Empty Hand

This one is a favourite here at Level Up. Not just because it’s an awesome combat skill, but also because it’s one of the few structured martial arts that doesn’t involve the use of any weapons.

Batman narrowly missies Wolverine with a well formed Yoko tobi geri.

Batman narrowly misses Wolverine with a well-formed Yoko tobi geri.

That’s right, beloved reader, today your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor will be helping you level up your skill in one of the greatest unarmed fighting systems from the east.

Karate

Shotokan to be precise; the unified form of Karate founded by the late, great Gichin Funakoshi. Before we hit the resistance training in all it’s kinesiological glory, let’s get to know more about the art of the empty hand.

The tiger emblem of Shotokan Karate.

Contrary to popular belief Karate is not a Japanese martial skill, it’s Okinawan, but because it has been developed and popularised by Japanese exponents the terminology of the combat sport is now almost exclusively in the Japanese language. It started life called simply ‘ti’, or in Japanese, ‘te’. It’s also not as ancient as many think.

In 1372 trade relationships were established with the Ming Dynasty of China by King Satto of Chūzan. This led to some forms of chinese martial arts being introduced to the Pechin class of the Ryukyu Islands. Given the similarities between them, it is reasonably safe to assume that the Chinese martial arts to influence Karate’s development, Fujian White Crane probably being one of the main culprits. In 1429, however, the political centralization of Okinawan King Shō Hashi brought with it a ban on all weapons, at the time all martial skills were weapon based with little need for unarmed combat to be practiced unless for sport, this was reinforced in after the invasion of the Shimazu clan in 1609. These both played important factors in how Karate and it’s sibling martial art Kobudō evolved. Kobudō is responsible for bringing us delights such as nunchaku, tonfa, , sai and kama. Whilst developed at the same time and for the same reasons, Karate and Kobudō are separate arts but often mis-categorised together.

Funakoshi Sensei getting serious with a Makiwara.

Funakoshi Sensei getting serious with a Makiwara.

During all this developmental chaos, along came Gichin Funakoshi; the father of modern Shotokan. He had trained in both popular styles of that time’s Okinawan karate; Shōrei-ryū and Shōrin-ryū. Funakoshi was quite known for his writing, he was an avid poet and philosopher as well as being a Karate master. In 1939, after many successful years of nurturing his Karate style and teaching a plethora of students, he built the first official Shotokan Dojo in Tokyo.

Shotokan derives its name from Funakoshi’s pen name, Shoto, meaning ‘waving pines’ and Kan means training hall or house. Thus Shotokan’s can be translated as ‘house of Shoto’. He also changed the way the characters for Karate written, from meaning ‘China hand’ to ’empty hand’. The two words sound the same in Japanese but are written differently. It was his belief that the term ‘Chinese’ would be misleading and people would think Karate had originated with Chinese boxing. Funakoshi’s interpretation of the word Kara to mean ’empty’ caused problems for him in Okinawa, thus he remained teaching in Tokyo.

Ryu demonstartes a Soto-uke block whilst in a Kokutsu-dachi stance. Thanks Ryu.

Ryu demonstrates a Soto-uke block whilst in a Kokutsu-dachi stance. Thanks Ryu.

The resistance training

There are a lot of techniques that need augmenting here, but hold faith beloved reader. Your’s truly, holding a 4th Dan in this wondrous discipline, is unabashed in advising you. Unfortunately Level Up is still an impoverished little company, therefore we will have to make use of links to other sites for the time being. Stay tuned though, as Level Up studios will be coming this summer. Yay.

Lunge with twist: These bad boys will be an invaluable help for your stance work, especially with zenkutsu dachi, and the twist at the end will assist in all those gyaku-zuki punches you undoubtedly be drilling endlessly. These don’t have to be practiced with a medicine ball, or any resistance at all.

Leg extension: That’s right, another exercise for the quadriceps, we need them. Powerful legs will accommodate all the tough stances we encounter and even the newest Karate exponent knows that with a good kick you raise the knee first, then extend for maximum power and range.

