Kyoshi's Technique of the Week

June 18th , 2017

This weeks technique is submitted by Kyoshi Kyoshi Mackay
Ueshiro Midtown Karate Dojo

Onegai shimasu, Hanshi, Kyoshi, Sensei and Deshi of USRKUSA,

From the moment we first step onto the deck as white belts, we’re taught to develop reflexes that permit rapid, reliable and unconscious responses to life-threatening situations. These start out as single (but not always simple!) reactions to an external stimulus, such as the count or perception of an in-coming attack.  But over time - and thousands of repetitions of kata - our reflexes must become linked, i.e., triggered by one another in a precise sequence, independent of the initial external threat. Below are a few examples of linked reflexes, starting with the initial, and perhaps most challenging, reflex of moving forward towards danger:
Forward foot motion triggers subtle rotation or "opening" of the hips.
Subtle rotation of the hips triggers a chambering of the arms for blocking or punching. In walking stance, hip rotation can also trigger pivoting the back foot 45 degrees.
Chambering the arms triggers the hands to form into a weapon, such as a fist or knife hand.
The speed of our stepping, opening the hip, and chambering are all calibrated by our sense of urgency or timing regarding the attack.  
Launching the block or punch is triggered by reaching a maximum chambering of the arms and optimal opening of the hips, although we're sometimes forced to block prematurely if the incoming attack is too fast.  
In Shorin-Ryu, our techniques are launched by first "firing the hip" towards its final position as dictated by our final stance.
Firing the hip triggers gripping the deck with the toes.  It may also trigger a change from inhalation to exhalation, although we often use sudden exhalation to trigger explosive hip rotation.  
Wrist rotation is triggered by impact (real or imagined) which in turn triggers maximum tightening of the hands which becomes a cue to tighten the stomach and diaphragm to release a short, loud and sometimes audible kiai.

The linking of reflexes does not end with the kiai. Each kiai should trigger an immediate relaxation of muscle to diffuse the shock of the strike, and an immediate assessment of the "battlefield" regarding termination or continuation of the fight.

None of this happens naturally.  And attempting to program all these actions into one reflex is physiologically impossible, not to mention bad strategy since it would prevent last-minute adjustments.

Reflexes can be "strong" or "weak," just like muscles. And like muscles, they do best when used for specific tasks.  Strengthen your reflexes by linking them together, two at a time. Forge an unbreakable association between how you rotate the wrist (slowly while chambering and rapidly when striking) and how you make a fist (relaxed while chambering and rock hard when striking). Kata becomes the ultimate arbiter for how the links will connect to each other, arranging our conditioned reflexes like dominoes, one precipitating the next almost seamlessly.  With any luck, this may bring us closer to achieving Gan, Soku, Tanden and Riki.

Domo arigato gozaimasu, Hanshi!

- Kyoshi Mackay
Ueshiro Midtown Karate Dojo