Whole lotta shakin': pre-loading the hips

There is a tendency in some schools of karate today to perform a particular "hip load" on most kata techniques, sometimes known as "Yamaneryu koshi/hip vibration" after a particular school of kobudo which practises this method.

An example of this hip movement in karate can be found in the video below of Aragaki Sochin kata, performed by Aragaki Isumu, a descendent of the Aragaki Seisho and a student of the late Master Higa Yuchoku of Shorinryu:

The level of skill shown by Aragaki Isumu in using his hips is indeed high: many karateka cannot do this despite the fact that an ability to control one's hips is central to the practice of karatedo. I have certainly spent a great deal of time isolating and practising hip movement.

Yet I disagree with the particular direction taken by this school of "hip use". Why? As you might have gathered, my objection isn't to hip use per se, but its use in kata - and in particular its use for each technique. It is, in my view, contextually wrong.

To understand why I feel this way, I first need to say what I think is right with this movement. What is it good for? In short, the hip is being "pre-loaded" for each technique. It is a method of maximising "power", sometimes called the "double hip" method. That this method can produce considerable momentum is ably demonstrated by Peter Consterdine in the video below:

No one is agruing that Peter Consterdine's power generation is impressive: but what is it he is doing? By pre-loading his hip, he is not just punching from where his hip happens to be - he is opening his hip up in order to have more hip movement and hence more momentum with every strike - a bit like someone might throw their arm right back behind their head before a punch. He is loading up as far as he can.

What is impressive in Consterdine's case is that he does it fairly quickly. It is so quick you might be justified in thinking that this is something you can afford to do in every technique - indeed, even during the flow of combat. This is where I completely disagree.

That this "double hip" makes for good momentum transfer is, in some respects, a truism. But is it necessary? For a start, the hip is not the sole source of maximising momentum in a technique, as you will note from Marc "Animal" MacYoung's excellent article “Generating Power”. Hip use is just one of many ways of maximising the 2 principal variables in momentum transfer: mass and velocity. I am of the view that having a good "flow" of movement in combat is far more productive of momentum transfer than any isolated hip movement. After all, you want as much of your body mass as possible moving as fast as possible into your opponent. This requires your body to move in a fluid, seamless manner (think Muhammad Ali's "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee"), not in a disjointed "hip-shaking" fashion.

[For more on the topic of flow, see my article: "The importance of flow".]

And is this double hip even possible in civilian defence cases - or will attempts to apply it cut the flow of your movement? I susbcribe to the latter view.

Certainly one should practise a good hip load for power striking bags, pads, shields (or telephone books). I can do this precise hip movement (and others like it). It is part of hip isolation in basic practice. But should it be done in kata? And if so, in the context of blocks? My response would be a definite "No".

In my view those who have incorporated this move into kata are confusing, on one hand, a static, ideal, environment for striking a stationary object with, on the other, the dynamic environment of combat. To my mind there is no doubt that kata is a method for practising the latter; it is a flow of techniques, not a series of separate, disjointed basics. So while I like what Consterdine is doing (and he has excellent hip use/momentum transfer), I do not think this is an appropriate template for kata practice.

It is for this reason that I think it is very unlikely that you'll ever do a "double hip" in civilian defence cases. Rather your hip should be set up by a previous parry etc. - and you'll go from whatever position your hip happens to be in (rather than some ideal "power" position).

In this respect your hip use is no different from any other "loading" - eg. loading arms for punches and strikes, or legs for kicks. You should learn to move so that you end up in the right (or at least an appropriate) position. You wouldn't artificially load your hip, no more than you would interrupt a flow of movement to load your punch into a chamber. Instead, just as chambers on one arm should take place while the other is in action, so your hip should load during the preceding movement.

Accordingly this "double hip" strikes me as a "wobble" that is akin to being "wrong-footed" in sparring - it cuts against your flow of movement in an attempt to create an "ideal" power load.

Simultaneously it assumes your hip is not already sufficiently loaded for the required technique. Karate is a civilian defence system; ie. it has the central aim of "not getting hit". It is not a sport where you're looking to "win" - perhaps by scoring a "knockout punch". A civilian defence system doesn't try to maximise its power on every single technique. It focuses on safety first.

