The chicken or the egg

Your lead hand, or your hikite?

A long time ago, I don’t remember exactly when, I was in the dojo practicing standing punches. It was at that moment that the darndest thing jumped into my head. It was one of those odd little riddles to which there is seldom a right answer, “which came first the chicken, or the egg"? 

In the blink of an eye my focus was gone, and that all I was left with at that moment was the question. It almost seemed like I was being asked to answer a koan. If you are unfamiliar with a koan it is a philosophical riddle that you are not always suppose to be able to answer. At least not in this lifetime. The theory being I suppose that some questions are best left unanswered.

I decided that there must be a logical reason why that question had popped into my head so I decided to follow that thought and see where it led me. And in keeping with the theme, it led me to a question about karate, and that is, "which should start first, the pulling fist, or the punching fist"?

When I first started in Shotokan one of the first things that I was taught was how to do a standing punch. I was told that for every inch you pull your lead fist back, the fist on your hip (your hikite) must move forward an exactly the same time, at exactly the same speed, and that both fists must finish moving at exactly the same time. But I no longer follow one aspect of that lesson.

For me the answer is, "the pulling fist must start first".

This is what I refer to as "accelerated timing". If you are Shodan, or above, this is what I believe you should be practicing. The basic premise being that as an experienced senior rank your punching style should be modified. Now don't misunderstand me, the basic fundamentals of doing a punch remains the same. The different is simply found in the initial timing of the movement. You should now be giving your pulling fist a slight head start. In doing so it will then require your punching fist to accelerate in order to still finish its movement at the same as your pulling hand.

It is very important to bear in mind that this kind of timing can only be achieved when you are totally relaxed. In fact, for Dan ranks the development of relaxation should be emphasised more often than speed, or power. The truth is "maximum speed, and maximum power, come from maximum relaxation" right up until the very moment of impact.

So, that is where that odd moment in front of the mirror took me. For me this works. My punch feels different. It looks different. It even sounds different. This morning at class I introduced this methodology to a Nidan and the resulting difference in his punch was noticeable, not only to me, but also to him. Will this concept benefit you? I have no idea. I hope it does, but only you can answer that question for sure.

Remember: "Old ways, new ways, if they move you forward make use of them all".