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Tau's picture
"X block" position - which hand on top

When performing the "x-block" movement, be it high or low, which hand goes on top and why? I use this position for various purposes including transitions, chokes and locks. Thinking it through all of the kata that I know that have this movement have the hand of the rear leg on top. I'm thinking Pinan/Heian Godan and Chinto/Gankaku. Yet in Taekwondo it was strictly the hand of the lead leg.

My students asked this this past week and correctly guessed my response: don't worry about it! In the time it takes for you to figure out which hand should on top you're already taking damage. Yet for precision of performance of kata / forms there is definately a "correct way."

What are your thoughts?

Marc's picture

Interesting question.

Usually when I'm asked by students (or by myself) about the details of a certain move the first thing I do is "watch" myself do the kata. Then I can say, ok here's how I do it - mostly because that's how I have learned it. Next thing is to re-read how it has been described by Funakoshi in Kyohan. I would also ask other instructors and re-watch some kata performances on youtube to see if there's agreement or variations on how to do it.

The next step is to ask why. And that question can be approached from different angles:

a) history/tradition/variations,

b) anatomically healthy body mechanics,

c) possible applications.

Now, angle a) gives us a clear and simple answer: Because that's the way it is being taught in our lineage. But if we want to dive deeper, we inevitably get to angles b) or c).

Angle b) can give us convincing answers when we consider possible knee injuries from badly aligned stances, for example.

Mostly however I like to look at it from angle c). A possible application can provide an answer by considering mechanically solid alignment and power generation to allow for a strong technique.

OK, so let's look at the technique in question: Juji uke

The way I do them in all katas I know is with the hand of the rear leg on top, just like you do. When there is no rear leg (as in kiba-dachi) it is the right hand that is on top in most cases. - Why?

a) Because that's how I have learned it. And it seems I am in good company. (Doing Shotokan, by the way.)

b) Anytomically it should not make much of a difference, especially in kiba-dachi. Although rear hand on top feels a little more stable, but that might just be because my body is used to it.

c) Application-wise I use juji uke in context of the preceding or following movement, and I like to see them as some kind of wrist or shoulder lock or as a sort of headlock/sleeper hold.

So, having my applications in mind, the "correct" way to do juji uke seems to be the way the applications works best.

As to the time it takes to figure out which hand goes on top, I would say that the "correct" position is the one that you would naturally assume when applying the principle of the technique, because that is how the lock works.

This is self-referential, however. Since my applications are the result of analysing the technique as I learned it, of course they are strongest when done that way. Therefore the application is matching the technique, therefore the technique is done correctly in that specific way to support the application.

Had I learned to put the arm of the front leg on top, then either my applications would be different, or I would have had to change the kata movement, or I would conclude that it really doesn't matter which arm is on top.

All the best,


Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Tau wrote:
When performing the "x-block" movement, be it high or low, which hand goes on top and why?

In modern karate parlance the label “x-block” (juji-uke) is used every time the arms cross in kata. We see the arms cross on limb redirections, locks, strips, certain throws, etc. We can’t say there is a uniform “right way” across all these different techniques. All that unites these methods are the fact that the arms cross at some point, and the flawed and misleading “3K terminology” overlaid onto the kata in the 1930s. We should not be looking for uniformity in application based on a nomenclature that we know to be false and which was superimposed onto the kata long after they were created.

My answer would be:

Which hand goes on top?

The one that that specific technique requires.


Because that’s what is needed to make the technique work.

In the karate kata, there is no uniformity such as “always the same hand as the back leg”. Sometimes the right hand is on top, sometimes the left … and you see both with varying foot positions.

Tau wrote:
Yet for precision of performance of kata / forms there is definitely a "correct way."

The defined correct way in the kata tends to be the way that fits the specific method being shown. Trying to impose uniformity across the piece suggests a uniformity of purpose (i.e. “it’s an upper cross block” and always is). The 3K labelling is based on 3K thinking. It needs ignored so every motion can be viewed and practised in the context in which it is presented within the kata.

 All the best,