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Shifting Weight

I am working with our beginner group on stepping and punching. For beginners, this is an extremely important phase -- going from stationary basics to moving basics. Moving basics are many times more complicated than stationary basics because there are many more variables we have to deal with.

When stepping, it is essential that students become aware of shifting their weight. They must know, at all times, exactly where their weight is. You can't lift your right foot if your weight is on it. You have to shift your weight to the left first.

In our style of Shorin-Ryu (the Kishaba Juku form), we do not propel ourselves off our back foot (like you see in Kendo). Instead, we overload our front foot, thus freeing the back foot. We then, essentially, drag the back foot to the desired position. Another way to say this is that we anchor our front foot, thus releasing our back foot. (Note: I am making up these terms. My Sensei does not use them, to my knowledge).

Moving back is just the opposite. We overload (or anchor) our back foot, thus freeing (or releasing) our back foot. We then can pull (or drag) our front foot to the desired position.

I may make it sound like our moving leg is "dead". Perhaps it is better to say that it is very relaxed. Our moving leg is not tense or rigid. It is relaxed. In this way, for example, we can kick in a whip-like manner.

Shifting weight from one leg to the other takes time. You cannot shift your weight as quickly as you can move your hand. I believe it is for this reason that it is said that Shorin-Ryu kata are done at a walking pace. Shifting the weight is very natural at a walking pace. We shift our weight (at a walking pace) and then move very fast, shift our weight again (at a walking pace), and then move fast, etc.

Students have problems when they try to shift their weight too quickly. The turbulence caused by this disrupts their intended movement. For example, if they shift their weight and step too quickly, and then block, their block will be disrupted by the turbulence (or shockwaves) caused by their body shift/step. The block will create its own shockwave, which will be distorted by the body shift/step shockwaves. These conflicting shockwaves cannot be used to generate other movements. They will generate other movements, but the students will not be in control of them.

But when the body shift/step is natural, there is very little turbulence. In fact, the shockwave created can be used to ignite and amplify the block.

But I am running too far ahead. For beginners, the point is that they should become aware of where their weight is and where they need to put it to enable them to step, slide, kick, etc. You don't just step -- you have to shift your weight first.

At an advanced level, this weight shift is hidden or blended with another movement (such as a parry or slip) so as not to telegraph your intentions to the attacker. But again, that is for later discussion.

Do you know where your weight is?


Charles C. Goodin