Whole lotta shakin': an addendum

A colleague of mine on gojuryu.net recently said the following in response to my article: “Whole lotta shakin’: pre-loading the hips”:

“When stepping, there is an inherent motion to the hips. If this is utilized to load a technique, then there is no telegraphing or slowdown.

I think examples where there is a block THEN hip load THEN strike will never work against a properly motivated attacker. However, why can't all three of those things be the same - ie, block and punch with the same hip motion at the same time?”

I think this is an excellent point. It occurred to me many martial arts movements are specifically designed this way. Consider the humble sanchin dachi (3 battles stance) as it occurs in goju ryu and other karate kata. That stance involves a pelvic tension which occurs as you step up into the stance just before you effect a technique (whether it is a block or a punch or both). That pelvic tension produces a 45 degree movement in the hips, creating forward and “upward” momentum.

As you will note from the video below, this momentum can, in itself, be used as a weapon and produces surprising force when applied directly in a clinch.

However the real purpose of this movement is shown at the end of the video: the hip movement adds momentum to your technique in much the same way as the standard “horizontal” plane hip rotation can for a standard reverse punch. As discussed in my article “Hitting harder: physics made easy”, momentum transfer (and hence the application of force to your target) is maximised when you use “staged activation” of body parts, specifically joints, moving from the larger joints (in this case the hip) through to the next largest joint (in this case the shoulder), to the next largest (elbow) and (depending on your technique) the wrist.

The movement is natural and hence does not involve any unnecessary “telegraphing”. Consider by way of contrast the following video of Tomari te rohai where the demonstrator is loading his hips after he has already entered sanchin for a horizontal hip load; something which is neither part of the movement, nor (in my view) necessary when you consider the natural expression and application of sanchin dachi…

See also: "Whole lotta shakin': contextual hip use" and "The importance of flow" where I discuss a particular technique where a naturally occuring hip load has not been used, while an artificial hip load has been added.

Copyright © 2008 Dejan Djurdjevic


  1. Hi Dan! I'm enjoying reading about the use of the hips, but I have one point of confusion. In your final paragraph you say that:
    The movement is natural and hence does not involve any unnecessary telegraphing".

    I think that consciously angling and thrusting your hips (shime) is hardly natural. Could you explain a little more about why you would describe it as such? Thanks!

  2. Hi Xin.

    I mean that the loading occurs naturally - it doesn't require an artificial load (one that is contextually inappropriate).

    I tend to use the term "natural" differently from how most folks use it. In martial arts, nothing is "natural" in the sense of "everyday". If it were "everyday" you wouldn't need martial training.

    Instead, martial technique is not that different from musical technique etc. It has to be learned.

    Within the confines of learned technique, you get "natural" progressions (ones that are naturally accommodated in the time and space of a given sequence of moves) and ones that are "unnatural" (that require a movement that is contextually inappropriate). It to this sense of "natural" vs. "unnatural" that I am alluding.

    Why refer to this dichotomy - and why use this language? Because the distinction is critical to success or failure of techniques. And, as Bruce Lee put it, a good martial artist must have this "unnatural naturalness" or "natural unnaturalness". It is the core of what makes a good practitioner (of any art).

    You see a master pianist effortlessly gliding over the keys, imbuing each stroke with pure emotion. It is natural in the sense that it flows seamlessly - thought-free. But it is hardly "natural" in the sense that anyone can do it. It is "organic" - but it is hardly "elementary".

    The same is true for natural martial movement. Organic. Vibrant. Whole body. It is the opposite of "forced", "square peg in a round hole", "against the grain".

    I'm sorry to take so long to describe it, but I didn't have time to write a shorter reply.


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