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One Big Muscle

Last night I was teaching a yudansha who had recently returned to our dojo. She had left during our transition to the body mechanics taught by Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato, so I spent some time explaining the basic concepts.

At one point, I said, "You have to learn to use your body like one big muscle."

It sounded good at the time, and I realize that it is an oversimplification. But thinking about it further, I think it is a good teaching point. Too often, we think about the various "parts" of our body as being separate. We think about our right arm and left arm as if they are not connected. We think about our upper body and lower body, our front and back, or our right and left halves. But these are just ways to characterize the body. We have only one body and the parts are really not separate -- they are connected... obviously.

When it comes to movement, if you view the body as separate parts, you will probably move in a disjointed manner. The parts have a hard time moving together. In fact, they often work against each other.

But in natural movement, the body is ONE, like one big muscle. Take a sneeze. You don't have to think about it or will it. It just happens. But look at all the movements that are involved. I am pretty sure that no one can intentionally sneeze with the speed and power of a natural, unexpected sneeze.

If your body is one big muscle, then twitching that muscle will result in movement of the body. Moving the muscle will move the body. It sounds so much easier than coordinating the movements of many separate body parts.

I sometimes refer to our way of moving as "whole body" Karate. Even separating the koshi (conceptually) can lead to a disjointed approach. We have to be careful to view the body as a whole. Using that one big muscle is a bit like wringing a big wet towel. We can wring it this way, and that way, and through coordinately movement crack that towel like a whip.

The whole body is the whip, or one big muscle.


Charles C. Goodin