I got to spend a couple hours at Sensei's basement dojo this weekend, getting in some learning time after spending the last couple of weeks teaching. He taught me the beginning of Chatan yara no Sai (which I am loving), and then we worked bunkai for the basics, using more variations in more depth than we have before. It was a nice mix of mental learning and physical practice, after the several months of almost straight physical drill running up to my shodan test.
Sensei had a DVD by an Isshinryu/Dillman karateka named Chris Thomas, and we worked those applications, seeing what worked for us, and what didn't (things like relative height were very relevant for some applications). We spend a good half-hour just on one five minute segment, so the DVD seemed very worthwhile, and I've put it on my Amazon wishlist, though it's a little outside my budget right this moment.
The title for this post though, comes from one of those enlightening moments when an explanation clicks and something finally makes sense. Sensei Thomas was showing a technique that included an extremely short range punch, and started talking about the difference between a push and a throw.
The human upper body is well put together for both throwing and pushing, but mechanically the two actions are quite distinct, even though they use the same body parts. To throw, the movement starts with the hips or with the feet, and travels up and out to the hands, almost like the crack of a whip. Pushing, however is almost the opposite motion. You don't start pushing a piece of furniture by throwing your hips into the action before your upper body is set. Instead, the upper body gets into frame (like a ballroom dancer's frame), and then the lower body and hips kick in to add the power.
Pretty much every hand technique we use boils down to an essential pushing movement, or an essential throwing movement. I knew that I had a much easier time making the connections from core to hand with some techniques than with others, but it hadn't hit me that it might be because things actually needed to happen in a different order. 'Throwing' motions have worked well for me for a while - I'm dangerous with a downward tetsui - but how often does one use that outside of board breaking? - while 'pushing' techniques have lacked that connected feeling more often than not.
So I've been having fun the last couple of days playing around with various techniques and the feel of pushing vs. throwing. It's already giving me a better feel for when to engage the hips - if only by giving me more notions on how to vary things when experimenting. If the advanced sessions continue this enlightening, it's going to be a fascinating year!