Kicking in Uechi-ryu karate differs from many other styles. The
front-leg snap kick is the only kick used in the katas brought from
China. It is found in every kata of Uechi-ryu except Sanchin, which
contains no kicks. The front-leg kick, like the lead hand punch, is the
first line of defense, as it is the closest technique to the opponent.
It can be executed quickly against an incoming attacker. This approach
exemplifies the "defense only" philosophy of Uechi-ryu karate.
The snapping of the kick is an important source of power since the hips
cannot be used in the front-leg kick as effectively as with a rear-leg
kick. Front kicks in traditional Okinawan kata are aimed at the middle (chudan)
or lower (gedan) areas of the body. Kicks that are normally performed by
most systems with the ball of the foot, sokutei, are executed in
Uechi-ryu karate with the tip= of the big toe (sokusen). Kicks with the
ball of the foot do not exist in this system. Sokusen geri is the only
kick in the original three katas brought from China. Like the shoken
fist, sokusen kicks emulate the destructive effect of a tiger's teeth.
These techniques deliver an enormous amount of power to a small area.
Deeper body penetration and more damage to the area attacked are the
results. Any part of the body is a potential target for sokusen. Newer
students should practice kicking with the ball of the foot for their own
safety. Preparing the toes for kicking is an arduous process. First the
muscles in the toes must be developed so they can be flexed into the
proper position. This can take several months. Second, the tip of the
toe must be conditioned to take hard contact. This takes several years.
To form sokusen, pull your toes back toward your foot, tightening all
toes together. Here are six methods for strengthening sokusen
1. Make a tight
sokusen foot and walk on the tips of the toes.
2. Jump up and down on sokusen toes.
3. Kick in the air with a tight sokusen foot.
4. Kick the makiwara, tire, and sandbag with sokusen.
5. Keep a tight sokusen foot when you do Sanchin kata.
6. Use sokusen when practicing all kicks.
Nukite is an advanced technique that is very prevalent in the Uechi-ryu
system. It is found in all eight katas. Like a shoken punch and sokusen
kick, it delivers the primary point of impact to a very small area.
Attacking pressure points and soft body parts with this specific strike
allows you to inflict maximum damage using little movement. Therefore,
body size and strength are not a major factor for effectiveness. When
you form your hand for a nukite strike, tighten all four fingers
together and place the thumb firmly against the ridge of the hand. When
you tighten your fingers, they will naturally curve in slightly. It is
important not to let the fingers bend backward on impact. The name of
the striking weapon changes as the hand is bent to apply fingertip
strikes from different angles, such as kakushiken and koken. To form
kakushiken, bend all four fingers where they join the hand and support
them by placing the thumb at the base of the forefinger. Kakushiken is
executed with the fingertips, in a forceful downward strike, like the
beak of a desperate bird defending its life. Snapping the elbow and
wrist increase the power. The targets of the
crane's beak are the neck, throat, and soft area behind the collar bone.
Kakushiken, an advanced and deadly technique, is found only in Sanseryu
Koken is formed
the same as the kakushiken strike but is applied differently. A large
swinging motion is used to deliver this downward strike. To increase
power in this technique, a scooping action is added at the point of
contact. The targets of this strike are the groin and nerves in the
pelvic area. This technique is effective against a grab from behind.
Uechi Kanbun told a story to Shinjo Seiyu about a Chinese martial artist
who visited him and discussed an interesting conditioning exercise
emulating a crane. The man dumped a small bag of rice on the dojo floor.
He picked the rice up, one grain at a time, with the fingertips, much in
the way a bird would pick them up with its beak. As the grains of rice
disappeared, the strength of the man's developed fingertips became
apparent. The visitor explained that in a fight he could apply his
pecking and pinching techniques to the veins in the arms of his
opponent, causing deadly internal bleeding.
became intrigued with this idea and stood up, directing the man to
demonstrate the technique on him. Several attempts were made but none
were successful because of the extreme development of Uechi's arms. Arm
conditioning (kote kitae) had rendered the crane technique ineffective.
The degree of conditioning necessary to develop these advanced striking
techniques are a major hindrance in modern use. Extensive use of the
Okinawan conditioning device, makiwara, is not as prevalent in the West
as it is in Okinawa. A well-conditioned and highly refined animal strike
may be your only saving grace when you face a deadly opponent of greater
strength or determination.
the Author: Based on Secrets of Uechi Ryu Karate and the Mysteries of
Okinawa (1996) by Alan Dollar
and published by Cherokee Publishing. Information:
Alan Dollar, Cherokee Publishing, 1001 Fitzuren Rd., Antioch,
CA 94509 510-778-4400, fx 510-778-4468 email: Cherokee@aol.com>
The big toe kick
(sokusen) of Uechi-ryu karate emulates the tiger's bite. Sensei Shinjo
Kiyohide demonstrates the penetrating effects of this effective
technique on his son Shuichi, of Kadena, Okinawa.
Developing the toes
for kicking is an arduous, painstaking task requiring years of
dedication. An old tire makes an ideal target.
To execute a nukite
strike, tighten all four fingers together and place the thumb firmly
against the ridge of the hand. Legend contends that ancient Okinawan
karate masters could penetrate the rib cage like a spear using a nukite
simulates the damage of a downward thrust of a crane' beak. Targets of
the koken strike (right) are the groin and the nerves in the pelvic