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Guest Post: Learning Koshi Properly – Start Slow

This Guest Post is by David Takahashi, a nidan and assistant instructor in the Hikari Dojo. David's wife and three of his children also practice with him in the dojo.

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In the Shorin-Ryu style of Karate we practice, koshi is used to add considerable power while delivering speed to any offensive or defensive maneuver. While deceptive in its appearance – a person skilled in using koshi does not, in fact, seem to be using it at all – it is devastating to one on the receiving end. (I have felt the koshi of Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato during a practice session as he was demonstrating a technique. Though he used only a fraction of his strength, I was amazed at the force I felt.) Learning to use koshi effectively, however, takes considerable time and practice.

After having practiced using koshi for the past four years, I have begun to see the difference it makes over the style of Karate I practiced previously that required only my natural body strength. The process to change wasn’t easy or fast.

For several months, I played video tapes of Shinzato sensei teaching koshi to his students and to Goodin sensei who was visiting him in Okinawa. Later, I acquired other video tapes and DVDs as well. For hours at a time, I would play a small section of one kata, in slow motion, over and over again, until I could imitate the movements Shinzato sensei made. At times I would focus on his footwork; at other times, I would focus on his hands, etc. It took some time, but by breaking down the movements in small pieces, I began to get a feel of how a particular block or strike would feel if done at “regular speed.”

For me, learning to move fast meant first learning how to move slowly.

I believe that to understand the mechanics of using koshi properly one must not rush the process. A movement done using koshi properly is extremely fast, as a whip would be. However, if one attempts only to imitate the speed of using koshi, the student will only use the arm, elbow and hand. It may look similar but deliver far less power.

Today, I continue to watch the same tapes of Shinzato sensei and still learn details and nuances that help to refine my movements. If someone would ask me what it takes to move fast using koshi, I would say, “First start slow.”

David Takahashi