"Around Your Middle".
You may recall from your days at school days that the circumference of the earth is mark by an imaginary line known as the Equator. Above this middle point is the Northern Hemisphere and below it the Southern Hemisphere. No, this is not a geography lesson so you can relax. My point is this. Like the earth all of us as karate students also have a middle, but in our case, it is not imaginary. Instead it is very clearly marked by a visible coloured line at our waist known as an "obi" or "belt". Like the earth's Equator this line divides a student's body into two distinct parts, the upper half and lower half. Now in the early stages of karate training most new students will spend the better part of their time paying far more attention to the top of their world than they will to the bottom.
The simple fact of the matter is that is far easier for a new student to focus on developing their hand movements, then it is for them to get a firm grip on a stance such as kiba dachi, or a kokutsu dachi. I know I did. I can remember in my case, however, that it was not long before my sensei noticed the lack of attention my lower extremities were receiving. Not one to miss an opportunity to correct what he considered an unacceptable situation, sensei quickly wandered on over to where I was practicing. He then proceeded to make it very clear to me in no uncertain terms, that everything south of my belt was of equal, if not greater importance than what was going on north of my belt.
Longer. Lower. Not so narrow. Not so wide, all become familiar phrases. Then one day it happened. Out of the blue, and for no apparent reason that I could fathom sensei said to me, "Now start using your hips". "My what"? "Your hips, lad, your hips"!! At which point he firmly grabbed my belt at a point on either side of my hips and he started twisting right, then left, then right, then left again. "Your hips, lad, use your hips, karate is nothing with out the proper use of your hips"? My world was never the same after that. Hips, hips, and more hips, became the battle cry throughout the dojo. In basics, in kicks, in kata, in kumite, "Use your hips" he would shout. To this day even after more than 40 years of training, his voices till rings clearly in my ears.
The other evening at class a student came up to me and said, "Sensei would you please watch my side kick and tell me what I am doing wrong, it doesn't feel right". After one kick it was clearly evident what the problem was, but I waited until the student had done five or six kicks, and then I walked up to them and I whispered, "Your hips, lad, use your hips.”
I hope that for their sake that in the years to come the sound of my voice will also ring loud and clear in their ears.
Remember: “Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it.”