Before you try to answer to this question, be aware that I placed the word “budo” in front of karate. This means that my question is specifically geared for budo or martial art karate and not sport karate.
OK then we need to define budo and agree to the concept so we can discuss the question. Most likely the readers know that Budo (武道) is a term describing modern Japanese martial arts. Literally translated budo means the “Martial Way”, and may be thought of as the “Way of War”. Budo is a compound of the kanji, bu (武), meaning war battles, military power, or martial arts; and do (道), obviously means path or way. I am sure we all agree with the translation.
Thus, in budo karate, we train to defend our life in a critical condition. Therefore, I am sure that you will agree that the purpose of our training in budo karate is not to learn how to win a point in a kumite competition or to execute a kata in an attractive way to earn a high score in a kata competition.
So, after agreeing to that what do you think is the most important element in karate training? Some people may pick speed, power or distance as the most important. Other people may say bunkai or application. And some old timer may insist on kihon or kata. There are so many other elements that are important such as breathing or concentration, etc. etc. There are so many elements it is quite difficult to pin down the most important. So, what do you think?
Yes, all those listed above are indeed important. I do not disagree with that. But, you may be surprised if I tell you that none of them is the most important element in budo karate. Then what is the most important one? The most important element, as far as budo karate is concerned, by far, is the mind-set. If you do not agree, check the fifth kun of Funakoshi Nijukun (船越二十訓). You will find this kun: 技術より心術 (gijutsu yori shinjutsu). This is a short kun and is often translated as “mentality or spirit” over technique. I am truly impressed that Master Funakoshi put this in the fifth place out of twenty important precepts. It is very obvious he considered it as one of the most important concepts.
I have written a deeper translation of Funakoshi Nijukun a few years ago. It is included in one of the books I published, Shotokan Transcendence. I quote the explanation which I wrote for #5 kun below.
This translation needs further explanation to understand the deep meaning of this kun. Let me explain the meaning of each word and that should help us understand this important kun. Gijutsu (技術) means technique but gi 技 itself means technique and jutsu (術) means art, way, method and means. So, it means technical method or technical way. So, it does not necessarily mean karate techniques. When we say “gijutsu sha” or gijutsu person we mean an engineer and craftsman. Regardless, by gijutsu, he meant the physical karate techniques.
Then what is shinjutsu (心術)? Shin means heart, mind and intelligence. So, we may quickly translate shinjutsu as mind way or intelligent way, however, this translation is not exactly what Funakoshi really wanted it to mean. The Japanese word shin (心) has many meanings and it is a very important word for the Japanese. Shin can mean heart and also center or core (kan 幹). It can even mean stomach or guts (hara 腹). Samurai considered shin and hara to be the center of their samurai spirit or value. This is why they cut the belly when they committed seppuku or harakiri to show that their center is pure. I do not think Funakoshi was thinking of harakiri but he was thinking of the samurai spirit. He was thinking of Gojo no toku 五常の徳 which is the five virtues of Confucian. Those virtues are Jin 仁 (benevolence), Gi 義 (justice), Rei 礼 (courtesy), Chi 智 (wisdom), Shin 信 (trust). I will write about Bushido in the near future and I will include further explanation of Gojo no toku there.
To read the full article at my blog, access the following URL:
Samurai also believed the importance of hara (guts), thus shinjutsu. Some kenjutsu styles such as Jigen ryu (示現流) have dropped almost all of the complex techniques. They teach you to bring your sword over your head and just bring it down. That is it. They also practice hitting the bundled wood sticks repeatedly with a bokken, wooden sword (photo below). Here is a short video of Jigen-ryu demonstration:
In fact, the karate historians suspect that this practice is the fore-father of Karate’s makiwara. Jigen ryu was invented in Satsuma, southern Kyushu island, the nearest island to Okinawa. Some of the Okinawan karate practitioners, such as Sokon Matsumura (松村宗棍), visited the Satsuma clan (Okinawa was occupied by Satsuma Clan in 1609) to learn their kenjutsu, Jigen ryu. It is easy to guess that those Okinawan karateka had learned the practice of hitting the wood sticks with bokken. They brought this practice back to Okinawa and from there they invented the makiwara for the karate training purpose. OK that is enough of this side track story.
So, back to the main subject. The samurai believed the importance of hara or guts and shinjutsu (mastery of mind or emotion). After reading the article mentioned above, did you think I had covered the full explanation of shinjutsu? I am sure you agree that I had not. You must have felt that something was somehow missing. Yes, I purposely left out one thing in the explanation. This shinjutsu must include Heijoshin (平常心) to explain why Funakoshi put shinjutus above gijutsu. You may recall that I have already touched on Heijoshin in another article recently but I will explain briefly what this important word means again. Hei (平) means flat and jo (常) means constant. As you know that shin (心) means heart or spirit, all three kanji combined means flat and constant heart. In our daily lives it is difficult for us to keep a peaceful mind as we get surprised, upset, angry, sad or even frightened. So, heijoshin means the ability to keep a peaceful mind. Then, shinjutsu means the technique or training to build or form heijoshin. A sport karate enthusiast may come back and say, “Hey, we also need heijoshin to prepare ourselves for a tournament especially for the big events such as national and world championships. So, why do you specify it to ‘budo’ karate?” It is true that a tournament competitor needs to have a calm and peaceful mind. I respect the tournament competitors for their enthusiasm and dedication to their karate training. If they are nervous, upset or shaky, then they will not be able to perform to best of their ability. Having said that, I am afraid the degree of stress is vastly different between a tournament competitor and budo karate. In budo, we practice on the assumption that our fighting is for life and death. I am sure you will agree facing an assailant with a gun or a knife is quite different from an opponent in kumite even if it is a full contact tournament.
When an enemy with a gun or a knife is facing you, a serious degree of mind control will, naturally be required by anyone. First, you must control your fear. Secondly, you need to be able to make some quick and correct decisions. You must determine quickly if this is the time to fight or to surrender depending on the intention of the assailant. If the assailant simply wants to take your money or even your car, it is definitely wiser to let him have it rather than risking your life to save the material loss. On the other hand, if this person is intending to harm you or a family member, you may have to fight. Especially if he is thinking of killing you, you have no choice but to fight to save yourself or your family members. This is, indeed, a life or death fight and this is exactly when a cool mind is needed the most. Even if you had no fear, you will fail and get killed if you are too excited and become reckless and/or careless. At this critical time you need to be able to execute the techniques as you have practiced so many times in your dojo. It is easy to say this but to be able to do all these things is considerably more difficult than you can imagine. In this situation, your physical techniques may be important but your mind or mental techniques (heijoshin) is needed first. In other words, if you can maintain a cool head your techniques can be average or to an extreme you may not even need the karate techniques. Even if you have little karate or martial art training, if one can punch or kick, you may be able to defend yourself in a critical situation using the cool mind and making the right decisions.
So, how can you develop and maintain heijoshin? Well, this was a core question for the samurai all through the feudal period (from the 13th century to the first half of the 19th century). I am sure they were scared of dying and fighting in a battle. Heijoshin certainly did not come naturally or easily even in the period of samurai and it is certainly more difficult now. If it did not come naturally to the samurai how did they learn or train this mind set? This is an extremely important question and more martial artists should ask. I am afraid this particular and extremely important area is often ignored in the martial arts including karate training.
he samurai children started their training early. The male children at the age of seven would receive a knife from their father. At a genpuku (元服 attaining manhood) ceremony (photo above), held typically at the age of 12 to 16, the male children will learn the etiquette and method of seppuku (切腹 hara-kiri, how to cut the belly). I understand that the female children also had to learn how to use the knife if they had to commit suicide to protect their virginity or honor (they typically cut their neck). They were also forced to watch the other samurai’s seppuku and the execution (decapitation or crucification) of the criminals to get used to seeing the blood and the killing. Of course, the samurai children as young as 3 or 5 years old would start their martial arts training including kenjutsu (剣術 sword), sojutsu (槍術 spear), kyujutsu (弓術 archery), etc. During the civil war period (the 13th – 15th centuries), the samurai children after genpuku would be required to join the fighting group to experience a battle, even just to observe if they were too young to fight.
One practice they relied on was zazen or zen meditation. I will not go deep into this subject in this article, though it is an interesting one. Most of the readers know that this is a special meditation practice typically performed by a certain sect of Buddhist monks. They open their temples for the commoners to practice zazen. Regardless, it is probably very difficult for most of the western readers to find such a temple in the US or Europe. So, though this is a very useful method I will not cover it here. Maybe I will focus on this subject sometime in the future as it is a fascinating practice.
The samurai used to polish their swords periodically. They used to take care of the long swords to kill the others and the short one to kill himself. They did a few other preparations. The samurai parents used to send their male children to the sites where they had the open execution of the prisoners. The young sons had to watch the executions to “get used to” the blood (killing) of a person. As I have mentioned earlier, when the sons reach the age of seven or so, they will receive a knife and typically around 12 years or so, they received a set of katana (a long and a short swords) as a part of genpuku ritual. At the same time, they were taught the method of seppuku and the detailed ritual that comes with a seppuku incident. The high level samurai houses used to have a small room specifically saved for a seppuku ritual. The children are taught about this room and told never to step inside this room other than for the specific purpose of seppuku. So, the samurai faced and learned about a death situation very often, mostly for the purpose of preparing their minds.”
OK but you may say, “We are living in the 21st century so we cannot have such experiences”. You are correct, but does this mean there is no method for us to gain the heijoshin mind other than just wishing? No, do not be discouraged. In fact, there is a method and it is easy enough that anyone can practice it. I am happy to share it with you here.
Before I go into explaining the method of training, I need to give you a brief historical background first to set the stage. After the battle of Sekigahara (関ケ原の合戦) in 1600, the civil war period ended and the peaceful period (no major battles) of some 250 years started. This “peaceful” or without the battles period for the samurai lasted during the 17th, 18th and into the first half of the 19th centuries. During the war period of the 16th century, battles and killing were very common. Therefore, it was natural that the samurai were accustomed to seeing death all around them. On the other hand, when the peaceful period lasted more than two centuries, it became less and less common for the samurai to see the people getting killed and to get involved in a fight to kill someone. Though there were some seppuku (hara-kiri) incidents once in a while, but surprisingly many samurai never had to draw their swords even once (to fight) throughout their life time.
