Friday, 25 May 2012

The Revolving Hands


ome movements found in Karate Kata (traditional routines) can be used directly as methods of physical therapy.

For example, I’ve shown a series of 4 movements from the Kata Tensho, or “revolving hands” to folks who had carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow and other problems with the hands, wrists and forearms. The results have been great.

Tensho is a routine that comes from the Goju Ryu tradition of Okinawan Karate. It’s not a particularly long routine but it’s rich in self defense techniques, breathing practises, internal power methods, “sticky hands”, chi flow, strength building, the building of “root” and the development of mind/body harmony.

Aesthetically, the routine is very beautiful to watch – and to perform.

My main interest today is to concentrate on a series of 4 hand/wrist movements found within Tensho performed first with the right hand, later with the left and still later with both hands.

Why do this? Tensho builds a lot of strength and flexibility in the hands, wrists and forearm. As the translation of Tensho as “revolving hands” implies, the exercise builds up the extensor and flexor muscles in the forearm while at the same time stretching them. That’s the best of both worlds, especially for people who use their hands a lot at work.

Plus the flow of energy (chi) through the arms helps in the healing process of many injuries.

Back of wrist curves up

Let’s begin -

1.  Raise your right hand slowly until the back of the wrist reaches the height of the shoulder. Fingers and thumb come together to a point like the beak of a bird. The back of the wrist is bent upward. The forearm slopes down on a diagonal from the wrist to the elbow.

Inhale very slowly as you raise your hand to this position. People do this move with various degree of tension, some with very strong, very pronounced tension in the arms, others with a medium to light degree of tension.

I prefer a light approach. (I find this to be less stressful on the cardio-vascular system).

Edge of hand comes down

2.  Next, the hand  “rolls” down, so that the edge of the hand faces the ground (like a Karate “chop”) and the fingers point upward.

Exhale deeply and slowly as you move the hand down from position #1 through to position #2.

Back of wrist curves out to the side

3.  Now curve the back of the right wrist sideways to the right. I like to keep the elbow in close. This produces more of a stretch in the wrist. The little finger side of the hand  is parallel to the floor.

Inhale slowly as you perform this movement.

Inside of wrist curves inward

4.  Lastly, bend the inside of the right wrist and move it back toward the centre. The palm faces out to the front, the fingers point toward the right. (This is a great stretch for the carpal tunnel area!).

Exhale slowly as you perform this movement.

5.  You can repeat this 4 step series as many times as you want with the right hand then switch over to the left hand. It’s the same with the left hand except that movement #3 swings out to the left rather than to the right.

6.  Finally combine both hands – up, down, sideways (back of the left wrist out to the left…the back of the right wrist out to the right) and then the insides of both wrists roll back to the centre.

Try this sequence and if you like it, make it a staple exercise for wrist strength and flexibility.

Tomorrow, I plan to post a clip of the entire Kata performed by Sensei Morio Higaonna. It’s a dynamic and powerful performance of traditional Karate. I hope that you will enjoy watching it!

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