Hara & Koshi

abdomen & hip

'Te de tsukuna, hara de tsuke; Ashi de keruna, koshi de kere'.

(Do not punch with your arm, punch with your 'HARA';
do not kick with your leg, kick with your 'KOSHI').

'HARA' generally means 'abdomen', but in martial arts it means more specifically the lower abdomen. This is where your centre of gravity should be. Without a stable centre of gravity you cannot keep good balance and perform techniques with weight behind them. To be able to keep one's centre of gravity at the lower abdomen, one has to learn abdominal breathing, which involves up and down movement of the diaphragm.

This abdominal breathing has the added bonus of a calming effect on your mind. When you are surprised or upset, your centre of gravity tends to rise, which causes shallow breathing involving your shoulders and chest. You can reverse this and become calm again by forcing your centre of gravity down to your 'HARA' with abdominal breathing. There a few expressions in Japanese which show the importance attached to this controlled breathing: To 'have a big HARA' means 'broadminded' and 'to think with HARA' means to think rationally with minimum involvement of emotion.

The character 'KOSHI' represents the 'centre point of the body' or 'the connecting point of the lower to the upper body'. In my dictionary, it is translated as 'waist', 'hip' or 'lumbar'. The area referred to is the full width of the lowest part of the back just above the buttocks. So when one says 'use your KOSHI' to perform a technique, it means 'involve both upper and lower body in the performance of that technique'. In other words, do not use just the arms or legs to perform a technique, but use the whole body.

Shihan Keiji Tomiyama (left)

Shihan Keiji Tomiyama (left)

Shihan Keiji Tomiyama (left) - demonstrating external changing weight

Practically speaking, this means push the lower back forward all the time and prevent the upper body from leaning forward and over-reaching toward the opponent, so that the body mass always travels with techniques, making them heavy. So the whole body moves to perform a technique, even though it might on occasion be almost invisible.

Beware, some of you might think that to use KOSHI means to twist the hip. Although it is quite possible and appropriate to use hip-twist to deliver certain techniques, KOSHI must be pushed forward all the time, and you should be careful not to over-twist your hip; if you over-twist, your power drifts away and cannot be concentrated on the impact point, thus proper KIME is lost. Hip-twist should be sharp and small, quite often invisible.

Shihan Keiji Tomiyama (left) Shihan Keiji Tomiyama (left)

Shihan Keiji Tomiyama (left) - demonstrating internal changing weight

There are also, like HARA, a few expressions in common use in Japanese which reflect the importance attached to KOSHI: To do something 'with KOSHI well pushed in' means 'to do seriously' and 'to have KOSHI pulled back and stuck out' (HEPPIRI-GOSHI) means 'to be afraid'.

To recap, a proper technique using both HARA and KOSHI is a heavy and powerful technique, with one's weight behind it and its power generated from the whole body. The centre of gravity is kept low at HARA, and this low centre of gravity is pushed forward by KOSHI with the technique. Simply speaking, you have to keep good posture all the time, and using HARA and KOSHI will help you maintain it. Both the words HARA and KOSHI have meanings encompassing emotions of bravery, boldness and confidence, and this reflects how Karate techniques using HARA and KOSHI should be performed.

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Courtesy & © Shihan Keiji Tomiyama

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