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Jason Lester
Jason Lester's picture
Kata: The pulling hand

Hi everyone,

I would like to share the following and many training drills regarding the pulling hand in kata. Some of you may already train using the idea, if not then i hope it is of some interest and something you can use in training.

The pulling hand sometimes doesnt make sense or may seem to be wasted when blocking etc in kata etc, for example in the street i would not pull the hand back if i were to block an attack, i really dont want a dead hand when in a real fight. The pulling hand is ok if  drawing someone in if they have grabbed the wrist etc, or if an attacker is close behind and use the pulling hand as an elbow strike or if your grabbing etc.

Lets look at the pulling hand in a different bunkai application: When using the pulling hand in kata (or basics) the fist or open hand touches ones own body, the kata (pulling hand) is telling or giving you a target to strike your opponent.

For example in Pinan Shodan or Heian Nidan the left hand blocks (of course this could also be a strike) and the right arm or fist touches the temple, head etc, so there is the target on your attacker, block the attack and strike at the same time. If the pulling hand rests on waist or kidney area, again there is the target, block and strike the kidney or waist area.

Why wast time blocking, pulling the hand back then a strike. Really doesnt make a lot of sense, using the ideas above one never has a dead hand in training or in a real fight.

Again some of you may already use the above in training or it may have been a past topic, if not then i hope it is of interest and why not give it a try next training session. It really does give more 2 person bunkai drills (if you havent got enough already,lol) and makes kata even more fascinating.

I will be posting a few examples on youtube in the next week or so, Jikoboei Ryu/google/youtube.

Kind regards,


Lee Richardson
Lee Richardson's picture

Apologies in advance if I've misinterpreted your post Jason, but you seem to be proposing that the position of the hikite indicates where on our opponent we are striking with the other hand. Have I got that right? If not then please ignore the rest.

If that is what you meant then I'm not sure you'll get much take up on this forum, dedicated as it is to the practical application of karate. A Shotokan practitioner will hold their hikite to the hip (except shuto uke, in which case it'll be across the solar plexus). I can only think of gedan barai and gedan oi zuke where the striking hand goes that low. What about the other strikes and counter-strikes (or 'blocks', if you prefer)? Apart from anything else, just how effective is a punch to the hip? Is it a fight-stopper?

It's generally accepted that head shots are preferable to body blows (given the choice), so how come we don't bring the hikite to the jaw or neck?

I can see that strikes to the kidneys can have good effect (but not knock outs), but the hikite doesn't go to them in any style I've ever heard of, being located round the back, low down. My background is in Wado Ryu and the hikite is brought to the side of the ribs, high up. The floating ribs make a better target than either the fixed ribs or the hip.

I think most folk here use the hikite to pull their opponent towards them to unbalance them, to bring them onto the striking hand, to use as a range finder and to greatly increase the accuracy of their strikes.

See chapter 13 ('The True Uses Of 'Blocks') of Iain's book Bunkai Jutsu for some excellent examples of applications.

Kevin73's picture

I'm not sure what you mean either.  Many times katas and basics use a whole range of motion to show the potential and how to generate the power in the strike, but after training the larger motion you learn how to do the samething with smaller motions.

Others are "hidden techniques" that build in applications.  For example, the crossing of the hands as you do blocks teaches you a parrying motion before the primary block.

But, I don't agree with the chambering aspect of the hands as always showing you where you strike.

Th0mas's picture

HI Jason

Thank you for posting this and firstly let me be clear that I admire people who are brave enough to post up ideas, it is much easier to critic than to propose.

You are definitely thinking outside the box with this suggestion. Personally I think your idea is as mad as a box of frogs. However there are certain points in most kata's where you strike the "other hand" which is absolutely a targeting principle, however the hand is placed on the opponent (and is also not the chambering hand) suggesting a controlling grab, and a targeted strike to that spot. (Tekki Shodan, elbow to palm or Heian Godan crescent kick to palm).

Please do not be put off by my cynicism and post the videos on You tube. I am genuinely interested to see how this one pans out.



Jason Lester
Jason Lester's picture

Hi guys, thanku for the replys and thanku tom for your kind words.

I admit my idea sure sounds as mad as a box of frogs,lol, but it is just another way we could look at the pulling hand regarding bunkai in kata. In training i teach all aspects within the pulling hand and have used and taught it as a strike for many years and for myself and students seems to be a very effective technique.

Sometimes its not easy explaining or sharing ideas on this wounderfull site, it is easy for individuals to get confused so having a video to watch makes things easier to understand.

Again thanku guys for your replys and tom for yours, it has not put me off and hope you all enjoy the videos ounce uploaded, will keep you posted. We are all here to share and learn new ideas within our chosen martial art.

Kind regards,


Th0mas's picture

No worries Jason, Look forward to the you Tube links

Joshua.Harvie's picture

Just a though on this, does anyone know how the hikite works in relation to kobudo, particularly the tonfa and sai?


Here we have a lot of movements we can relate to, although the purpose of the pulling hand is obviously different. Are they still grabbing and pulling but it's more convenient to leave the weapons in the hands for the purpose of a solo form? In the tonfa form I found it interesting that there was a section of blocking and striking nearly simultaneously but this is quite uncommon in hand to hand kata, at least in the 'classical' forms. This seems to support the idea of the pulling hand as we all agree it should be used (as it's clearly not possible when your holding bits of wood so they do the next best thing).

Kind of off topic but I'm looking forward to what you guys think.

Th0mas's picture

Unfortunately I have absolutely no experience of sai or Tonfa. I have done fencing to competiion level etc... but not really sure if that counts.

Alhough looking at the kata's they seem to be forms based on hand-to-hand kata...which leads me to consider a number of implications (some of which are mutually exclusive):

  1. Someone just added the weapons to an old "open-hand" kata?
  2. The Katas are original and in fact most "modern" kata is derived from orginal weapons forms?
  3. The Sai /Tonfa were originally designed to suppliment the practiioners aresenal for dealing with HAOV so the applications are against (mostly) unarmed opponents or non-soldiers?
  4. The Sai, with its prongs, in paricular may enhance the hikite, snagging clothing (or flesh..) and therefore may have similar applications to the unarmed versions of the movements...?
  5. Fighting with weapons tends to be at a slightly longer range...maybe the pulling hand is designed for trapping weapons not limbs..?
  6. The Sai/Tonfa are farming implements that have been re-purposed as weapons of war and the kata deals mostly with applications for armed opponents which is why there appears to be a lot of simultaneous blocking and striking applications?
  7. Why use farming implements when spears, swords, clubs and guns are available...maybe they weren't available (too expensive, illegal ???) I am not sure if the commonly held view that normal weapons were banned in Okinawa and that that is why Karate exists etc..is a fully satisfactory answer..
  8. All of the above (including 1 & 2)... nothing in Karate has a single source..IMHO

If I am honest some of my points above seem slightly unconvincing... which is a reflection of my lack of experience and the form of the kata's themselves look slightly "competition-esque".