In order to improve your overall technique, you need
to introduce the concept of “sinking” into
your training. You must feel as if you are dropping
into the ground, as well as adopting a dead-weight
feeling in your striking limbs and a dropping/sinking
feeling while throwing. With the combination of these
concepts added to your technique, you will develop
a centered, solid body capable of powerful movement.
The journey to achieving these concepts always begins
with proper breathing. You must learn to breath into
your tanden (located approximately two inches beneath
you navel, in the centre of your body) and then feel
as if you are dropping your breath through your legs
into the ground and out your arms.
When Matt stands with stiff muscles,
he's easy to lift up.
When Matt relaxes his body, his
weight sinks, making him very
difficult to pick up.
This concept is not usually introduced
at the beginning stages of karate, because it can make
your technique sloppy and lack focus. There is also
a risk of injury if you start off striking something
with a soft body (which you need to have to sink your
weight). Once you do start to practise proper tanden
breathing and sinking your weight, you should do your
techniques slowly at first and then speed things up
bit by bit as you get the correct feeling. You’ll
eventually see a drastic increase in the power of your
As I have discovered, it takes years before you can
start to understand the importance of sinking. It requires
you to change your whole breathing pattern from chest
breathing to breathing into your lower abdomen. In
North America we tend to breath from our chest and
rely heavily our muscles. The soft, sinking feeling
so important to East Asian martial arts also depends
on using your body, but the muscles are involved in
a different way than we are used to.
How do you teach sinking? When you show someone how
to punch or kick, you can physically move their limbs
to help them understand, or they can watch you perform
the technique. To teach sinking requires the student
to listen to your words and know what feeling they
are striving for. There are also some exercises that
you can do to achieve this, such as:
- Standing/sitting zen
- With a partner, stand in a stance like uchi-hachijidachi
and let them try to pick you up from behind. As they
lift try to have a “dead weight” feeling
and see how much harder it is to lift you than
when your muscles are tense.
- Again working with a partner, adopt a stance and
let them put a fist against your tanden area, from
front and behind, and then gently push, to test how
rooted your stance is.
- Practise Sanchin kata, whose slow, deliberate movements
let you concentrate on the proper breathing and sinking
Once you start to achieve the sinking feeling, you
should try to put it into everything you do. Remember
also that your hips have to snap the technique out.
Your body should be like a whip, with your hips as
the handle that controls the body’s four whips
(our limbs). As you sink into the ground, your hip
and breath explode and your striking limbs are supple,
delivering a powerful strike.
Grey-Bruce Ryusei Karate-Do