Now during the peaceful period that they lived in became similar to the modern day environment. It may be, ironically, more dangerous in the 21st century USA than the 18th century Japan. Despite the “peaceful” society, the samurai still had to carry their swords all day. If they are ordered to kill someone or themselves, they had to follow the order without any protest or objection. That was the samurai code and almost everyone followed it to the letter without questioning. Though the situation of the samurai looks similar to that of the modern day soldiers, it differs greatly as the samurai had to follow the order without asking why and refusing or even failing an order meant death to himself.
Dying is probably the scariest thing or the biggest disturbance to your mental condition. Just imagine the situation if your doctor tells you, after a physical examination, that you have a terminal cancer. Can you maintain a calm mind? Most of us cannot. Even for a samurai, I am sure it was a scary thing for many of them to face death right in front of them especially when they found that they had to do hara kiri. Theoretically, a seppuku (hara kiri) could happen to any of the samurai if they fail in their daily duty.
Therefore, they had to do something to overcome this fear of facing death even if they had no more battles. Of course, most of them practiced kenjutsu and other bujutsu (martial arts) to build the budo and samurai spirit. They did zen meditation and all other special ceremony (genpuku) and samurai customs, but most of these methods do not apply to the modern day people including the Japanese people.
What can we do to avert or overcome this fear? This is the main subject that I want to share in this article and present an idea as a model that can be practiced fairly easily by any of us.
So, what else did they do? Believe it or not, it was a simple thing they did. Many of them recited daily that it could be his last day and promised to die with honor if death was necessary. They did this first thing in the morning when they prayed in front of the in house shrine (kamidana 神棚) or temple (butsudan 仏壇) before they ate breakfast. This practice is based on the same concept of reciting Dojo kun (道場訓, photo left) after every training. I also understand that many Christian people recite the Lord’s Prayer daily. I am sure other religions have the similar practices of reciting something important. I do not know if reciting “Today may be my last day” will help you to develop heijoshin, but this is what I have picked up many years ago. We will see if this will help me at the critical moment which may or may not be dramatic. But one thing I am 100% sure of is that my last day will come one day, but I just do not know when. No matter what situation I may be in at that moment, I want to be ready. I say this because I believe the way I finish my last day and that very moment will determine if I died as a samurai or not.
I suspect that some people may object to my statement. They may say, “The title of this article is ‘the most important training point’ but your reciting does not happen in your dojo training. So, you are not giving us an idea that we can use in our dojo, or are you?” This question is fair. I recite this in my bed (as I do not have a Kamidana in my house) when I wake up or when I look at my face in the mirror right before I wash my face in the morning. It is true that it does not happen strictly in a dojo. Having said that, this does not mean this is not happening in my karate training. Do you remember the 8th kun from Nijukun? Funakoshi wrote, “Dojo nomino karate to omouna (道場のみの空手と思うな)”. In this kun he told us that karate training must not happen only in our dojo. In other words, he wanted us to expand our training to the life outside of the dojo. He did not mean that you have to do kata in your living room (though that is a good thing to do if you have a space for it). He was talking about how you walk, sit, drive, etc. The ways of all other physical actions must be conducted in a budo way. As this is a very important subject I wrote about this in my third book, Shotokan Transcendence (available from Amazon books). The titles are Jidosha Dojo (Automobile Dojo) and The Art of Perfect Shaving. In addition, Funakoshi was also referring to our mental training during our normal daily activities. I am not sure if he was thinking about reciting “today may be my last day” but I am sure he would have approved as this helps the budo mind.
So, this is the answer to the big question of how do I develop or strengthen my budo spirit. I do not know if this will work for you or even for myself. I cannot tell you this until the very moment of my last day. However, one thing I can tell you now is that I have the feeling of great peace right now and I am not afraid of dying. We need to see if I can keep this feeling at the critical moment. If I can then you can say I had a heijoshin. So, if you agree that overcoming of this critical fear is the most important aspect of budo karate, please try my method. You have nothing to lose from trying this.
I have posted many video clips of the training at Goiania (April 2016) on my Facebook page. One of them was squat kicks. Instead of explaining what it is, I will put the link to it (shown below) so you can see the video clip for yourself.
Some of the readers who saw this exercise criticized that it was medically incorrect and it was harmful to the knees. I expected these negative comments and this is why I decided to write this article to explain why I did and still do this exercise.
Note: The first two images are from the seminar I taught in Louisiana several years ago. I shared both types of squat kicks (narrow and wide squat) with the participants.
Here is the video from this seminar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlsH7RNmihQ
So, you may ask if their claim is correct or not, my answer is “yes” and “no”. The answer can be yes and this exercise can be harmful to the practitioners whose legs and lower body are not strong enough and who do not know the correct way of doing this exercise. On the other hand, if one knows the correct way of execution and they have developed a strong lower body, then my answer is no as it will not harm their knees.
I emphasize that this exercise is not medically incorrect if it is done properly. I guarantee that it will not harm your knees. I think if you regularly jog on a hard paved road it would give you more knee problems than this exercise. You may ask how I can guarantee this. I guarantee this because there are at least two people I know who exercised with this type of kicking for many years well into their sixties. Those two persons are Master Asai and myself. Of course, Master Asai had a much better form than I but I have included this exercise in my daily training for over fifteen years (I will be 69 years old this July). I have included squat kicking (50 times) daily in my self-training menu. So, I have done this kick thousands of times in the last fifteen years and I have, so far, no problems with my knees or legs. Master Asai told me he had done this daily self-training as well and as far as I know, he did not develop any knee or leg problems. Why can we do this exercise without harming our knees? Is this because we are Japanese? Are we the exceptions? I must say “no”. Yes, our daily life style of frequent squatting and seiza gives us an advantage because it builds strong legs and lower body. However, the intensive repetition of this exercise by a regular Japanese student may still result in a knee injury if one is not properly conditioned. We are not medically exempt. We happened to have trained our legs and have learned the correct way to execute this way of kicking. The key point here is not the strong legs, but rather is knowing how to do it correctly. This is a technique that needs to be learned and acquired.
Asai karate techniques are at the master class level. They can be compared to the “Ultra C” techniques of Olympic gymnastics. If you ask a high school gymnast to do one of the Ultra C techniques you can easily imagine that it may damage his or her body. But you cannot say that this Ultra C technique is medically wrong or can be harmful to an Olympic gymnast. The Olympic gymnasts have trained their bodies for just such a technique and more importantly they have learned the correct way to do the technique. So, at my seminar I share these Asai ryu (“Ultra C”) techniques with the participants to show how much more they need to train to get up to the Asai karate level. If I sound like I am bragging about Asai karate, it is definitely not my true intention. I was juating the fact that the Asai karate is an advanced form of Shotokan karate and you can see this (though you may not be thoroughly convinced) from the complexity and difficulty of the techniques you see in the Asai kata such as Joko, Kakuyoku, Hachimon, Suishu, Seiryu, Rakuyo, Fushu, etc.
So, how am I able to do this challenging kick that is claimed by some as “medically incorrect”? I could try to write several key points of this technique here. Initially I thought I would do that but I decided not to, because I realized that one cannot learn a high level technique by just reading the explanation. My explanation may even give you the wrong impression or idea. If you saw the video of squat kicks with your own eyes you know how it is performed but if you did not see the technique, then understanding it from the written words would be impossible. Having said that I am not hiding the “secret” of this technique. In fact, I want to show and share more. This is exactly why I am spending my time right now writing this article instead of ignoring the criticism which is much easier to do. What I recommend is that you should find an opportunity to participate in one of my seminars. See my techniques and try it with me. You can ask questions and discover host stw to do it correctly. It is like trying to learn how to ride a bike. You have to get on a bike and fall several (or many) times before you learn how to ride it. It is also like learning how to swim. You need to jump into the water to learn. You cannot learn how to swim by reading a “how to swim” article.
The fact is a squat kick we did in the video is far from an Ultra C technique. It is definitely not an Olympic level technique. I consider it an intermediate level technique that any karate senior ranking practitioner should be able to do (of course, those who suffer a knee problem are exempt). If you do not believe my statement, I want to share a video of the Russian soldiers doing the famous Cossack dance. Here is the video for you to see:
This type of exercise is found not only in Russia but also in a Ukrainian folk dance.
If this dance is bad for their knees then the Russian army and the Ukrainian people would never allow them to engage in such a dance. What they are doing here cannot be medically incorrect. If the dancers and the soldiers can do this, then why not the martial artists?
To prepare for this exercise, we do many different exercises including but not limited to bunny hops, duck walk, jumping squats, one leg squats and the kick from a kneeling position. In order to master this technique, all karateka must strengthen their lower body first. Instead of criticizing a difficult exercise, I ask everyone to train harder so that you can do it too. Isn’t it better to improve your karate level than to stay at the same level?
Have you ever heard this from your sensei? I suspect most of the readers, whom I assume are Shotokan practitioners, have not heard this. If you have had some exposure to some styles of Okinawan karate, you may have heard it but for the Shotokan practitioners I am sure this statement does not make sense.
Let me explain what this puzzling statement means but first, I would like to evaluate how we (or most of us) were taught to do a gyaku zuki punch. I will try to describe the physical mechanism of performing gyaku zuki but I find it very difficult to do so, especially in English, as I do not have the skill level in this language. I hope that the advanced level readers (shodan and above) know the mechanism so that they can follow my explanation here.
First, think of the punch being done from an in position or a stationary stance, say, zenkutsu dachi. You would most likely perform gedan barai with your front arm and you are in a hanmi (半身 half face) position with your rear hand pulled way back. From this position, you will rotate your hips to kick start your punch. As the hips turn your rear shoulder will move forward and your punch will shoot out. Your arm will end up in a fully extended position and tensed when your hip position ends in shomen (正面 full-square straight). I am sure you have practiced this gyaku zuki exercise hundreds or even thousands of times in the past. When your hips lock in a shomen position and your gyaku zuki punch also locks in at the same time, you feel the excellent kime and the power of this punch.
