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Golf fu?

by on September 18, 2008

I have ever been a proponent of applying the principles of karate to not only other aspects of daily life, but also other sports. Perhaps one of these applications that goes unmentioned is Golf. While the two sports at first appear so different, the one an ancient art of self defense, the other a sport invented by kilt-toting Scotts, there are remarkable similarities in the fundamental techniques of each.

As in everything, proper technique is essential, but not paramount. Perfect technique looks pretty but is absolutely useless without power. Likewise, the ability to generate power effectively does nothing without the symbiotic technique to focus it. In karate, having a perfectly executed mawashegere does nothing if you cannot generate the torque that makes it such a deadly move. Likewise, a perfectly executed drive will not go 300 yards without the same torque. On the other side of the coin throwing a powerful kick or swing may get the ball further or hit harder, but how effective is it to get on the 10th green in one if you are playing 15? We must therefore find balance.

It could be argued to no end which is harder to learn, but each are vital to the use of the other. Power generation is in essence brought about by the underlying technique, as it brought about by the way each sport uses torque generated by the hips as it’s source of power. Every movement is initiated in the hips, relying on their unique evolution to act as catalyst and focal point for drawing all of the muscles in the body together and maximizing the body’s efficiency.

I’m sure there’s more than a few people who at this point are saying “but when we turn we whip our head around and then the hips…”. Be that as it may, the strike itself is initiated through the hip motion, and not the head motion. The movement of the head is an independant motion that while it may lead into the strike in an opposing direction, the strike itself is initiated by the hip motion. When turning to strike, the strike motion that we are discussing initiates after the head has turned to acquire the target. The two motions just join together so fluidly that they appear to be one motion.

And so, some pictures rather sketchily sketched (pun intended…) on a pad at work, especial notice should be made of the traditional garb of each sport. (these may change if better versions are drawn…) 

1. Here we have the starting positions of both actions.

On the left, golf, on the right, karate. Both begin from a solid stance, grounding the coming strike.

2. Note how in both the hip initiates the motion and the head remains fixed on the target until after the moment of impact. In the golf swing, the hip intiates a backswing, equivalent to the motion of pulling back the opposite fists for karate punches (yes yes i illustrated a kick… think of the minutea and you will notice a pulling of the forward hip just before the thrust forward of the rearward hip to generate the kick).

3. At the mid-point of the strike motion, notice how the hip in both is leading while the shoulders are lagging behind, being pulled through the motion by the hips, while the eyes remain on the target until just after impact.

4.Immediately following the impact, the eyes move away from the point of impact and there is a negative motion known as backswing which in golf (and most racquet sports) helps to dictate the path/trajectory of the ball. In karate we use it to get away from our opponent…

Not illustrated but also worth consideration, throughout the motion the head remains steady and the hips remain at the same height. In karate we are constantly reminded to be conscious of removing this unecessary movement, while the same goes for golf. A steady platform is created in each sport by the grounding of the feet prior to motion, but also by keeping the hips and head at a constant height and angle. This allows the hips to work their magic by creating a steady axis through which the torque can be generated. If we lose this steady base, power is leaked out through individual muscle groups having to divert their effort into stabilising the body, specifically the core muscles which pull all of the other individual muscle groups together.

The application of this power in each sport is different as clearly using a club to hit a small target is very different from punching targets of various sizes and hardness. Each sport has developed variations on the core technique allowing it to have a wide range of applications. Golf focuses on the finite control of the power, yet so does karate. The goal of each requires the practitioner to understand and control the techniques and torque to meet their goals. On the green, you use a different swing, not to mention club, than you would in the sand or on the fairway. In kumite, we apply our different “clubs”, that we term strikes, in combinations with the intent to score points on our opponent. Further to that, we also employ very different techniques in a sparring match than we would in a real life situation. To elaborate, while we may use a gyakazuke in both, the target point and intent will be different as there is more danger inherent in a real life situation.

So how different really are the two sports? How different is the power generation in any sport for that matter? Analyse most, if not any, sport and there is a commonality where the core of the human body is said to be the centre of power. All sport may be said to rely on our human evolution that has provided not only us but all animals with a similar hip structure. Taking it one step further, have a look at the animal kingdom and analyse their movement and power generation, especially the predators… heck have a go at that new Spore game that just came out and see what happens.

2 Comments
  1. philipobrien permalink

    Great analogy. I especially liked the skeletal depiction of the underlying movement of the joints and skeleton–very CSI-esque. Now, if we can convince sensei to let us use kilts in class…

    I wonder though, about the extent to which the hips contribute. I’m not a golf player, but from my peripheral observation of the sport, little movement in the hips is made. Perhaps I’m just watching poor golfers. In either case, it would seem to be more of a hip tilt rather than a hip rotation in golf whereas in karate the rotation is going to generate more power. So, am I just watching the wrong golfers?

  2. hmm… actually I think you may be watching the wrong golfers, but I stand for correction. From my experience there is a fair bit more than “little” movement in the hips, perhaps not as much as karate in some ways but still somewhat significant. The backswing includes a tilt back of the hips, wheras the followthrough results in a complete 90 degree offset of the hips from the “neutral position”, however as I said before I stand for correction from a more knowledgable party…

    on the kilt subject… you convince him and i’ll be there. Just need to find a kilt…

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