Because of our martial heritage the techniques and applications have already been set down for us by the great masters of the past. We do not need to reinvent the wheel only discover how to use the wheel for ourselves. Striking can be done with many parts of the body from the head to the toes. Whether we are kicking, punching or chopping the movement includes borrowed power from our opponent plus issued power starting from the ground transmitted through our body. Proper striking requires that our posture allow for a stacking of bones so we do not rely on muscle power and an acceleration of inertia as we accelerate through our target to maximize the force. Depending on the strike there is a sequence that must happen. Starting with the letting go and allowing the strike to happen we must also be shifting our weight, turning our waist and feet as if we were throwing, whipping or shaking.
With beginning students of martial arts they are usually concerned with punching and kicking harder. As the student progresses they realize that just like chopping down a tree striking is an accumulation of applications which allow for the finalizing action. One of the applications that must be understood is compression. This occurs when we strike someone in a way that causes them to root which allows for a target that has stopped moving away from us. This is related to loading up a leg by pulling down on the gi before a throw. One of the best ways to compress someone is a focused strike to pressure points as taught in Koshijutsu. As an example picture a thumb strike or boshiken to the side of the neck just under the ear. A typical reaction is the raising of the shoulders and leaning away from the poke. This is compression and allows for the finalizing strike to drop or knock out our opponent. Another name for compression is sealing and if you have ever had the wind knocked out of you then you are familiar with sealing the breath.
Soke Hatsumi has spoken about one of the highest arts as Koppojutsu. Koppo sometimes referred to as bone breaking art but in reality is the way of unbalancing by displacing the bones. When I think of Koppo I think about multiple bouncing strikes that cave a person down on themselves like one of those toys where you press on the bottom and it just collapses on itself. As you strike the body reacts to the strike, bouncing naturally to the next target and so on will accumulate many small strikes which will again in the tree analogy allow it to fall. In my class I have several students who are at least a foot and half taller than I am. By first striking their legs or floating rib I can always bring their head down to a level where it makes sense to then hit them there. There is also something much deeper going on when you start to collapse someone with Koppojutsu. As the body bends it compresses nerves that branch out from the spinal cord through the spine out to the limbs. As the neck bends it compresses on nerves feeding the arms and makes them weaker, much easier to manipulate, so even if planning on a joint reversal a good way of entering is with Koppo or Koshijutsu. At the very least a well placed punch to the inside of the shoulder will weaken any incoming or possible strike from that arm for several seconds. Bouncing off the shoulder up under the jaw will force the head back and compress the cervical vertebrae possibly keeping that person from stepping backward and allowing a kick to the inside hip causing rotation. The progressive sequence of strikes will topple even the most solid and formidable oaks in the forest.
Do not use strength. If strength is used then the back and neck will be stiff and no energy will flow to the top of the head. If the energy does not flow and the blood does not circulate freely then the spirit cannot rise up. Using strength allows you to easily be manipulated. Use your mind instead of strength. If you can relax the whole body it will help you to avoid being clumsy. Being relaxed also allows the unrestricted flow of blood and energy. By using mind instead of strength we can rely on the connective tissues allowing our movement to be more light, circular and spontaneous.
Avoid expanding the chest. If you expand the chest then energy will be held in the upper body and cause you to be top heavy. Allow the back to raise and that is where you will issue power. When you avoid expanding the chest then you can sink your weight lowering your center of gravity.
Relax the waist. The waist is one of the most vital areas. If power is lacking look to the cause usually being in the waist movement. Once the waist is relaxed you can have a strong foundation but the feet will still be able to move. Relax your shoulders and keep your elbows down. This will allow you to relax your whole body. By relaxing we can deliver much more force in our striking. This may be one of the most difficult things to accomplish especially in during a fight. Relaxation requires release of all tension.
Try to feel the difference between full and empty. Do not allow all the weight to rest on one leg. Being double weighted also keeps you from being light, nibble and effortless rather than heavy and stiff. This principle is very important for balance.
Unify the entire body. The root is in the feet; it is issued through the legs, controlled by the waist and expressed in the hands. There must be a continuous flow of energy throughout the entire body along with a synchronized movement. This unification is also of the body, mind and spirit. Allow the spirit to command the body by raising the spirit and opening the mind. Every movement should be complete, continuous and circular.
