In Japanese martial arts the Hara is a term with a loaded meaning. In my shallow understanding, it is the equivalent to the third lower dantian or tanden – A space below your navel at the center of your core. Dantian is loosely translated as the ‘sea of Qi’ or ‘energy center’.
In Shotokan we hear things such as ‘move from the Hara,’ ’spirit in the Hara,’ or ‘see form the Hara.’ And the reason for such is that our karate is nothing if it is not centered. Our stances are grounded, our center of gravity always maintained, even in movement.
My Sensei, Sensei Bruce Lee, reminds us that the time between starting a technique and completing it is vital. He tells us to imagine three photos taken as we move from one technique to the next. In those photos: Are we moving from the center (Hara)? Are we maintaining a center of gravity (not leaning or slouching)? Is our posture correct? Are we fast and strong?
I wear a fairly long Karate belt, and as I tie it prior to class I always remind myself that the knot of my belt rests on the Hara, and the ends of my belt point to the stability of the ground. This is a simple reminder of one of the most important principles of my Art: Stay centered in body and in mind.