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Shuto Uke, Knife hand block


Here is The reference technique karate. Indeed, just tell someone that you are doing karate to make a Shuto. It's pretty funny, but it's like that.
That's why I say it's a reference, it's the showcase of Karate, our natural advertising, the technique without which we would not exist ... That's what makes the difference in the public mind between the karate and boxing. Well, I probably add a little, but still, try to introduce yourself as Karateka; you will see that reactions often do not end up with a Shuto or at least a hold of open hands.
Come on tramp, we're here to talk about Karate and to dissect this defense technique that is Shut Uke. It was a long time ago that we did not talk about defense technique and to follow the conclusion of the previous article: "Karate is a war art in the service of peace"I told myself that a defense technique would be welcome.
Of course Shuto Uke can also be used in attack, but in this case it will be called Shuto-Uchi.

As I tell you in the title, Shuto Uke is a technique of defense with the sword of hand.

Shuto (手 刀) literally means "saber of the hand": we can decompose the ideograms as follows: 手 (shu or te) = main and 刀 (tô or katana) = katana

week (受 or 受 け) means "reception" (One often translates Uke by blocking and it is a mistake, luckily by the way because a defense is not necessarily a blocking, it can be an absorption, a dodging ...).
In fact, Uke comes from the verb ukeru (受 け る): to receive, to catch, to accept, to capture, to undergo, to obtain what fits well the idea of defense.

Shuto Uke is more often used at the Chudan level (but it also exists at the Jodan level) to block an arm attack by striking it laterally with the sword.

Decomposition of Shuto Uke:

Preparatory phase:

A bit like Gedan Barai, your arms will cross in front of you but open hands: The hand that will make Shuto is at the level of the reverse clavicle, palm open facing your face. The other arm is stretched in front of you towards the future point of impact open palm turned towards the ground.

The arms should stay as close as possible to the body (keep pressure under the armpits.) To avoid discovering (body protection) and to keep the body connection at the shoulders.

The rest of the body must remain relaxed to allow rapid acceleration of the next phase. You should not lift your shoulders or hips, only your arms move and flatten against the body.

Internally, you contract the transverse (deep abdominal muscle) by exhaling slowly (mesh) to increase the internal pressure of the hara to prepare the explosion of the actual strike phase.

The sword of hand:

The arms will now uncross very quickly. Movement is initiated by a strong reverse rotation of the hips and a contraction of the back (the shoulder blades are getting closer!).

The arm outstretched in front is pulled back (ikité) and is positioned palm to the sky just below the solar plexus. At the same time, the other arm makes Shuto Uke proper: the hand goes forward (to 45 ° diagonally!) With a movement slightly circular from the inside to the outside and a final whiplash around the wrist.
The impact is at the level of the fleshy part between the little finger and the wrist.

I made it clear that the trajectory of the hand was " slightly Circular because in fact, as for Gedan Barai ou Uchi Uke, the hand will take the shortest path, almost in a straight line to hit the opponent's forearm at an angle

The elbow should not go out of the body. If you put yourself against a wall, it's shuto that must touch the wall and not the elbow ;-). The elbow moves only slightly and plays the role of pivot for the forearm.

At impact, shoulder, elbow and wrist are aligned. The arm remains bent almost at 90 ° and the elbow is not too far from the body (always keep the pressure under the armpits). The hand is in the extension of the forearm. You must not break your wrist.

As with all techniques, the arms must remain as relaxed as possible during the movement so as not to slow it down. The contraction is only at the end at the moment of the kime.

The body is almost in profile (Hanmi), so this technique is often associated with the position Kokutsu Dachi.

Indeed, Shuto Uke works in general in Kokutsu Dachi, which makes it possible to enchain very quickly against a Gyaku Zuki en Zenkutsu Dachi or by a Mae Geri Keage of the front leg.

I'll let you go to the locker room now for a little training. On the video, I will explain in detail how to make your Shuto Uke, then we will work it on the move Ayumi Ashi and Iki Ashi in Kokutsu Dachi. In particular, we will see how the reverse rotation of the hips will, in addition to being at the origin of the technique, establish your position and improve your ground pressure and stability.

But before, I advise you to prepare yourself by a well-conducted warm-up. Inspire you for this advice that I give you in the book the ABC of warm-ups 😉

>>> Download the video

That's it, I hope you enjoyed the training and that you perfect your Shuto Uke.

We will soon rework this technique in a sequence of Kihon. But in the meantime, I'm waiting your comments 😉

See you soon,

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  1. Hello Bruno I have not started my classes yet but I made shaolin kempo being younger to the green ... .I would be part of the "White Tigers" are shotokan courses for 60 years and more ... .

