Robert Baker,Chief Administrator,
Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu Karate USA
and breathe (shoulders down)
Relax and breathe:
The body is relaxed and erect in all our movements. The
shoulders hang down as if on a hanger held aloft by the
straight spine. Overall, the body remains relaxed throughout
the technique, but for the muscles executing it. After which,
you should immediately relax all muscles again.
exceptions to being relaxed throughout are that
the fingers are always together, the feet grip the deck,
and the eyes are alert, opened wide then narrowed
by drawing up the lower lids creating a spirited glare.
from Building Warrior Spirit (the green book),
Overall relaxation of the body is important for maximum
speed of the technique, because force cannot be applied
effectively if the muscles doing the work are opposed by
ones that are needlessly tense. The body moves more efficiently
when only those muscles required for a given technique fire.
And no others.
Breathe in a relaxed manner, deep and naturally, throughout
training; with full inhalation and full exhalation. And
at the end of each kata, take a moment to oxygenate the
lungs by filling them a couple times.
Many people hold tension in their trapezius muscles, which
keeps their shoulders raised, thereby limiting the force
available for arm techniques. Instead, keep those muscles
relaxed, with the shoulders low, toward the deck. And consciously
pull them down from time to time to stretch and lengthen
As an analogy, the shoulders are like the clutch in a manual
transmission of an automobile. If your shoulders are up
(if the clutch is engaged), the hip (engine) can create
as much force as you want, but it wont transfer to
the arms (wheels). Instead, the engine will just rev pointlessly.
Thats because the force created by the hips cannot
transfer through body parts that are not aligned with each
other, such as shoulders held high.
To identify which muscles hold the shoulders high, you can,
1) have someone press downward into your traps with their
fingertips, or 2) purposefully lift the shoulders yourself,
as if to cover your ears with maximum contraction until
the muscles fatigue. Then pull the shoulders downward toward
the deck to stretch and relax them. (Repeat several times.)
Because, by tiring them and then stretching them, youll
begin to identify them on your own. Then, once you know
which muscles to relax, you should make it your habit.
Of course, the most effective way to drop your shoulders
is to fatigue them by training in a series of killer
classes. Because, after a time in each class, your shoulders
will drop naturally from exhaustion as the body conserves
energy for actual techniques. And once you lower the shoulders,
you should feel a new pulling strain in the arm joints when
you punch as confirmation that the hip (rather than the
smaller triceps, pecs and/or deltoids) is now throwing the
hand, because the shoulders are properly aligned.
Less effort, more speed.
Massage and stretching exercises relax the traps too.
In karate, full breathing keeps you stronger longer and
helps you maintain a consistent cadence to your kata techniques,
thereby slowing the natural tendency to rush through the
kata. Relaxed shoulders also help transfer the full force
of your hip movement through the target.
in life, full breathing and relaxed shoulders make you more
relaxed overall, more confident, and therefore less appealing
to predators. While also better able to defend yourself,
if they do attack.