Let us look at an ido (移動 body shifting) situation. Typically you will take a step forward (moving backward is harder but the basic concept will be the same) as you deliver gyaku zuki. Let’s make it an easy situation by starting from the gyaku zuki position with your punching arm fully extended forward. To make it easier to explain let us break the step forward in two stages. The first stage is to pull up the rear foot to meet with the front foot and you will make heisoku dachi (閉足立ち closed feet stance). At this stage you will relax your extended arm a little and you may even open the fist into a tate shuto uke (縦手刀受け) position. The hips remain shomen with the rear fist still kept at the hip. The second stage requires some intricate hip movements. As you advance the stepping foot forward the hip of the advancing side will move forward but you will keep the other hip in position, thus you will make a hanmi position as you step forward. By the time the advancing foot reaches the targeted position to assume zenkutsu dachi, your rear hip is still behind with the rear fist attached to it. As soon as that final stance position is assumed, you will quickly turn your hips followed by the rear side shoulder to make shomen and gyaku zuki punch is quickly executed at this point. This final movement is the same as the gyaku zuki mechanism that was described for the gyaku zuki position earlier.
I am pretty sure that most of the readers will agree with the explanation described above about gyaku zuki mechanism with shifting or taking a step forward. How about if I tell you that this mechanism is incorrect or at best the worst method from a budo (武道) perspective? I suspect most of you will not agree or would not understand why I say such a “crazy” thing. I am aware that now I am obligated to explain in a way you will understand. I am happy to share the correct mechanism of gyaku zuki in budo karate.
Unfortunately, the main problem with the way gyaku zuki has been taught to us for all these years was improper so most of us are not aware of the problem. So you will ask, “What is the problem?” that I am talking about. Believe it or not, in budo karate gyaku zuki must be applied with little or no hip rotation. This statement must be a surprise to most of the readers. OK we need to continue so you will see what I am talking about.
When you do oizuki (追い突き stepping straight punch), I suspect you were taught not to rotate your hips and I am sure you will agree that oizuki is done without a hip rotation. In short, gyaku zuki must be done in the same manner. In other words, it must be done with the hip pushing forward and very little hip rotation. By “hip pushing” I hope the readers can understand this important hip movement. When you do the oizuki with body shifting forward, the majority of the power in your punch will not come from your punching arm and the shoulder, as you know. The majority of the power comes from the power of body shifting and also the final hip pushing as you extend your punching arm. In the “hip pushing” forward mechanism, the pelvis is tucked under rather than pushed back. By looking at the side view of the pelvis, you will understand that tucking means pushing the bottom part of the pelvis bones forward. The hip joint (the part where the pelvic and the thigh bones are connected) is located towards the bottom of the pelvic bone, thus to tuck forward you will push the leg part forward as you keep the upper part of the pelvic bone stationary. The reason why you want to tuck is simple once you learn the mechanism of power generation. By having this correct bone structure you can generate more power by being able to transmit the power that was generated by the legs. By having the pelvis inclined forward (opposite of tucked under), the bone structure of the legs and the hip area will cause the generated power to dissipate or to prevent the transmission of the power to the extended arm. As the mechanism of gyaku zuki here is almost identical to that of oizuki, there is no reason to separate these two punches. It is like punching with your left fist or right fist. This is the reason why we say there is no gyaku zuki.
But you may argue, “Well, how about when you do an uke (受け block) first and a gyaku zuki counter? We learned to take a big hanmi in performing the uke before we do gyaku zuki. Do you claim that this is wrong?” This is a good question. My answer to this is that this mechanism is not wrong but at the same time this is the last choice one wants to use. To explain why this is the last choice we need to talk about choshi (調子 timing or tempo) in kumite. In other words, there are several different tempos between the technique by an attacker and the defender’s technique. So, in the case an attacker steps in with a jodan punch, the following are the different tempos for the defender’s block and counter.
1) The most popular technique in Shotokan karate: age uke (挙げ受け rising block) first then followed by gyaku zuki; this technique of using two arms is a two count tempo which happens to be the slowest.
2) A more challenging technique: age uke and uraken uchi using the blocking arm; this counter is faster and we call it one and a half tempo
3) Though not as popular but faster than the preceding two methods, age uke and a simultaneous gyaku zuki (in other words, these two techniques are delivered at the same time); the tempo for this technique is one as you deliver the counter as soon as the block is done.
There are other one tempo techniques. One example is jowan osae uke (抑え受け pressing block using forearm) and (simultaneous) kentsui uchi (拳槌打ち) using the same arm. Another example can be found in the first move of Bassai dai (バッサイ大). In the kata you were probably taught that the right fist is chudan uchi uke (中段内受け) and left hand is only a soete (添え手 accompanying hand) on top of the right forearm. In this technique your left hand is, in fact, osae uke against the opponent’s punching arm (at wrist or elbow) and your right fist is simultaneously used as uraken uchi (裏拳打ち) to the opponent’s jodan. There are many other techniques of one tempo kumite but I will not go into this as I want to use the first example to explain the concept of budo gyaku zuki.
So, let’s get back to the technique of the third example “tempo one”; age uke and simultaneous gyaku zuki. When you do this technique it is obvious that one cannot rotate one’s hips much even if you wanted to. What you need to do is to tuck in the pelvic bone as described in the oizuki technique earlier. As you can see one tempo kumite is the fastest of the three options described above. Though the first one; uke followed by gyaku zuki, is an option but it is the slowest and the least desirable. First of all, it takes too much time to rotate your hips to deliver gyaku zuki. Secondly and more importantly, this method generates, surprisingly, less power in your counter attack. Yes, less power and I’ll explain why. It is a very simple matter of physics. To execute gyaku zuki after uke, one must stop the body shifting. Of course, this is why you need to rotate your hips largely to generate power. If you can do gyaku zuki with your body shifting forward it can generate much more power than only with the hip rotation. However, a wise reader will point out, “Yeah but you are stepping back so the body shifting will not provide the energy forward.” You are 100% correct so you do not want to step back in kumite. Just as the two tempo kumite (uke followed by gyaku zuki), stepping back should be the last option or choice for the defender. Unfortunately, in most of the Shotokan dojo the students both beginners and advanced are taught this least desirable option day in and day out. In order to generate power with the quickest timing, a defender must step in just as you find in the first move of Bassai dai (an osae uke with a simultaneous uraken uchi). Why is this not taught more commonly? That is a good question and this is the very reason why I am writing this article.
In our organization, ASAI, we dropped gohon kumite (五本組手) and we kept sanbon kumite (三本組手) but only for the novice who needs to learn the fundamental move of kihon kumite. We dropped gohon kumite as this exercise repeats stepping back five times which we do not believe is a good exercise. As soon as the students advance to 8 kyu we teach them to practice only kihon ippon (基本一本) kumite. Initially, the students are allowed to step back as it is the easiest technique after practicing sanbon kumite. Eventually, the students are taught to step back in an angle, then on to the sideways angles then finally to step forward (yes, step forward to the attacker).
If you examine all the kata we practice, you will see only a few stepping back techniques. You will find most of the techniques, even in Heian kata, are stepping forward. Also, there are many morote waza (諸手技 both hands techniques) in our kata including Heian. Those are very advanced techniques. This is also a very interesting subject but I will not go into it as the subject of this article is gyaku zuki.
You may ask, “How about a case when an opponent grabs your hand? In that case, would you not pull the other fist back with your hip so you can give a strong gyaku zuki?” Yes, you can do this but you can also do this without rotating your hips. It is faster and more effective. Then you may ask, “Is making hanmi wrong?” My answer is that you make hanmi not only for setting up for gyaku zuki but for other reasons. One of them is to expose less frontal area by turning your body on an angle. Another may be by a pulling or nagashi uke, you may take a hanmi position. It is not wrong to execute gyaku zuki with a big hip rotation but it takes too much time thus not desirable in a budo situation.
To do gyaku zuki without hip rotation may be more difficult to master. If you can generate the same or more power by smaller hips movement, then it can be delivered much faster. Now, do you not agree that this method is much more desirable and effective?
As karateka we are aware that most of us have a gap under the arch of our foot when we are in a standing position. The arch, the inner part of the foot is slightly raised off the ground and we know that this part is called the plantar arch or simply the arch. We feel so natural with the construction of our feet with this arch. We think nothing of this unless you happen to have flat feet or fallen arches. This means you have no arch, or the arch is very low (see illustration right). However, this does not necessarily mean you have a problem. They say that a significant number of people with fallen arches or flat feet experience no pain and have no problems. On the other hand, some do experience pain in their feet, especially when the connecting ligaments and muscles are strained. The leg joints may also be affected, resulting in pain. If the ankles turn inwards because of flat feet the most likely affected areas will be the feet, ankles and knees. We will not go into the problem of a flat arch as we are focusing on the mystery of plantar arch in this article.
I call this a mystery since we, as human beings are the only animal who have a plantar arch in their foot. Did you know this? If you did, then why do you think we have this peculiar construction? The more I learn about our body and its construction, the more I am convinced that someone great (called God by some) has designed our body and made it into a fine masterpiece. I truly believe this. It is true that most four legged animals such as dogs, horses, etc. can run faster than us. But look at all the skillful things we can do with our body using two legs such as riding a bike, skiing, skating, surfing, dancing, doing karate to name a few. Few dogs and horses can imitate any of those feats.
OK, let us go back to the subject of the planar arch. So the question was “why do we have this arch?” Believe it or not, it all comes down to the fact that we are the only mammal that walks on two legs. You may say, “So what?” I know most of the people are not very interested in this subject as they are not aware that this fact can be critically important. In fact, just knowing this fact itself may affect the way you move your legs and specifically your feet. Let me explain how this will affect your physical movements, but first, let us review how the leg constructions of a man, a dog and a deer leg (see illustration left) to see if there are any differences. Isn’t it interesting? Yes, indeed it is.
The first one, of course, is a human. We know how we stand and what the bone structure looks like. The second one is the rear leg of a dog. The third one is that of a deer. So, now you can see the differences in the bone construction. What differences do you see? Yes, our leg is straight whereas those of a dog and a deer are bent or crooked. Is this important? Yes, it is but I will explain why it is important later. What else do you see that is different? Do you see the lines with the bone structures of a dog and a deer in the illustration above? Those lines, believe it or not, show where their heels are.
Look at the photos below so you can identify clearly where the heels of the rear leg are located.