    But I watch your videos with a lot of passion and I would like to tell you that you are an excellent teacher or sensei trainer ... ..continue your EXCELLENT Work.


  2. Hello,

    I find this article and this video very educational. The explanations are very detailed ... excellent.

    I have a question about the placement of the body versus the partner in this technique. Do not you protect more vital centers during a fight? For example by putting the body slightly more aside and placing elbows more ready cotte?

    Thanks in advance,

    • Bandelier Bruno at

      Thank you for your compliment.
      To answer your question on the placement of the body, you have to be careful because by putting you too much profile you risk presenting your back and there it does not forgive. We do not have arms in the back to protect the vital parts.
      For the elbow, you must not stick too much to the ribs because you may block the attack of the opponent too late.

    • Yes I agree with you enough.

      In my school, the Tinh Vo Dao, we accentuate a little more the position of the body at an angle, without obviously giving back.

      Regarding the elbows, they are slightly closer to the bust to be faster if for example an opercut come to the liver. But here I give very subtle details. It's very interesting to be able to compare to get rich.

      On slice strikes, we work more on the diagonal too, almost nothing is horizontal or vertical. The result is more overwhelming.

      Thank you

  3. I do not think that open hands and closed hands are just a question of coordination.
    It should be known that originally Karate was practiced mainly open hands. And it is under the influence of boxing that Karate is put to privilege the closed hand. Especially at the time of the master Anko Itosu. When he introduced karate into school education. As open-hand techniques were too complicated for schoolchildren, he decided to close most hand techniques. That's why the Kata Pinan (Heian) developed for school learning are practiced mostly open hands.
    According to my personal opinion, the open hand you mention is there to possibly react with a seizure. Because originally Karate contained a lot of seizures. And some projections and keys.
    The armed hand in opening allows more possibilities of counterattacks. It is also easier to go from the open hand to the closed hand to give a punch for example. That of passing from the closed hand to the open hand to perform for example a seizure.
    Seizures allow for example to rely on the opponent to hit that is with the hand or foot.

    • Hello Fabrice,

      The armed hand in opening allows more possibilities of counterattacks. It is also easier to go from the open hand to the closed hand to give a punch for example. That of passing from the closed hand to the open hand to perform for example a seizure.

      If it's better to do Ikite open hand, why in this case do not do it also on a Tsuki?

      • Hello Bruno,
        I answered this question. We do not do it during a tsuki because it's a lot easier to close the hand to give a punch to a beginner. Especially when one does not intend to fight back with an open hand technique or to make a seizure. Open hand techniques and simulated Kata seizures were too difficult to practice and memorize. That's why Master Itosu decided to close his hands.
        There is in ancient karate a Hikite open hand. Go see the book "Bu Bi Shi" by R. Habersetzer. Page 49 you have a photo of R. Habersetzer running it. It is written that it allows a counterattack in Nikite. Then we find 51 page, an interpretation of the 1 image of Bu Bi Shi. There we see an open hand lock with the other hand in Hikit open hand too.
        After knowing that we do not necessarily call tsuki a direct punch. But all techniques direct closed hands or open hands. The term tsuki comes from a thrust in Ken-jutsu. Besides, the Karate we practice owes much to the contribution of the Jigen-ryu Saber School through Sokon Matsumora. As for example the notion of Kiai, Kime and many others.

  4. "After open hand or closed hand, I think it's more of a coordination issue because it's easier to do the same with both hands. "
    I like it! and I find that his the road as an explanation!
    If Johnny goes through that why do not you confirm that
    Thank you for taking the time anyway it was an informative exchange!

  5. Okay
    Sorry to launch such a debate, but it is true that this hand bother me a lot, although the position is aesthetically more beautiful with an open hand rather than a closed point.
    Thank you for answering !

    • "But tell me this one he not finished to break our feet !!? 🙂

      I'm joking of course. It would only be missing that you are not allowed to start a debate. We're all here for that, right?

      Well, actually I think my answer is in the previous post.
      As I told you, the position of the hand or the point can be used as a weapon, but not in all cases. And so the rational explanation that you expect is the balance of the technique you talked about Johnny and I tried to define.
      And I also think as I wrote to you earlier that the position is also important, in Kokutsu, you do not have to pull your hip back, so the arm either.
      Well it's not easy to explain, try to do Shuto in Zenkutsu; To gain power, you will draw Ikité on your belt. If you make Gedan Barai in Kokutsu, to keep a stable position you will draw the Ikite to the plexus. After open hand or closed hand, I think it's more of a coordination issue because it's easier to do the same with both hands.

