So, what the heck is Chinquchi?

The Okinawan term “Chinquchi” deals with the concept of proper body management. In the world of karate, that means coordinating the use of the body’s various muscle groups through the proper order and timing of muscle contraction and relaxation (dynamic tension) during the execution of any given technique. And, on top of all this, you also have to coordinate the proper timing of your breathing during the technique as well.

Or, as Sensei Harrill would simply say, execute your techniques with proper focus. 

This is one of the key focuses in Isshin-ryu Karate’s version of Sanchin Kata. In Isshin-ryu Karate, Sanchin Kata is performed slowly for a long time. The karateka first focuses on proper posture and structure. Then second, on which muscles are doing what and in what order while executing the techniques during the performance of Sanchin Kata (or, any technique). And finally, how the breathing times to that technique. This is why Sanchin Kata is such a foundational kata, and why the lessons learned from Sanchin Kata should permeate the rest of your kata and techniques, and it is also why I teach Sanchin Kata first.

Essentially, the understanding of chinquchi helps the karate practitioner ensure that, for any given technique, he or she is utilizing the correct muscles, in the correct order, and with properly timed breathing, to generate the most dynamic force possible in the execution of that technique; sometimes resulting in what might be considered superhuman feats of strength.

On Okinawa, Master Tatsuo Shimabuku was highly-regarded by his peers for his understanding, development, and use of chinquchi.

I often use the analogy of a sneeze when trying to explain the concept of chinquchi to students. A sneeze typically begins with a slight irritating itch in the nose, that itch grows in intensity until finally, the sneeze erupts in a body-wrenching explosion of released energy (I once threw my back out with a particularly magnificent sneeze). 

In karate, we say real power in a technique comes from a solid stance, proper structure, correct body mechanics, and properly timed breath. But how does that power build and transfer from the stance through the body and into the technique? That path is chinquchi. And there is a definite order of progression.

Starting with the assumption that, as you begin your technique, you have shifted into a solid stance that “compliments” the technique you are executing, the building and transfer of power into that technique should follow this path.

  1. The groin area
  2. The inside of the upper thighs
  3. The lower abdominal muscles
  4. The back (latissimus dorsi muscles)
  5. The upper shoulders (trapezius muscles)
  6. The front of the throat 
  7. The rest of the neck area

Take a reverse punch for example. You have just settled into your Seisan Stance and begin to launch your reverse punch. In what order should your nervous system begin to fire in to generate the most force possible in that reverse punch?

Assuming a solid Seisan Stance, the nerves controlling the muscles delivering  that punch would want to begin firing in your groin region and travel through your inner upper thighs and into your lower abdominal region. Then it would move up through your lats, and into your trapezius muscles. This “sneeze” would “launch” the punch. The arm is essentially the delivery mechanism for your weapon … the two large knuckles of your fist. 

This process is a bit more complicated than simply hitting someone with your arm muscles. It is ingraining the correct nerve firing sequences, the proper muscle contraction/relaxation memory, and timing your breathing to all this, that makes Sanchin Kata so foundational to Isshin-ryu Karate.

3 responses to “So, what the heck is Chinquchi?”

  1. I freakin’ love this. It’s great for firing up your martial arts and your dancing. Thanks, DC.


    1. I am so glad you enjoyed it!

      Liked by 1 person

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