In the case of the Aragaki sochin kata demonstrated above, the punches from neko ashi dachi are akin to the opening punches in goju's seisan - they are "snap-like" punches - not full hip "power" blows. Any attempt to force them into the "power" mould misconceives their function and robs the student of practising very useful, situation-appropriate self-defence skills (ie. kizami zuki). The fact that neko ashi dachi is not usually seen as a platform for the delivery of power punches (except where it is used to lunge into zenkutsu dachi) is, I feel, supportive of, and consistent with, my argument.

Compare the opening moves of this version of Aragaki sochin with the (similar) opening moves of seisan, performed by me in 1993:

The extent of the hip "pre-loading" in some schools is even more apparent in the video below of Katsuhiko Shinzato performing naifanchi kata. Again, Shinzato is nothing if not highly skilled. But what you will note from this particular video is another significant issue that accompanies pre-loading; every move is being telegraphed...

Again, compare this with our naifunchin, as performed by my brother Nenad:

You will note from Shinzato's naifanchi that the pre-loading of one move can interfere with the power of the subsequent move (much like wave interference can result in cancellation). Consider for example that the "kagi zuki" or hook punch in this naifanchi is, if anything, being pulled back with the hip because of the hip rotation used to augment the previous block...

I also find it most disconcerting that many karateka who practise the "double hip" in their kata have sacrificed disciplined, clean basics (and hence the appropriate "flow" of movement from technique to technique) for "power" - real or perceived. That the basics suffer is clear to me from the fact that many will continue to "shake" long after the strike/block etc. has been completed. This is not only wasteful/uneconomical in terms of energy, but it is also pointless in my opinion (I have many karate and "shaking crane" practitioner friends who disagree with me here!).

One practitoner I know and admire told me that when he went to train with Morio Higaonna, Higaonna admonished him "for using his hips". I think Higaonna was admonishing his pre-loading; ie. his inappropriate or uneconomical use of hips - after all, Higaonna can't be said to lack hip use and power...

I respect my colleague's view and stand to be corrected, but to my taste this line of development is "barking up the wrong tree". I could easily perform my kata with the "pre-loading" method, having a fairly good awareness of my hips and how to use them. Yet I choose not to, nor would I get my students to inculcate this habit.

For my purposes it is most pertinent that there are no similar "shaking" movements in the internal arts - which I believe are technically an advancement on the external arts (though not necessarily more effective). The concept of hip use is there, yes. But this is integrated into a seamless continuum, as it should be in karate. Compare this to the "double hip" which cuts the dynamic flow of kata into distinct "packets"... [Again - see my article "The importance of flow" for an explanation (and examples) of exactly what I mean.]

Put another way, the internal arts do load the hip - but generally in, or just before, a parry. The hip then closes and the technique is delivered. There is no "dead" or "disconnected" time. And there is no shaking.

I have some understanding of the "shaking" principle in certain arts. However my view is that all too often it is manifested by "shaking" in the defender's body, when what is intended is a hydrostatic shock imparted to your attacker (see my article "Visible force vs. applied force").

In other words, I think that the "shaking" feeling you might produce in your opponent is often being unnecessarily produced or replicated in your own body... Hydrostatic shock techniques are indeed "internal", but the "external" shaking of the body is not.

To conclude, rather than being a development of karate, I see the "double hip" as an overemphasis (or inappropriate emphasis) of a basic theme. It is tangential at best to advanced technique, not a necessary element.

See also: "Whole lotta shakin': an addendum", "Whole lotta shakin: contextual hip use" and "The importance of flow".

Copyright © 2008 Dejan Djurdjevic


  1. Very interesting study.
    I was currently in the move from natural hip to double hip in naihanshi/tekki and this article make me wonder if im really right in this direction.
    Form one part i agree with the flow arhues, and on yjhe other part very very skilled okinawan master do it...
    Im confused so
    I ll check with my sensei

  2. I recommend you read my other articles on hip shaking and, most relevantly, The importance of flow and Flow: why it is an essential component of kata.

    You will tell from these articles that the "double hip" involves a wind-up and a throw-in (ie. 2 hip movements) for one block, then a wind-up and a throw-in (ie. 2 hip movements) for one counter etc. I have seen, heard and read absolutely nothing that has gone even part way to convincing me that this does anything other than:
    (a) use up time you don't have; and
    (b) telegraph your intention.

    And it doesn't matter if you can do it fast like Peter Consterdine. He is still doing 2 movements when he only has time for one.

