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Tensho kata as a basic two-person sticking-hands drill (video)

This video looks at how Tensho (“turning palms”) can be used as a basic two-person sticking hands / muchimi drill. This is not combative bunkai, but instead a simple drill to practise sticking to the enemy’s limbs in order to feel what is happening, redirect the emery’s attempts to strike, and to open the enemy up for your own strikes.

The idea is that both participants maintain contact at all times (for the forward movements in the kata) before disengaging (the retreating parts of the kata). In the clip we show the first step forward where your partner’s right arm is controlled. It is possible to disengage here (as shown), but it is also possible to continue forward to practice the left side (second step) and then controlling both arms at once (final forward step).

It is vital to understand that the drill is a means to an end and it must not become an end in itself. In reality, extended periods of contact like this will not occur. You would simply control and redirect the enemy’s limb before immediately exploiting the opportunity created and exploding with decisive strikes. Contact is maintained for what would be an artificially long time in the drill because that is the skill that the drill aims to promote.

Pushing hands / sticking hands / muchimi drills are overemphasised by some and are mistakenly thought to be a legitimate “as is” combative exercise. They have a role to play and the skill developed is important, but they must be understood as part of a wider combative methodology. It is vital that it is clearly communicated that limb-control is there to facilitate the delivery of the techniques that will prove decisive. To overemphasise limb-control is betray the fundamental nature of karate which aims to immediately end the situation in any given instant (ikken hissatsu).

This is a very quick video summarising a much longer period of practise. It does not record the totality of what the kata has to offer (far from it) and I’m not the person best qualified to give instruction on the kata (Tensho not being a kata I regularly practise). Nevertheless, I hope you find the video useful and interesting.

All the best,


Practical Kata Bunkai: Tensho kata as a basic two-person sticking-hands (muchimi) drill