Ultimate Karate Secret Revealed!!

Now that I have your attention...

Way back in September of 2013 I talked about the difference between "low block" (gedan barai) and other "blocks" (age uke, uchi uke, shuto uke, etc.) in Japanese martial arts and why I feel it is important to look at the original language when discussing technique.

I am now about to reveal the biggest, most devastating secret in modern martial arts (shhhhhh):



No, not a single one (let the screaming and mud slinging commence).

First (wrong)  response I ALWAYS get:

"There are no blocks in karate because every block is a strike!"

- uh, no.

Sorry, there are only three 気構え ("kigamae" Lit. "mood posture", "attitude") in martial arts:

  • 施行攻め ("shikousemu" Lit. "perform going attack") Giving; and

  • 受け攻め ("ukesemu" Lit. "receive attack") receiving; and

  • 待ち攻め ("kichisemu" Lit. "waiting attack") waiting.

You have to pick one; you cannot be two at the same time. Three is right out. I will note the ability to quickly change your attitude is a very useful skill but you can only be one at a time.

And yes, these do correspond directly to the three Jian of Chinese Kenpo styles.

Oh, and if you are wondering why this might be the same in Taekwondo and other Korean arts, I refer you to this article provided by Dan Bernardo sabom.

Now let us look at the actual names of the ("waza" Lit. "technique" or "skill") and see if we can discern which kigamae they should belong with:

Upper "block" is 上げ 受け "age uke"
Knife Hand "block" is 手刀 受け "shuto uke"
Forearm "block" is 腕 受け "ude uke"
Inside Forearm "block" is 内 腕 受け "uchi ude uke"
Outside Forearm "block" is
(Inward crossing "block")    
外 腕 受け "soto ude uke"

Did you notice something about all of those "blocks"? They all have that word in them - "uke". Which seems to imply they are part of "ukesemu", the receiving attitude.

In English the word "block" is defined as:

block bläk/ v.intr. Sports

  1. To obstruct the movement of an opponent by using one's body.
  2. To stop or deflect a ball or puck by using one's body.

But "receiving" means:

receive rĭ-sēv′ v.tr. Sports

  1. To take or acquire; get or be given.
  2. To catch or get possession of (a pass or a kicked ball, for example).

And "uke" means "receiving". Same definition.

Way back in April of 2013 I talked about the origins of karate. While it is true that the successor styles of naha te tend to rely upon physical strength, shuri te and tomari te styles never have done so.

It is also true that all modern forms of karate preach the use of karate for the "little guys", as a means of "self defense for the weak". How can this be so? Can you have it both ways?

Strength and endurance are important and all martial artists should strive to build their own bodies, but your own strength relative to an opponent is more or less of no consequence as soon as you stop "blocking" and begin "receiving".