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Osae -- Pressing

After my last post, I realized that I have spoken about osae in posts on various subjects, but had not written about it specifically.

As I understand it, osae refers to a pressing feeling between movements. Let us assume that you are moving forward executing a series of punches. You have just stepped forward and thrown a right punch. Your right arm is extending in front of you. Now you are going to step forward to throw a left punch.

Osae refers to keeping your right arm in front of you as you advance. Your right arm "presses" forward as you advance. At the proper instant, you throw your left punch and withdraw your right arm. This gap is a brief as possible. The longer the gap, the more you are open.

Osae means to press, not to push. You do not feel that you are pushing with your right arm. You feel like you are pressing it forward. If the attacker were to charge into you, he would run into your right fist. Because of your osae, your fist and arm would be firm and the attacker would either be injured or knocked back. Had you not used osae, the attacker could have deflected your right arm easily and hit you.

In Kendo, we were always taught to keep the tips of our shinai (bamboo swords) pointed at the opponent's throat. If he charged in, he would run into the tip of the shinai. I did this many times (ran into the tip of my opponent's shinai)! The defender does not have to thrust or push -- just a good osae is enough to knock you back.

One way I think about osae in Karate is to visualize that water is extending from your knuckle(s) as if your arm is a hose. When you osae, the water pressure is good. When you do not osae, it is as if the water shuts off. We used to say something similar in Aikido.

When you osae, you are keeping you guard up. You do not give the attacker an opening. You osae and then attack. There is no gap (or as small a gap as possible).

When I watch my students, I will sometimes yell at them to say that they "dropped it." By this I mean that they have either not performed osae, or started and then lost it.

If we face a skilled opponent, he will look for any gaps. He might try to move us into a position in which we will drop our guard. If we "drop" our osae, it will be very hard for us to defend ourselves.

When you block, the osae will usually be done with the crossing arm. In the first movement of Fukyugata Ichi, for example, you osae with your right arm as you block with your left. Then as you step forward to punch with your right, you would osae with the left.

When you are a little more advanced, you will notice many opportunities to osae. In the first movement of Fukyugata Ichi, again, as you prepare for the initial left block, you osae with your right arm, which crosses under your left hand. But you also osae with your left elbow as it begins the gedan barai (downward block). It is almost as if the osae passed from the right arm to your left elbow. This is a little hard to explain but easy to do.

Any part of your body that points to the attacker can osae. You could osae with your left shoulder, for example, or your right knee.

We usually speak about osae with a part of your body -- such as your right arm or your left arm. However, osae is really a feeling and an attitude. You actually osae with your whole body -- it is as if a force is projected in the direction of the attacker.

There are instances when you might not osae. During kumite, you might drop your guard to create an opening for the attacker -- to lure him. But generally, osae is like the shadow of any strike or block. The positive aspect is the strike or block, the negative aspect is the osae. It takes both aspects for an effective technique.

When you practice osae, it is extremely obvious when you see someone who does not do it. Their movements look disconnected, limp, and weak. Sometimes, you might also observe someone whose osae is so strong that they do not appear to need to use any technique -- their osae is enough to ward off any attacker.


Charles C. Goodin