Monday, 1 February 2021

突き (TSUKI)


Chudan maete-zuki with nakadaka-ippon ken.

 The one thing that is taught by many older masters here in Japan is that TSUKI is not a ‘punch’; rather, “tsuki is tsuki—a THRUST”. Whatever ‘karada no buki’ one is applying, when executing a tsukiwaza, it is like driving with a spear. Indeed, in the case of circular tsuki (as opposed to the more commonplace linear thrusts) it is applied in a more like turning and driving with a bo (staff).

In this way we can see the immense power of karate tsukiwaza, moreover, their relationship to self-defense as opposed to ‘fighting’/’dueling’.

 If this were not the case, we would undoubtedly see these waza in boxing, and the like. There is no doubt that boxing is the supreme art of ‘dueling with punches’.

 The traditional karate tsuki, with the exception of two-handed tsuki (reference: Hangetsu, Kanku-Sho, Bassai Sho, Junro Nidan, Hachimon, etc) is deeply connected to the hiki-te. The hiki-te, again (beyond the basic aspect of 'action/reaction'), is all about pulling the opponent in, off-balancing, blindsiding, and setting/positioning them for an optimally effective impact. Furthermore, once the hiki-te is applied, “…the level of fine motor skills required to achieve a highly reliable and destructive blow (or blows) is immensely mitigated”.


Here’s an example I use. ”You can compare tsuki without utilizing the hiki-te (in the bujutsu sense) as being like facing a pitcher in a baseball game. Comparatively, when the hiki-te is applied, the pitcher vanishes and game switches from baseball to Tee-ball”.


For those of you, who may be unaware of Tee-Ball, here is its definition: “Tee-ball is a team sport, which is primarily used to introduce four to six-year old’s to baseball, softball and cricket. Basically, the child bats the ball off a STATIONARY POST (the tee); thus, immensely simplifying the ability to strike the ball.


Returning to karate… Again, as stated already, this is one of the functions of the hiki-te: 'to momentarily make a target STATIONARY,  UNBALANCED and BLINDSIDED so ‘the big hit’ becomes much easier. 


From this point alone, we can see that karate is not a military fighting art; but rather, it is a civilian art of self-protection.


The techniques and approaches are not based on ‘having a fight with someone’; instead, it is based on 'someone else initiating a potentially life-threatening violence against you, your loved one's, or others, who are maliciously attacked’. That is not to say that ‘preemptive attacks’ are not employed but, again, they are done in a way in which ‘the aim is to finish the opponent as quickly as possible’ (as the context is always self-defense). I will reiterate: the aim is 'defensively fight', not to 'be a fighter'.

Impact training is absolutely imperative training  in Budo/Bujutsu Karate.

In this regard, I need to clarify about ‘ichigeki-hissatsu’, which literally means ‘to finish’ with one blow. This is the aim of ALL KARATE TECHNIQUES. That is, the bar is raised to the highest point, so each karateka aims to maximize their potential. Yes, the aim is to end the conflict with the first hit, however, we also train in combinations. One piece of advice I received as a child—when I was still a kyu grade karateka—was “The first one stuns them, the second knocks them out, and the third makes sure that it’s over”. I have ended fights with one tsuki but usually it takes more.


It is here that I need to mention that we have many atemi/kyusho (vital points) to hit and dangerous karada no buki (weapons of the body) we can attack them with. For example, a tsuki with shihon-nukite to the eyes, hiraken to the throat, nakadaka ippon-ken to the temple, and so forth. When “…such waza are combined with the traditional use of hiki-te—they can produce devastating effect—even by slightly built and aged karateka”.


Conclusion: Please remember, IT IS FINE to refer to say ‘a gyaku-zuki’ as a 'REVERSE PUNCH’; nonetheless, its literal translation is a ‘thrust’: ‘even when snapped back’. The English term 'punch' describes the surface level intent (in many ways watering it down), whist the Japanese literal translation describes both the action and conveys a more destructive attack. 

Just like the term ‘uke’ is not ‘block, rather a ‘reception’. I too loosely use the terms punches and blocks (as they are widely used outside Japan and, indeed, amongst the younger generation within Japanwhom mostly now only practice 'sports karate'); however, one must know "...the literal translation of each waza, position, and movement, to achieve the essence of it". I should write more about this in the future. I’d like to end with a quote: “Tsuki is not limited to seiken, but the seiken is the foundational fist for all the others (please note the initial photo in this article). To conclude, I hope that you find this article of some use in your training. Osu, André

The 'deep' kizami-zuki. It is also important to practice the variations of tsuki for adaptability in application.

 © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).

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