Sunday 5 January 2014

Hip Alignment

Irrespective of the label on the photo, this was actually taken in Shonai, my father-in-law's hometown,  in 2006.
Alignment of the hips is very important as it allows your body to maximize movements; that is, optimal speed, power and mobility can be achieved. This is because, just like walking, `being aligned' is natural. Correspondingly, alignment also influences the optimization of one’s kokyu (breathing), but I will not address this aspect today.
Kaminari-arashi (circa 2003).

Intro: Many of the techniques of karate-do, especially the extended positions, really test our hip alignment. In every country, a major problem amongst karateka is that…"people change their posture and contor
t their bodies unnaturally when lowering/extending into stances”. Unsurprisingly, besides the lessening of technical prowess, being unnaturally twisted is unhealthy and, in the long term, has the potential to damage one’s body (especially under the forces that are exerted in martial arts training).

 Tips on checking your hip alignment: Of course, you can SELF-CHECK AND CORRECT the alignment of your hips easily using any karate-waza; nevertheless, to save you some time, here are the initial techniques I personally recommend using:
(A) By executing and self-checking 1. seiken choku-zuki in hachinoji-dachi; 2. the Tekki kata (kiba-dachi posing some interesting challenges with lateral techniques); and 3. kicking mae-geri in heisoku-dachi. In all three cases, keep "simple, square and perfectly balanced".  Think of your hips as identical twins!

Nijushiho in Nakatsu (2007). At the time, Nijushiho was `out of the question'...
(B) Following all of any of these three do the same in zenkutsu-dachi (keeping the previous points in mind). I recommend using the following three techniques for rapid progression: 1. stationary chudan gyaku-zuki (or kizami-zuki kara gyaku-zuki); 2. stationary mae-geri; and lastly 3. advancing with jun-zuki (oi-zuki) or sambon ren-zuki. The techniques from zenkutsu-dachi pose much more difficult challenges, especially the stationary mae-geri; however, this also leads to the removal of superfluous actions—thereby, also mitigating telegraphed actions in one's waza.  

Conclusion: Shotokan-ryu karate-do brings everything back to the most basic/natural/simple position. It is from this position where `the rules can be broken’… I think a major problem is that many Westerners approach karate without getting the simplest things 100% correct, such as hip alignment, and therefore fail to maximize their overall development. This in turn leads to ingrained habits which are difficult to rectify. I hope this post helps you to check and, if need be, correct your hip alignment.

I'd like to end by simple saying I have emphasised over the years: "Hanmi and gyaku-hanmi exist for zenmi/shomen." All the very best in your training! Osu, André.

© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2014).

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