Kyoshi's Technique of the Week

March 13th 2006

From Kyoshi David Baker,Chief Operating Officer
Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu Karate USA


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Keep your shoulders down and relaxed.

We talk about the importance of using "hip" for power in our techniques, but
that power can't be delivered if the shoulders are up. This is very typical of
beginners, to have the shoulders high. Often it's a result of overall
tension, or thinking too much, or fear. But there's no way to deliver the power
of
the body's mass if the shoulders are up. It's like engaging the clutch of a
manual transmission vehicle; with the shoulders up ("clutch engaged") the hips
can
move as much as you want, but that movement can't transfer to the hands to
deliver the knockout you're looking for.

Instructors can go around and identify the trapezius muscles for the student,
especially if you see their shoulders up, by pressing your thumbs or index
fingers downward into the middle of the trap muscles while instructing them to
relax the muscles that you're pressing into. Also, if the Deshi experiences
pain or discomfort while you're doing it (with moderate force), that's their
fault because if they would relax their traps they wouldn't feel pain, but only
pressure. The tightness of the muscles causes the pressure to be painful.

Students can also try to fatigue the muscles so that they relax by a series
of shoulder shrugs where you try to lift your shoulders to try to cover your
ears and hold with static, maximum tension for ten seconds. This contracts the
traps. Then draw the shoulders down toward the floor as low as you can to
stretch the traps for five seconds. Repeat two or three times.

Also, chishi, high blocks, and shoulder raises with a barbell held with
straight arms below the waist work these muscles. If you fatigue the muscles,
then
they're going to be relaxed for proper technique and if you experience proper
technique once, you're more likely to be able to reproduce that same feeling
at your next workout, with your shoulders down and relaxed.

I once asked Master Ueshiro what are the most important muscles in karate and
he said "traps and calves." This surprised me until I looked at a famous
photograph of him as a young man with his gi top off. As developed as all his
muscles were, the traps stood out as huge in comparison to the rest of his body
*.
And if you watch his kata on the old films, you can see that he has
tremendous power with his shoulders relaxed.

Domo arigato gozaimasu,
Kyoshi David Baker

* P.S. Hanshi reminded me tonight that, in addition to Master Ueshiro's
answer of "traps and calves", if you look at the series of photographs of Master
Nagamine that were taken throughout the years in his book, "The Essence of
Okinawan Karate-Do", you can see that his trap muscles were well defined as
well.