Mastering kime and being able to deliver crisp and clean techniques with exceptional power are difficult to achieve and require many years of dedicated practice. However, understanding and applying the right principles of power generation and transfer can help expedite your progress. This article aims to shed light on these principles and help you achieve this goal.
What Is Kime?
Kime (決め) is a Japanese word derived from the verb “kimeru” (決める) which has the following possible meanings:
- to decide; to choose; to determine; to make up one’s mind; to resolve; to set one’s heart on; to settle; to arrange; to set; to appoint; to fix
- to clinch (a victory); to decide (the outcome of a match)
- to persist in doing; to go through with
- to always do; to have made a habit of
- to take for granted; to assume
- to dress up; to dress to kill; to dress to the nines
- to carry out successfully (a move in sports, a pose in dance, etc.); to succeed in doing
- to immobilize with a double-arm lock (in sumo, judo, etc.)
In the context of karate and martial arts in general, kime means to fix, set or focus the power of a technique on an opponent at the moment of contact.
For example, when you punch an opponent’s nose, your body as well as your attacking arm should be totally relaxed until a fraction of second before your fist comes into contact with the opponent’s nose. At that point, you contract the whole body including the attacking arm and transfer all the power of the punch through to the opponent on contact.
Your aim in martial arts is not just kime or focusing the power onto the opponent but generating exceptional power, concentrating that power at a precise moment and transferring all that power to your opponent to achieve maximum impact at the point of contact.
Ikken hissatsu or one killing blow technique in karate is not possible without a good kime.
In the remainder of this article, we will look at important principles covering power generation, power concentration and power transfer to help you achieve good kime.
How to Achieve Kime in Martial Arts?
1. Apply pressure to the ground
The first step in delivering a strong technique with a good kime is creating a solid foundation for power generation by applying pressure to the ground.
What this means is don’t lift your heels up before executing a technique, pushing them to the ground instead.
Remember, Newton’s third law of motion that whenever one object exerts a force on a second object, the second object exerts an equal and opposite force on the first. The stronger you push against the ground, the stronger the ground pushes you back and, the stronger the ground pushes you back, the more potential power you have to harvest and deliver it to the opponent.
You simply cannot shoot a cannon from a canoe, build a castle on shifting sand, or push a car forward from a mushy and slippery ground. If you don’t apply pressure to the ground or, worse, lift your heels or execute a technique while stepping, you don’t have much power to start with and whatever else you do with your legs, hips or arms can do little to improve the power of your techniques.
Sometimes you will have to work with what you have, for example, kick or punch while on one foot and you do need to practice to prepare for those situations too, but beware that this is not the optimal condition to generate power.
2. Hip rotation
Hip rotation plays a crucial role in engaging more body mass, enhancing the power of your techniques, and achieving a stronger kime.
Remember Newton’s second law of motion which states that force equals mass multiplied by acceleration (F = m * a). In other words, the more body mass and acceleration involved, the greater the force generated.
Therefore, as a general rule, to maximize the power of your techniques, you should rotate your hips (this is also where your center of gravity is) to incorporate as much body mass as possible.
If you just use your arms and legs, there is a very little body mass involved and your techniques will be weak. But if you rotate your hips and mobilize a significant portion of your body mass, you can significantly increase the power of your techniques.
At the beginning, you may want to exaggerate hip movements. However, as you progress, you typically don’t need to rotate your hips more than 20-30 degrees to facilitate the generation and transfer of power.
3. Total relaxation
The third step in producing a strong technique with good kime is to maintain total relaxation until the moment of impact to ensure a smooth transfer of power.
Assuming that you have got the first step right – applying sufficient pressure to the ground and receiving an equal and opposite force – now it’s time to focus on harnessing this force for hand or leg techniques. For hand techniques, the power should flow through your legs, hips, torso, shoulders, and arms, ultimately reaching your opponent. Similarly, for leg techniques, power needs to travel from the ground, through your leg, hips, and to the other leg.