What do you think? Their heels are located very high and they do not touch the ground like ours do. It is like the right leg (bent one) in the photo of a human leg. If we walk on the ball of the foot then we will be walking like a dog or a deer. Our feet get tired very quickly so we cannot walk in this fashion for a long period of time.
However, it looks like the ladies like this style of walking more than men so they invented the special shoes, high heel (photo right). These shoes certainly make you taller and your legs look longer. However, we hear about the possible harm from wearing this type of shoes for a long time. We will not go into this subject as we are focusing on our feet in a normal standing posture. So, back to the photos of a dog and a deer above. A dog stands on their paws which is equivalent to the combination of our toes and the ball of a foot. In the case of a deer, they have a hoof. A hoof is the tip of a toe of an ungulate mammal (such as horses, rhinos, cattle, etc) strengthened by a thick, horny, keratin covering. In other words, they are walking on their nails like ballerinas attempt to do. But look at the toes and the nails of a ballerina here (photo left). Obviously this way of walking is not fit for us.
Also, notice their front legs are rather straight, similar to our legs. Though the heels of the front leg are not touching the ground they are much lower. This is important and we need to find out why.
Let us look at the bio mechanics of those animals (our samples are a dog and a deer). Comparing their front leg and the hind leg, it is obvious the hind leg has bigger muscles which means it is used mainly for acceleration when they run. Of course, they also use the front leg by pulling (the best example can be seen in the running of a cheetah, the world’s fastest land mammal) but the main power comes from the hind leg pushing the ground. So, the front leg is used more or less for balance and the leg does not need to be bent at the knee.
Would a dog put the heels of the hind legs down to the ground? Yes, it does but that is when it sits down or to balance itself as it lifts the front legs up (photos right). These positions are definitely not for action or a quick movement. When it wants to jump forward, it will bring its rear up and lower the front. A cat usually show this position before it jumps after a mouse or a squirrel. The front legs are also bent as it needs to bring the rear higher to bring the momentum forward when it starts to run. The photo on the left is a big cat showing it is assuming the position to pounce on its target.
OK now you may say and ask, “I understand the bio mechanism of a dog and a cat. But what does that got to do with us, especially with our karate?” Thank you for asking as I was waiting just for this question. This is exactly where I am going.
Here is an interesting photo (right) that I would like you to take a look at. What do you think? Yes, it is the starting position for a short distance runner. So, when you want to maximize your acceleration at the start you have to get down to this position looking like a big cat above. Doesn’t this tell you something? To move quickly, it is better to be (at least at first) down on four legs.
Now you may say, “OK I understand that the four legged animals have a ready to run position even if they stand still. I also realized that humans in order to have a quick start in their sprint run, it is better for them to crouch down and get their hands on the ground. But, what does this got to do with our feet and especially the planar arch that you are supposed to explain to us?”
Wonderful, now I can get in the real subject and, I believe, I am the first person to introduce this subject to the karate world though it may be well known in the medical or sports science world. You may or may not agree with my theory but let me explain how our feet are functioning for us.
When we decided to lift our front legs up hundreds of thousands of years ago and started to walk on two feet, we (or our Creator or Designer) made a remarkable adjustment or modification to our feet. Yes, it was our planar arch! How? OK let’s take a close look at our foot. The illustration (left) explains that in fact there are three arches in our foot. This is a very interesting and the key point which I explain later. Now, if you look at the bone structure you can see that we have two parts in our foot that contact firmly on the ground: ball of the foot and heel. As you are a smart reader you can probably guess what I am going to propose here. Yes, those two contact points are functioning as the front foot and the hind foot. To be precise, we have three contact points instead of only two (points A, B and C). This is amazing in that, if trained (this is the key word), we can have four front feet! We normally do not train our conscience and our body to differentiate the contact points in the ball of our foot. Most of us consider it as one spot, the ball of the foot (right). When you reach the expert level of dancing, ballet and athletes such as football, basketball and even track and field, the expert knows the difference and he/she uses those two points differently. Certainly, a martial arts expert should know this too. Though you must use both points (A and B) of a ball of foot, I recommend that we should prefer to use point B rather than A when you are moving forward. I will not go into the details of this in this article. Maybe in the future, I will write a more thorough article on this very point with the detailed explanation why it is better. Regardless, the “Designer” of our body allowed us to have four “feet” and we must remember that we can do some incredible body movements because of this fact. By skillfully manipulating these 3 points on each of our feet, we are able to do some complicated body movements such as dancing, figure skating, skiing, gymnastics and martial arts.
Even if you do not pay attention to the two points in the ball of the foot, I hope, at least, you agree that we have two contact points: the ball of the foot and the heel. Then, what is next? I want you to compare the rear leg of a human and a dog again (below left).
So, when a dog has to stand on the rear legs alone, what does it have to do? It sits down by bringing its heels down if it has to maintain the balance (below center). If it has to move forward (moving backward is almost impossible for it) it certainly cannot walk like a person so it has to hop. Right? It hops with both legs together (below right).
So how does this tie in with our karate movements? How does a dog hopping relate to karate? I will attempt to explain here.
Recently one person asked the following question. He said he had gotten into kumite competition in the 80’s. He learned the free sparring style with the hopping foot work as we commonly see in the WKF tournaments. In other words, the competitors are either standing on the ball of their foot or hopping (below left). However, as he watched the JKA kumite videos from the 60’s, the 70’s and even the 80’s, the competitors stood in a “flat foot” position with their heels firmly planted on the floor (below right)
He asked why and how this occurred. Here is my answer to his question. In 1981, our karate (specifically the JKA kata and kumite) experienced a change. I will talk about only kumite in this article. In 1981 JKA joined the JKF (Japan Karate Federation) so that the JKA competitors could compete, for the first time, in the 36th Kokumin Taiku Taikai (国民体育大会 All Japan National Athletic or Sports Festival) or Okutai (国体) which was held in Shiga Prefecture (滋賀県) in that very year. I know this because I was one of the competitors and represented my prefecture, Hyogo (兵庫県). Luckily I won first place in the JKA Hyogo Prefecture championship that year and captured the opportunity to participate in the athletic festival. I was, of course, a traditional JKA competitor with my feet flat on the floor so it was a little shocked to witness the hopping style kumite that had already been adopted by the Shito-ryu and other styles competitors. The JKA competitors had to change their fighting style because they could not win with the flat foot style. Let me explain why they could not. It was certainly not because the JKA competitors were slow or less powerful. We simply found the kumite rules were different. There were two major differences, though those two are somewhat interconnected. Let me explain. The first is the distance and the second was the power (or lack of it). We were strictly prohibited to touch or make a contact on the opponent especially in the jodan area. Even if it was a light touch to the opponent face, you were automatically disqualified. To the chudan area, it was similar though a very light touch was tolerated. Even if a fist is one inch away (with a fully extended arm) it
was considered waza ari. As you know, in the JKA kumite you basically have to be “there” to get a waza ari point. Bleeding nose and lips were very common and nobody got disqualified even if a competitor knocked his opponent tooth out. The second was the posture and the power behind a technique. In other words, the technique had to be “heavy” meaning the technique (tsuki and keri) had to be supported with the whole body behind it. If a punch is thrown with a fully extended arm but the body was turned sideways, it would not be considered as effective or waza ari. The techniques that were allowed in the Kokutai tournament were very light to me. Jumping in and throwing the arm out quickly seemed to be enough to win a point. The techniques I was familiar with was one punch one kill kind. On the other hand, at Kokutai the techniques were fast and light. From that perspective, it made sense that the competitors were hopping. So, remember that this hopping movement by a karate competitor is based on the same bio mechanism as a dog that has to hop with both feet together if it has to move forward or just to move around.
If you happen to practice kendo (剣道), you may say “In kendo we lift our rear heel up even though we do not hop.” This is true. I have to say, with due respect, kendo’s techniques had become sport like even though they say that they keep the budo spirit. I am not a practitioner of kendo or kenjtsu but I can say this from my understanding the concept of budo or bujutsu. This is important so I will explain it further.
In Gorin no sho (五輪書) written by a famous samurai, Miyamoto Musashi (宮本武蔵), there is a statement that puzzled the modern day kendo practitioners. Musashi wrote that the heels must be firmly planted on the ground when you fight (with swords). In other words, he warned practitioners not to lift their heels up while assuming kamae and attacking. This statement was a puzzle as the kendo practitioners now lift their rear foot (typically their left foot) or heel off the floor (below left). If you look at the koryu kenjutsu (古流剣術 old time swordplay art) or Iaido (居合道 sword drawing art), you notice two differences (below right). One is the distance and the other is the heels. The distance in koryu kenjutsu where they practice with either a real sword or a wooden sword is typically much further than the distance that is used in kendo. In kendo they are already in close ma-ai (間合い distance) where one can strike the opponent by taking one step forward. Why? It is simply because there is no fear of getting cut by a sword. You may feel some shock to your head if you get hit by a shinai (竹刀 bamboo sword) but the fear factor is tremendously less than when you are facing a person with a real sword. The heel is up, obviously for a faster jump in which is the same reason why WKF competitors stand on the balls of feet. In kenjutsu and Iaido, the heels are down as their cuts are “heavy” with their full body weight behind thestrike which is the same concept as the karate punch and kick with kime.
We walk on two legs (bi-pedal walking). This is very unique as we are the only species that does this among the mammals and at the same time it requires fine balancing. Think of riding a bicycle. You can keep balance easily when you are moving forward. It is tremendously difficult once you stop your bike but try to keep the bike balanced without your feet on the ground. As we have been walking since we were one year old so we feel it is almost natural to be able to stand up and walk. However, we must remember it took us one year or even longer for some to acquire bi-pedal walking ability. I wrote a chapter on this particular subject, “Unstable balance” in my book, Shotokan Mysteries.
To compensate for lacking front legs, we now have a planar arch to create a ball of the foot. In fact, we have two contact points (#2 and #3 in the photo below) in the ball of a foot. If we can consider that the heel (#1 below) is a hind foot then we now have two front feet in each leg (four front feet!). This is not a joke. By being able to manipulate and use their “feet” we are capable of doing some intricate bodily movements that are impossible for the other animals such as dancing, figure skating, gymnastics, martial arts, etc.
