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Hard to be Soft


A Stiff Challenge
This is the dilemma faced by many students of Chito-Ryu and derivative styles. How do they apply the tension of shime and shibori to their technique, yet stay soft and supple, so they can move freely and respond effectively to the circumstances of combat?

Tension can be misapplied by students of all ranks. Too much contraction slows movement and forces up the centre of gravity. Ask a student, for example, to stand in uchi-hachiji-dachi and apply as much shime as possible. Go behind and lift them around the waist. They should be easy to pick up. Then ask the student to hold the stance and relax with a dead-weight feeling, almost as if they were drunk. Then they become very difficult to pick up, if you can do it at all.

So shime improperly applied actually interferes with rooting, the sinking of the weight into the ground – an essential feature of many traditional Japanese and Chinese martial arts.

As a young man, Sakamoto-Sensei
demonstrates basic Chito-Ryu stances.
Though the stances are high, his weight
is rooted into the ground.

As I tried to understand shime and shibori, I was puzzled by some other senior Japanese Chito-Ryu instructors’ attitude towards the concepts. Outside the hombu dojo, the emphasis on shime/shibori varied quite a bit. Often, if it was taught at all, it wasn’t given the same importance as by young Chitose-Sensei and Sakamoto-Sensei.

Whether this situation was a matter of Sakamoto and Chitose being privy to O-Sensei’ advanced technique as live-in students, or O-Sensei evolving this teaching emphasis late in life, or the young men fastening on a single facet of O-Sensei’s teaching and developing it as the core of their technique – I don’t know. I’ll leave it to someone braver than me to ask.



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