Power To Your Technique

To get power in your techniques, whether it’s punching, striking, blocking, kicking or throwing, you need certain common components. But remember, all these different facets of applying power must come together in a fraction of a second, so you have to train yourself thoroughly in how to make these things work separately and as a whole.

I will explain what each component does and how in the end they are all linked together. To make them work naturally and smoothly, you will need a body that is relaxed and supple.

In this series, Matt shows his hip vibration during gyaku-zuki, with the hip retraction snapping the hand back, imparting a whipping power to the strike.

The Hips

Hips are the centre of your body, connecting your lower and upper half. They are one of the most important physical components in applying power and getting your body to work as a united whole. Your hip joints have to remain supple and not tense up, since they must be able to move freely from one technique to another. As your skill increases, your hip action should become smaller and subtler than when you were a beginner.

This illustration by Sakamoto-Sensei shows the progression of power during gyaku-zuki.

Your hips are used to deliver the power or energy through your striking limbs. Understand that most of your techniques will use a hip vibration at shodan level and above. Before this, simple hip rotation is used by beginners. When we perform a lower kata, such as Seisan, hip rotation is used for many of the techniques. But when I actually apply these techniques, the rotation usually turns into a vibration. Here’s why:

When striking, it’s important to retract your striking limb with your hips after extending it for the blow. The percussion that is caused by the action of pulling releases the energy into the opponent. If you just rotate your hips to deliver your technique and leave the hand there, the blow becomes a push and you lose the percussive effect.Imagine your body is like a whip and the handle of the whip is your hips. if you just throw the whip out, it’s dead and no real damage is done. But if you snap it back, you hear a loud “crack” as the power is released into your target.


Shime-shibori (closing and spiralling tension) is used to guide the energy from the ground up into your striking limbs. In performing this, the big toe is key, “biting the ground” as the ki meridian in the middle of the ball of your foot drinks up energy. At the same time, shime and shibori are also used to guide your striking limb and stop your body from over-rotating and losing all the energy/power.

Illustration by Sakamoto-Sensei showing how shime, shibori and neri work together to produce power.

One thing that most Chito-Ryu-based karateka forget is that the shime-shibori contraction is done very quickly; it’s held only for a millisecond. Again, it’s supposed to have a natural feeling. If you find your joints are hurting, you are probably contracting too hard.

Tanden and Relaxation

I have tanden and relaxation in the same category because you can’t have one without the other. If your breath is not concentrated in your tanden (your lower abdomen), then your weight cannot stay down. And your breath can’t descend to your tanden if you are not relaxed.

By relaxing and breathing from your tanden, you can root to the ground, creating the foundation for power. If you lose your root, then you will become unstable and easy to defeat. A strong root also allows you to use your whole body as a single, linked unit, with power vibrating up from the ground, guided by your hips though your limbs and then back into the ground.

While the body is relaxed, you should retain a surface tension, or tame, in the tanden, where your breath and energy is focused. The proper manipulation or kneading of this surface tension (called neri) – working the muscles of the area in conjunction the right mental focus – leads to hakkei, or explosion of power.


As we all know, breath is essential. If we don’t breathe we die. In terms of karate, if we don’t breathe properly, we can become winded, letting our techniques deteriorate and making us easy to defeat.

A skilled karateka wins a confrontation usually by retaining their composure through breath control. When we deliver our techniques, the type of breath has to match what we are doing. So, for example, a slow breath must accompany a slow technique. An explosive technique needs explosive breathing (usually a kiai). We have to work on our breathing so we can do multiple techniques with a single breath. The correct breathing will also help us to absorb the force of an attack to the body.

When it comes to fighting effectively, a strong spirit matters more than technique.

It is important for students to remember that they should never hold their breath (cutting off power) but should always have the correct breathing pattern, whether they are doing kata, kihon, bunkai or kumite. The ability to breathe in quickly, without being noticed, is a valuable skill, because if your opponent can’t discern your breathng cycle, then he can’t attack when you are vulnerable (i.e., during inhalation).  


Spirit is what makes a martial artist. I would rather have a student with a great spirit and lesser technique than one who is the opposite. Someone with great spirit is very hard to defeat. A woman, for example, who is attacked and is able to fight back mentally, even if she can’t respond physically, is apt to recover much more quickly emotionally than one who gives up.

And in terms of karate, someone who has good spirit can usually project strong energy in their techniques.

In Conclusion

We are told from the beginning in karate that for every action there is an equal reaction. And we learn about the power of hikite (pulling) as we block, punch and so on. We discover the importance of letting out power and pulling in power. So we should remember these concepts as we practise our breathing and hip techniques. The breath in, the breath out; the hip snapping in and then back – these are the two equal parts, the yin and the yang, needed for power generation.

Below is part of an article Sakamoto-Sensei sent me in 2004, giving some insight into his thoughts on technique and power.

“TAME” is in the surface of “NERI.” It maintains the power that was condensed in NERI. Then, it is possible to connect with momentary HAKKEI and defence. . . . Incidentally, as for HAKKEI, if you only aim to let the power out, it is no good. The power to pull is important. However, please be aware that HAKKEI is not a skill that can be easily acquired.


—Matt Mannerow
Grey-Bruce Ryusei Karate