3 Keys to Achieve Incredible Kime in Your Karate Techniques

Question:

Do you want to improve your kime?

Of course!aimee_sell_karate_seishin_gi

Kime is that magical ingredient separating good Karate practitioners from great practitioners.

It’s that split-second neuromuscular contraction at the end of your techniques.

(Also known as “wow, you have great snap in your punches!”)

But there’s nothing magical about it.

It’s simply a matter of correct technique.

There are 3 keys to kime:

  1. The Relaxation
  2. The Contraction
  3. The Timing

Most people are good at one or two of these areas.

But… you need all three!

So, let’s take a closer look to see what you can improve.

Check it out:

1. The Relaxation

Do you remember the first time you rode a bicycle?

It was probably stiff and awkward.

But after a few days you got the hang of it, right?

Today you can ride a bicycle with no hands. You’re so relaxed!

Relaxation is essential for mastery.

In Karate too.

So, the first thing you need to know about kime is that it starts from relaxation.

  • When you’re tense, you’re slow.
  • When you’re relaxed, you’re fast.

The problem is that most people don’t know how to relax.

They are so stressed out from daily life that their central nervous system is in a constant fight-or-flight mode. So they bring that mindset into the dojo.

The answer is NOT to drink more coffee.

Stop with the energy drinks too.

Bring back your natural state of inner harmony!

Only then can you truly relax. Because a relaxed body comes from a relaxed mind.

(This breathing exercise will greatly help.)

Now listen to this…

I once read a scientific study comparing the difference between Olympic swimmers and elite swimmers. The researchers concluded that both groups of swimmers had equal levels of maximal muscular tension, but the Olympic swimmers were much better at relaxing than the others. That’s why they qualified for the Olympics.

Here’s the difficult part:

You can not force yourself into relaxation.

Just ask someone to scream “RELAX!” to you, and see how it goes. Your cortisol levels (stress hormone) will shoot through the roof immediately.

Relaxation has to come from the inside.

Just like happiness. : -)

This is why I begin all my Karate classes with ‘mokuso’ (meditation).

It all starts in the mind.

2. The Contraction

Have you heard of Sir Isaac Newton’s famous laws of motion?

My favorite one is:

“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

That’s why you need to tense your muscles when you hit something.

You see, although relaxation is important, you can’t fight in a constant state of complete relaxation. Otherwise, you’ll crush every bone in your body when you hit something!

(Or hyperextend your joints in kata / kihon.)

Your body needs to be able to withstand the power you deliver.

How?

By contracting your muscles at the moment of impact.

  • Relaxation first.
  • Tension second.

(Related reading: The Complete Guide to Strength Training & Conditioning for Karate)

But it’s not enough to just squeeze your fist.

Your body doesn’t work in isolation. It works in integration.

You need to involve your whole body in your technique, so you squeeze the juice out of every relevant muscle fibre in your whole body.

This is called “zentai ryoku” in Japanese. 

Use your whole body!

3. The Timing

Is it smart to drive a car with the handbrake on?

Probably not.

The same goes for kime.jesse_enkamp_kiai

You need to switch from relaxation to contraction just before impact.

If you tense your muscles too early, your technique decelerates. This is because your antagonists (the muscles working against your movement) are holding you back.

Conversely, if you tense your muscles too late, you’ll hurt yourself.

So, you truly need to coordinate your relaxation and contraction just right!

How?

Through mindful repetition.

The more you repeat a technique, the more efficient your body becomes at delivering it.

But make sure you do it with high quality.

(Here’s my favorite way to repeat techniques.)

And that’s it.

If you boost these 3 areas, I guarantee you’ll achieve incredible kime.

Start with identifying the area you need to improve most, and practice that.

Do you need better relaxation (1), contraction (2) or timing (3)?

When you know the answer, the rest is easy.

The dojo is calling…

Good luck!

_____

PS. Check out my new video to supercharge your side kick (yoko-geri).

