I love movies like Azumi the teenage assassin girl that fights evil warlords and of course Tarantino’s Kill Bill. And although these movies were not the reason I started with karate, I sometimes catch myself day-dreaming about one day being a fighter as skilled as “The Bride”, if I practice really hard.
Unfortunately, the reality is that I couldn’t be further away from that dream. One reason being that my karate lacks “kime”. Powerful punches and kicks are what Shotokan karate is famous for. This, according to our karate instructors, is achieved by perfect “kime”. Of course, all of us karate students want to have this perfect “kime” and I am no exception, but it seems that no matter how hard I try to punch and distort my facial expression to match this punch, I lack “kime”.
I can’t help but wonder whether “kime” really is a thing.
If you look up “kime” you will find that it comes from the word “kimeru” which means “to decide” in Japanese. The concept of “kime” is Shotokan specific and originally promoted by high-ranking master of Shotokan Karate-dō, Nakayama Masatoshi (1913-1987). Master Nakayama was a 9th dan while alive and posthumously awarded a 10th dan in 1987. According to master Nakayama, the essence of karate techniques is ‘”kime” and he explains this as an explosive attack to the target, combining the right technique and maximum power in the shortest possible time – “focussed impact”. A technique lacking “kime” is not true karate. Master Nakayama was a descendant of the Sanada clan and of samurai lineage. His ancestors were highly skilled instructors of kenjutsu (the art of swordsmanship). After joining university in 1932, Master Nakayama joined the university’s karate club under Master Funakoshi Gichin and decided to devote his life to karate. Supreme Master Funakoshi Gichin (1868-1957) is considered the father of modern karate.
So is there for us – non-samurai descendent Westerners who don’t have our complete lives devoted to karate, but merely do it as a neat way to stay fit and to get us off that ever so comfortable couch after a long day of work – any hope of achieving this perfect “kime”?
I searched the internet to find little less philosophical but more practical explanations of achieving “kime” than “focussed impact” or “focussed power” and this is what I found:
1) In order to make “kime”, your entire body must be tensed like a bronze statue. To get maximum tension, “kime”, the most important thing to do is to relax first. The degree of tension correlates to that of the delta between tension and relaxation. In other words, the larger the gap between non-tension (being relaxed) and tension, the sharper the “kime” one can achieve.
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