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Between Hard and Soft

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Goju is a hard/soft style. Hard may be defined as using strength and locked tension. Soft as using whole body power through pliable joints. GoJu is a combination of the two methods.

The transition from hard to soft, external to internal may be perceived as moving from limb strength to whole body power. A big difference between the two is the feeling and sensory awareness.

At the the first level we have the gross movement into which is put maximum effort to achieve the desired result. At this level the teacher demands 'harder, faster', very much single kick and punch approach.

This is the foundation of many martial arts starting initially with the hard. Without this it is difficult to have balance and a point of origin for comparison, i.e. to know soft it is necessary to understand the hard and viz a versa.

Also the physical side is very beneficial for health for those students in their teens, 20's and 30's suiting many physical and mental temperaments. Then as we pass through the 40's, 50's, 60's and beyond there is an opportunity for our martial arts to mature and grow.

If you practise karate for twenty years or more then the nature of your karate should change as you develop. This isn't the physical number of more kata or techniques remembered but cognitive feeling of how, why and when to move

To move on to this level is desirable to get an holistic understanding of martial arts. However this is difficult as the early Goju feeling is often taught as focusing on total muscular contraction of whole body areas.

By cultivating correct posture and minutely observing the feeling of muscles tension and relaxation. It is possible to experience the soft side, to mature. This requires much time and patience. Whilst the resulting effects may be the same, the physical effort is less but the cognitive awareness is greater.

Soft does not mean totally floppy, it is the highly developed sense of applying force in its most efficient form. Hence the Sodokan maxim, 'Minimum effort, maximum effect'.

When the opponent is stronger than yourself is the appropriate time to use the Ju. This enables you to empathise with the opponent, feeling their strength/ weakness and also intention. How is this possible? Through careful observation and consideration of your own body, how you stand, how your arms and legs relate to each other, the angle of joints,balance, breathing, posture, how you move.

This requires the letting go of strength and replacing with the observation of body awareness. It is in this way we can experience the whole range of Go and Ju, not just Go.
Sodokan Goju Karate Association
Best viewed at a display setting of 800 x 600.
Mike Clark 1997-2005. Reproduction of material on this site is not permitted