    On the other hand, if:
    (a) you're throwing a jab or executing a block with your leading hand; and
    (b) you put your hip into the movement (without pulling it back first!),
    this is quite appropriate. You might also be loading up for a reverse punch, but this load is contextual: you aren't just winding-up for the sake of a wind-up (see Whole lotta shakin': contextual hip use).

    The fact that non-contextual hip movement is never seen in an MMA fight or any free sparring highlights my point: it simply doesn't work. Logically, it can never work.

    I'm fairly sure that your sensei will disagree - but I think my articles provide inescapable logic that the "double hip" is misguided.

  3. Hi, though I like many of your articles this one I just had to comment on. Since I disagree.

    To me it seems you are delving into the mechanics of something you have little to no practice with.

    The ''double hip'' is a term and method first pioneered by Chojiro Tani the successor of Kenwa Mabuni and founder of Shūkōkai.

    I tried to dig some information on this Yammani-Ryu but I came up with nothing that could give me an idea of where their ''double hip'' comes from.

    I did however find out why Patrick McCarthy's double hip seemed different from the Shūkōkai double hip - his comes from the Yammani ryu.

    That aside I will try and explain the basics of the double hip in Shūkōkai but bear in mind I am at best an intermediate and I am a more of a ''just do it'' kind of person.

    Also I study Kimura Shūkōkai which is a improved (bias) version of Mr Tani's Shūkōkai.

    Kimura Shūkōkai is a full contact Karate style, should you wish to do your own research or perhaps try and visit a dojo beware the main organization and many others have taken a heavy course towards tournament competition over the last decade or so.

    Now to begin with the basics of Shūkōkai double hip are pretty much externally the same as the video and explanations you have provided. Dependent on the teacher the double hip is usually taught at around 1-3 years into the training.

    The double hip is learned with exaggerated movements and lots and lots of practice again dependent on the teacher the most important basic aspect is added in either at the same time as the double hip training starts or some time into it and that is koshi.

    A good double hip is almost always accompanied by koshi since I am not sure of my knowledge regarding terminology and other arts usage of koshi I will try to explain what it ''feels'' like to use.

    The basic stance is well comparable to a bow-arrow stance but with a few variations, mainly the stance is not as long and the back foot always rests on the ball of the foot, never fully flat footed.

    The feeling at first should be that of a common koshi; hips raised, stomach & buttocks tightened. Later Kimuras concept of hara becomes the next important step.

    You must use your ''roots'' properly as Kimura Sensei put it. At a basic level you use the resistance of your feet to build up the initial movement energy. Your leading foot pulls back while the back foot pushes to the front, properly done it creates the start for an explosive movement.

    The way I was taught the double hip involved straight going to Koshi and quite shortly followed by the rooting, but at that time I was training 3-6 hours 5-6 days a week as a live in student so progress was much faster.

    The double hip starts to 'work properly' once the rooted movement becomes functional and being in koshi starts to become 'second nature' at that point working on internalizing the previously learned exaggerated movement starts to happen for me it involved a lot of bag work, timing drills, sparring since you wont put it together without hitting something solid.

    Now by the words of my main Sensei and others I have trained under it takes a student, dependent on their commitment and raw talent 5-10 years to learn a good double hip.

    The end result should be a nearly fully internalized movement that speeds up your technique and allows a fluid execution of any number of techniques built up on the basics.

    I will try to find a video of what I consider good double hip

  4. Thanks for your comment.

    However I'm afraid I remain unconvinced. Some of my very best friends in the martial arts practise the double hip - albeit not in every kata. So it would be a mistake to think that I haven't practised this.

    I'm afraid that while I have some time for isolated practise of double hip (eg. in basics/kihon) so as to isolate a dynamic hip movement, and while I even have some time for dedicating a kata (naihanchi) to this practice, nothing has ever addressed my fundamental objections to its use in every kata/technique, namely:

    (a) the extra time it takes; and
    (b) the telegraphing it makes.

    Thanks for reading and for your time to make your argument here. While I disagree, it does not mean I don't respect your decision/reasoning.

    Be well!

  5. I forgot to add - making the double hip "smaller" doesn't mean you aren't still doing 2 movements where I believe there is time for only one.

    The concept I adhere to is that good hip use is essential, but it must be contextual. Isolating hip use by preloading in basics can give you awareness of your hips - so that you can use an appropriately timed single hip in combat. To my mind, pre-loading your hip in combat (doing 2 hip moves) - however small your load / hip movement - is an extra move for which you have no time.

