Chinkuchi (チンクチ) chin (チン muscle/ sinew); ku (ク bone); chi (チ energy “気” “氣”) vital energy
ki Jp; chi Ch = air, breath; gas, steam, vapor; spirit; atmosphere; mood
Chinkuchi can be written using kanji (一寸力: issun-ryoku; an inch force) and can be translated as “short power” but more typically its written in katakana (チンクチ) because it is Okinawa dialect.
“waki wo shimeru” (脇を締める) which is poorly translated sometimes as “keep the elbows in” but means more along the lines of “tighten your lats (side)”. It captures some of the meaning of chinkuchi, but not all of it. I wonder if something got “lost in translation” when Okinawa Karate came to the Japanese mainland?
No one to date has provided a equal or relevant term in Japanese or even Chinese to mean the same as chinkuchi. This is an important distinction when trying to translate and convey meaning to the American mind. This is compounded by the differences in culture, beliefs and the time and education of those who taught us Okinawan karate.
One of the dictionaries I find accurate in martial arts terminologies is the Shinjinbukan.com site. They use the characters (チンクチ), i.e. katakana, to explain the concept, i.e. Chinkuchi is the exact point in which a joint can resist a force in two opposite directions (pulling and pushing). This is a unique aspect of the body mechanics (physiokinetic principles) that facilitates stability and leverage without wasting muscular force. It is leaned through touch and physical guidance of movement of technique execution by a sensei. It requires a type of physical and mental encoding that is first and foremost a physical or tactile teaching method. It takes physical experience and what some call muscle memory, i.e. a mind-body connection of encoding into the lizard brain, etc. It is this that achieves development of chinkuchi, embodiment of chinkuchi, and the production of chinkuchi. It is also a state of mind, i.e. therefore the mind-body connection as a principle of martial systems, as it requires both body and mind in balance. It is also a matter of reality based applications.
Others explaining Chinkuchi:
Higaonna Morio, 10th dan Goju-ryu Karate has this to say about chinkuchi:
“This expression [chinkuchi] is used to describe the tension or stability of the joints in the body for a firm stance, a powerful punch, or a strong block. For example, when punching or blocking, the joints of the body are momentarily locked for an instant and concentration is focused on the point of contact; the stance is made firm by locking the joints of the lower body – the ankles, the knees and the hips – and by gripping the floor with the feet.
Thus a rapid free-flowing movement is suddenly checked for an instant, on striking or blocking, as power is transferred or absorbed. Then the tension is released immediately in order to prepare for the next movement.”
Arakaki Kiyoshi, Karate writer, said this:
“A simple explanation is, when punching for instance, to contract the muscles used when punching (especially the triceps and the trapezius), increasing the speed of the punch or block from within your own body.”
Karate historian (and practitioner) Tokashiki Iken had to say about chinkuchi:
“When punching, the most important thing is that the “koshi” [hips] are in it, and that chinkuchi is being utilized. Chinkuchi, in a word, means to contract the trapezius, the triceps, the pectorals major, etc. when thrusting the fist out. At that time, the armpit must also be closed when punching or blocking.
This means that a punch with chinkuchi has an instantaneous increase in power. This is called “one cun power” [one inch punch] and causes a great destructive power upon the opponent’s body.”
"Chinkuchi is both a system of ‘conscious’ internal energy management and an experience of moving in sync with a confluence of subtle energies." Hayashi Tomio
"Chinkuchi is synonymous with internal energy cultivation. There are degrees of Chinkuchi control. There are different methods of exerting or expressing this ability. " Hayashi Tomio
HONESTLY, this is the last post on this subject. I do believe I have beaten this one down flush with the dojo floor. Now, it is time for the reader to pursue the full and tactile meaning of chinkuchi on the dojo floor :-)