17 Comments

  • Jack
    There's a little more to it than that -- and the fourth step is the most complex of all.Physicists will tell you that the most energy is transferred from a striking object to a target when the striking object bounces off the target after striking it.Now -- try this; make a loose fist, keep your arm relaxed and hold it straight out in front of you at its greatest extension. Then, watch closely and tense everything including your fist, your arm and your shoulder. Note that when you tense everything your fist gets pulled back toward you, slightly.That's the final secret. Many decades ago, when I was training at Sensei Toguchi's Karate-do Shoreikan in Okinawa, emphasis was put on that final technique -- adding enough additional tension at the last, perfectly timed split-second so that the fist not only struck the target with the most possible force, but then also immediately bounced back slightly.Takes practice, but you'd be amazed at the amount of additional energy that gets transferred to the target.
    • I call what you're talking about the Unlocked-Locked Fist. I have seen it not only with my teacher, Hanshi Eihachi Ota, but in all of the Hanshi level Yudansha from Okinawa that I have seen.Bill C ;-)
  • Bucksmallsy
    Kime is 'Chi' - an energy that can only be ignited , and maintained from within one's mind and the subconscious of physicality. There is a very good reason the Mystics never ever shared such power ! Kime has absolutely nothing to do with how you clench a fist, etc, etc, etc.It can ONLY be from within one's own mind ! Sounds crazy only to those who live a falsehood !
    • ikkyo
      @Bucksmallsy... I think you're working with a different definition of Kime as to that which is commonly taught. Kime by the definition of this article is specifically a physical action and is in keeping with what is commonly understood. I think you may be confusing Kime with Ki perhaps?
      • Bucksmallsy
        No, Kime and Ki are as one - I suggest you formerly request training in the mountains of HOKKAIDO if a master will accept you (that is); and then you will understand through the true hardship and pain of training that is non-existent anywhere in the western world. My master was Sosai Mas OYAMA - who was yours ?
        • ikkyo
          I have no inclination to follow the footsteps of Mas Oyama as Kyokushin is a different path to my own. It seems to me that you are suggesting that unless someone who has gone through the exact hardships that you mention then they cannot possibly understand kime, I think that's hardly true, your prescription of kime is extremely limited and hardly realistic. Which great master did Mas Oyama learn about ki and kime from? Was it Yamaguchi, Funakoshi or someone else? Did those masters all learn kime from an unnamed master in mountains of Hokkaido through the same hardships as Oyama? I think not. Your definition of kime contradict with the content of the above article AND it contradicts what is normally understood as kime. As I said in my previous reply, your definition of kime is not the same as mine, not the same as Jesse's, not the same as anyone that I have had the pleasure of training with whether in the east, west or anywhere in between. As far as I'm aware there is no scientific evidence to support ki, chi, qi or whatever and reports suggest that ki only exists in the believer and has zero effect on a sceptic. I'm not going to attack or defend anyone's belief either way, we are all entitled to follow our own belief system. Either way kime can be described in it's purely physical form as this article shows. To you kime and ki are one and the same, to others kime can exist even if ki is seen as a myth. Each to their own. At the end of the day karate is about using what we've got to have the most decisive effect whatever the design or method.
  • Thank you for sharing this information Jesse. A number of your articles talk about things I have started to realise through hard training and the confirmation your articles provide that I am on the right track is good for my confidence and motivation.
  • Ossu!I've been driving with the parking brake on for most of my training and I knew it was affecting my speed but I wasn't aware that it was also affecting my kime. That explains my improvement with that too. Thank you for outlining things I can work on for further growth in skill!
  • Nijil1
    Amazing Article! :D I love how you present stuff, makes thing interesting always, I shall make sure to improve on these. A question, the answer on how to improve all 3 is the same right? PRACTICE? One day when I earn my own money I want to learn from you and come to your Dojo.
  • Nandana
    Really wonderful article. Just wondering though, in order to achieve the maximum, don't you have to include "Speed" to this?
  • Papi
    La teoría esta muy bien ahora a practicar.
  • Novice
    Now I understand why my sensei often reminds me that I should be less tense... I had been wondering how come his movements seem so light but at the same time strong and fast. The big mistake I kept repeating during the beginner's course was concentrating on reaching the same speed even though it was the technique that I had to improve (one senpai told me to "slow down" more than a couple of times). Despite this I have apparently improved my technique at least to an adequate level since I was recently graded and earned my yellow belt.
  • I think you explanation is superb.i been activly evolved in martial arts all of my life,the one big thing that saddens me is lots of high grade martial artists do not listen to other experienced artists and learn something,insted they talk rather than listen. You do not make your candel brighter by blowing out someone else's I think the word sho Shen comes to mind
  • maryam
    Hi I do karate and I enjoy your tip. Thanks
  • Adrian
    I think the best description of Kime I have heard is harmony, as all the old masters say "every move in karate has kime" then how would you equate the snap from a punch that people say is kime relate to a pressing block? Were the word harmony covers, mind focused, muscles working together to put body and limbs in the correct position and deliver correct level of force at the correct time, balancing all together in harmony to a complete an effective technique with no unnecessary movements whether a punch, kick , throw or a wrist lock...
  • Matthew Dear
    Personally I believe the only muscles you should be contracting are your lower body muscles and core ( or your tanden). Upper body should be completely relaxed otherwise your punches are going to be rigid & slow. I don't agree with squeezing your fists when you are punching or blocking because that will make your arm movements slow and ineffective.I believe you should focus on the torque of the hands as the rotation of the hands directs your energy from your body (punching) as well as absorbing energy from an attack (blocking).Having a relaxed upper body will lead to quick arm movements with no contraction none whatsoever but just only hand torques.
    • You need muscular tension at the moment of impact, Matthew-san. Otherwise you break your bones. But of course, if you never hit anything (i.e. just punch thin air) then it's not as big of a deal. Depends on what you want to use your Karate for :-)

Leave a comment