Points of Note About Shuri-te
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 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.