Kushin- 屈伸 or "compression" "bending of joints" is a core component of 伸縮 shinshuku (compression and [explosive] expansion of Yahara Karate. If you don't instantly know this deeply, then you should be reading on! Of course shinshuku is a mainstream part of basic Shotokan Karate, but Kusshin is at the joint level.
To understand what Kusshin is, imagine a sprinter on the blocks primed for the starter gun. That's kusshin.
This, however, isn't!
As a key theme of the last week with the SA team here YS (Yahara Sensei) has introduced a teaching style of checking a basic technique- for example maegeri zenshin or gyaku-zuki and then focusing on the Kushin component exclusively, breaking down the movement into its components and then building them up.
Yahara Karate is (限界まで） "genkai made "to the limit." YS believes that if your 弾き手 hikite is 1cm shallow, you are going to loose a significant percentage of power- which seems biomechanically logical (provided you are powering forward using the back muscles and the elbow snap and relaxing your shoulder muscles and breathing correctly and focusing your go-tai-ichi at the point of kime, etc...I wish I could do all that, umph!) Spiritually, if your hikite is 1mm shallow, then you are amai; missing your genkai made spirit. And that's something you don't want to be doing in front of YS.
The most critical point about Kushin is that it should be performed so deep that you should feel hot pain in your thigh muscles. "YS: If you don't feel that there is a red hot poker inside your leg, then you are amai (shallow, not doing it properly). This is not KWF Karate! TO THE LIMIT! MORE! MORE!"
And believe me, with him standing next to you, you find the extra centimeters- so that just standing there you become soaked in sweat.
From a western point of view, of course, frankly, to make sure that you are pushing yourself to the limit spiritually and physically means that you are going to get the most out of your Karate and yourself, so that you can break through. It also makes that beer or two even tastier!
Kihon Kushin Practice:
Over the last week we have been focusing on the following Kihon Kushin Renshu
a) Extreme Kusshinn (compression) down on the front leg and using it to thrust forward through the hips, hurling ourselves forward. Application- you guessed it- Empi! Points to focus on: zero extraneous movement, 100% commitment on the supporting leg to Kusshin and Tsupparu; millimeter control of hips and balance distribution (a la Isaka) to make sure that you thrust forward to smash forward without going up; focus- always remember your enemy is before you and you are going to smash him.
b) Extreme Kushin for Maegeri; as above. Those of you who are familiar with KWF doctrine know that we would rather smash down that thug coming at you with a bottle with a ballistic maegeri to the stomach- it's not flashy; it's practical. So Oigeri is one of the pillars of Shai technique at the KWF. But how to make sure that the thug doesn't catch your leg or you fall back. The answer is of course...3,2,1....Kushin!
Application: massive, ballistic forward energy in shinshuku/tsupari for maegeri: Points to focus on: don't cheat by swinging the kicking leg forward. If you are like me and not talented, you will remember the thousands and thousands of maegeri you did at the beginning and couldn't seem to get it right. If any of you have ever done Judo, you know that sometimes in competition, that Tai-otoshi, maybe once in 20 times goes perfectly, and your opponent goes over effortlessly- timing? aiki?technique?...luck?!...so with maegeri, keeping the heel back and using the snap is one of the central components of the kick. If your timing is wrong with this Kushin practice, you will find the kicking leg is actually a brake. It's also a wonderful practice to make sure your body really understands maegeri.
c) Nukite: One of our favorite techniques is the oi-zuki->gyaku-zuki->age-uki->gyaku-zuki->soto-uke->gyaku-zuki->uchi-uke->gyaku-zuki->gedan-barai->gyaku-zuki->kokutsu-dachi->huge kushin->tsupariso far back you feel that you are sitting on your back leg and WHAM->nukite...KIAI! Up and down, up and down...don't forget your breathing, collapse in a puddle when YS says "Yame."
Or in my case....."Paul-san...DAME!"
You get the picture? I was personally tortured with this one in the run up to my dan grading and now I love it. The point is that the drawback on the rear leg has to be ballistic and efficient- all the way back and down- don't think about it- DO IT! TO THE LIMIT! Oh, and welcome to the KWF. Points to watch: but in, will and focus forward, weight 90% back foot and massive explosive shinshuku/tsuparu.
d) Kokutsu-dachi: to avoid "chu (to-hanpa)-kutsu-dachi," of course! It is particularly fun to practice the opening of Heian Nidan. After 15-20 minutes focusing on Kushin, you will feel like a newly minted genius doing the opening of Heian Nidan...or if you are like me maybe not, because your fight is always to bring yourself to a higher level (in my case, get some of the basics correct....)
...vs. Heavy Metal:
I mentioned beers earlier and so that leads not to, in my case, not the Dark Side, but the stepmaster down my local gym and the Stairmaster. To keep myself going, I've relied on the 3Ms- Motorhead, Ministry, and Metallica to keep my step rate, and heart rate up. Song of the month: Metallica's Holier Than Thou
As well as a commentary on tonight's practice:
1. KWF Kihon Roppon Kumite
2. Role of gyakuhanmi in Oi-zuki
NOTES ON SYLE:
I'm calling Yahara Mikio YS from now on for simplicity's sake.