The Two Sides of Muchimi

Imagine a big jar filled with honey.

Sweet, sticky, thick honey… Stop drooling, it’s only a thought experiment!

Okay, now imagine a person trapped inside the jar. Yes, it’s a life size jar, filled with honey.

And it’s a man trapped inside. Yes you read right.

That man is going to punch his way out. He chambers… then slowly starts twisting his hips, using his whole body to generate power… slowly, slowly, his fist is travelling forward…then boom! The jar shatters. He punched his way out of the jar.

This is the Okinawan style of generating power – “Muchimi”.

Muchimi is a heavy, sticky, feeling.

You will not find it in the Japanese dictionary though.

It is a unique authentic Okinawan word – Describing a native Okinawan concept of transferring power. The word actually comes from the word mochi, which is a sticky rice cake (as seen in the picture). They’re quite delicious…

Muchimi is kind of like punching in honey. You slowly start… by generating power with your feet, then legs, hips, up along the spine, through your latissimus dorsi and then explode fast out through the arms, releasing all of the power you have been winding up.

This is the old way of doing waza (techniques) in Okinawa.

Muchimi is used for all techniques: Punches, kicks, strikes, you name it. And if you have ever seen old style Okinawan Karate, then you will know what muchimi is, even if nobody has told you that it is called muchimi. You recognize it immediately.

Because it is different from Japanese Karate.

The Japanese style is to be completely still, and then suddenly explode out, from 0% to 100% in the shortest time possible. Compared to that, you could say muchimi is a more “flowing” way of power, not relying on muscle power. Muchimi is relaxation.

Think of words like heavy, sticky, thick, pasty.

I think doughy is good too.

You really have to see somebody use muchimi style techniques, then I guarantee that you will understand it. It’s like the whole body is a giant whip.

Quite impressive, if done by the right person.

But there is another side of the coin.

Since muchimi refers to being sticky and heavy, you use it in close range grappling too – when you don’t want to lose contact with the opponent. This is an important concept in for example Ju-Jutsu, Wrestling or MMA.

They don’t call it muchimi, of course, that’s only in Okinawa. They call it “leave no gaps” or “no empty spaces”, or “no air”. The goal is the same though: Economy of Movement, and Maintaining Control.

If you don’t stick to the opponent, you are not in control. Either you are close, or far away. Those are the only two options. In between those two, you don’t have control. So when you are close, be sure to stick.

Like a rice cake.

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That was a brief description of muchimi. As you can see, the priniple of muchimi has two uses: Muchimi is both the heavy/sticky feeling when starting a long range technique, and also the concept of stickiness/heaviness in close combat.

Quite practical.

Is muchimi still being used today? Yes it is.

But I think it is divided: The muchimi style of punches/strikes/kicks etc. is mostly used in Shorin-ryu schools nowadays, while the close quarter grappling version is mostly used in Goju-ryu (kakie). With some exceptions.

The ultimate goal is to be able to use it in any situation, of course.

Muchimi – The Okinawan way of power.

Remember the word.

11 Comments

  • Jim Maxwell
    Hi Jesse - another interesting blog entry.I found a few video clips (YouTube) showing the "sticky hands" aspect you mentioned but I'm having difficulty finding any that are "obviously" showing the more dynamic application of the "whipping" action - can you point me at any ?I'm having difficulty understanding (from your description) how this method won't lead to an obvious "prior movement" poreceding the technique's delivery...Jim
    • Beryl Rosenberg
      "Whipping" is a word that is more frequently used by Chinese martial arts. It's wise to keep this in mind. I would like to see a comparison of whipping technique vs speed thrusting that seems to be the Japanese method. Also, highly skilled boxers will "whip out" a jab for both exploratory and tactical defensive techniques during a fight.
  • Hi JimThanks!Yes, I think this is a good example of the whip-type muchimi power http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xAp7uCWpfEObvious prior movement, yes in the beginning stage, but when done fast/good, it's negligible.
  • Jim Maxwell
    Thanks for the clip Jesse - I think I'm starting to see the differences now :)Jim
  • Hi Jesse - great article, I just found it via your more recent post on "chinkuchi" which was also very interesting. I live and train in Okinawa in Matsubayashi-ryu karate under Arakaki Toshimitsu Hanshi. When talking about "muchimi" he strongly emphasises the concept of "bane" or "hane" which as you probably know means a spring or springiness in Japanese. In demonstration that expresses itself in a number of ways, often like the energy in a coiled spring when a movement, shuto-uke for example, is released and accelerated using the pent up power in the body and focussed at the point of impact in a wave-like movement. Your exploding honey jar metaphor was a good one in this regard I thought! I also agree that the principle is equally relevant to close range techniques too and when you look at the basic foundation techniques in Okinawan karate it is clear that the target effective fighting range is a very short or close one as you close down and control your opponents balance and movement, and position them firmly via a grab, lock or throw for a decisive strike. Like you say very impressive and powerful when done by someone who has practiced it for some time. Something to aspire to!
  • Glenn
    Is this concept the same as the Chinese Fa Jing type power?
    • Hi Glenn,I am no expert on the Chinese martial arts, but I think it's quite similar, yes.
    • John
      Hi Glenn, yes you could say that it follows the same concept as Fajing especially when the Fajing power strike is performed after the conclusive cause of Muchimi which is the "Sticky Hands" techniques. So you do have the combinations of the two as explained by Jesse San.John Goju Ryu Yonshin Kai Karate Do Chen Pan Ling 99 Forms Neijia
  • Carissa
    Sticky hands is fun and really improves your reflexes and coordination! Hubud lubud (or hoobud loobud) is also a lot of fun. Have you ever tried that, Jesse-san? :)
  • Robert Bongiorno
    Hi Jessi:Awesome website, this is really great. I have been trying to teach myself this concept as I am an older Karateka with a beat up body. A friend told me about this way of doing kata, sticky, very much like you described.Is there a film clip that I can view to use as a sort of tutorial to better understand how I can employ this method/Thanks very much!
  • Hmm...Bob Orlando, "Indonenian Fighting Fundamentals", calls it "adhesion", I believe. If it is what I think it is (the video's gone), we [Kajukenbo, sort of] call it "positional control/check", but that's only used for a part of it.Take care

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