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Shoulder Angles

I recently met a very strong Karate student who had suffered a shoulder injury at work. While driving a van, he reached back and popped his shoulder. I am not certain if he tore his rotator cuff, but the injury was pretty severe. I tore my own rotator cuff, so I can sympathize.

Reaching back and picking up a heavy object at the wrong angle is definitely a bad idea. Even a relatively light weight, at the wrong angle, can cause an injury.

How is this relevant to Karate?

Don't apply techniques at bad angles, especially behind your shouldler. Naihanchi teaches the optimum range of motion. It is best to "fight" with your elbows in an imaginary box in front of your body. Almost never let your arms get behind you. At most, they should not pass the plane of your chest.

Equally important is the idea that we should, whenever possible, force the attacker to fight us at bad angles. We should position ourselves so that the attacker will have to reach back to block or hit us, like the strong Karate student I mentioned. It would be hard for an attacker to continue if he pops his shoulder.

We should "fight" in a strong position and attack a weak position. Let me ask you this. Would you want to lift weights on a diagonal behind you? Keep your arms where they are strongest (and least likely to be injured), and attack on an angle where the attacker is weakest, and most likely to injure himself if he tries to lift, push or block you.

I am not talking here about sparring or tournaments. I am addressing goshinjitsu -- self-defense.


Charles C. Goodin