In order for the power to be transferred smoothly and without impediment, you need to aim for total relaxation. Any tension in your mind or any part of your body will disrupt this kinetic chain and hinder the transfer of power.
To become more relaxed and make your techniques faster and more powerful, you need a lot of practice because telling yourself to relax can only do so much.
You can tell a beginner to relax but they will still tense up when they perform a technique without knowing it. They still need to think about where to put their hands, the trajectory of the hands and how they travel. This is why white belts move like robot despite their instructors repeatedly telling them they need to relax. However, after a lot of practice, they will eventually get to the point that they can do it without thinking and they’ll be able to relax a lot more and the power of their techniques will increase accordingly.
In addition to practice, cultivating presence of mind is crucial. Free your mind from tension, worries, and distracting thoughts, focusing solely on the task at hand. If your mind tenses up, your body will follow suit. Therefore, cultivating mental relaxation is equally vital to achieving physical relaxation and maximizing the power of your techniques.
The fourth step in delivering a good kime is engaging contraction at the moment of contact.
While relaxation aids in the smooth transfer of power, contraction is essential for delivering destructive force upon impact.
Consider the scenario of punching someone’s face: if you remain relaxed upon impact, your fist will be soft, your hand may bend, and there is a higher risk of wrist injury as a result. However, by momentarily contracting your entire body at the point of impact, you can drive your fist forward like a bullet, smashing the opponent and causing a lot of damage.
This technique is not difficult to learn because your body instinctively knows that it will get hurt if it doesn’t contract at the right moment. The best way to train this is to hit real objects like a makiwara, a punching bag, focus mitts or a willing partner on a regular basis. Begin slowly with a limited number of repetitions, focusing on perfecting the technique and emphasizing the contraction of your body upon impact. With regular practice, you will build muscle memory and this will quickly become a natural instinct.
5. Right timing
Contraction must occur at the right moment, ideally just a fraction of a second before making contact with the target so that a technique can achieve its intended objective.
Contracting or tensing too soon before hitting the target will slow you down and reduce the power of your technique, very much like driving a car with the brake on. On the other hand, contracting too late and you will likely injure yourself, similar to attempting to drill a hole in concrete with a sugar cane stick. As mentioned above, hitting a hard target with a soft fist will hurt yourself a lot more more than hurting your opponent. Again, right timing can be achieved by practicing hitting real objects a lot.
6. Breathe naturally
To support the generation of power and delivering a good kime, I believe you should breathe naturally while performing your techniques. Don’t hold your breath back but also don’t force your breath.
You may have come across various recommendations online or from karate instructors suggesting that you synchronize your breathing with the execution of techniques. Some advise sharply and forcefully exhaling at the point of impact to enhance focus and power. Others suggest exhaling during blocks and attacks, with inhalation in between actions. There’s also advice to exhale around 60-70% of your breath at the moment of kime.
However, Inoue Yoshimi, a renowned instructor who has trained many world kata champions, teaches a different approach: natural breathing without any audible sound. I concur with his view.
Trust yourself, your body knows how to breathe from the moment you are born. Avoid complicating things unnecessarily and let your body do what it’s well capable of doing. You will find that when you are executing a technique with the intention of delivering a finishing blow (especially if accompanied by a good kiai), you will naturally breathe out more forcefully.
The main reason that you hold your breath or breathe shallowly is tension, anxiety, or nervousness. However, as you train more, gain knowledge and experience, and develop confidence in your abilities, you will relax more and breathe more naturally. There is no need to force your breath.
Inoue Sensei demonstrates that inhaling between actions and exhaling on kime points have the opposite effect. They make your body stiff and actually result in a loss of speed, power, and effectiveness.
If you are doubtful of the validity of Inoue’s advice, I suggest you conduct an experiment on yourself. Observe how attempting to coordinate breathing with technique executions affects the speed and power of your techniques.
