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A Study in Fusion


The Points of Note About Shuri-te

In Shuri-te, the energy point is the centre of the body. In his book, The Secrets of Okinawan Karate, Kiyoshi Arakaki writes that the waist is like the wrist of a cowboy, cracking his whip. From this point, you produce energy and transfer the energy to your opponent. The problem lies in trying to relax the body enough to allow a sequence of acceleration from the first waist rotation to the fist reaching the target. Like a whip, even after hitting, the fist remains relaxed. It is only tensed at the point of contact, and then not consciously. Rather, it is a matter of simply allowing the target to curl the fingers.

Constant application on the makiwara reinforces this idea. After many years of practice, it becomes second nature to remain relaxed and to allow the natural weight of the motion to penetrate the target.

The tsuki of Shuri-te quivers, because the whipping motion of the body creates energy and transfers energy completely. To do anything else renders the motion something other than whip-like, and therefore not the Shuri-te method.

Shuri-te practitioners employ gamaku, or shimegoshi. Arakaki describes it as “the moment a fist reaches a target, you employ gamaku so as to rapidly contract but not tighten the muscles between the lower ribs and the sacrum. Gamaku will put extra weight behind your tsuki and help stabilize your position, so when you hit a target, you will not be pushed back by a rebound from your own tsuki.” He adds the point that employing gamaku does not mean tightening up your body to protect yourself.

Arakaki uses a clear illustration to describe gamaku. Imagine a balloon filled with water and placing it in a hand towel you are holding at each end. The weight of the balloon will pull down the towel and increase its tension. The position of the balloon in the towel is the sacrum and the ends of the towel are the ribs. It is important to imagine a water filled balloon rather than a solid object, such as a heavy metal ball.

In order to promote the whipping motion of the Shuri-te punch, the practitioner needs to train in a particular way. The risk of hyperextension of the elbows is great, as the punch must remain unchecked on the way to the target. One preparation exercise is to continually extend the arms out from the body as though you were doing a double uraken from a close guard. The arms relax, and even twist a little at the end to encourage an extension a little over 180 degrees. This can also be done from arms crossed, and then extended out to the sides. Arakaki refers to this exercise as tendon cancellation. While in a conversation with Sakamoto-Sensei, he described the efforts to develop a co-concentric contraction necessary to developing a powerful technique.

It is interesting to note that Sakamoto-Sensei has been doing these exercises for a very long time, and so demonstrates clearly the characteristics of the Shuri-te punch, and had done so, I believe, long before he reacquainted himself with Shinzato-Sensei. Sakamoto-Sensei recently introduced some diagrams to offer an explanation of the different approach to power generation that characterize the Shuri-te and Naha-te methods.

The most important exercise to develop the shuri-te technique is the kata Naihanchi. Mastery of this kata can be seen in the technique of Shinzato-Sensei, whom Sakamoto-Sensei had met many years ago in the U.S.A. and recently visited in Okinawa. Naihanchi is peculiar as it emphasizes sideways, or crab-like movement. Foot and body movements are of critical importance, as is metsuke, or eye contact with the imaginary opponent.

The practitioner must learn to move sideways effectively, and then to deliver the Shuri-te whipping punch from the side. Shinzato-Sensei demonstrates his whipping punch, which appears to be a kagi-zuki, as it is delivered from a side position. His opponent is unable to block his punch as he uses the whipping motion without first loading the muscles, and also very fast retraction of the punch that seems to cause a reaction deficit in the defender. It is interesting that the retraction of the punch is a technique that Sakamoto-Sensei has long emphasized as a key ingredient in hakkei, or the explosive punch.




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