In sports karate they have different objectives, thus the players hop on the ball of the foot. In budo karate, as we do in our kata, we must learn to keep our heels firmly on the floor. At the same time, we must learn how to move forward, backward and to turn using the correct parts of our feet. I wrote a chapter in another book of mine, Shotokan Transcendence about turning. If you are interested in this subject, please find the chapter, “What part of your foot do you use when you turn?”
The more we find out about our body and its incredible design, the more we appreciate what we have and the tremendous potential of what we can do with our body.
I look forward to receiving input from the sports scientists and/or kinesiology specialists on the points I described in this article.
At the beginning, I admit that Bruce Lee (born in November 27, 1940 –July 20 1973) was an amazingly phenomenal person who helped for increasing the popularity of martial arts all over the world by his performances of combined martial arts.
Lee was born in Chinatown San Francisco to the parents from Hong Kong. Lee moved to the United States at the age of 18 to receive his higher education at University of Washington in Seattle. It was during this time when he began teaching martial arts.
He is noted for his roles in the following movies; The Big boss (1971), Fist of fury (1972), Way of the Dragon (1972), and Enter the Dragon (1973). With these movies Bruce Lee became an iconic figure known throughout the world.
He trained in the art of “Wing Chun “. Later combined his other influences from various sources in the spirit of his personal martial arts philosophy which he named, Jeet Kune do, The way of the intercepting fists. Lee held dual nationality of Hong Kong and the United States.
Lee opened his first martial arts school named the Lee Jun Fan institute in Seattle. Lee dropped out of college in the spring of 1964 and moved to Oakland to live with James Yimm Lee. James Lee was twenty years senior to Bruce Lee and a well-known Chinese martial artist in the area. Together they founded the second Jun Fan martial art studio in Oakland.
James Lee was also responsible for introducing Bruce Lee to Ed Parker American martial arts and organizer of Long Beach International Karate Championships where Bruce Lee was later discovered by Hollywood. By the invitation of Ed Parker, Lee appeared at the Long Beach International Karate Championship in 1964. One of the feats he performed was the repetition of two finger push-ups (using the thumb and the index finger of one hand) with feet at approximately a shoulder width apart.
At this event, he also performed the “one inch punch” which is a punching technique from Chinese martial arts performed at a range of 0 to 15 cm. This one inch punch became well known because of this actor and the martial artist, Bruce Lee. It was to demonstrate Lee’s unique ability in punching technique thus proving the expertise in the martial arts. Lee stood upright with his right foot forward with knees bent slightly in front of a standing partner. Lee’s right arm was partly extended and right fist approximately one inch away from the partner’s chest. Without retracting his right arm Lee then forcibly delivered the punch to his partner while maintaining his posture sending the partner backwards and he fell into a chair placed behind him to prevent injury from falling onto the floor.
The one inch punch is present in many styles of southern Chinese martial arts. As a general rule southern Chinese martial arts specialize mostly on the hand techniques from very close quarters with rather short stances. As opposed to northern Chinese martial arts that focus more on kicking techniques from medium to long distances.
The southern styles martial arts base their fighting concept on frequently fighting nose to nose distance with their opponents, thus they have to learn a way to punch effectively even they are almost touching their opponent.
The one inch punch is a skill which generates explosive power from close distance (one inch or less). This burst effect skill has been common in Neijia form.
When performing this one inch punch the practitioner stands with his fist very close to the target (the distance depends on the degree of the practitioner’s skill, it is usually from 0-6 inches).
They say a quick movement of the wrist produces the force needed, the wrist is held with the knuckles facing out on horizontal axis the wrist is then moved up and a strike is produced with the bottom two knuckles.
Bruce Lee learned that technique from Wing Chun training in Hong Kong.
In the television show Myth busters episode (The one inch punch) technique was tested quantitatively using force gauge. For comparison it was matched against a conventional punch thrown with full wind up by Jamie Hyneman.
The one inch punch was delivered by Anthony Kelly a martial arts expert and instructor who had learned that technique from one of Bruce Lee ‘s students. The conventional punch measured 325 pounds of force while the one –inch punch measured 153 pounds. In the absence of a safe method of testing against a human being, the host deemed it plausible as a combat technique if the user had proper training and experience.
The one inch punch is also often used in martial arts as a training exercise to show how to generate additional power at the end of a conventional punch.
In the television show, Stan Lee’s Superhuman demonstrated his one inch punch on a crash test dummy. The testing showed it was 1,7 times more injurious than a 30 mph car crash with modern safety features.
(JKA’s Masaharu Osaka performing Sochin kata in 1983 Championship in Egypt, photo right)
The scientific points
■The kinetic energy of an object is the energy that it possesses due to it’s motion.
■Having gained this energy during its acceleration the body maintain this kinetic energy unless its speed changes.
■Mass in physics is a property of a physical body which determine the strength of its mutual gravitational attractions to the other bodies, its resistance to being accelerated by a force and in the theory of relativity gives the mass-energy content of a system.
■Mass is not the same as weight even though we often calculate an object ‘s mass by measuring it’s weight with a spring scale instead of comparing it to known masses.
■It is defined as work needed to accelerate a body of a given mass from rest to its stated velocity.
■To explain this an object on the moon would weigh less than it would on earth because of the lower gravity but it would still have the same mass.
■Mass is described as the amount of an object.
Newton’ second law of motion:
●If a body of fixed mass (m) is subjected to a single force (F) its acceleration is given by F/M.
●A body ‘s mass also determine the degree to which it generates or is affected by a gravitational field.
■The Rotational kinetic energy depending on rotation about an axis and for a body of constant moment of inertia is equal to the product of half the moment of inertia times the square of the angular velocity.
■ KE = 1/2 M V2
KE (kinetic energy)
V2 (square of velocity)
■The standard unit of the kinetic energy is the joule.
If we look for a comparison between the one inch punch & straight punch “choku zuki ” we found that:
■The one inch punch is a combination of pushing and hitting the target at the same time because it didn’t take the suitable pass way from the point of starting until the target.
■of course there are kinetic energy are emitted and this appears from the result of quantitative testing of the one -inch punch which delivered by Anthony Kelly (153 pounds).
■Also the position of the fist and the site of knuckles which (little finger and ring finger) will not give the maximum effects because the transmission of force will not go through the knuckles of ( index finger and middle finger) which supported over the trapezium, trapezoid and capitate on the upper row of the carpal bone which supported by scaphoid lunate which in turn supported by the radius bone on the forearm.
■But in case of Bruce Lee he used the knuckles of (the little finger & the ring finger) which are not completely supported by the carpal bone (triquetrum being unsupported over the ulna)and there is a space.
■It is clearly appear from the photo (below left).
■To make a good striking blow, you must correct the attitude of the fist through the knuckles of the index and the middle finger which supported in the direction of the radius, and this for complete transmission of force (illustration below right).
■But for straight punch “choku- zuki “, the kinetic energy which emitted according to the distance to the target and the rotation make the rotational kinetic energy is to generate tremendous amount of impact force at the target.
■ kinetic Energy = 1/2 M v2
JKA Naka Tatsuya (above left), Rafael Agayev 4 time WKF world champion (above middle), Wayne Otto World Champion from England (above right)
1) One inch punch has emitted force not completed because of the distance is short and not enough to go and complete the pass way of the strike.
2) So it appears as it was a strong pushing technique.
3) Straight punch “choku -zuki “has greater effects of damaging because it has higher rotational kinetic energy.
4) Maybe Bruce Lee appeared in a time when the karate was not well known and there was no championship like today. The appearance of Tatsuya Naka, Wayne Otto and Rafael Agayev then might have made a difference in the impression of Bruce Lee.
5) There was no doubt that Bruce Lee had excellent physique.
6) It is also true that Bruce Lee increased the popularity of karate and Asian martial arts.
Faculty of pharmacy Cairo University
Date of graduation May 1983 with general grade “very good”
Sport injury specialist with excellent grade in 1/7/1998 from Olympic Academy of Athletic leaders
Karate examiner of Egyptian karate Federation from 11 years
Manager of karate section of Bank Ahly club
Lecturer at the Egyptian Karate Federation for :
Karate Athletic injuries & drug doping
Karate movement science
The highest ranking student degree at Olympic Academy of Athletic leaders with excellent grade in all branches .
1 Grant’s Atlas of anatomy
2 Bruce Lee: Wikipedia
3 Kinetic energy: Wikipedia
Have you heard this Japanese word, hiden before? As this word is closely tied with the Japanese martial arts and a popular word in general so you may have heard it. My son told me that the word is used in Naruto games. If you have a chance to visit Japan or to speak with a Japanse sensei you may encounter with this word. Knowing the meaning of this word as well as the other similar terms that are related to this word will be helpful.
Hi (秘) means secret and den (伝) means teach. Thus, hiden means to teach or pass on the secret techniques or methods. It is typically used that this secret technique is passed on only to a particular person who is supposed to be the only deserving student. We have a martial art magazine called “Hiden” (magazine cover, photo right). Don’t you agree that it is almost a black joke to publish the “secret” techniques?
The word of hiden is used not only in the martial arts but also in many other areas such as the arts such as Sado (tea ceremony), Kado (flower arrangement), Noh play and even in the business such as restaurants where they may use the high level of techniques or skills. The use of this word becomes almost too much as many restaurants in Japan claim they have the hiden with their spice (photo below left), taste, preparation, etc. The word is used as a book title for many different subjects. The book cover shown below right is about the “secret” stories of sake (rice wine). I guess McDonal and CocaCola could claim that they have their “Hiden” sauce and taste. Coincidentally, this word can be replaced by an English word, hidden in some cases.
Joking aside, as you can see that in Japan this word, “hiden” is very popular and it has been very popular even before the samurai time, Nara-Heian period (奈良･平安期) or the 8th and 9th centuries. Some samurai experts (?) even wrote some books, hidensho (秘伝書 photos below), apparently they had so much to pass on. Of course, not only the modern day kendo and kenjutsu practitioners but also the scholars read these books to learn what were written in them. Most of them were disappointed as they could not find any secrets or the contents did not make any sense.
