Monday, March 19, 2012


I realized something recently that I always knew.

If you're saying to yourself, "wait, what?" then congrats, you're awake!

In both SJT and karate there's a lot of focus on the hara, the seat of movement. I'm using hara on everything from the flashiest spinning kick to the smallest tap on the drum. While I've made comparisons between the arts on the use of hara, I just now started thinking about the comparison within each art individually.

There's two things I want to get to in my post:
  • The more things you can keep the same, the easier everything is.

In SJT, we play betta (down), naname (slant), tateuchi (upstand) odaiko, shime, katsugi okedo, and a host of other percussion. If you have to learn a completely different stance and grip and way of moving your body for each of those, it would take a dozen years to just get "good" at them all. And that's assuming you're able to keep up and not let anything slip along the way. That's a crazy amount of information and too much pressure.

If you find the common links between them all, you never have to start from scratch whenever you approach something new. Things like wrist snap, relaxation, and generating power from the hara translate across the board.

Granted, it's not always easy to make those translations. Take for instance the odaiko, which utilizes everything that playing betta does, but not in the same fashion. I can teach you how to stand and how to strike and how to relax when playing odaiko but until you figure out how it's supposed to feel within your own body, it may feel nothing like betta.

  • Moving from the center tends to make things stronger, faster, and easier.

I can punch you as hard as I possibly can using just my arm and it will hurt. That sort of punch comes from both the shoulder and arm muscles and can be pretty damned fast. However, if I generate the initial power from my hara - my center - the acceleration goes beyond anything my upper body alone can muster and adds my body's mass to the potential power. The result? More damage, more speed, and less effort because I'm spreading out the responsibility throughout my body.

It doesn't matter if it's a punch or striking with bachi, the exact same principles come into play. What's misleading is that using the hara so much at first feels like anything but efficient. The body wiggles, bounces, shifts, all these extra motions that take more energy to control. Once hara becomes an ally rather than a stranger, almost everything can get stronger, faster, and easier.

You can only hit a taiko so hard before you're doing damage - not just to the drum, but to yourself! Efficiency should take precedent over power here. For those on the other side, who have trouble generating power in their strike, the hara is where a lot of that missing power can come from, once you tap into it.


I don't consider the hara to be some sort of "mystical well" of energy - simply put, it's your deeper core muscles. By understanding your hara, you can achieve some amazing things. You won't get as tired when you play, you won't need to rely on arm strength, you can pick up a different way of playing much quicker, you'll generate more power with less effort, etc.

Once you understand moving from the center, youll spend less time figuring out what's different on new things and instead understanding what's mutual. Instead of looking outside-in, you'll be moving from inside-out.

Discovering hara-based movement isn't always easy and even when you're able to feel it, it may not be easy to utilize it or remember it. However, there are few things that will benefit you more to study.

1 comment:

  1. Ah! "The more things you do the same, the easier it is" also explains how a musician who plays one kind of stringed instrument probably plays 4 or 5 other (stringed) instruments. As for the hara, yes, the core muscles. I should be using them for everything, not just taiko. Usually, I suspect, I substitute Shoulder muscles for Hara muscles.... a good checkpoint. Thanks again!