Hit Without Thinking

Sakamoto-Sensei once told me to stop worrying about hitting my opponent. After time and practice, I think I finally understand why.

When you stop worrying about hitting your opponent and just do it, your body flows more naturally. As you make contact, the power is released more spontaneously and powerfully than when you force your punch to hit a certain location.

When you’re fighting an opponent, the two of you are usually in motion. So if you aim a strike at a certain spot on your opponent’s body, chances are they will shift. Your attack will miss and then you will be vulnerable to a counterattack. But if you are focused in the moment and just attack whenever an opening presents itself, without worrying about blocking, then you’re more likely not to telegraph your moves and to land a strike.

When you are practising your kata, bunkai, and so on, your mind/body never stops at one attack, though to outsiders watching you it looks as if you did. For example, in Seisan the first few moves have hidden strikes, but without proper practice and understanding, onlookers do not see them.

The reason I focus on attacking is that I believe if you are fighting and you focus on blocking, then your body will hesitate – thinking, yes, I blocked it – and forget to counterattack. So if you attack through or around (taisabaki) your opponent’s striking limbs, you will actually hit him before his strike is finished. This will make your attack almost impossible to defend against. You don’t just “hit” your opponent – you flow through them until the confrontation is done.

When you worry about hitting, your body tenses up (even though you don’t think it does), because your mind sends a signal to your striking limb, and to your whole body, to brace for impact. If you stop worrying about hitting, then that signal is not sent and nothing tightens up. The energy (ki) is allowed to circulate freely throughout your body and into your opponent’s, and one strike flows continuously into the next.

I find that my speed keeps increasing. One of the main reasons is that there is less and less tension in my body. You can never be too relaxed. That said, I do maintain a compressed, springy tension in my tanden, which controls everything. It’s the centre that connects your upper and lower body in a single unit. With your body moving as a unified whole, the kata and bunkai you execute become single, flowing moves instead of a series of separate ones. Your body starts to move smoothly, without pause. So if you’re attacked, you will hit without hesitation, swiftly deciding the outcome.

Matt Mannerow, 4th dan, shihandai, Grey-Bruce Ryusei Karate