Suggestions for Generating Power in Uechi-ryu
Understand the nature of force: Li is muscular and is observable as effort. Chi is a metaphor for our naturally occurring and flowing energy. Jin is the expression of power which is the result of optimal channeling of chi, by direction of the will. Visualize, and it will happen, if your mind and body are relaxed. Through relaxation and resilience, one can generate internal power by optimum vector of forces. Internal power appears as an unexpectedly robust manifestation of force, especially considering the minimum apparent effort. With Li, the point of contact is itself the target. However, when a target is hit with Jin, the energy passes though and causes internal disruption. On a basic level: Hit through, not to.
Strength is external. It is force that utilizes tightness, effort and struggle, muscular work, and mostly uses the extremities.
Inner work uses our core and center, sinking and linking to the ground, is resilient and flexible, employs whole body structure, and is a functional expression, without apparent effort. Think of expression rather than commission. Be spontaneous rather than calculating. Be adaptable rather than preconceived and overcommitted. Use your whole body rather than isolated strength. Become fully coordinated rather than using segmental effort. Use your core rather than your outer frame. The employment of good structure saves large amounts of effort, and connects you to the ground, with all its power.
“Effortless” force is the key to power. Sink and use the ground. The ground is stronger than any body effort, when we are relaxed. Root deeply, at least as far down as the height of your body. Zhan Zhong and Ma Bu practice are simple ways to develop ground sensitivity, connection and relaxation.
Power starts with the ground (your root is as deep as you are tall) and channels up through the ankles, legs, hips, waist, torso, shoulder, arms, wrists and hands. [The 9 bending pearl]. Do not allow any joint to choke off your ground energy, but let it pass through. Make your body part of the ground and relax to manifest your energy. With movement, this becomes power. The more relaxed one is before movement, the more power can be expressed.
Use your whole body instead of an arm or leg, for all techniques. In other words, make every movement an expression of your body, not your arm or leg. And to magnify further, stay in touch with the ground.
For all techniques, begin with muscles closest to your torso, and the secondary activations follow. Begin with the center, and move outwards, in sequence.
Remember that your leg is stronger than your arm, and that your torso, waist and core are stronger than your leg.
Avoid isolated arm movements and isolated kicks
Think of the difference between a haymaker, and a properly executed uppercut.
Think of snap kicks (front or side) versus kicks with the whole-body behind them.
Keep your hips in front of your ankles.
Initiate moves from proximal to distal. Practice slow, tai chi speed to start with so that you can become aware of the properly executed sequence inherent in every technique, and then make it your own. Speed will come with body wisdom and practice.
Use your center-line and mid-clavicular line, instead of your outside line when delivering techniques.
When stepping, move with intention, to go through whatever obstruction your opponent presents. Visualize disrupting his base and his structure with your stepping. Your lower body transports you, and becomes an attack or a defense in itself.
Remember that by stepping and then striking you will never generate maximum power. It’s by moving as you strike and kick that you can more than double the power of your techniques. The feet and hands should stop together. Even when your feet are not stepping, your hips and core can be engaged, and movement will occur internally and unseen, in sequence with the punch or kick. Remember, your body is the car; your hands are only the bumper. Do not confuse the two.
The arm rubbing portion of Kote kitae is more valuable as a way to test your root and foundation than it is a benefit to your arms. In addition to foundation development, it gives you an opportunity to develop listening skills. You can learn to detect motion and intention shifts on the part of your partner. If you want to impart more power into your arm, just dial it in from your body and stance. Practice moving forward and backwards in your fixed stance. You should find that when your hips are in front of your ankles, the power you have to share with your partner increases. Practice making your arms part of your body, and keep them relaxed but with sound structure. You’ll find that they won’t tire, and you’ll be able to point them where you want. This is not muscle strength primarily; it’s appropriate use of the root and the body. Remember, the further your arms get away from your body, the weaker they become. Every technique should be a manifestation of body work. There should be no isolated arm or leg movements.
When doing the pounding portion of kote kitae, the practice of good structure and stepping is of greater worth than the toughening of the forearms. When your partner puts his arm out in a punch, ask him to hold it there and place your chest gently against his closed fist. Then slowly walk forward. If his fist pushes you backwards, he has sound body structure and his punch would have its desired effect. However, if you can walk forward and displace his arm or push him backwards, then his punch was ineffective. Allow him to adjust his body and stance and retry. With practice you both will greatly improve the effectiveness of your punch and the desired transfer of energy from the puncher to the target. This is an energy exchange and you don’t want to lose energy during a technique. It is by relaxation and correct structure and intention that we make ourselves more effective, more powerful. So it’s not about more bench presses, or tightening up more, or trying harder. All you need is an open mind, and self-examination.
Use small techniques against soft areas in preference to large techniques against hard areas (Shoken in place of Seiken).
Concentrate force in small areas, which is more effective.
Strike what cannot be conditioned – the eye, larynx, trachea, brachial plexus, testicles. This is a central difference between the MMA mindset and real combat effectiveness, the part that works regardless of your size or strength. Remember that karate is about surviving, not winning competition. Make your techniques real, and progressively condition your weapons. There’s little sense to having a well executed nukite, shoken, sokusen technique that would break if you hit anything. The key to forging them into real weapons is not to harm them, to start out very lightly and maintain consistent gentle practice. Gradually you’ll be able to add increasing power through them. Adding the thickness of a sheet of rice paper a day seems little, but after a year you have a book.
Relax to allow energy to pass through the body, without stoppages. No matter how much strength you have, you can always neutralize your own efforts by tightening the muscles which are the antagonist of the ones driving the technique. Think of your body being like a bull whip, where the handle moves forward and then stops; the resulting wave is propagated and expresses its force at the tip, but only because the whip after the handle is completely flexible. Think of being like an electric eel, which by relaxing, contracting and relaxing generates an energy pulse that becomes strong enough to be detected as electricity. You too can generate power equivalent to an electric pulse.
Familiarize yourself with the value of using acupuncture points and exposed nerve areas as striking targets. These are highlighted in the Bubishi, and in texts and videos on Kyusho, Dim Mak, Acupressure, Acupuncture and cavity point striking. It is very likely that when Kanbun Uechi was studying in China, these points were part of the curriculum. A powerful technique becomes much more powerful when directed with purpose. Why strike a muscle mass or bony target, when you can be so much more effective by choosing specific points. Clearly, this is not MMA material or sportive martial arts. This would only be used in survival situations not scuffles, and must be chosen with care.
Fear no one, and be a threat to no one. That frees you to share your humanity with kindness and understanding, regardless of the stress of the moment. Most people will be caught off guard by humor or unexpected kindness, and will redirect their intention. For those who don’t see this, many times we can still walk away. Walk-away power belongs to those with wisdom and understanding.
Finally, have good intentions, and continuously purify your mind. By losing unkindness or harm in yourself, you become useful to others. By letting your goodness come out, you are practicing peace.
February 28, 2011