There is another popular Japanese term that is used often that is, often, connected to Hiden. The word is Mongai fushutsu 門外不出 which means “not to go outside the doors”. It literally means keep the secret inside the doors. This is typically used for something of a dojo or a school such as a rule, technique, training, etc. to be kept among the members of that particular group. If a dojo ora school is big and has tens of students then the matter will not be a hiden. A hiden matter is more exclusive and is typically handed down to only one person.
There is one other term that you may want to know, kuden (口伝). Ku literally means mouth. Den means, as explained previously, to pass down or teach. So kuden means to pass down some information by speaking (not in writing). It also refers to the secret information itself. It is supposed to reduce the possibility of an information leak by not having anything in writing.
There are three other terms you may want to know that are related to “hiden”.
They are “kaiden”, “okuden” and “gokuden”. Let me explain briefly on each term.
The second kanji of all three terms is the same, den (伝) from hiden. It means “passing on” or “granting”. Let’s see what are the meaning of each term.
Kai (皆) means all or everything. So, kaiden means the instructor or a master has taught you everything or the grading level of fully mastered.
Another popular word that is sinonimous with kaiden is Menkyo kaiden 免許皆伝. Menkyo means license or permit, therefore, it typically means that one has learned everything and now he or she is entitled to teach a bujutsu (martial arts), an art such as flower arrangement, etc. or whatever the specialty the instructor is teaching.
Oku (奥) means deep inside, inside and not visible, the ultimate meaning or truth. So, okuden means one is taught the ultimate truth or meaning of the art.
A synonimus is Okuyurushi(奥許し). Yurushi (許し) means permission or grant so you can easily understand the meaning of this term.
The last one is gokuden. Goku (極) means extreme or exceeding or ultimate truth. This term is not as popular or known as kaiden and okuden. A synonymous of this word is Hioku (秘奥). You remember that hi means secret and oku means ultimate truth so I do not need to explain what Hioku means.
Now you have well versed knowledge of the terms. Hopefully, you will not be puzzled when you hear the word, hiden and any other similar words in your class or in your conversation with your Japanese sensei. Despite the fact that this word is popular I doubt very much that you will encounter or discover a real hiden that easily. I have trained many years under three great Shotokan masters but unfortunately (to me) I have not received any hiden from any of them. This does not mean they did not have any hiden as I do not know. Even if they did, certainly, it was my fault as I must have not deserved to receive such a secret.
■ Breathing is the vital element in my opinion in karate sport.
■ Breathing more specifically is the life.
■ Breathing is coordinated with execution of a technique of Shotokan Karate.
■ The movement of respiration simply are the movements of the ribs and the diaphragm.
■ Inspiration is an active process which needs contraction of the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles.
■ During inspiration the movement of the ribs and diaphragm result in an increase in the diameter of the thorax in three principle directions, transverse, antero-posterior and vertical.
Inspiration may be quiet, deep or forced (very deep).
1) Quiet inspiration:- during quiet inspiration the intercostal muscles and the diaphragm contract and the following takes place
a] The first rib and the manubrium remain relatively fixed.
b] Movement of the upper ribs from 2 to 7 results mainly in pushing the body of the sternum forward and upward and an increase in the antero-posterior diameter of the thoracic cavity.
c] Movement of the lower ribs results mainly in an increase in the transverse diameter of the thoracic cavity.
d] Contraction of the diaphragm result in an increase in the vertical diameter of the thoracic cavity.
2) Deep inspiration:- In deep inspiration the accessory muscles of respiration begin to work in order to increase the capacity of the thoracic cavity.
a] The Scalene muscles in the neck raise ”act as elevator” of the first and second ribs.
b] The sternal head of the sternomastoid muscle raise the manubrium when the head is fixed.
3) Deeper inspiration:- In deeper inspiration the pectoralis minor and the serratus anterior muscles help in elevating the ribs.
a] The pectoralis minor muscle act in deeper inspiration by raising the upper ribs but the scapula must be first fixed. e.g. by grasping the arms of the chair in which the person is sitting.
B] The serratus anterior muscle acts from its insertion in forced inspiration.
c] The nostrils dilate to allow easier entrance of air.
The Inspiration process.
Expiration may be quiet or forced.
1) Quiet expiration:- is a passive process and the following occurs.
a] The elastic tissue of the lung recoils.
b] The stretched abdominal muscles act like an elastic belt on the contents of the abdomen which forces the diaphragm upwards.
c] The cartilage of the ribs which have twisted during inspiration, untwist during expiration.
2) Forced expiration:- if the lungs lose their elasticity, the thoracic cavity remain in a position of permanent inspiration. In this case the abdominal muscles must contract to act on the viscera and force the diaphragm upward.
When this occurs air can be pushed out from the lungs.
The Expiration process.
The Scientific notes
■ The lungs completely fill the thoracic cavity.
■ Respiration has 3 main function. to take oxygen to give off Co2 and regulate PH of blood.
■ Heat and energy are produced by oxidation of carbon and hydrogen and required oxygen came from the inspired air.
■ Lungs contains 3000 ml of air at the end of expiration.
■ With next inspiration 400 ml of air taken in through nose or mouth and this called (Tidal volume).
■ Volume of dead space is 150 ml (Trachea &bronchus)and only 250 ml of room air reach lungs.
■ The increase in chest size is brought by the diaphragm which moves downward and the contraction of intercostal muscles which move the chest wall upward and downward.
■ Pulmonary ventilation =Respiratory Rate × Tidal volume
15 time/minute× 400 ml = 6 litre /minute.
■ In exercise the respiratory rate and tidal volume are increased markedly to reach 50 litre /minute.
■ In severe effort it reach to 100 litre/minute.
■ About 600 ml to 800 ml air pushed out of lungs during forced expiration.
■ If we look to the 3 types of inspiration (inhale) we will choose the first type quiet inspiration. The second type if we used it. It will take about 3 second at least and if you are competing in a fight the enemy can attack you during this period of time. Also the third type take much more time than the second type.
Also in kata we take the first type of inspiration, if we take the second or the third type we will cuts or stopping the continuity of kata (the kata must continue &flow).
■ That means we should take the first type of inspiration during Kata or Kumite (Quiet inspiration).
■ If we look to expiration (exhale) we found there are 2 types. When we take the first one, quiet expiration there will be a case of body limp, and the karateka will not be able to block even a weak blow nor will be able to strike forcefully or prepare for the next movement.
■ But if we use the second type (forced expiration) it will lead us to the contraction of the abdominal muscles “concentric rectus abdominus contraction “which act on viscera and force the diaphragm muscle upward, and by this way the line between the umbilical and anus will be shortening, this will lead to firm connection between the upper and lower part of the body providing strength and more stability during Kata and Kumite.
■ So we say strike with forced expiration, kicks with forced expiration and blocks with forced expiration.
■ Without forced expiration there will be no strong muscles contraction.
■ Without forced expiration there will be no kime waza.
1-Illustrative thorax anatomy. El. Rakhawy.
2-Best karate M.Nakayama.
3-Atlas of Thorax&heart. El.Rakhawy.
4-Basic clinical physiology. J. H. Green.
We all know that breathing is important and many karate instructors tell you so. At the same time, not too many people know that we can improve our breathing. As a result, we can improve our health in general. Funakoshi sensei left us with Hangetsu kata which is supposed to be teaching us the relationship of the kata with the slow and deep breathing method. It is unfortunately true that only a few sensei teach this. Many sensei do not know nor care how to do the method of breathing exercise and to control the breathing system.
There are many different exercises with breathing. One of them is fast breathing (called fire breathing in yoga performed by Rickson Gracie) which is excellent for strengthening your internal organs. However, today, I will share with you another breathing method which is a simple one. Though it is simple, it is not too easy. However, by mastering it, I am sure, will improve not only your karate training but also your daily health.
First, let me ask you this. Do you know how many times you breathe in a minute? Have you ever measure it before? If you have not, I suggest that you do so and you will know the simple but yet very important data of your physical functioning. It is commonly believed that adult respiratory rate is on average 12 to 18 times per minute. If you are an athlete or a black belt in karate, you are supposed to breathe less frequently than that.
The important hint is that it is better to breathe less or slower, which means you will have a longer breathing process. Rapid and shallow breathing is not a sign of good health unless it is done intentionally (i.e. fire breathing). I am sure you have seen a sick and obese person breathing in this manner.
The Zen meditation works with slow breathing, and it serves to improve both mental and physical health. If you have gone to classes of zen meditation or yoga, I’m sure you have learned how to perform a slower and longer breathing method. Today I am not asking you to incorporate the meditation part in your breathing practice. Once you become more comfortable with a slower breathing and with an emphasis on moving the diaphragm, you can easily add the meditation part if you wish. We call this breathing method 腹式呼吸which literally means stomach or belly breathing. Of course, the stomach has nothing to do with the breathing but it was named so as the belly moves due to the diaphragm expansion and relaxation. We will call it Yoga breathing for this article.
OK let us go into how to exercise this Yoga breathing method. First, you sit in a comfortable chair or on the floor. Then, count how many times you breathe per minute in a normal way. You may discover that you breathe more than ten times per minute. Your number is too high if it is more than four time per minute. I am proposing you to breathe one cycle (inhale and exhale) by spending 30 seconds to breathe two times per minute. It is true that two times per minutes is awfully difficult, so you may want to start with four times per minutes. What you want to do is to match the time you spend for inspiration and expiration. You will spend between 7 and 8 seconds to inhale then the same amount of time to exhale. See if you can breathe comfortably with a four times per minute cycle. If you can keep going for an hour or more, then are ready to reduce to three times a minute, and finally twice. Is two times per minute the ultimate goal? No, the ultimate goal would be once a minute.
When you inhale, be sure to do this through your nostril and not through your mouth. Tense your diaphragm and push it down to “suck” in the air. While you are inhaling you will not try to expand your chest (though it will naturally) but rather to such the air down lower into your belly area so your belly may expand noticeably. Another thing that is important here is that you will inhale slowly at a constant speed. When you exhale, you will simply relax your diaphragm but with control so that you can exhale at a slow and consistent rate. You can exhale through your nose but mouth is preferred as you will have a better control of your exhalation. After fully exhaled, it may be difficult to inhale slowly. Do not suck in too much air too soon. You must spread it out to 7 to 8 seconds (for 4 cycles). Well, that is precisely what constitutes the exercise and training to control your breathing.
