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A successful tsuki in Karate.
Tsuki (突き?), is the Japanese word for "thrust", coming from the verb tsuku (突く?), meaning "to thrust". The second syllable is accented, with Japanese's unvoiced vowels making it pronounced almost like "ski" (but preceded by a "t" sound).
Tsuki is one of the five target areas (datotso-bui) in kendo (along with men, do, hidari kote and migi kote). It is a thrust of the point of the shinai to the throat. Unlike most other martial arts that use this term, in kendo, tsuki is a comprehensive term for both the movement and the target. The kiai for this strike, unlike other strikes in kendo, is not the name of the target (the neck, or kubi) but rather the name of the attack (tsuki).
The target area (datotso-bui) for tsuki is the tsuki-bu, a multi-layered set of flaps, attached to the men (helmet) that protects the throat.
Tsuki is most often done with a two handed grip (morote-zuki (諸手突き?)) and less often with only the left hand(katate-zuki (片手突き?)). Tsuki is often disallowed for younger and lower graded players in free practice and in competition (shiai).
While variants of tsuki exist in other martial arts, in kendo it has no variants; the target is always the same.
Karate, its variants, and other arts
In karate and its variants, tsuki is used generally as a part of a compound word for any one of various punches, and virtually never stands alone to describe a discrete technique. (Note that in a compound word, where tsuki does not come first, its pronunciation and writing changes slightly due to rendaku; this is transliterated as zuki.)
Some examples of use for basic techniques include:
- Age-tsuki (上げ突き), rising punch
- Choku-zuki (直突き), straight punch
- Gyaku-tsuki (逆突き), punch with the rear arm
- Kagi-tsuki (鉤突き), hook punch
- Mawashi-tsuki (回し突き), roundhouse punch
- Morote-tsuki (双手突き), augmented punch using both hands
- Oi-tsuki (追い突き), punch with the lead arm (when stepping forward - lunge)
- Jun-tsuki (順突き), punch with the lead arm when stationary or moving back/away
- Tate-tsuki (立て突き), vertical fist punch into the middle of the chest (short-range)
- Ura-tsuki (裏突き), upside-down fist punch into solar plexus area (short-range)
- Yama-tsuki (山突き) or Rete-zuki, two-level double punch (combination of ura-zuki and jodan oi zuki)
Sparring in Karate is called kumite (組手:くみて). It literally means "meeting of hands." Kumite is practiced both as a sport and as self-defense training where punching and other techniques are develop and executed.
Levels of physical contact during sparring vary considerably. Full contact karate has several variants. Knockdown karate (such as Kyokushin) uses full power techniques to bring an opponent to the ground. In Kickboxing variants ( for example K-1), the preferred win is by knockout. Sparring in armour (bogu kumite) allows full power techniques with some safety. Sport kumite in many international competition under the World Karate Federation is free or structured with light contact or semi contact and points are awarded by a referee.
In the aiki-jō practiced in some systems of aikido (most notably the Iwama style aikido of Morihiro Saito), tsuki is used literally as part of the name of numerous thrusting techniques with the short staff (jō).
In karate and its variants, gyaku-zuki is the term used for reverse punch. A traditional reverse punch is a straight punch executed from a front stance, with the punching hand on the opposite side to the leading leg (e.g., left leg forward, punch with the right fist). Alternatively, gyaku-zuki can be used as the term for any punch thrown with the hand on the same side as the rear leg. Gyaku-zuki, Shotokan karate's strongest punch, develops power through movement of the hips. The hips twist as the returning (non-punching) hikite arm is pulled back and the punching arm is pushed forward, the fist twisting at point of impact. Tensing of the whole body is synchronised as the punch makes contact and at this time the rear foot is pushed down.
In karate and its variants, choku-zuki is the term used for "straight punch". The chamber, or preparatory position, of choku-zuki is with the striking hand retracted to the hip or ribs, in a fist, with the palm facing up. The punch travels in a linear path directly toward the target, with the elbow behind the fist, tracing the fist's path. The hand remains palm up until the last two inches of the punch, when it rotates to face down. Ideally, the beginning of the fist's rotation coincides with the initial contact with the target. The elbow remains on the bottom of the arm. Permitting it to rotate to the side or upward exposes it to injury from either self-inflicted hyperextension, or from a stiff block by the opponent. Contact is made with knuckles of the fore-fist. A straight punch executed from a front stance (zenkutsu-dachi) is called gyaku-zuki (reverse punch) if the advanced leg and fist are on opposite sides, or oi-zuki (lunge punch) if the leg and fist are on the same side.
In aikidō, choku-zuki (as described under karate, above) is a basic attack from which throwing and pinning skills are taught. However, because in most aikidō schools it is the only punch from which defensive techniques are taught, there is no need to differentiate it from any other punch. Thus, it is shortened and simply called tsuki. However, choku-zuki is still used in aikidō, and refers to a specific technique with the jō (staff). With the student standing in hidari katate-gamae, the weapon is lifted to the right hand, which slides to the bottom end of the weapon. The student shuffle steps forward (tsugi-ashi) and the right hand pushes the weapon for the strike, allowing it to slide in the left hand, and coming to rest with the left hand gripping the jō one third the distance from the bottom end. More simply, picture striking a billiard ball with a cue stick, except both hands grip the jō with palms down, and thumbs forward.
Notes and references
- Japanese-English Dictionary of Kendo, All Japan Kendo Federation, Tokyo, Japan. February 1, 2000.