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Koshi -- Who Would Have Imagined?

I am certain that I would not have learned to use koshi (whole body mechanics) if I had not met Shinzato Sensei. OK, I might have been able to learn from one of his senior students if I was lucky enough to meet one of them, but there were none in Hawaii (we are 3,000 miles from just about anything).

But I am absolutely certain that I would not have discovered it myself or learned to use koshi from reading books and articles on the subject. I've even written articles on the subject and I am sure that they would not have helped me at all. If you learn something about koshi, it is easy to write about it. If you have not learned something about koshi, reading and writing about it are not very helpful (except to make you want to learn it).

I would even say that the videos I had watched about koshi would not have been helpful. Before I learned to use koshi, I just dismissed videos I was lucky enough to watch as "magic". This was true of the videos I watched, first of Oshiro Sensei, and then of Shinzato Sensei. They looked great and I could "see/understand" none of it. Now I can appreciate what they are doing and how they are doing it (to the extent of my understanding).

Basically, nothing except learning from a real teacher of koshi would have helped. It takes hands on training and someone to observe and copy (or at least try to copy).

I first watched a video of Shinzato Sensei about 15 years ago. He was doing Pinan Shodan on some grainy video. I kept watching the first movement over and over. It was impossible to anyone to move like that! More correctly, it would have been impossible for me to move like that the way I was moving. No amount of extra effort or extra power would have helped. I already had reached the point were "more" was producing less.

Then, about 10 years ago, I was fortunate to meet Shinzato Sensei. The "wow" factor was multiplied by 100 in person. How could he move like that? And how could he perform kata over and over and not seem to get tired (he's 19 years older than me)? And how could he keep smiling and laughing? How? How? How?

After about a day of training, I told him that if I could only learn to perform shuto I would be happy (I realize that is still arrogant). I thought that if I could learn to do just one movement correctly, that would be more than enough for me to work on for a long time. How lucky I was! By accident I had discovered the right approach. Trying to learn to do everything he did would have been impossible. Even learning three things would have been impossible for me. But a single movement might be possible.

I actually only learned part of shuto because I had recently undergone shoulder surgery. Shuto hurt. But I did learn gedan barai (downward block). I could do that (sort of) with my shoulder.

So when I returned to Hawaii after training in Okinawa, I worked on gedan barai. Over and over and over. Again and again and again, for about a year and a half, until I could "throw" the block with my koshi (whole body using koshi, lats, torque, recoil, etc.). Then I applied that mechanic to all other movements. I am serious. I tried doing a chudan uke with the same mechanic. I tried doing a shuto with that mechanic. Punch, kick, any block, any strike... I eventually applied my gedan barai mechanic to everything. If you watch me and understand koshi, you might see the gedan barai flavor in my movement. (My second son, in contrast, has a shuto flavor.)

And guess what? There is only one koshi motion. There are not different koshi motions of each technique. If you can apply koshi correctly to one movement, you can learn to apply that same mechanic to all movements... even movements you do not currently know.

Koshi teaches you how to move. Whatever movement or technique that you know or might learn, koshi will apply to it.

I would never had expected this, and I certainly would not have begun to learn koshi mechanics were it not for Shinzato Sensei, who I only admired in grainy videos 15 years ago. I think I wore that tape out!

I give credit to Shinzato Sensei. He gives credit to Kishaba Sensei and Nakamura Sensei, among others. I am sure that they also gave credit to the seniors from whom they learned and the fellow students with whom they trained -- probably many Karate experts no one has heard of.

It was an unlikely chain of events that led me to Shinzato Sensei and it was my misfortune and good luck that my recent shoulder surgery made me lower my sights to learning a single movement (rather than the whole curriculum!).

Who would have imagined?


Charles C. Goodin