I must admit that when I first observed certain energetic characteristics that emerge in the process of generating force within karate technique I focused mainly on final stage of the movement (kime). Even though I was aware of distinct phases within each technique I didn’t realize the extent to which the direction of spiraling force reflects the energy involved in the process and not just the mental intention leading to kime. That somewhat imbalanced approach made me miss crucial aspect of the energy transfer within the body, while intense nature of kime itself and subtle character of mind/body connection in general posed additional challenge. In my defense, I believe it is reasonable for the scientific approach to involve some trial and error.
Different pieces of the puzzle finally fit together when I realized that the polarity of energy lines changes during technique and is determined mainly by the nature of creating energy within movement, the process which involves the use of the ground. That means that muscular activation is always simultaneous with formation of yang powerline regardless of which stage of completion the technique is at or in which direction the body is moving.
The timing of energy transfer, which is the core of each technique/every dynamic body transition is determined by the stage of energy increase within the movement. As explained in vertical slingshot article, each technique includes stages of initiation/increase and climax/release. The transfer is simply part of the process of efficiently distributing the energy along the body once its increase reaches the maximum level. The energy can be then transferred directly to the target or to other side of body and then to the target.
The process of energy transfer per se is identical in regards to various external movements – punching, kicking or footwork sequences. In case of stationary techniques such as reverse punch executed in front stance the yang energy line is formed along back leg which is also a line of grounding/reaction/technique. In that case the energy is transferred directly to the target.
Yang energy lines form also while moving (stepping, sliding, walking) prior to actual technique, generating the force in order to transfer it to another leg before it reaches the target. Good example of such is kizami zuki combined with sliding forward, where initial grounding action along back leg assists in building and transferring the momentum to the front leg resulting in empowered reaction/technique. In this case back leg initially works as yang energy line (the line of grounding/reaction) and changes to yin once the energy is transferred to front leg. The moment front leg makes the contact with the ground it becomes yang energy line (the line of grounding/reaction).
It is important to understand that yang energy line works as the conduit for grounding/reaction force and is based purely on activation factor during both “pulling” and “pushing” actions. Pulling and pushing relates to direction of energy towards the body (pulling) or outward (pushing). In case of initial stage of kizami zuki it is a formation of yang energy line along back leg along with pulling action by same side arm. This way the energy is generated along back leg before its transfer to the front. Proper timing in regards to withdrawing mental component from the action of hikite is necessary to avoid locking the energy on pulling hand’ side and executing kime on the action of hikite itself.
Pic 1. Starting phase of kizami zuki. Pulling with the right (hikite) arm against a resisting partner helps in the formation of a yang energy line along the back leg. The back leg is used to initially generate the force and transfer it to the front, once its potential for grounding/reaction (technique’s climax) is reached.
The process of energy transfer is quick and its’ “in between” nature can be quite elusive. Let us use an example of footwork action which illustrates the same point but “stretches” the process in time for easier observation.
Consider the second to last movement in Heian Shodan kata. First you pivot clockwise on left foot shifting right foot 135 degrees to your right. Left leg is a line of grounding/reaction and forms yang energy line up to the passing point. Unlike in kizami zuki, in this example the initial yang energy line is being formed during simultaneous pushing action with the force directed outward (pic 2a,b,c).
Pic 2a,b,c Pushing with left hand/arm against resisting partner during initial stage of transition (2a). The left leg forms a yang energy line up to the passing point (2b) and changes to yin during final phase (2c). The passing point indicates maximum level of grounding along left leg and start of energy transfer to right leg.
Last sequence of Heian Shodan illustrates the case when yang line is being formed during simultaneous pulling action (pic 3a,b,c).
Pic 3a,b,c Using the pulling action against resistance in the last sequence of Heian Shodan kata. The right arm (hikite) is used for pulling the partner’s hand, while the front (right) leg assists the pulling, by forming a yang energy line (3a). The grounding reaches its maximum at passing point (3b), which also indicates the start of energy transfer to the left (front) leg.
At kime (completion of transfer) the left leg forms a yang energy line while the right leg changes to yin. Interestingly, applying similar pulling action to the previous example results in internal conflict and seems to prevent rather than facilitate its execution.
In the case of kicking techniques, the process is similar.
Pics 4a,b,c Let’s use ushiro geri (back kick) as an example.
In our case we will kick with right leg to the back directly from a right fighting stance. Countering the partner’s push by pushing back with your left hand helps to increase the awareness of grounding taking place along support leg during the process. Initial formation of yang energy line along left leg reflects the stage of generating the energy (the stage of initiation/increase).
Pics 4a,b,c Pushing back with your left hand used to increase the level of grounding/reaction along left (support) leg. Passing point (b) indicates the start of energy transfer from support to kicking leg.
Pic 5a,b,c. Another good example illustrating the formation of yin and yang lines, is a combination of footwork and the side snap kick in Heian Yondan kata.
The sequence includes shifting the left foot towards the right foot and kicking to the side with right foot, followed by an elbow strike.
Initially the right leg supports the action by forming a yang energy line, in similar fashion to the previous example. It also helps to accelerate the left foot before placing it on the ground and using its reaction momentum for the kick.
Pic 5a,b,c. Grounding during the initial stage of the sequence, can be tested with a partner resisting against the action of the left leg (5a). Efficient energy transfer requires synchronizing the increase in grounding with placing left foot on the floor/starting the kick (b).
That point brings momentary formation of yang energy line along left leg which quickly changes to yin along with the momentum being transferred towards kicking leg.
Pic 6 a,b,c Another example of combining footwork and kicking techniques is front leg mae geri following forward shift of back foot (tsugi ashi). In this example initial support/yang line formation along front leg relates to pulling action and helps in accelerating back foot forward. You can test this stage either by pulling partner’s hand or having them resisting your back leg; the action of front leg remains the same.
The moment of placing back foot on the ground indicates the start of energy transfer to front (kicking) leg. Similarly to previous example back leg forms temporary yang energy line which quickly changes to yin along with the momentum being transferred towards the kick. The full cycle of energy distribution here includes:
– generating the force along front leg via grounding
– transferring it to back leg in order to fortify its temporary yang line
– transferring the fortified reaction along back leg to the kicking leg
Pic 6 a,b,c Using pulling action while testing the level of grounding during initial stage of the sequence (a). The point of maximum grounding along front leg has to be synchronized with placing back foot on the ground and starting the kick (b). At that point there is momentary formation of yang energy line along back leg which quickly changes to yin along with the momentum being transferred towards kicking leg.