Sunday, 1 February 2015

Health Benefits of Karate Do Training (Continued) 脇閉め (Waki Shime)

I ended the last post rather abruptly after a very brief introduction to a term that really deserves its own blog post, 脇閉め Waki Shime, the closing or contracting of specific muscles on the side of the body located around the armpit and shoulder region. This term is often used in Karate Do training. If you come to Japan and train for any length of time I am sure you will hear Sensei yell this to their students reminding them to focus on this throughout whatever movements they are performing whether it be during 形 Kata Practice or 組手 Kumite Practice, Waki Shime is a very important part of Karate Do technique. So, let me pick up from where we left off, below is the information that I gave you at the end of my last post regarding the radicals of the Kanji:

脇閉め Waki Shime
I would like to take a quick look at the term Waki Shime as it is a very important aspect of Karate Do training and often a central point of advice given by many Senseii all  over the world. Let's start by taking a closer look at the kanji and break it down in order to build our deeper understanding of the components of Waki I am of the opinion that it means a lot more than just armpit. If we look at the radicals of this Kanji separately we can see it in a new light. Below is a short definition taken from:
that you can find online with a simple search.

Radicals in Kanji
A radical (bushu) is a common sub-element found in different kanji characters. Every kanji has a radical or a radical itself can be a kanji. Radicals express the general nature of the kanji characters. A radical is the part of the kanji character that gives you a clue to its origin, group, meaning or pronunciation. Many kanji dictionaries organize characters by their radicals. There are 214 radicals. (, Japanese Language)
There is a great website that lists all of these radicals and their meanings, please check out if you are interested in learning more. It may also be a good idea to reference this site and compare the Kanji that you are stuying in order to deconstruct them and learn more about their complex meaning. Below are the general groups of radicals and where they are located within the Kanji character:
Radicals are roughly divided into seven groups (hen, tsukuri, kanmuri, ashi, tare, nyou, and kamae) by their positions.
hen tsukuri kanmuri ashi
tare nyou kamae
                                                                                                            (, Japanese Language)

In the case of 脇 Waki, we can see there is the radical of 月 located in the region of the 扁 Hen area of the Character located on the left hand side of the character and three 力 grouped together in the 旁 Tsukuri area which is also referred to as "the body" of the Character.

Taking a Closer look 
At first glance one may assume that the 月扁 Tsuki Hen, in Waki is Moon or Month but, in fact this radical has ties to Meat and Flesh and isn't even Tsuki Hen at all but rather 肉月(にくづき) Niku-tsuki this radical can be found in many Kanji dealing with or related to the body and parts of the body such as 肩 Kata, Shoulder, 腰 Koshi, Waist, 腹 Hara, Abdomen, etc. The 旁 Tsukuri portion of this kanji is fairly straight forward, it means a collection of power; individual areas of power on the human body brought together to create a unified power, in this case for the purpose of striking. The use of three individual characters brought together to form one Kanji can also be seen in the examples of 森 Mori, three trees brought together to represent a Forest. or 口 Kuchi, Mouth brought together to represent an Article or Goods. So, we can see that by deconstructing the Kanji and looking at the radicals individually, we can see the picture more clearly. Please do this in your own research when you come across the various Kanji of importance.

Now, getting back to Waki Shime and the message therein. Developing true power through combining specific areas of strength through natural body movement facilitated by healthy contracting and extending of muscle groups in sequence creating a wave of power that runs through the body and can be delivered in a strike of the hands or feet that all depends upon the quality of our Waki Shime and our understanding of our own bodies.

 The picture to the Left can be viewed at it details the back muscles of the human body from the neck to the lower back. It is a little more detailed than the picture I included in my previous blog. The muscles we are concentrating on when we focus our attention on Waki Shime can be seen in this picture to the left and the picture below from, it should be pointed out the the various muscle groups need to be contracted and extended in natural combinations to maintain Waki Shime throughout our movements. Therefore, when I say that we have to focus on these groups I do not mean that we must contract all of these muscles but focus our attention on the state of each and be aware of how they are working together in our movements.

The character 脇 Waki, as described earlier, contains three separate symbols of 力 which can be read the following ways: Chikara, Riki, Ryoku and mean Power or Force. Check out the link below for further information, if you would like.

We can imagine three muscle groups working in conjunction to unify our latissmus dorsi, external obliques, and on the front of our body, the pectoralis major (See photo Above, Right) to create a solid definition of Waki Shime and to achieve greater Kime in our techniques. You may also want to check out this site which has a couple of nice added features like a scroll-over function to identify different muscle groups,

It takes practice and concentration to be able to trigger the right muscles in the proper combination to deliver a smooth, accurate and powerful techniques, a process that I believe requires both practice and study. This, like many things in Karate Do, we may never fully understand or master, but our pursuit of this knowledge and skill brings a unique purpose to our lives that enhances both our body and mind in far reaching ways.

In this post I wanted to do two things. Of course, I wanted to introduce the concept of Waki Shime and its importance in Karate Do training as it has been an area in which my personal growth has deeply affected both my level of training and my physical health. You can see the physical change to my body in the photos from the O Taki Gyou in my previous post. The second thing that I wanted to share with you is the way I look at Kanji now and how looking at Kanji in this way has helped me to understand these concepts a little more clearly. You can deconstruct them for yourself by looking up the radicals and their meanings online. So, why don't you give it a try? Let's look together at the next concept that is equally as important to our training in the physical respect, 締め Shime and 張り Hari.

締め and 張り (Shime and Hari)
Another concept which needs to be addressed and is a further example of the juxtaposition of these forces; relaxation and tension, contraction and extension and how they need to be used together to develop healthy flow is 締め Shime and 張り Hari. Let's take a quick look at these two kanji before finishing this entry. Please try to deconstruct the characters by looking at the radicals individually and then together again as I demonstrated with 脇 Waki above. You may notice that the kanji for Shime is different. 締め as opposed to 閉め please visit the site I listed above to look up the radicals and their meanings. Compare these two ways to write Shime and discuss your thoughts with people in your Dojo. Also, please feel free to leave comments regarding what you find.

I would like to talk more about the mind and body connection as well as address a statement I made when I started this series. In my next post, I would like to address the statement that Karate Do can offer us a "map" or an "outline" to healthy living in three main areas: Physical, Mental, and Spiritual. I realize that this is a very heavy statement to make and I am aware that I need to back it up with fact. I am working on how to verbalize the experiences I have had and the feelings they have caused. Both the experiences and the feelings shaped my growth as I am sure they have shaped yours.
Until next time, thank you for following these posts.


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