Karate Thoughts Blog

Contents   /   Email  /   Atom  /   RSS  /  

1650+ Posts... and Counting

Shinitai -- Dead Body

Shinitai means "dead body." This refers to a condition in which the body has come to rest and lost its energy or tension. Imagine a slingshot. After the rock is shot, the rubberband falls limp. This is "dead body." In order to shoot another rock, the rubberband will have to be pulled back again -- energy will have to be used to restore the tension.

Now imagine an improved slingshot which instantly rewinds and reloads after each shot. As soon as one rock is shot, another is ready. This is "live body." The gaps in tension are minimized.

One of the objectives of Karate is to avoid having a "dead body" and to attack when the opponent falls into this condition.

Here is a practical example. You punch (however you like). If your movement ends with the punch, you will have to exert new energy to do something else, such as punch again or block. You punched and have now come to rest. At this point, you have a "dead body." Of course, you are not dead -- it is just that your body has come to rest and lost its tension. If you were a slingshot, you would have to pull the rubberband back again.

Now, if you had recovered the energy of the punch, rewound it so to speak, you would be ready for the next movement. You would have tension in your body. We tend to call this compression. Your body is not stiff but your muscles and tendons are under tension, like a slingshot or bow. From one movement to another, you are compressing, releasing, and recompressing. One movement's end fuels the next movement's beginning. It is a dynamic process.

This is one reason that our system is not designed for tournaments. There are no fixed points to evaluate. Properly done, our movements have no beginning or end, and there are no fixed stances. Everything is moving. Even when we appear still, the movement is ongoing inside. In fact, that is what distinguishes advanced students -- they can internalize the tension and compression so that the process is not visible (or less visible) from the outside. There is no telegraphing of the technique or the preparation for the technique.

A slingshot has only one rubberband, just as a primitive bow usually has only one string. In the body, there are many crisscrossing and overlapping sources of tension that can be used to generate and recover power. Imagine that you have 10 slingshots that are connected such that shooting one primes another.

When your opponent has "dead body" it is an opening for you. When your opponent has a "live body," you will feel relucatant to attack. Your job is to identify the opponent's condition and to maintain your own "live body."


Charles C. Goodin