The area known as the “core” (basically the area of the lower torso, which used to more commonly be referred to as the “midsection”) is very important in karate. We spend much time working on how to “develop the power of the hips” and doing our various exercises to strengthen this area. Why is this so important? For those who may be thinking that doing exercises that work on the midsection is overrated, let’s consider the following.
Strengthening arm techniques
Many times, I have heard karate instructors use the phrase “total body connection,” or some variation of it. “Put your hip into it” and “push from your stomach” as well. The basic idea behind much of this is to maximize the transfer of power/effort/energy/momentum from the legs into the arms as we punch or strike (or block, for that matter). By strengthening the midsection, we can better “connect” the upper-body to the lower-body. Imagine trying to use a hammer that had a very flexible handle. No matter how strongly you swing it and how strong the hammer’s head is, its affect would be greatly reduced due to the wobbling of the handle.
Strengthening leg techniques
The muscles of the lower part of the midsection in particular (those that are most directly connected to the leg/hip/glut muscles) help to drive the kicking leg up and into the target.
The muscles of the midsection, particularly the lower part, also help keep the upper body upright and controlled during kicks, which helps us to be ready for the techniques and movements to follow. Posture in general can benefit from development of this “core” muscle group.
Ability to withstand blows to that area
This should go without saying. Developed muscles help to reduce damage when attacked.
Points worth considering when doing exercises for the midsection:
• The muscles of the lower back should be worked out; not just those of the abdominal area in front.
• Don’t forget the sides of the midsection as well.
• The lower abdominals are harder to work out, tire more quickly and are actually more important for many karate movements. So starting with some type of leg-lift exercises, then working your way up toward crunches is probably a good idea. Doing crunches to work out the upper abs is relatively easy, somewhat superficial and should be saved for last.
• Many of these exercises are very easy to do while watching TV.
• Breathe properly during the exercise. Many people reduce the effectiveness of a given exercise and/or tire more quickly because they hold their breath during each repetition. (see article on breathing for related points)
Working out the core/midsection has various benefits. Why wouldn’t you spend some extra time on it?
Copyright © 2022, Jon Keeling (originally published January 2005)