Reverse-grip chins: Helpful for a fast pull back to launch another kizami/gyaku/oi-zuki punch, and for giving all-round physical development.

Decline press ups: Even though the waist is the prime mover in any punching movement, the pectoralis major  assists in this. So for powering up all our ‘zuki’ moves we’ll be focusing on the clavicular fibres; it’s already much easier to punch godan and chudan heights, so hitting upper chest will add oomph to our jodan height attacks.

Supination curls: The supination movement of these will augment many punches / blocks, whilst working both biceps brachii and brachialis. Nice.

Arnold press: Yes, these are named after Arnold Schwarzenegger. Their pronation / supination movement nicely mimics the twisting, power generating motion of many Shotokan punches and blocks.

Dips: Great for adding punching power and speed. Once again, even though the waist produces the power of the strike the triceps assist the movement by extending the elbow.

Knee raise: Few realise that to get height in a kick, not only do you need flexibility, but well conditioned abs to raise the thigh above waist level. These do the trick nicely in combination with the leg extensions from earlier, we’ve successfully added greater range and power to our kicks.

Standing calf raise: To get the fullest extension on all those mae geri kicks, you will need decent contractile strength in your gastrocnemius. Add resistance to these when you feel comfortable with the movement.

I'm afraid even your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor can't teach you the Hadoken technique.

I’m afraid even your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor can’t teach you the Hadoken technique.

Perform one set of each exercise for as many repetitions as possible, but with perfect technique of course. When you feel you’ve got these sussed, perform them again for a circuit training effect, this will get the heart and lungs pumping nicely as well. Repeat the circuit as many times as desired.

Basic Terminology

Before we delve into the terms and jargon, your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor should give you a quick insight into Japanese language vowel pronunciation.

“a” as in father ; “i” as in feet ; “u” as in flute ;”e” as in bed ; “o” as in okay.

Age Tsuki

Rising punch

 

Age Uke

Rising block

 

Ashi Barai

Foot sweep

 

Awase Tsuki

U-punch

 

Bensoku Dachi.

Cross-legged stance (also female horse stance or Kosa Dachi)

Boshiken Tsuki

Thumb fist

 

Choku Tsuki

Straight punch

 

Chudan

Middle area

 

Chudan Uke

Inside circular block

 

Empi

Elbow strike

 

Fudo Dachi

Free stance

Fumikomi Geri

Stamping kick

 

Furi Tsuki

Circular punch

 

Gedan

Lower area

 

Gedan Barai

Downward block

 

Gedan Uchi Barai

Outside downward block (open hand)

 

Go

Five

 

Goju

Fifty

 

Gyaku Mawashi Geri

Reverse round house kick

 

Gyaku Tsuki

Reverse punch

 

Hachi

Eight

 

Hachiji Dachi

Natural stance (feet shoulder width apart, toes pointed slightly out)

Hachiju

Eighty

 

Haisoku Barai

Instep block

 

Haisoku Geri

Kicking with the instep

 

Haito Uchi

Ridge hand strike

 

Hajime

Begin

 

Han Zenkutsu Dachi

Half front stance

Hasami Tsuki

Scissors punch

 

Heiko Dachi

Parallel stance (feet shoulder width apart)

Heiko Tsuki

Parallel punch

 

Heisoku Dachi

Closed foot stance (feet together)

Hidari

Left

 

Hiji Uchi

Elbow strike

 

Hiji Uke

Elbow block

 

Hiki Uke

Pulling/grasping block

 

Hiza Geri

Knee kick (also called Hiza Ate)

 

Hiza Uke.