  6. Thanks for the answer Johnny
    I can not quite understand "balancing technique".
    Near to leave in nukité? but is it an army then?
    I am a little lost !!

    • Hello Regis,
      You know when I say that Ikité is not really the arm of the arm, that does not mean that it is not at all.
      In what Johnny explains, it is the arm of the arm, if you make nukité behind, but you can very well make Mae Geri for example and in this case it is no longer the arm of the arm ...
      In his explanation, he also says that the purpose of Ikité is the equilibrium of technique, there is not only the army.
      For the balance of the technique, I try to answer and Johnny will tell us if it corresponds to what he thinks:
      For a technique to be effective, the energy that starts from the belly, will have to rely on something solid to create internally an action-reaction. For example, when you contract your supporting leg to make Maegeri, the Hara leans on that strong leg to release energy into the other leg.
      In Ikity, the principle is the same at the time of the Kime, your Hara releases the energy in your technique by leaning on the back which is solid as if it bounced on it.
      When you pull your arm to the side, bending your elbow to the body, you contract your dorsal and "solidify" a whole side. The energy of the Hara will be able to rebound (action-internal reaction) on this solid zone to release the energy in the reverse arm which makes the technique.
      Well, I'm not sure I've been clear here

  7. The hikite aims to balance the technique to lock and prepare the next.
    In shuto, the elbow is directed downwards, in the direction of the hip and the open hand in the direction of the opponent in the shape of a spade near to start against in nukité in fact.

  8. Okay, I just read your answer I also read a lot of articles in forums about it I see it more clearly now thank you = D However, a question always trots.
    Why open hand? If you have sources concerning the Hikite I am a taker.
    Thank you again for your answer

  9. Hello Bruno!
    I have recently been in possession of the DAF (diploma of federal facilitator)
    I start giving lessons to my students and I ask myself a lot of questions about all positions, movements, techniques in karate because I think it's an art where nothing is done randomly (take me back if I I'm here to learn)

    Regarding the basic ikkite of a gedan barai in zenkutsu for example, it is pulled, arms flexed, allowing an army for a zuki, there is just to do an arm extension (+ internal rotation of the forearm) ,
    However, I can not find any consistency with the ikkité open hand at the level of the plexus!
    Why open hand? Why placed at the level of the plexus and not at the level of the hip as for a technique of fist?
    I look forward to your lights because I can not find a rational explanation for that.
    Thanks =)

    • Hello Regis,
      You are absolutely right you have to look all the time in karate. Nothing is left to chance but everything is debatable and open to evolution. Teaching will make you progress because, as you say, you have to question yourself constantly and question everything and that's what's exciting.
      Regarding the classic Ikite, the goal is not really the army for zuki, because it would mean that you would have no other choice after a Gedan Barai (your example) than to do against a technique like zuki on the other arm. Not in fact the ikite is rather interesting during the Gedan Barai (or other) because it facilitates the opposite rotation of the hip and the contraction of the back (we plate the shoulder blades against the ribs) on which will come to rest the energy that goes in the arm. Now there are some styles that make ikity by bringing the arm to the level of the plexus in protection so it is not incompatible.
      For the Ikite of Shuto, the difference also comes from the position Kokutsu Dachi, if you pull the arm back you have trouble to maintain a correct position because your hips will tend to turn while you have in this position "Sit down". This does not prevent you still stretch your shoulder to flatten your shoulder blades.
      Try to make Shut Uchi in Zenkutsu, you will naturally pull your arm to the side.
      Now you can also work doing ikit differently or not doing it. One must be able to do one's techniques a little in all positions and all circumstances.
      That was my explanation, I do not know if it is rational and there may be more.
      I hope I have enlightened you a little

    • I have already spoken on these issues. But after a personal analysis of the kata, I would like to share with you my reflections on the questions put forward by Regis.
      For that I would quote:

      "Concerning the basic ikkité of a gedan barai in zenkutsu for example, he is pulled, arms flexed, which allows an army for a zuki, there is just to make an arm extension (+ internal rotation of the forearm ) ".

      The basic Hikite of a Gedan-barai does not only allow an army for a Zuki. The proof is that there is a Tetsui-uchi in Heian Shodan with Hikite. Therefore the Hikite is not exclusive to the Tsuki because existing also for the Uchi. Another example is that there is also Uraken-uchi in Heian Yodan practiced in Hikite at the hip.

