Hara : Koshi, Tanden & Yōbu

Hara – Tanden, Koshi & Yōbu

Basically Hara is the lower part of the central body. Mostly it is translated as “belly” or “abdomen”. Hara has 3 major parts.

  • Koshi means the area of the hips. It also includes the lower back.
  • Tanden is a point below the navel, loosely translated as the energy centre (Chinese medicine and martial arts). It is the focal point for internal techniques and exercises.
  • Yōbu is the waist area. The Chinese word is Yao. The waist is the part of the abdomen between the rib cage and hips.

In our study, Hara will be used in many exercises, especially during Tenshikei.
When the body moves, Tanden is the centre and is the place of a relative no-movement.
The muscles associated with hara will be used to start movements.
Other methods to start a movement are taijū no idō or body weight shift and taijū no dendō or body weight transmission.

Kihon kō (基本功) 

Kihon ko is the Japanese word for Jiben Gong (Chinese) : Fundamental exercises.

In Budo Aikido, kihon training is mostly based upon elements from kata. The isolated movements are practised until a pattern is formed in the brain. Unsoku-ho, tegatana dosa,….are parts of kata. The belief is when you practise kata you will have the skills to defend yourself in a confrontation.
Unfortunately by practising kata alone, by experience we know this doesn’t work.
In Tomiki Aikido we have randori with 3 levels of difficulties. This of course will give you the necessary experience to have a better chance in a confrontation. But still there is something missing.
If you don’t know the internal mechanisms of the kata ,you are wasting your time with kata and randori.

Kihon training is the training of the isolated kata elements with integrated internal mechanisms.

What are the internal mechanisms of the kata?

The human spine is a very important part of our body. It gives support to our posture. Many muscles are attached to the spine, and gives us the ability to generate power. Especially the lower part of the spine plays a role in the use of the “hara”. We can say the koshi act as a kind of ‘interconnectedness’ between the skeletal and muscular structures in the lower section of the torso. Many teachers have often stressed the importance of having strong koshi, which supports basic kamae stance. Maintaining a strong kamae throughout movement appears crucial to providing a slightly lower centre of gravity that also pushes the weight towards the front. By establishing this firmness, the body pushes into the floor, creating a resistance that supports and facilitates the different methods of footwork.

During internal mechanisms, the abdominal, waist and back muscles are used to create a state of twisting, called “tame”. The meaning of tame is building up pressure in the abdomen.
(Tame 溜め, from the verb Tameru 溜める, to accumulate).

The misunderstanding of “tension”

1015_Types_of_Contraction_newIf we talk about tension, most of the people have an image of pulling in muscles (muscle contraction). This is not the tension we are looking for. In most cases this kind of power is a 2D movement. It is difficult to generate “spiral” power with this method.

Also actively over-stretching the muscle will not give the desired result, although when the stretch is released, power is generated but the risk of injuries are looking around the corner.




Tenshikei, twisting and untwisting, creates a form of tension in koshi, tanden and yōbu area. As previous explained, the word tension can be a source of misunderstanding.  Tenshikei twisting creates “pressure” in the abdomen. Besides twisting, breathing control can also creating pressure in the abdomen.
Tenshikei twisting can be seen as creating potential energy. Untwisting is releasing and converting of the potential energy into power. Many techniques of the kata can be improved by using the skill of tenshikei twisting and untwisting.

pressure01 4

In the picture above by squeezing the flexbar there is pressure towards the centre. It is potential energy which can be used by untwisting and directing the power.

Kyokotsu training is the first step to create potential energy. This kind of training is build upon 6 directions movements:

    • forward & back
    • up & down
    • turning left and right

Kyokotsu training for control of the spine

This kind of training is focussing on the lower part of the sternum. Manipulation of the kyokotsu has an effect on the lower spine, in other word “koshi”. Koshi can generate a lot of power in case we understand the function of mata, knees and ankles.

Another facet of this training is the use of yōbu or waist muscles to create tension  and release. It can generate power in up and down direction. For example “oshi taoshi” can be improved by well-functioning yōbu.

Footwork and tenshikei

Footwork is depending on taijū no idō or body weight shift and taijū no dendō or body weight transmission. In combination with tenshikei we can overcome the problem of distance when opponent is holding you.

Some basic exercises derived from kata and integrated internal mechanisms will certainly improve the efficiency of your kata.

Ayumi ashi and yōbu turning
Stepping forward and turning the waist (yōbu). This creates tension, by releasing the tension the knee comes forward and a step can be done in subconscious way. If we step in a conscious way, the opponent can sense our intention and eventually blocking it.

yobu walking

These Gifs give you a movement idea. The yōbu is the main component of the movement.

Hip-turning is not koshi turning


We often hear in the dojo, turn the hips and sometimes reference is made to the golfer hip-turn. When talking about turning koshi, this is sligthly different. When a golfer hit the ball with a correct technique, the ball will fly away. The golfer doesn’t control anymore the ball. In martial arts, when you throw someone, you have to control the opponent even after the throw. Controlling the opponent is depending on the control of our body and espescially control of mata.

Koshi turning &  taijū no idō or body weight shift

The turning of the koshi is depending on the flexibility of mata and knees. The knees are not wobbling to the side. The ball in socket structure of the hip-joint (mata), knee and ankle are forming a strong line, with the knee as a transport junction for the downward power.

Shoulder line, trunk and pelvis line are turning about 45° together with a weigth-shift. The trunk is turning more and the shoulder line is about 90°.


sotai dosa 04

Rendo, the skill of linking movements

Linking isolated exercises is necessary to create full body movement


Published by

Eddy Wolput

A passion for Martial Arts since 1964

14 thoughts on “Hara : Koshi, Tanden & Yōbu”

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