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Hakkei the explosive energy of Sanchin

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Sanchin kata contains the fundamental principles of karate. Here I want to discuss one of those principles that of power generation and how it may be assisted by Shime or testing.

Power generation requires a combination of correct posture, stability, fluid movement, an interplay of muscle tension and relaxation, breathing, extension and intention. These individual disciplines are developed and integrated so that over time they become more efficient. The practice of Sanchin helps develop the explosive power which can be refined to generate a strike over a very short distance known as Hakkei in Japanese or Fa Jing in Chinese.

Begin by adopting Sachin dachi. Ensure that the heel, the base of the little and big toe of each foot press evenly into the ground. As is usual the front foot turns in, make sure that the outside edge of the rear foot points straight ahead, this has the effect of slightly turning in the rear foot too.

The correct width may be determined by collapsing the legs so that the thighs and knees touch, then come back up so there is a fist distance between the knees.

AT this point have the 'feeling', that the feet are turning outwards, but don't move them. This will lift the thighs and pull up the pelvis.

Focus on the first key tension point at the point where the ham string in the back of the legs meet the buttocks. It has a drawing up feeling.

The second key tension point is the lower abdomen underneath the navel. This is firmed by pressing down and out, it has a round firm feeling.

These two point combine to link the legs and torso. The lower back should now be held straight without the usual lumber curve.

Keep the chest down and relaxed. If the chest is lifted up this exposes and opens the solar plexus which becomes a vulnerable point.

The third key tension point is the muscles in the neck that pull the chin down .The head must be balanced on the shoulders so that is it capable of carrying a heavy weight without the force compacting the vertebrae in the neck.

The posture is such that the back is held naturally straight ,this should be a lithe upright position rather than a stiff ramrod feeling. With the pelvis titled correctly you should feel a stretching and connection from the perineum between the anus and genitals that travels up the back, through the neck to the crown of the head.

Next extend both arms out into an extended double closed fist middle block, then pull the elbows back to a fist distance from the floating ribs. The elbows should be in front of the chest not the side.

A partner should now help you focusing on tightening the muscles in between the three key points. Work from the feet up pressing firmly with palms and thumbs. Calf, shins, thighs buttocks, back, abdomen etc. are all checked and tested. This contraction or closing of the muscles is referred to as Shime in the dojo. The head is checked by cupping the chin and gently but firmly lifting.

The shoulders are then tested which must be relaxed and pulled down by tensing the latimuss dorsi. This is tested by first pressing down and then slapping down firmly with a heavy feeling. The force of the strike should travel down through the body being absorbed by the knees and feet. Being a downward force it should not be absorbed by the lower back or the stomach, if it is, then the posture is incorrect.

Lastly breath out a little allowing the lower ribs to sink, then pull the elbows in a little closer and firm the lower ribs.

Hold the Sanchin tension is the body for a time then let it all go.

Being able to contract the muscles of the whole body with correct posture and then release that tension is the key to developing Hakkei It is similar to a sneeze the tenses the body momentarily and then lets the tension go with an explosion.

When holding the tension it is a firm controlled tension, not a red face shaking tension. Also keep the breathing natural using low abdominal breathing rather than lifting the chest. Over time look to develop the 'feeling' of a whole body contraction so replacing the conscious contraction of one set of muscles then another

With practise the 'feeling' can produce a very quick body contraction followed by relaxation that efficiently generates Sanchin's explosive energy with apparently little effort.
Sodokan Goju Karate Association
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Mike Clark 1997-2005. Reproduction of material on this site is not permitted