      Then I would quote:

      "However, I can not find any consistency with the ikkité open hand at the level of the plexus!
      Why open hand? Why placed at the level of the plexus and not at the level of the hip as for a technique of fist? "

      It must be known that the Kata have undergone modifications. As for the Heian, you should know that the oldest form would come from Shorin-ryu. I went to see how these Kata presented themselves in the book of S. Nagamine. And I had to note that there were in the Pinan (Heian) Hikite with open-handed hip and hikite plexus with closed hands.
      There are no rules in this area. In Tekki II and III, there are Shuto-uke with Hikite at the hip with their hands closed.
      All the cases of figure also exist whatever the posture. Whether face, 3 / 4 face or profile.
      Moreover, we talk about putting our hands in Hikite on the hip or the plexus. But one can accomplish an action by also putting one's hand to the forehead whether one's hand is open or one's hand is closed.
      Therefore, I would say after my personal analysis of kata that the different ways of arming the hand are related to the technique we are going to perform but also to the positions in which we will perform it. And that the army of the hand constitutes at the same time a preparatory movement to the technique and at the same time a guard ready to face all situations.
      Therefore why do we perform a Shuto-uke with open hand to the plexus. The reason is simple.
      In the Shotokan we arm the Shuto on the shoulder. And this way of doing things is typical of Shotokan. This karate style has created this way of doing things to increase the range of motion. But in the old-fashioned manner we were arming the Shuto with the Plexus. To be closer to the opponent. In Hikité at the hip it would have been too far away. Because the old karate privileged small amplitudes. And so the vestige of this way of doing has remained. And in the Shotokan we arm to the shoulder while continuing to place the hand in the plexus.
      I hope you have understood me well and that this analysis has not been too complicated. Otherwise I'm really sorry. I found these interesting remarks to be addressed. And I did not know how to be more concise.

  10. Thank you Bruno for this explanation on Shuto Uke. My training this morning: your videos warm up + Shuto Uke. I find the shuto technique still difficult to do (I have no automatism yet) but you explain it very well. I train at Shuto Uke because he is present in the first 2 Heians, Shodan and Nidan that I'm working on right now!
    Thank you, it's great!

    • Hello Isabelle,
      You make me very happy when you say that you trained with my videos in addition to your courses at the club. This is exactly how to do it.
      Good continuation and good progress.

  11. Hello Bruno!
    I just watched a few videos. They are very clear, good explanations, good demonstrations, everything is very well detailed. The vocabulary is adequate and very well explained, as for example in the explanation of gedan barai. These tools that you offer to practitioners are, in my opinion, very useful: whether for beginners or more advanced, I believe that everyone finds his account, whether to improve, or simply to refresh his memory . I have been practicing Shito Ryu for a number of years, but I am open-minded about other karate styles, including yours. I thank you for your generosity! I will come back to teach me again!

  12. For me, this is a very powerful movement that can also be a "trap" if it is interpreted in terms of blocking: because this movement is executed in two stages; the movement of preparation, as above on your photo, and the "finished" movement of the sword of the hand. Or for example, a fist attack runs in one time. What makes use of this technique, is a delay time, if it is used as a "block", especially if the attack is fast Tori. But if on the contrary, the preparation time is considered as the defensive aspect, with an internal attack, external of the armed hand to the shoulder on the arm of Tori, coupled with a simultaneous attack of the fingers of the hand advanced, tense forward . To finish in the second movement at the end of the curve, by a decisive shuto attack at the throat, we have the, a technique with a lead time and not a delay time. And this technique will be in this sense one of the most "killer" of karate.

    • @yoann,
      there you approach another aspect of the study: the bunkaï. Because for each technique, one can do a thorough research of its application. Used Shuto as blocking, is not a trap. It all depends on the context and the speed of tori. We can find a lot of application to shuto: blocking, defense-attack, clearing of seizure ... But you are not wrong in speaking of trap because very often one encloses oneself in only one idea and one remains there stuck like a fly on a "fly catcher", and that's what prevents us from evolving.
      Thank you for your contribution.
      A + Bruno

  13. Good evening Bruno,

    True to the job, I read your article with pleasure, indeed "Shuto Uke" is very representative for the media of the practice of karate, because it remains a very "instinctive" movement, and very powerful.
    Good luck, friendships.

    @ + Marc.

  14. No, Johnny, I did not know, but I'm not surprised. It goes back to what I said at the beginning of the article. This technique is our best pub.
    So I tell myself that if one day Karate is at the Olympic Games, the public will be disturbed not to see an open hand
    But hey, Karate at the Olympics is another debate!
    Thank you in any case for the info.

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