Today, I write about another master, a man I knew quite well. He was born in Japan in 1935 and I met him in Philadelphia at The Philadelphia Karate Club in when I was 18 years old. His name is Master Keinosuke Enoeda, or Sensei Enoeda.
When I met him he was an assistant instructor at the Philadelphia club and I was at the beginning of my martial arts training. I still remember the obvious strength of his body, his charisma and the incredible power of his techniques, but one thing that stands out in my memory is his spirit, and his spirit shout. In Karate, it's called a Kiai, the expulsion of breath from the belly; its intention is to augment the strength and energy of a technique, to startle an opponent and to concentrate and focus the mind.
Sensei had a shout like a lion's roar. I remember the first night I saw him demonstrate a stepping punch, accompanied by a devastating kiai: Thinking I couldn't stand in front of his kiai let alone the punch - and he was known for his punch. So when I got out on the floor that evening and we were learning the reverse punch, which is the equivalent (not exactly) of a boxer's right cross, and encouraged to use a strong ‘kiai’, I did what most of the beginners did, which was to shout the word ‘kiai’ (kee-I) as I punched... I was yelling, "Kiai! Kiai! Kiai!" Finally,
Sensei Enoeda, who would walk between students as they trained (correcting their techniques), got to me, he stopped and said, "Kiai? What you doing?" I answered with another, "Kiai." He said, "No, kiai is just a word. Means shout to unify energy. Shout can be anything. It can be any noise. Yip. Ha... Does not matter... But does not come from throat. Must come from here." And he put his hand right below my belly button. "This is Tanden. Connects the body, the feet, the arms, the hands. Everything. Is the center of balance. Center of energy." Continuing. "The stomach muscles must lift as breath is released." So I shouted ‘yaa’, using my belly. At first, I was a little inhibited because it was loud, like my insides were reverberating, but it felt strong.
And then I felt something else, like a pinch between my legs, a tightening as my stomach muscles contracted, like my front and backside were connecting. In later years, as I started to study breath, I realized what we were practicing. It's a form of forced exhalation. The pinching I felt, the tightness, was my pelvic floor. The pelvic floor, in fact, is a band of muscle and ligament that joins the front of the body to the rear of the body – the tailbone to the pubic bone - adding stability to any movement, while the contraction of the abdominal muscles adds strength to the exhalation as the diaphragm relaxes. In fact, what Sensei Enoeda was teaching me was a complete diaphragmatic breath using the abdominal muscles and pelvic floor to augment a forced exhalation. I have used that type of breathing (with and without the shout) with many exercises, from pull-ups to push-ups, adding strength and focus to the movement.
And, Master Enoeda? He became the head of the Karate Union of Great Britain. I still remember him, his indomitable spirit, and his teachings very, very well and owe him many thanks.
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