I also suggest that you will hold the breath for a few seconds if possible after each time you complete both inhalation and exhalation. Again, holding your breath when your lungs are full is easier than when they are “empty” (the last word is used only figuratively, as the lungs will collapse if they become anywhere near empty). After holding the breath for a few seconds with “empty” lungs, it is also more difficult to inhale slowly at the steady rate. Once again, trying to control your breathing is the exercise itself. Try not to jump to an extremely long cycle as you will fail. Find out a comfortable pace then try to stretch it out gradually.
This is a simple and relatively easy exercise so I hope you will include this in your daily training menu. You do not need to spend too much time for this exercise even if you are very busy. Before going to sleep is an excellent time to implement this exercise. It will help you to sleep too. You can also practice this exercise while you are driving. A longer breathing cycle will relax you better. You will certainly be less tired from driving. If you like reading books, then long and slow breathing is perfect to accompany your readings. You’ll enjoy reading more and your eyes will not tire as fast as before. Also if you have to work in front of a computer for a long period, it will help your concentration and you will be less tense. The benefits are almost limitless. A wonderful thing about the breathing exercise is that it is not only free but also you can practice it almost anytime and anywhere. Once you get used to this exercise in your daily life, it will help you in your karate training and also improve your general health condition.
I hope you will take this exercise seriously. If you have not exercised the Yoga breathing before I hope you will try it out today. I also hope that you will come back and tell me about your success stories. Of course, just one day of training will not result in any noticeable benefit. If you can continue for a several months, I am sure you will be able to feel the significant difference and its tremendous benefit.
Part 1 written by Kousaku Yokota
Proof read by Leroy O’Neill
I am happy to announce that Part 2 of this article will be written by Dr. Ashraf Ragab, Faculty of Pharmacy Cairo University Egypt and also a Karate Examiner of Egyptian Karate Federation.
This lead us why most of the people prefer to play Shotokan -karate or the direct question why the Shotokan -style is the strongest than the other styles of karate schools. In fact the dynamic of Shotokan karate is the real reason. We look back at the beginning of the 19 century Tote was first demonstrated publicly outside Okinawa in may 1922 at the first National Athletics Exhibition held in Tokyo under the sponsorship of ministry of Education. The man who was invited to give that memorable demonstration was (Master Gichin Funakoshi) who at that time was the president of the Okinawa Shobu Kai (society for the promotion of the martial arts). This martial art was called “Tote” (Chinese hand). Then Tote came to be known as Karate-jutsu and then from around 1929 the Genius Master Funakoshi took the revolutionary step of advocating that the name is changed from Karate-jutsu to Karate-do. The karate would thus be transformed into both appearance and content from techniques of Okinawa origin into a new Japanese martial art.
Special scientific introduction
● Kinesiology is the science of study human motion
● It brings together the fields of anatomy, physiology, biomechanic, physics, geometry relating to human movement.
● Bio refer to living.
● Mechanics refers to forces acting on objects and with the results of these forces in terms of equilibrium and movement.
● Therefore biomechanic is the application of principles of mechanics to living human body.
● Mechanic is divided into static &dynamic. Static, means bodies in balance “equilibrium “. Dynamic means bodies in motion. State of equilibrium is when the sum of forces acting on a body equal zero.
● Dynamic system can be divided into kinetics &kinematics.
● Kinetics, deals with forces which produce arrest or modify motion of the bodies push or pull them.
● Newton’s first law,law of inertia or law of equilibrium. It deals with objects in equilibrium, bodies at rest tend to stay at rest, bodies in motion tend to remain in motion
● Newton’s third law,, law of reaction forces always come in pairs. For every reaction there is an equal &opposite reaction. Or when an object applies a force to second object, the second object simultaneously applies a force of equal magnitude &in the opposite direction as the first object.
● All forces acting on a body must be identified, these are the force system. If all forces are in the same line this called ” Linear force system “example, primary forces which act on the human body are gravity this applies externally resistance muscle contraction
● Linear force system means that all forces are in the same line
● Parallel force system means two or more parallel forces acting on the same object but at some distance from each other (lever system is this type).
● Lever is rigid bar that can rotate about a fixed point when a force is applied “bone”
● Axis is a fixed point about which the lever rotates.
● Weight is the resistance that must be overcome. Force, usually muscular contraction in the human body.
● Weight arm is the distance between the fulcrum & the weight. Force arm is the distance between the fulcrum & the force.
First class lever
The axis is located between the force & the weight,”resistance ” this system is designed best for balance for example Atlanto occipital joint.
Second class lever
The axis is located at one end resistance is in the middle & the force at the opposite end , designed best for power for example wheelbarrow, rising up on toes.
Third class lever
● Axis is at one end, force is in the middle & resistance at the opposite end designed for mobility, most common lever system in human for example [normal muscle contraction, hinged door].
● Torque,when a force acts on a rigid bar or lever it may cause a rotatry motion around the fixed point ‘axis ‘.
● Torque or a moment of force is the measurement of the ability of a force to cause rotation of the lever.
● Torque equal to force (pounds) × distance (foot pounds).
● The length of a line drawn perpendicular to the action line of the force from the axis.
● Torque is an important measurement because a force applied further from the point of rotation or axis, requires less force to produce movement for example resisting exercise & body mechanics.
● Deal with the relationship between the length of the force arm & the length of the weight arm.
● Mechanical advantage is related to concept of torque, if force equal to weight and force distance is greater than weight distance this lead that force has the advantage.
● The lever arm will move in the direction of the force. Increasing force distance or decreasing weight distance increase the mechanical advantage.
● A joint is stabilized when the sum of the net forces acting on it equal zero.
● Gravity is probably the most important force. When you consider gravity is the point of application is called (Center of Gravity).
● Center of gravity is a hypothetical point at which all mass would appear to be concentrated and is the point at which the forces of gravity appear to act.
1- in a symmetric object center of gravity is the geometric center.
2- in an asymmetrical object center of gravity is toward the heavier end. Center of gravity can be thought of as the balance point. Center of gravity in human is just anterior to S2 sacrum in anatomical position .
(We will explain this in future with Shihan Yokota practically & scientifically in future.)
For an object to be stable the center of gravity must fall within the base of support.
In the principle of body mechanics
The larger base of support the greater the stability of an object or person.
The lower the center of gravity goes towards the base of stability the more stable object or person.
The important thing for us to discuss the third class lever
With that type of lever the force being applied between the axis & the resistance which are designed to produce speed & range of motion movements. Most of the levers in the human body are of this type which requires a great deal of force to move even a small resistance, example the biceps brachii muscle is a typical example in the body.
Using the elbow joint (A) as the axis, the biceps applies force at its insertion the radial tuberosity (F) to rotate the forearm up. With its center of gravity (W) serving as the point of resistance application. Also the brachialis is an example of true third class leverage, it pulls on the ulna just below the elbow.
* The resistance arm is the distance between the axis and the point of resistance application.
* The distance between the axis and the point of force application is known as the force arm.
* There is an inverse relationship between force and the force arm just as there is between resistance and the resistance arm.
* The longer the force arm the less force required to move the lever if the resistance and resistance arm remain constant.
* In addition if the force and force arm remain constant a greater resistance may be moved by shortening the resistance arm.
* Decreasing the amount of resistance can decrease the amount of force needed to move the lever.
* The system of leverage in the human body is built for speed and range of movement at the expense of force.
* Short force arms and long resistance arms require great muscular strength to produce movement.
* From practical point of view this means that the muscular system should be strong to supply the necessary force for body movement especially in strenuous activity.
When we apply the leverage law to produce speed and power on choku zuki or gyaku zuki
There are 3 position of the elbow beside the body usually seen from the position of readines.
●When the angle less than 90°
Part of tensile recruiting to attract the bone of forearm in the joint direction leading to increase friction and therefore reduce the amount of tensile used in performance, this lead to decrease the speed of starting of choku -zuki and the amount of power produced.
●When the angle is greater than 90°
Part of the tensile working upon the lever bone pulling away from the joint so the tensile used will be decreased and you will need more effort to bring the forearm to the correct position to start.
●When the angle is 90°of elbow joint
This the best angle of tensile where all the forces of the muscles are recruiting to move the bone of forearm around the axis. This lead to the maximum speeding start of the choku -zuki and that’s what the karate -ka do it in Shotokan karate. By maximum speed will generate the tremendous amount of power. The very important notice the pronation and supination movement is good when elbow is flexed to 90°. The flexors muscles of elbow joint are Brachialis, Biceps, Brachio -radialis, Flexors of forearm and the extensors muscles are Triceps and Anconeus muscles.
The most important thing is to make the angle of elbow in the position of readiness of the choku -zuki is 90°(right angle) beside your body , this gives you the maximum fast start for your punch (choku zuki) and this will lead to generate the awesome power which can penetrate the target.
All the forces of the muscles of the arm arm and forearm are working on the best way to work for starting action.
- In decisive technique (kime- waza) there is power that is instantaneous and formidable. The basic techniques of karate are influenced to a very great extent by speed.
- It may be a bit of an exaggeration to say that in training in techniques speed is first in important and second in importance.
- The very important notice is the pronation and supination are good when the elbow is flexed to 90°.
- This means that the rotation of the fist will be in maximum effects before hitting the target.
- There are many mechanical laws such as the laws of levers that can be exploited in the production of higher degree of muscular power.
- The angle of tensile which are used in the muscular work is very important in production of power
- The angle of tensile is the angle between the tensile line in the working muscle and the mechanic pivot for the bone which the working muscle insert into it.
- This point is the site of effect of forces in lever bones.
We take the facts of the biomechanic science and applied it on our sport to improve our performance with the least amount of effort to produce the maximum results and decrease the possibility of injury .
The article written by Dr. Ashraf Ragab
Faculty of pharmacy Cairo University
Sport injury specialist with excellent grade in 1/7/1998 from Olympic Academy of Athletic leaders
Karate examiner of Egyptian karate Federation
1-Best karate .Mr. Nakayama.
2-illustrative upper limb.ElRakkawy.
3-Biomechanic Thompson c.w&Floyd R.t (1994)
Manual of structural kinesiology.