  6. Here this is a video of good double hip in Shukokai http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkJi1ZaOmMA though most of the strikes are ''isolating'' something for training take a look for yourself if you don't agree you don't agree but I doubt you've trained it the way I or those gentlemen have therefore your disagreement/criticism is just theory and academics.

  7. Hmm and sorry if my last comment looks brute.. Practice of anything above all else relies on personal experience.

    What I have been taught is that the training and teachings of a teacher lay a foundation for the practitioner to develop their own method in other words what's best for them. If the double hip works for me and your friends then that's that.. If another method works better for You that's that as well.

    As long as it works for the practitioner it is fine. But yes I see your general point but still stand behind on what I said - proper training negates those deficits and the bonuses far overcome.

  8. Thanks for your video but my previous post of Peter Consterdine (of shukohai, I believe) is far more to the point. A great deal of your video shows just single hip use - starting from a loaded position in kihon. It is very good, but I waited for some double hip and didn't see any. All in all, a very impressive training video of excellent karate - but I can't see its relevance to this topic.

    And by the way, I first trained at a colleague's shukohai dojo in August 1982 in South Africa.

  9. Well I see the hip there but maybe I am wrong..

    How long did you train? And under which South African organization?

  10. Single hip? Yes. Double hip (where you swing your hip the other way, then into the target)? Well, the hip is already "open". Any extra "opening up" (which happens once or twice) is negligible and doesn't constitute a "double hip" like Peter Consterdine is demonstrating.

    The single hip (where you start with a big open hip and close it) is something all karateka do. Sometimes, against stationary targets, we all do an "extra load" (ie. open up a bit more before the punch). Clearly more hip movement means more force.

    However the reason the double hip can be used against a stationary target is exactly that - it is stationary. It doesn't "hit back" - see my most recent article.

    I'm not purporting that I did shukokai, merely pointing out that this "double hip" is nothing new to me. I trained in Bob Davies' Karate-do dojo in Durban, however a friend of mine trained in a shukokai dojo in La Lucia and we often compared notes and trained together. I've had many other friends who do almost the same "double hip" over the years. So the idea that I "haven't experienced" this is quite incorrect. When you train continuously for more than 30 years in a variety of Okinawan, Japanese, Chinese and Filipino arts, there is very little that is "new".

  11. Hi again!

    Well I don't quite understand your previous comment than in light of your new one.. But regardless 30 years of experience is something that deserves respect. But compared to that so is direct experience (even if it is just a poultry 6-7 years..)

    I simply think we have to agree to disagree :P

    Just think you are abandoning a great technique that requires lots of exploration.. I don't think ''comparing notes'' is the same as learning to do it for yourself with can take a lot of time regardless of past experience.

  12. Hmm - I said: "And by the way, I first trained at a colleague's shukokai dojo in August 1982 in South Africa." By this I meant that I first experienced shukokai in 1982. I can see that you thought "trained at" meant "had as my personal dojo". I simply meant that this was when I first went to one as a guest.

    Of course, this does not equal being a shukokai student - nor does comparing notes with my friend who was a student there. This is not what I meant. What it does mean is that I am not ignorant of shukokai training concepts.

    To me, the double hip is not a "technique". It is the same technique (hip movement), but done with an extra "load up" (ie. one technique done twice). We load up against stationary targets - all martial artists do, but we don't tend to think of the "wind up" as part of the technique.

    The disagreement I express in this article is that the double hip is not something one ought to try in fighting. A hip load should arise naturally - being set up by the previous technique. This is what I call contextual hip loading (see for example this drill).

    Your video showed what I call single hip use. If this is what concerns you, then we have no disagreement. Otherwise, I'm happy to agree to disagree, as I have with many friends who choose to do the double hip.

    I will concede that at the very least, the double hip can be useful as kihon for making you more aware of your hips and learning how to use them when they can be used contextually.

  13. Well we all have our agreements an experiences. My Sensei always stresses that he consider any sort of training just to be a ''foundation'' wbere the dedicated sutdent can go on from to suit the proper methods and techniques that work best for him and his body.

    So far the double hip as worked for me and since we do a lot of full contact sparring I can't agree with your overall issue at all.

    But of course a true martial artist always keeps trying to evolve further so re-examination of technique should be a constant effort.


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