Karate Kime: Not Something You Do - But Something That Occurs With Good Technique

This post has come about as a result of a discussion that I had with somebody on my Youtube channel talking about Kime (pronounced “kim-a”). Kime is roughly translated in Karate as “focus” at the end of a technique and is considered as the principle of generating power. Very simply put, most mainstream Karate (and other martial arts) describe it as suddenly contracting and tensing the whole body at the very end of the technique.

Anybody who has followed my blog regularly will know that I don’t subscribe to that point of view at all. If you want to check out the video to see what I was talking about, then I’ve added it below.

I do apologise for the poor video quality, it was filmed in 2014 with a lower quality camera. Furthermore Youtube have the unfortunate habit of compressing the digital files to save server space on all but the largest of channels. This makes the quality even worse.

Rather than tensing up, I often talk about techniques being “whip” like. Some people call this principle a “waveform”. It’s the same thing really. A whip is created by a wave moving along something. If for example you snap a towel, you put all the energy in one end where you are actually holding it and that energy transfers rapidly along the length of the towel until the other end snaps (like a whip). If you apply this principle to say a reverse punch, the handle is at the hips/waist which rotate vigorously about the front hip, moving the bodyweight forward. This energy is transformed rapidly up the torso, through the shoulder and then down the arm to the hand.

If we truly relax as we’re so often told we should, then there is a very slight delay between the hip/waist moving and the shoulders following. This is because you’re putting all the emphasis on the hips/waist moving and not on the shoulders. However, many people move hips/waist and shoulders together, which can only really be done is there is tension in the torso linking them together.

It’s a subtle difference. When truly relaxed, the slight delay in the shoulders moving causes a torque (rotational stretch) to develop in the torso. Whenever any part of the body is stretched, it naturally wants to return to it’s relaxed position. Therefore, as a result of this torque being created by the bottom of the torso rapidly rotating, the top of the torso want to release this torque and return to it’s normal relaxed position. It does this very rapidly resulting in the feeling that the top of torso is “throwing” the arm forward, rather than thrusting it forward. The arm extends until it it is taut (NOT tense), just like the towel at the point of snapping.

One Japanese Sensei cleverly compares it to a car crash. As the car crashes and stops abruptly, anything/anybody inside is thrown forward. Likewise, as the rotation and forward momentum of the body abruptly stops, so the arm is throw forward!

When you snap the towel, at that tiny moment that it actually snaps, the whole towel goes taut (stretched out). This is described in more detail in the video above and in the free ebooks that you can download, so I won’t go into too much detail here.

So as I said at the start that this post, it has come about from a comment and discussion from the video above. The guy was talking about applying kime at the end of the technique. As mentioned above, most mainstream Karate schools talk about tensing at the end of a technique as a way of producing kime. But as with the example of snapping the towel, the towel is taut at the point of impact, not tense. If the towel was tense, it could not snap, hence could not give us the whip like impact.

So with all due respect to how other people teach, you don’t get that high impact whip like feeling by tensing at the end. Therefore, the idea of kime being a result of tensing at the end is (in my humble opinion) flawed. Following on from the rationale that kime does not come from tensing up at the end of the technique, the idea that it is something you apply or add at the end of a technique must also be flawed.

The whip-like impact comes from a high level of relaxation allowing the power generated by rotating the hips/waist forward to be transferred like a wave of energy moving through the body. This culminates in tautness (especially in the arm), rather than tension.

Therefore kime is a result of how the sequential acceleration and abrupt climax (whip) of the whole technique; rather than something that is you apply or add to the end of a technique.

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