4-Wolters klwer health 2009 , Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
5-Modern sport training. Dr.Mofti Ibrahim.
This is probably the first bio mechanical (scientific) evaluation of the martial art skills of Bruce Lee. Let me start this evaluation with the introduction of Bruce Lee. Even though he is well known there are a few things that most people ignore or do not know.
Bruce Lee (李小龍) is his acting name and his real name was Lee Jun-fan (李振藩). He was born in Chinatown of San Francisco on November 27, 1940 and died in Hong Kong on July 20, 1973 at the age of 32. In addition to being an actor, he claimed to be a martial arts expert and the founder of his style, Jeet Kune Do. He is widely considered by commentators, critics, media and other martial artists to be one of the most influential martial artists of all time, and a pop culture icon of the 20th century. He is often credited with helping to change the way Asians were presented in American films.
The name of Bruce Lee is still very famous and popular not only among the kung fu movie buffs but also with the shotokan karate practitioners. It is amazing since Lee has died more than 40 years ago that many people still idolize him and say he was the greatest kung fu expert. I have decided to write this article as many of the shotokan practitioners believe that what they saw in the movies was the real ability of Bruce Lee. In this article I want to bring out the real ability of Lee. What I will attempt is to evaluate his real martial arts performance (meaning non-choreographed one) scientifically to give it a fair shake.
I am aware that what I am trying to do here is controversial and many Bruce Lee lovers or admirers will not be happy that I am questioning his martial arts expertise. I want to emphasize that the real objective of this article is not to bad mouth Bruce Lee but rather to give his real performance a fair evaluation. Before getting into the evaluation, I want to give him the due credit that he deserves. I consider his biggest contribution to the martial arts was the fact that he was the first Hollywood actor who introduced the Asian martial arts to the US public and ignited its popularity throughout the world by his kung fu movies (most of them were made in Hong Kong, however). There were other cheaply made Hong Kong kung fu movies before Bruce Lee but the actions were poorly choreographed and the dubbed English was so poor that it was almost comical. Lee was a good actor and he knew, with his experience in the film industry, how to excite the American audience. He worked with the Hong Kong director, Raymond Chow and they produced his first kung fu movie in 1971, the Big Boss. Then, he gained more popularity with the next film in 1972, Fists of Fury (also known as “The Chinese Connection”). Lee became almost an instant hit around the world with his kung fu movies. His fame grew with the succeeding movies with his unique fighting style and a peculiar long ki-ai which sounded like a cat or a bird’s scream, but the audience loved them. He died suddenly one year later in 1973. It was strange as he looked like the most fit person and was so young (only 32). There were many controversies and rumors of how he died but we will not go into that subject as it is not our main concern in this article.
Having said that, when it comes to his martial arts ability, that is another story. When we watch other super hero movies such as Superman, Spiderman, The Hulk, etc. we do not believe that the actors can actually fly or break through a wall. It is very strange that when it comes to a kung fu movie, we want to believe an actor can also be a martial art expert. It is true that some martial artists became movie actors such as Jet Li and even one of the JKA instructors, Tatsuya Naka (中達也) played a major role in the movie, Kuro Obi (right). But remember they were martial artists before they became actors. Let’s look at truly who he was. Bruce Lee was the son of a Cantonese opera star, Lee Hoi Chuen from Hong Kong. There, he was introduced to the film industry by his father and appeared in several films as a child actor. Lee held dual citizenship of Hong Kong and the United States. Lee was raised in Kowloon, a section of Hong Kong with his family until his late teens, then he moved to the United States in 1958 at the age of 18.
Now, I have to bring your attention to the myths Bruce Lee created. The myth I am referring to is that he was a kung fu expert. Many an audience loved the actions of Lee and they believed or I should say they wanted to believe those skills they saw in the films were real. What I am trying to do here in this article is to evaluate his true skill level and to prove that it was only a myth. Some of the readers may be offended and may say, “Why did you do this? It is like telling the children that Santa Claus is a fairly tale and he is a fake.” I agree that my action is unwarranted if the audience were only the movie or kung fu buffs. I am doing this for the senior karate practitioners who still idolize Lee. I want them to see the reality. I feel strongly that the senior karate practitioners must not mix up the true martial arts skills with the fabricated techniques that “looked real” for the movies.
One cannot evaluate his Martial Arts skills fully by his actions in his movies. These are choreographed and rehearsed just as the demonstrations done by the JKA masters such as Tanaka, Yahara and Asai. Evaluating his training photos can be evaluated but it is probably not convincing. What we need to do is to give a bio mechanical, scientific evaluation of his “real” actions. By “real” I mean they must be non rehearsed and also it must be shown in public.
In this photo you can see that Lee is standing sideways to his partner in white. This is a big telltale for a push instead of a punch. If he was going to do a real punch then he should be facing his partner straight forward.
Here is some proof that he was pushing his partner. See how much he leaned into his partner and his left foot is lifted. This clearly shows that he did not generate this punch (or push) from the hips. He must have pushed about 10 inches judging from the photos.
(Note: this photo may not be related to the first and third photos. I used this photo to show his punch most clearly.)
Here is the perfect prop to make his “punch” looking effective or powerful; a chair right behind the partner! Why? If there was no chair his partner may just take a few steps back instead of collapsing from the punch. With a chair so close to this guy he had no choice but to stumble and fall. If that was a real one inch punch with a full effect, the partner may take a few steps back but at the same time he would probably bend over from the pain in the chest.
You can see better how he punched in this video. After my explanation, now you should be able to detect that he was pushing instead of punching his partner.
The video here (3 min 29 sec) includes many of his feats such as his two finger push up, etc.
Go to 40 to 45 seconds into this section to see his “one inch punch”.
Let me explain what he did in this demonstration. I have to point out that he used another trick. Check his right hand in the photo here. You can clearly see that he is using an open hand in front of his partner’s chest. This gives you an impression that he was not going to use much power. However, it really means he had an additional 2 inches as he closed his hand to push. It is a clever trick but also, unfortunately, deceiving.
Take a look at Lee’s right hand in this photo. He opened it again after the punch (push?) but you could see that he used the fist to push his partner backward. Why did he open the hand? It was obviously used to make his push looking “soft” but yet powerful. I am sorry to say this but this may impress the amateurs but it certainly was a poor trick he used.
Case 3: Six inch punch.
In the above film, his six inch punch demonstration is also included but I will attach a different video clip here as it is easier to see how he did this punch.
This video shows his punch in slow motion so you can see how far he moves his upper body to push the guy. I would say he moved his upper body 2 or 3 feet to generate this punch. In this punch where you position your fist is irrelevant as he was using his upper body leaning motion.
Photo 3-1:The start is the same. He positioned himself sideways. You can see his partner leaning backward slightly though I do not know if he was doing this intentionally or unintentionally. With the center of the gravity being pushed back behind his heels it was easy to push him backward.
The prop is the same, the partner has a chair right behind him. One thing I need to mention is that the chair he had to sit slid backward many feet. If the chair had the rubber feet, it couldn’t have done this. I could be wrong but I am assuming Lee wanted to have this visual effect, simply to impress the audience. He was a movie actor but at the same time I heard that he was heavily involved in the choreography and visual effects of his actions. This is the reason why I suspect he purposely set this up. Just think, if you really wanted to show a one inch punch, why would you need a chair?
The last demonstration was his board breaking which he did on TV in Hong Kong. I will evaluate how he did this performance.
Case 4 Board breaking
As he had to break the board, Lee is standing in a straddle stance. This means he could lean his upper body instead of using only the hips.
Another photo (from another TV program in Asia) showing how he positioned himself to the board.
This is an after the break photo and I consider this as a proof that he leaned his upper body. Notice his punching arm is now bent. This proves that he leaned so much to break the board he bent his arm back as a reaction. If he had used only the hips to punch his arm should have been straight.
If the board is a soft wood anyone can break one or even two pieces with a push like this. Just try it and you can see how easy it is to break a board. But try to stand in a natural stance as you would in the Yoi position, then extend your arm and touch the board before you break the board. This way is much harder.
I conclude that his one inch punch was not a real one inch punch at all but was a one or six inch push with several props to make them look impressive. Once again, the intention of my evaluation was not to degrade him in any way. What I did in this report was to evaluate his martial art skill level from the bio mechanical method. Lee was a great movie actor and he should receive a but obviously not a martial art expert. He did what he could and tried to make it impressive. It was, indeed, impressive as one inch punch was almost unheard of in the 70’s particularly in the western world. If you are as old or young as I am, you remember that the Japanese karate (mainly Shotokan) was the main stream martial art in the USA. Lee brought something new and different so I give him a lot of credit for doing that. His well planned performances impressed the audience who were mostly not the martial art experts or amateurs. I do not know exactly why he did those performances. My guess is he needed to bring some credibility for his acting career. Being an Asian in Hollywood was (and probably still is) a handicap. He was probably struggling and was unable to get a main role in those years (60’s). The Long Beach demonstration was in 1964 and he was almost unknown then. He finally got a break when he captured a role in “Green Hornet” in 1966 (only for a year). It was a big role but he was a side kick (no pun intended), Kato and not the main role. I heard that he auditioned for the TV series “Kung fu” in 1971 and the management chose David Carradine (a Caucasian actor) to act as a mixed race (Chinese and American) Shaolin monk. This TV program became a big hit in 1972 and lasted till 1975. So, Lee had to go to Hong Kong instead of Hollywood to make himself known in the movie world. He tied up with Raymond Chow, the film producer of Golden Harvest and created “Fist of Fury” in 1972. Then his dream came true with Enter the Dragon, the first Chinese martial arts film to have been produced by a major Hollywood studio, Warner Brothers. The rest is history. Unfortunately, Lee never enjoyed the fame from this film fully as he died even before the film was released in 1973.
The true irony is his one inch punch demonstration. Though it may have given him some credibility in martial arts in the 60’s and helped his movie career. However, the recorded film of his demonstration is now widely available with the internet technology. Consequently, his martial art skills are being fully exposed and it would haunt his fame some fifty years later.
I did not explain or ellabrate on the real one inch punch in this report. I may not be an expert but I can do a one inch punch and it is available for you to see at KarateCoaching (www.karatecoaching.com). If you are interested visit this site and find many other interesting karate teaching videos there.