7. Transfer power through
When executing your techniques, you should aim to transfer all the power to the target upon impact to achieve a strong kime. There should be no stop, pull-back or snap back.
You may have come across advice that suggest stopping or pulling back at the kime point to prevent joint over-extension and reduce the risk of injury. However, in traditional karate practice, emphasis is placed upon transferring all the power through to maximize the destructive power of a technique. At the kime moment, there should be a feeling of expansion, allowing the power to flow through freely and there should never be a feeling of pulling back.
For instance, if you intend to punch someone’s nose, the aim should be to drive the punch all the way through to the back of their head. This ensures that the power is allowed to flow unimpeded throughout the technique. What stopping your body from following through with the technique is the snap back motion of your hips.
The concept of pull-back or snap back may be populated by sport karate competitions, where points are awarded for merely reaching the target and quickly retracting without necessarily focusing on power transfer. But this is not how you want your techniques to work in real combats.
In actual combat situations, the objective is to generate maximum power and impact. You don’t want to just touch the target and pull back and fail to achieve the desired outcome.
8. Don’t push
At kime point, your fist, foot, fingers, or elbow should be like a spear piercing and penetrating the target and it should never feel like you are pushing at the target.
Pushing tendency usually happens when you tense too early before reaching the target and you end up pushing through rather than drilling it in or slamming it into the target.
If you engage your hips correctly and initiate a technique from your hips rather than your arms or legs, your technique will be swift and snappy similar to the way one cracks a whip and you won’t be pushing at the target.
9. Instant relaxation following kime
You should relax immediately following kime. This allows you to conserve energy and be instantly ready for your next action. This principle should apply to all of your karate practice from kihon, to kata and kumite. You should aim for total relaxation throughout and tension and contraction should be deployed only at the moment of kime.
10. Hit the makiwara daily
Regularly striking the makiwara or other real objects is essential in helping you achieving good kime.
As mentioned previously, hitting real objects like a makiwara, a heavy bag, focus mitts or practicing partners help you develop proper distancing, timing, muscle contraction, and ultimately, good kime.
When you strike a solid object instead of striking through thin air and you don’t do it properly, you’ll know it immediately: the object won’t yield and you will likely hurt yourself. Therefore, consistently practicing hitting real objects will allow you to refine your techniques and improve your kime.
A makiwara is an invaluable tool in helping you develop good techniques and kime because it provides progressive resistance. However, if you don’t have one, a heavy bag is also a good alternative.
11. Consistent training
Regular and consistent training is crucial for developing kime. You can learn all the science-based principles or receive the best tips from world karate champions but without spending time on the dojo floor or at home to polish your techniques, there will be no progress.
Regular practice helps you develop muscle memory and establish strong neural connections so that, over time, those techniques will become like second nature, enabling you to perform them with fluidity, power, and effectiveness and that means great kime.
12. Seeking feedback
Following the above principles can help you improve your techniques but nothing can replace a good instructor. Therefore, don’t hesitate to seek feedback from your instructors or experienced practitioners you happen to meet. They can provide guidance specifically tailored to enhancing your kime.
A skilled instructor or senior practitioner possesses the knowledge, expertise, and experience to identify nuances in your technique and provide targeted feedback for improvement. They can offer personalized advice, corrections, and insights that can significantly enhance your understanding and execution of kime.
Remember, good kime doesn’t happen overnight, it requires patience, consistency, and attention to detail. However, following the principles set out above coupled with regular practice and a dedicated mindset will certainly help you improve the ability to generate power and develop strong kime in your karate techniques.
Other posts you might be interested in:
Other references noted above.
Confidence is a valuable attribute. Those who exude confidence believe in their own abilities, skills, judgment, and decisions and are likely to approach challenges in life with a sense of...
Many are of the view that to improve their karate, they need to train with senior students and instructors, the higher their dan, the better. However, the truth is, you can learn just as much from...