The Speed Of Chi

steve pad

“Padwork!”  We paired off and collected a set of hook and jab pads.

“Warm up with half speed techniques, using only straight jab, cross and hook punches, low front and round kicks.”  The pad holder held the pad full on for the straight jabs, angled for the cross punches, side on for the hooks, full on low for the front kick and angled and down for the low round kicks.  The pad position let the hitter know which strike was required.

“Okay, now change distance and angle…”  This meant that the hitter had to constantly adjust distance and angle to get the impact required on the pads.

“Good….  Now start punishing for a bad guard…”  This gave the pad holder the opportunity to retaliate with the pad and politely ‘punish’ the hitter for any lapse in guard.  This tended to be done humorously.

“Okay change holder and hitter…”  The pad holder became the hitter and the hitter the pad holder.

Eventually we punched and kicked ourselves to a standstill….

“Mokuso….”  We stood still with both hands on our lower abdomen.

“Control your breathing, breathe from the stomach, open and straighten the back, close your mouth, tongue to the top palette, soften down the front midline of the body, pull in the lower abdomen, breath through and flare your nostrils….”  We stood for a few minutes allowing heart, mind and breath to harmonise…

“Power strikes..”  We worked on uppercuts using both fist and open hand, downward hammerfist and palm heel strikes, hook punches, slaps, round hammerfist, backfist and knife hand strikes.

“Short range to the body…”  One of us held the pad to our chest and the other stood naturally sideways on with the fist a couple of inches away from the target and delivered a short range punch into the pad.  Richard kept bouncing off the pad as he hit it.

“Richard, use the hammer and screw motion of the wrist to get penetration..”

“Sensei, I think it’s because his body mass is significantly more than mine..” wailed Richard.

“That’s why we have to use skill Richard..”  Sensei said patiently…

“But I feel that I am using the skills and it doesn’t make the difference I’m expecting.”

“Then change your expectations…  but don’t forget that one of the eight principles is ‘mind’…”

“And that means?” asked Richard quizzically.

“Where your ‘yi’ goes, your ‘chi’ follows…”

“And that means?”  Richard was now getting exasperated..

“Where your intention goes, your animation follows..”

“And this will make a difference to my power?”

“It certainly will…”

“I can’t see how it will overcome his superior body mass…”

“Don’t forget that the body is a slave to the mind, mental training and mindset is an integral part of everything that we do, his size is intimidating you and interfering with your technique and therefore your energy.”


“By deconstructing your posture and internal alignment and making your mind and chi energy go backwards.”

“Sensei….  How fast does chi travel?”  Richard had a scientific enquiring minds.

“At the speed of thought?”  Jon responded with lightening speed, but Richard wanted answers and wouldn’t let go….

“We encourage the flow of chi in meditation and you say our intention is to send out the ‘scouts’ and the ‘army’ of chi follows quite slowly. With hard work in training we ‘thread the 9 pearls’ forming the internal connections and when those connections are made chi travel seems to be instant, or as Jon observed ‘as fast as a brain impulse’ we hold chi throughout our body so is it the ‘awareness’ that’s travelling and not the chi?”

“Does it matter?  We aren’t scientists – we have the ‘users manual’ not the scientific explanation.  If you asked me how a light works I’d say that you turn it on at the switch, that’s all I need to know.  I’m not interested in the science behind it, it’s the same with my karate.  When we meditate, we’re strengthening the links and channels by using our intention, a bit like moving slowly to reinforce technique for when we move fast.  In some of the healing meditations we deliberately move the animation or the awareness slowly to help nourish the body.  By developing the animation or awareness throughout the body, responses and alignments become instant.

“So how am I going to make this work within my punch?”

“By technical practice, mental reinforcement and mindset. You’re thinking too much of the ‘why’s’ and not enough of the ‘how’s’.  Get the physical technique right and add in the visualisation and mindset.

Richard took a few moments, delivered his punch and got his first “OOOOOF” of the night as his partner doubled with the penetration of his punch.

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