Training drill: Relaxing shoulder

By Simon Larsen and Emily Jackman

It’s important not to be tense when training – this drill can help to release tension from the shoulders before and during strikes.

Note that this drill is deliberately doing some things wrong in order to build up to a more correct strike. In normal kihon do not raise and lower your centre of gravity and do not make movements before you strike. Some people find this drill useful, some don’t – try it and see.

To begin with, practice just the arm work. From chudan, circle your arms, shoulder and mokuju in a forward circular motion – as the arms and shoulders drop back toward chudan no kamae continue the movement forward in a low thrust. The key here is to work on keeping the shoulders relaxed – the drop down into chudan before the thrust is a way to make sure that tension is released.

Next, add a tsugiashi as the rotation occurs and then step forward with the strike.

Once you’ve loosened the shoulders up, you can work on minimising the actual upper body movement (1.08). It should become a smaller rotation, maintaining a quick drop of shoulders and arms so you can perform it faster and cleaner to the point where you almost can’t see it happening (1:14).

You can add variety to the exercise by adding either an additional step after the strike or pushing forward with a nagashi.

Particularly Note:

  • Try to make the mokuju do the circle evenly. Note at 0:25 how my mokuju doesn’t raise or lower the tip, it maintains the same angle to the floor the whole way through. This helps develop relaxed and even pressure in your hands.
  • Especially at the beginning strike very low, still horizontal but your rear hand can be at about navel level. This helps keep the shoulders down and increases the low and flat centre of gravity movement during the strike.
  • When starting with tsugiashi use your knees to raise the centre of gravity up with the circle of the mokuju as your back foot comes in. Then lower your gravity into the strike while squeezing the lower part of the trapezius muscle down. This helps develop the timing of the strike and step being together.
  • When doing tsukimae or nagashi ensure the the steps after the strike are low and your centre of gravity stays level. No Pony Movements.

What We Are Trying To Learn:

  • Primarily we are trying to develop relaxed shoulders and a low centre of gravity.
  • Doing the tsugiashi with the up and down movement may help you improve the pushing with your rear foot.

One thought on “Training drill: Relaxing shoulder

Add yours

  1. Hi Larsen Sensei,

    First of all, thank you for posting this insightful drill.

    I just wanted to I wish you, Bennett Sensei, and your countrymen my condolences regarding the terrible news I woke up to this morning. I wish you and New Zealand peace and healing.


    Condolences from California,

    – Peter

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