Karate Kime (Focus) & Tension At The End Of The Technique

“Kime” is a Japanese word, roughly translated as “focus”. It is where Karate derives it’s power from at the point of impact of a punching or striking technique. But how well is it understood?

Most people loosely describe achieving Kime as moving with relaxation, then tensing the whole body very rapidly at the completion of the technique with a heavy exhalation. But tension stops movement and do we really want to tense (hence not be moving or hardly moving) even be it for a moment?

Does it really add anything to the technique?

Is there another way?

Master Kousaku Yokota speculates in his book, Shotokan Myths, that as Kata (patterns/forms) competition become popular, the tension at the end of the technique became more and more exaggerated so that competitors could emphasis to the judges that they were actually focusing at the right places.

There is a story (which I’m not able validate) that Gichin Funakoshi’s son visited the Japan Karate Association (for many years the main driving force behind promoting Shotokan throughout the World). Apparently one of his comments was, “where did all this tension come from”?

For many years, Karate (Shotokan in particular) has been criticised by other styles for being tense, stiff and wooden; because of this heavy emphasis on tension at the end of a technique. It is called a “hard” style, despite it’s Okinawan roots being more akin to the “soft” Chinese styles from which Karate evolved!

Anyway, here are my thoughts on the subject. Please let me know what you think and leave your comments below.


11 thoughts on “Karate Kime (Focus) & Tension At The End Of The Technique

  1. Your point about Gigo Funakoshi’s comment concerning tension may not be able to be verified however it would be consistent with the view on executing technique put forward by Shigeru Egami, a close family friend.

  2. Hi Ralph
    Sorry for late reply. The fist is lightly clenched thoughout. If you have good alignment from nuckles to shoulder, you don’t actually need a very tight fist. However, at the point of completion when the muscles become taught, the fist will tighten naturally.
    Thank you for your question.

  3. I’m not great at fighting, but the way I see it is clench your arm muscles and punch then punch relaxed and you will see a big difference. To me exhaling has always been more about being a mental trigger and a means of helping my body route power from the ground through my feet, through my core, and into my shoulders. It’s like when you are sleepy and yell HAA! Going TSS TSS TSS when you punch triggers your body to release chemicals with conditioning. It also remind you to breath 😉

  4. Hi Keith
    Thanks for the feedback 🙂
    The Okinawan kata you refer to Sanchin in most styles (based largely on White Crane I believe). The Shotokan derivertive is called Hangetsu, which is similar but a bit different.
    I like the crouching hippo hidden rhino, 🙂 and I do know exactly where you’re coming from from. This principle should also be used in Karate combinations too (but them Karate is based largely on Kung Fu), using the rapid hip rotations from one technique to another (say rising block to reverse punch). If you snap a towel for example (or belt as in the above video, you pull back the “handle” at the momement of impact. The handle in your technique is YOUR HIPS, and at completion of say the rising block, you pull back the hip for snap, which can then also be used in the punch.
    If you look at this video of Japanese Master Kagawa performing just a rising block, you can definitely see a small pull back of the hips at the end of the block. If this were extended to a combination, this pull back would be the begining of the next technique (usually reverse punch): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D504pCItmno

    Many Karate practitioners also practice Tai Chi for the same reasons you mention above.

    Thanks again!

  5. I agree with you 100% Charlie! The only time anyone should tense during a technique is when using dynamic tension as an exersise for building muscle & bone stength plus chi or ki depending on your Art and this is all the way through the technique not just the end ! The hung gar style has a form called iron wire or iron thread some Kung Fu styles call it iron shirt i believe also (please correct me on the name here charlie if its wrong) the okinawans have a kata called is it sanchin or sochin kata for the same purpose ?
    I was taught and this may sound crouching hippo hidden rhinno 🙂 but you should spring & whip back like bamboo alowing the energy to flow from one technique to another or as the chinese refer to as fai jing (explosive energy) which has been lost in translation from lots of styles like Biu Jee in wing chun its not as simple as it first appears, its not the advanced hand form for nothing! and the basics of this start a little if its taught properly in chum kil !!also in tai chi if its taught as an advanced kung fu system as it was for most styles of Kung Fu in the old days, nowadays it seems to be concidered as purely a seperate entity which it is not in my oppinion !! and lots of Kung Fu systems have there own form of taichi i know its common with choi lay fut and fai jing is taught early on in basic choi lay fut forms as well as there tai chi!
    This is of course only the oppinion of an old wing chun, choi lay fut, & tai chi kuen practitioner but i hope its added to the debate on this topic !?
    cheers Keith

  6. Good to see you blogging again and what astrong first post:-D I think this and the “how to put a whip into a straight punch” are some of my all time bunkai jutsu blog favorites:)

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