposed too soon.
An exception is when gyaku zuki is executed in short space, than shifting and rotation starts together.
Shifting needs more space to produce big force, think of trying to break through a door, you need big distance to be able to increase enough force to break a door, it can’t be done from little space.
Or think of hitting a baseball or golf ball, no one shifts (runs sideways) in order to hit the ball, but rather rotation is being used.
In shorter space rotation is much more powerful.
It is a common problem to see someone shifts too much and having no space for rotation while executing gyaku zuki, which results in weak technique, but also exposing chance since shifting is slower than rotation.
Attention need to be placed on correct application of body shifting principles such as keeping the weight in between feet, and foot first, body center second and than technique, in order to effectively apply the points discussed above.
I leave that for another discussion.