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ky0han's picture
The purpose of Kime

hi everyone. I recently started wondering why kime is promoted in that high degree in karate circles (at least in Shotokan). Kime or kimeru as everybody knows (I guess) means to fix, to set or to decide. So I understand kime as the fixiation at the end of a certain technique due to muscle tension. But why do most people spend years to train being relaxed all the time and than suddenly at the end of a technique do that kime thing? Is there any combative relevance? I have experienced the following. Hitting with kime feels a lot weaker than hitting relaxed. That is may be because the fixiation of a punch causes a massive deterioration of speed. And speed is an important factor for hitting hard. I only found one reasonable explanation. Joint protection, when doing Kihon. When hitting the opponent or another target you do it relaxed. The fist is stopped by making contact and you can not straighten the arm further. But when punching thin air, there is nothing that can stop the straightening of the arm and that could cause damages to the joints (e.g. elbow) over a long period of time. But is Kime only for joint protection? Any suggestions? Regards Holger  

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Holger,

Always an interesting topic and I’ll be interested to hear everyone’s thoughts. Thanks for kicking this off.

ky0han wrote:
But is Kime only for joint protection?

If by “Kime” you mean brief muscular tension at the end of the technique, then that’s certainly how I see it. When we hit the target then the target will decelerate the arm. If we miss the target – or drive straight though the target (great when that happens :-) – then we need to be able to protect the joint by strongly and briefly slamming on the brakes.

Here’s an extract from my 2002 Bunkai-Jutsu book:

Iain Abernethy / Bunkai-Jutsu book wrote:
The muscles should tense briefly at the end of each technique. The reason for this momentary tension is to protect the joints. For a blow to have the greatest possible effect it must hit the target at maximum speed. If the limb was to carry on moving at high speed then injuries such as hyper-extended elbows could occur. Just before the limb is fully extended the muscles contract to that the limb decelerates in as short a time as possible. Without this type of muscular contraction, the limb would have to start to slow down sooner (if damaged joints are to be avoided) and this would seriously reduce the effect of the blow. A common mistake is for the muscles to contract harder and longer than is actually required. This unnecessary muscular contraction will result in premature fatigue and can slow the delivery of the techniques. Once a technique has been executed the muscles must relax instantly so that the limb is ready to move again.  It is important to remember that in kata, as in fighting, there are times to be hard and times to be soft. Using muscular strength indiscriminately is the sign of an inexperienced karateka.

This “muscular emergency stop” is not what I call “kime” though. I tend to think of kime more as the co-ordinated use of the entire body coming together at the correct moment to ensure effectiveness. This convergence of forces is what I think of as being “kime” (i.e. focus).

A technique can therefore have kime without such muscular tension. Indeed, the blow that hits and takes the guy out can definitely be said to have plenty of “kime” … regardless of whether a brief tensing of the muscles was needed to decelerate the technique after the event or not.

All the best,


ky0han's picture

Hi Iain,

Iain Abernethy wrote:
I tend to think of kime more as the co-ordinated use of the entire body coming together at the correct moment to ensure effectiveness. This convergence of forces is what I think of as being “kime” (i.e. focus).

In many books Kime is described as physical and mental. So do you consider the mental side (e.g. full commitment) to be also a factor of good kime? I guess so, when it comes to effectiveness.

So when the convergence of the above mentioned forces is Kime for you, than maybe the meaning of kime fits more with "to decide" to your point of view. Is a technique effective, then it is a decisive one. Nagamine Shoshin refers to winning techniqes in kumite shiai as of "kime waza".

Interesting. That makes sence to me.

Thanks for that.

Regards Holger   

Gavin J Poffley
Gavin J Poffley's picture

Ky0han wrote:
Nagamine Shoshin refers to winning techniqes in kumite shiai as of "kime waza

This term is used freely outside of karate circles as well and simply means a "decisive technique" or could be paraphrased as a "telling blow" (could be a lock or throw instead though).

The karate specific term "kime" is a little different and not generally written with the same character. For those who understand the characters the kime in "kime waza" is the same one as used for the verb kimeru whereas the karate concept of "kime" more often uses the character usually read as kiwameru (Also the "kyoku" from kyokushinkai).

A number of Okinawan karate authorities say that this term was coined on the mainland, probably in the original shotokan (who seem to use the term far more frequently than other groups) in the 1940s -50s although it has achieved wide useage and even been reverse imported bac kto Okinawa in some cases.

ky0han's picture

Hi Gavin,

thanks for that. Since I know that there are two kanji for writing "ki" in "kime", I was curious which one of them is "correct" (maybe both are) or more often used.

The first one you've mentioned with the meaning of decision is used by the English wikipedia.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kime

The second one with the meaning of "climax, zenith or hight" is obviously used by the Japanese wikipedia. http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E6%A5%B5%E3%82%81

I also read somewhere that kime is a pretty modern term.

So thanks again, Gavin. That was of much help.

Regards Holger

Gavin J Poffley
Gavin J Poffley's picture

Hi Holger

Both are used but I come across the second one (http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E6%A5%B5%E3%82%81) a lot more often in reference to karate. The phonetics of the word are probably derived from the regular word "kimeru" (to fix set or decide)  although there is a theory that it comes from another word "kime" meaning feel or texture in the sense of cloth or wood grain etc.

At the end of the day it is quite hard to say whether any character is "correct" or not as many Japanese words originated prior to the introduction of Chinese characters and simply had the character with the closest meaning assigned to them, becoming a new reading for that character. In some cases it has been proven to be quite arbitrary! If Kime is a modern word as is thought then the choice of which character to use is similarly arbitrary.

With such an example of minor, specialist interest terminology there are no real authorities to decide one way or another although I am sure that different individuals or organisations will have a preference for one way or the other. There are similar debates about the correct character to write "kata" and "ki" as well.

Personally I think this process of assimilation and adaptation mirrors the history and development of karate itself quite well!