Knee block

 

Hyaku

One Hundred

 

Ichi

One

 

Jodan

Upper area

 

Jodan Uke

Upward block

 

Ju

Ten

 

Kagi Tsuki

Hook punch

 

Kaikoken Tsuki

Crab shell fist

 

Kakato Geri

Heel kick

 

Kama-De

Bear hand

 

Kamae

Ready and alert

 

Kanketsu Geri

Stamping kick, joint kick

 

Keikoken Tsuki

One knuckle fist

 

Kiba Dachi

Horse riding stance

Kime

Focus

 

Kizami Tsuki

Leading punch, or jab

 

Ko Uchi

Bent wrist strike

 

Ko Uke

Wrist block

 

Kokutsu Dachi

Back stance

Kosa Uke

Cross block

 

Kote Uchi

Forearm strike

 

Ku

Nine

 

Kuju

Ninety

 

Kumite.

Sparring

 

Mae Geri Keage

Front snap kick

 

Mae Geri Kekomi

Front thrust kick

 

Mae Tobi Geri

Jumping front kick

 

Mawashi Geri

Round house kick

 

Mawashi Tsuki

Round hook punch

 

Mawashi Uke

Round house block

 

Migi

Right

 

Migi Heiko Dachi

Right foot forward Heiko Dachi

Morote Uke

Augmented block

 

Musubi Dachi

Formal attention stance (heels together, feet at an angle)

Nagashi Tsuki

Flowing punch

 

Nagashi Uke

Sweeping block

 

Naihanchi Dachi

Kiba Dachi with the heels out and toes in

Nakadaka Ken

Middle finger knuckle fist

 

Nanaju

Seventy

 

Naname Shiko Dachi

Diagonal straddle leg stance

Neko Ashi Dachi

Cat foot stance

Ni

Two

 

Nidan

Second dan

 

Nidan Geri

Double front snap kick (back leg first)

 

Nihon Tsuki

Double punch

 

Niju

Twenty

 

Nukite Tsuki

Finger thrust or spear hand

 

Oi Tsuki

Lunge punch

 

Randori

co-operative sparring

 

Rei

Bow

 

Ren Geri

Double front snap kick (front leg first)

 

Renoji Dachi

The letter “Re” stance (or “L” stance)

Roku

Six

 

Rokuju

Sixty

 

Sagiashi Dachi

Heron stance

San

Three

 

Sanbon Tsuki

Triple punch

 

Sanchin Dachi

Hourglass stance

Sandan

Third Dan

 

Sanju

Thirty

 

Seiken Tsuki

Fore fist strike

 

Sesan Dachi

Side facing straddle stance

Shi

Four

 

Shichi

Seven

 

Shiko Dachi

Straddle leg stance

Shodan

First Dan

 

Shotei Otoshi Uke

Open hand dropping block

 

Shotei Tsuki

Palm heel thrust

 

Shotei Uchi

Palm heel strike

 

Shotei Uke

Palm heel block

 

Shuto Uchi

Knife hand strike

 

Shuto Uke

Knife hand block

 

Sokutei Harai Uke

Sole of the foot block

 

Sokutei Osae Uke

Pressing block with the sole of the foot

 

Sokuto Geri

Kicking with the foot edge

 

Soto Uke

Outside forearm  block

 

Sukui Uke

Scooping block

 

Tate Tsuki

Vertical punch

 

Tettsui Uchi

Bottom fist strike (or hammer fist strike)

 

Tobi Nidan Geri

Jumping double kick

 

Tsumasaki Geri

Kicking with the tips of the toes

 

Uchi Hachiji Dachi

Natural stance with heels out and toes in

Uchi Uke.

Inside forearm block

 

Ura Tsuki

Short punch (palm side up)

 

Ura Uke

Back hand block

 

Uraken Uchi

Back fist strike

 

Ushiro Geri

Back thrust kick

 

Ushiro Mawashi   Geri

Round house to the rear kick

 

Washi-De

Eagle hand

 

Yama Tsuki

Mountain punch

 

Yame

Stop

 

Yoi

Ready

 

Yoko Geri Keage

Side snap kick

 

Yoko Geri Kekomi

Side thrust kick

 

Yoko Tobi Geri

Jumping side thrust kick

 

Yoko Uke

Circular block

 

Yondan

Forth Dan

 

Yonju

Forty

 

Zenkutsu Dachi

Front stance

Stay tuned for more

Until next time. Stay informed.

 

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