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Telegraphing Movements

The first time I visited Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato in Okinawa, he demonstrated an uncanny ability to know where a punch or kick would come from. He asked me to stand in front of him and try to punch or kick him. As soon as I would begin to move he would point to the attacking arm or leg.

What was uncanny was his ability to do this before I had moved very much, or perhaps even before I had actually started moving at all. When he pointed to my arm or leg, it stopped me from moving.

That was several years ago. I have thought about it often, but only recently have begun to understand how he did this (or at least I think so).

First, at that time I did not understand how to generate power with the koshi. I had no idea at all! As a result, my movements, whether punches, kicks, or any other type of movement, were powered from the extremeties. For example, if I wanted to punch with my right hand, I would pull back with my right arm and raise my right shoulder. Quite obviously, I was telegraphing my movements. It must have been very easy for Shinzato Sensei to read my intentions and movements.

When power comes from the koshi (the core of the body), it is much harder to anticipate a movement. The core is activated and a movement could be executed using either hand or either foot, or other parts of the body. When you pull back your right arm, the odds are that you are going to throw a right punch (or some other right handed technique). When you "squeeze" or "twist" your koshi, a movement could come from anywhere.

At first, the activation of the koshi is obvious. Students twist their arms and waist, sometimes in exaggerated ways. But with practice, the koshi can be twitched on. Perhaps it is always ready. My point is that with such a koshi, it is hard to know that the koshi is ready and that a movement is imminent.

Of course, I'm pretty certain that Shinzato Sensei could still tell what I am about to do. Perhaps that's why it is better not to attack first, especially against someone who is very skilled.


Charles C. Goodin