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Koshi -- Cracking the Whip

If you have ever cracked a whip or a wet towel, you will have seen that there are at least two phases to the process. Let's use the wet towel as an example.

First, you throw the towel forward. I wind the towel and hold the thicker end in my right hand (I am right handed). I hold the thin end in my left hand (this is the end that I will hit with). Then I throw the towel forward with my right hand, almost like a shuto movement or a side ura ken (backhand).

When the thin end is almost at its target, I pull back with my right hand. This makes the thin end whip forward at the end -- crack!

Here is my point. Most of the energy was put into the towel during the first phase. You use your arm, and perhaps even your whole body, to throw the towel forward. The entire towel -- its entire mass -- moves forward.

For the cracking part, you only need to use your wrist. That small motion accelerates the end (tip) and makes it crack.

The first phases is a big motion that takes time. The second phase is a small motion that is very quick.

When executing a movement in Karate, there are also two phases (usually). The first phase involves getting your whole body behind a punch or strike, and moving the striking hand and arm toward the target. This is a big motion that takes time. The second phase is like cracking the whip or towel. Using your koshi (as broadly defined), you set (vibrate, shake) the motion so that it accelerates. This is a small motion done very quickly.

There are two phases. You need both.

If you only strike using the first phase, you will lack speed. If you only strike using the second phase, you will lack power. You need the first phase for power and the second for speed (which also increases the power).

Koshi is like a blasting cap. It sets off the dynamite -- but it is not the dynamite. Perhaps another way to look at it is to say that the koshi helps the dynamite to not only explode, but enables it to be focused in the desired direction as well.

Koshi is like the snap of the wrist that makes the wet towel crack at the end. If you only snap your wrist without throwing the towel forward first, there will be no crack. You need both.

I think that 80 percent of the power comes from the first phase -- by moving forward, by pressing, by shifting and turning your body, by thrusting your arm forward, etc. Only 20% comes from the second phase. However, the second phase greatly increases the speed of the movement. By hiding the first phase, the second phase is so quick that the attacker cannot react to it (ideally).

Again, you have to hide the first phase as much and as long as possible. By the time you "throw, snap, twitch" your koshi, it is too late for the attacker to react.

It is good to practice with a wet towel. If you can whip the towel, you can learn to whip your movements. Just remember that the base of the whip is your core (trunk), not your arm. The snapping movement takes place in your koshi, not your arm. Your arm/hand is the thin part of the towel.


Charles C. Goodin