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Fighting Sideways

In general, we do not "fight" with our shoulders square to the opponent. I put "fight" in quotes because we really don't fight, we defend.

When our shoulders are square to the opponent, we are open to his attack. Our centerline (sechusen) is open and exposed (unless we protect it, and it is hard to protect the entire vertical centerline).

It is safer to fight sideways, or in a hanmi (slanted) position. While in hanmi, our body is slanted to the opponent, making it harder for him to attack our vertical sechusen. See An Introduction to Hanmi, Hanmi -- Correction, Hanmi -- Javelin, Hanmi -- Square Shoulders, Hanmi -- Joint Alignment, and Hanmi -- Look Up.

But there is another reason. Go through the motions of whipping something with a wet towel. Imagine it. You grab the towel and twirl it a little to tighten it, then you pull back and snap it to...

Your side. It is unlikely that you snapped to to the front with your shoulders square to the front. You likely snapped it to the side, because that is the most natural motion.

Our system of Karate utilizes a lot of whiplike motion. We whip in a way aligning our joints. Think again about snapping a towel. When you snap to the side, your joints are aligned: your ankles, knees, hip, shoulders, elbows, wrists... But when you snap the towel in front to you (standing with your shoulders square to the front) your joints are all out of alignment with respect to the line of the snap.

Fighting sideways makes a lot of sense when you use whip mechanics. It also helps to protect the vulnerable centerline of the body.

Of course, we are not limited to fighting sideways. We can generate power and move in any direction. But sideways is generally the best. You can also see this in the Naihanchi series of kata and in the applications demonstrated by Choki Motobu, who excelled at Naihanchi.


Charles C. Goodin