Kyoshi's Technique of the Week

July 5th , 2015

From Sensei Bob Dobrow, San-dan
Ueshiro Northfield Shorin-Ryu Karate Dojo
of Minnesota


Unlike other fighting
arts, such as boxing, in karate our target is small and precise --- ``the size
of a dime.’’ Also, the surface area of the delivery system --- the first two
knuckles of the fist --- is similarly small.

In physics, pressure is defined
as force divided by area. That is, pressure is inversely proportional to area.
Take the example of wearing high heels. A typical foot is about 40 square
inches, whereas a stiletto high heel is about 1/16 of a square inch. As a
result, the pressure exerted on the ground by a 300-pound man wearing shoes is
300/40 = 7.5 pounds per square inch. By contrast, the pressure exerted by a
100-pound woman wearing high heels is 100/(1/16) = 1600 pounds per square inch –
over 200 times as much!

The consequence of this physical principle is that
even a moderately powerful punch delivered with precision and accuracy at a
vulnerable striking point, such as the solar plexus, groin, nose, or temple, can
have devastating impact, and quickly end the fight.

Developing laser-focus in
our punches is a challenging part of training. Working basics across the deck
and practicing kata does not always give us the feedback on our punches to be
able to work focus. Even with the mirror from afar, it is hard to see if the
punch is landing exactly where we intend it. The following are some suggestions
for working focus.

1. When punching, both for basics and in kata, do not just
throw out the punch blindly. ``See’’ the target. An image from Hanshi: imagine a
long cylinder, which starts at the chambered fist and extends to the target. The
cylinder is only as wide as the fist. The punch travels down the cylinder and
locks out at the end at the target. On the final point of impact, don’t let the
fist ``bounce’’ or recoil up or down. Rather, it should lock in to the target.
The arm and back (lat) muscles tighten for a split second at the point of
impact, and then quickly relax.

2. Yakusoku kumite (pre-arranged fighting)
and/or bunkai give us an opportunity to work with a partner. It is important
that the attacker directs their punches right on the target. For instance, in
the first and third moves of YK-1, even (especially) half-speed and power, make
sure the punch is aimed directly at the opponent’s nose. In a highly controlled,
half speed and power exercise, the punch lands a hair’s width distance from the
opponent’s nose. A common mistake is for the attacker to throw their punch off
to the side. The instructor can highlight this by not countering with a
defensive move so the attacker can see that their punch is not focused.

3. A
useful supplemental tool for developing focus is the makiwara. While an
important purpose of the makiwara is to condition the hand, perhaps a more
important use is to develop focus. Start slowly. Picture a point on the
makiwara. Using perfect Shorin-Ryu form, land a half-speed-and-power punch
exactly on the point; feel the back muscles tighten and then release at the
point of impact. Do many repetitions. Then slowly build up speed. For this
exercise it is not important to actually strike the makiwara. The goal is to
reach the point of going full speed and power so that your 2 front knuckles
exactly meet the point. Switch left and right, and pick points at different

4. Another training suggestion is to do basic squat punches with a
partner. Have both persons extend their punching arms so that the striking
2-knuckle fist surface is one inch from your partner’s extended fist. Again,
start slowly, working accuracy, precision and focus, and work up to full speed
and power punches (with control!) that land exactly one inch from your partner’s
target. Again, make sure there is no bounce or readjustment of position after
the locked-out punch.

And, of course, remember to breathe, get lower, and
embrace the joy and vigor!

Domo arigato Hanshi, Kyoshi, and all

Sensei Bob Dobrow, San-dan
Ueshiro Northfield Shorin-Ryu Karate Dojo
of Minnesota