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Smaller Koshi

I was training recently with some friends when two of them mentioned to me that my koshi looked like it was getting smaller. These two friends (my seniors) teach Goju-Ryu. I had to admit that I also thought that my koshi movement was getting smaller.

For some people, koshi means hip movement. In Kishaba Juku, we feel that there is much more to it than this, but it is true that one part of koshi movement is hip movement.

When I first started to learn from Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato (in 2002), I had no real hip movement, at least not a systematic one. I guess that I would say that my hip went forward with the block or strike (and this was after about 25 years of studying and teaching Shorin-Ryu, and reaching a body dynamics roadblock that left me frustrated, desperate, and ready to quit unless I found an answer). Shinzato Sensei spent the better part of our first day together trying to get me to relax and move more like a whip. How hard it must have been for him! One reason I am pretty patient with my students is because Shinzato Sensei was so patient and encouraging with me. I must have been one of his most difficult students ever!

In order to teach students how to move their hips properly, and in a broader sense to learn to generate power using their whole body in a coordinated manner (essentially "koshi"), Shinzato Sensei and most instructors of Kishaba Juku start off by teaching a large, exaggerated hip movement. I am sure this is so that students like me will have a chance to first see and then copy the movement.

It would be easy for a new student to assume that the way the instructor is showing hip movement is the way he normally moves. This is usually not true at all. I know for certain that Shinzato Sensei can move with a very compressed movement, so much so that an normal person might not see it at all (just see the results). But for his students, he will demonstrate koshi movement appropriate to each student's level. In other words, he can demonstrate large, exaggerated koshi, as well as very small, compressed koshi, and everything in between, and sometimes more than one koshi "flavor" in the same kata or even the same movement.

Ten students can learn from Shinzato Sensei and each can rightfully say that they saw something different. And the next time they train, it might be different still.

For the last 8 years, I have works very hard on body dynamics. Honestly, I have worked harder on it than I did in graduate school (for business) or in law school, and those two programs combined took only 7 years. So after 8 years of hard work with instruction and guidance from Shinzato Sensei, and my own students to experiment on and teach, I have come to a point where, indeed, my koshi movement is getting smaller.

Perhaps one day it will be gone completely!

But then, when someone asks how I am moving, I would still have to show them the initial exaggerated movement (so that they could see the form and rhythm). IF YOU TRY TO COPY THE SMALL, COMPRESSED FORM OF MOVEMENT, YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO GENERATE POWER AND MOVE QUICKLY. YOU HAVE TO MOVE FROM THE LARGE TO THE SMALL.

Of course, this is something I am still working on and will continue to work on. I joke with Shinzato Sensei that I am chasing him, but it often feels like I am crawling and he is running. But I am very grateful to him for being the example I can chase after. Despite my shortcomings, I know that if I am chasing after him, I am moving in the right direction.

With koshi, sometimes less is more.

I am reminded of two sayings. To move inside the gi (meaning your body movement is inside the gi -- movement cannot be seen outside of the gi). To move inside the body (meaning your torque is contained inside the body -- movement cannot be seen outside of the skin. With these, the movements look the same, but... pow!


Charles C. Goodin