Find the stillness in movement. Be patient, slow down and allow the breath to be long and deep. There is a quiet place where we enter when we surrender. Time slows down and allows you to see what your opponent is about to do or is doing. It is this stillness in the movement that allows us to have grace. When we move our posture should be balanced, upright, uniform and even. Stick and follow as a conscious movement by forgetting yourself and not separating from your opponent but rather joining with him.
Remember that energy and force are not the same. Energy comes from the connective tissue and force from the bones. Energy is a property of being soft, flexible and alive. Force is a property of hard and inflexible. Learn to distinguish the difference. When you issue energy it should be like shooting and arrow. The arrow relies on the elasticity of the bow and string which allows delivery of power. Also understand the difference between pulling and repelling. When you pull it should be in the direction of force, and when you repel it should start with the following of energy and then a deflection. Do not use your own force but borrow it from your attacker. If you add too much you will be unable to escape or release and give your opponent momentum to pull you with him.
A dynamic flexibility creates unitary power by not focusing on relaxed flexibility Rather focus on specific points that are not relaxed for greater extension alone. These points can be connective or bone structures that improve extension and power. We are not stretching but strengthening the body’s springing power. Being relaxed and loose does not mean feeling weak. It means that the body can have proper alignment and stability. Once we are relaxed the energy we were born with and inherent can be utilized. Depending on varying degrees of consciousness, mental focus and efficiency using the principles of physics this energy helps us apply proper issuing of both muscle and mind power.
Other methods of delivering power require a compression or storage of energy. By having strong ligaments and the ability to focus using proper strategy, timing and advantageous positioning we can compress and release like a spring. We can also store energy by twisting to create a more penetrating strike as we drill or unwind. There is also a wave like method which is loose and springy. You can compare this energy to the way a wave moves through a whip to its tip. Understanding and the use of these energies are two different things and we gain proficiency only after much perseverance and practice.
By perseverance and practice we can awaken qualities without intellectual pursuit. A few of these goals can be patience, attention, endurance, stamina, ease and will power. Budo is a synthesis of opposites as well as of similarities. Just like finding the stillness in activity we seek a state of being and becoming. We quiet our mind to be more alert and allow no distinction between transient, flowing or arrested time.
Whole body power is where the body acts as a single unit. By delivering your strike through the waist you can accelerate this movement. In addition, the weight of your body should also be used. This movement is a pouncing action coming through the hips. When all the muscles of the body work together in harmony there is an internal opposing power that develops similar to the action of drawing a bow. In other words when the whole body is used the power generated is a release of the opposing power of the muscles. By adding continuity you can then follow your opponent’s movement and continue attacking. You never stop changing and redirecting this power. Think about a tiger who pounces and misses, he will pounce again and again so the pray cannot get away. You must not only understand the martial technique but only by employing these qualities will you master Budo.
Our training must strengthen the connective tissue as well as the muscles or the body. What good is all the other more esoteric training without a strong body able to withstand blows as well as issue all the power you have learned how to develop? So have a good bumper as well as a good engine. Your engine will allow you to keep up with your opponent even if nothing else is working. By training your forms or kata as well as the basics, you can strengthen the body as a bumper and develop the energy needed to fuel your engine.
Be heavy when you engage or when someone contacts you. Employ spring and shaking exploding natural power when you strike. Think about how a dog shakes water off instead of just striking. Do not lose your opponent when they change direction. Even if you knock them down you must stick with them not just watch. You must make your body a part of their body. Be loose not stiff while being heavy. Make sure that all parts of the body are interlocked to become one unit and spiral your movement. Work on increasing your range of motion to allow for extension of the joints. This will keep the weight out of the knees and into the hips. Do not be afraid of experimenting with the movements to make them your own.
Also keep in mind that once you start thinking about what technique you are going to do your opponent can sense this. So let your body work by itself. If you do not know what you are doing than neither can your opponent. To apply these same ideas to your teaching requires you to stop trying to teach but instead show a natural way of movement which your students can then steal for themselves. Manipulate the perceptions of truth and falsehood in order to deceive an opponent. You must force your opponent to draw false conclusions, so that instead of knocking them down you can let them fall down for you. Appearances are deceptive so be aware that when you think there is nothing there is always something.