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Dynamic Use Of the Hips In Karate... Answers On A postcard

One of the great mysteries, and indeed often discussed post training with those who have been training a few years, is around the complex debate of how the Karateka generates power when making certain techniques, and arguably the most quoted is the gyaku tsuki (basic reverse punch).

Over the years of training, I have been exposed to different schools of thought from many learned and respected instructors and looking back, I believe that my perspective has changed at different points that reflect trends and thinking at specific times, decades, fashions, and trends.

In my teens, twenties, and thirties, I followed the debate that suggested that the torso spun around the concept of axis rotation. Indeed Sensei Nakayama, head teacher of the prestigious JKA, propagated this theory and for me it worked perfectly well. Year after year, I diligently practiced my technique to try and develop speed and power and it seemed to work pretty well.

Mind you, as the years advanced and I got into my forties and early fifties, I started to explore a slightly different concept. It all started with a good discussion with Shihan Cummins about how we use hip twist to generate power. We had been training in the kata Nijushiho, a lovely flowing kata where the ebb and flow of energy cascade through the complexities of its movement.

However, one particular technique within the kata got us thinking:

There is a movement where you have to spin directly behind yourself to make Haito Jodan with the right hand and the left hand rotates behind you as a counter foil. It is a strong powerful attack. For years, I had simply spun around and felt happy enough at the outcome.

But then one day, I tried it differently, using my hips a bit like a shot putter. I spun around with such velocity that not just feet but my entire torso seemed to come off the floor, but the increase in velocity, speed, and power were tangible.

This got me thinking about other techniques where propulsion, and I suppose, basic principles of physics could be applied in the dojo. Shihan Cummins (himself an ex- soldier) used to use a great analogy. He used to say: "If I have a bullet from a 22 Lee-Enfield rifle, and throw it at my enemy (note: usually me in the dojo) it will simply bounce off him and make him mad." Yes, good point well made. "However, put the bullet into the chamber of the rifle with its explosive firing action and low and behold a very different reaction results".

So, I offer no definitive answer as I am not sure that there is one; after all, one size does not fit all and neither should it. Just putting it out there to offer debate and thought. After all, Karate is a thinking person's pursuit.


Sensei Austin