Contraction And Expansion; a source of Shotokan Karate Power

Expansion and contraction is a powerful means to generate force in many ways in the physical world. Certainly this is so in #Shotokan karate. 

Sensei doing Enpi

The beginning karateka is taught the rudimentary crescent step. The step is composed of a circular movement that brings the foot from a shoulder wide position behind the body, to a shoulder wide position in front of the body. The beginner focuses on leg position, body posture, correct weight distribution, being able to move forward and still not leaning and keeping the foot in close proximity to the ground (which teaches keeping a contact consciousness that leads to more powerful and un-shakeable stances).

Tim Karate set up for down block

Yet, as with nearly every rudimentary training drill in #Shotokan; there is a lesson behind the lesson. A bunkai (understanding) deeper than what appears on the surface and in the teaching of the crescent step; this idea of contraction and expansion is there as a bunkai.

I have my students break this technique into two step drills; practicing powerful released mouse-spring contraction, leading into powerful compressed spring coil releasing, expansion. When the student discovers the muscle dynamic of these two very different strengths in the one move of the crescent step; it transforms simple stepping into supercharged but coordinated attacks and body position changes.

Tim karate moving in Tekki (2)

If you have trained most of your life, like I have; it seems to many of your students that you know secrets and it awes them somewhat…. And I guess in a certain sense of the word it is true. Having a deep understanding of exact principles of execution of karate leads you to a different discovery of power, speed and efficiency in demonstration of your techniques. And the execution of these thoroughly trained techniques can seem like “secrets” to the beginning karateka or outside observer.

Big guy makes a Big kick

Going back to this idea of expansion and contraction. At the same time that a dynamic contraction of the thighs is generating power, the same thing can be going on with the arms. I have my students literally make the sweeping motion of bringing an air billows together on the contraction. And literally have my students make the exploding motion of a vacuum release leading to the expansion, (which generates exceptional power behind the punch).

Tim Karate in a punch

Then the key that takes two elements and turns them into one combustive dynamism is combining them. When the correct execution of the leg expansion is combined, and timed, with the correct execution of the arm contraction and expansion; the resulting synergy is phenomenal.

Yes, Yes, I know that application time does not allow for all these nuances of movement. But when the fight moment occurs and the muscle memory of these twin contraction and expansion movements is automatic, because of extensive training; the street application power is also explosive. [Though it is hard for others to know why, unless they have watched you train extensively].

mean face Tim

There are myriads of ways that contraction and expansion training drills can strengthen the power and explosiveness of your techniques. Remember that the most effective way to harmonize the striking and blocking motion of your body is augmented motions {i.e. one arm moving forward, while the other moves back}. There is certainly much power to generated in these augmented motions by isolating and practicing the contraction and expansion elements of their precise execution.

Good luck with your training and don’t forget to work on the power of contraction and expansion.

Sensei Tim

CarKaiRyu Shotokan KaiIn

2012 Karate PlaqueFoothillsKarateClassic



About timothygrantcarter

Author, Trainer, Pastor, Spiritual Coach, Inspirational Speaker, 12 step follower Thinker, Entrepreneur, Outdoorsman, Hunter, Fisherman, Gardener, and Shotokan YonDan (5th degree black belt). Visionary; Maker of original sayings, slogans and giver of spiritual help. "If God has a pulse, then I can feel it." Nicknamed "Slam" / Creator of #Slamism ... 's on Twitter @cccdynapro
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