Karate? Jiujitsu? It's all sleight-of-hand

My first true love in the martial arts was Karate and while I do dedicate the absolute majority of my training time to jiujitsu, judo and yoga, I will always consider myself a budo-ka: a martial artist first and foremost. Karate will always be a major component of that and my black belt is one of my proudest moments.

All that seriousness apart, I recently found myself sketching traditional Karate hand formations and thinking, in a very un-serious way, about what they could mean in a jiujitsu context. The result was nine nice sketches and a humourous take on an otherwise (too) serious subject.

Nukite: "Stop!"

Nukite is as mysterious as a karate technique as they get. Traditionally, this was meant to be aimed at the oppornent's soft tissue such as the throat or solar plexus. More recent interpretations call for protecting the fragile fingers and shooting us as a sideways palm heel to the jaw instead. 

In modern jiujitsu, however, the most often I've seen this gesture is by a referee stopping the two competitors and then calling them onto the tatame.

Shuto: "Shake hands"

The iconic karate hand strike, often coupled with a shrieking "KIAIII!" but well-meaning aunts and uncles who are trying to pretend they're interested in little Johnny's new past-time.

In jiujitsu, outside GM Helio Gracie's application as a surprise attack to the neck after combing his hair, you'd only really see this hand gesture when referees want you to shake hands with your opponent, tuck your gi jacket skirt in or as they shout "COMBATE!" to start the match.

Seiken: "Bump fists"

Karate's most utilised strike is, has always been, and will always be a string reverse punch with a tightly formed fist. Forged for years against striking posts such as makiwara and punching bags and focus mitts. 

In jiujitsu, it has come to be expected from practitioners around the globe as the only legitimate action to do after shaking someone hand / slapping their palm. It's because we're all cool surfers and such.

Upside down teisho: spider guard

Retract the fingers to protrude the heel of the palm. In Jiujitsu, you will mostly see this when the fingers are deeply controlling the sleeves in spider guard. 

Ippon nukite: "This guy!"

Not much poking is done in Jiujitsu, whether at sparring or in training. Instead, this is a gesture many a referee will use when the scoreboard get their instructions wrong and award / penalise the wrong competitor.  

Uraken: Penalty!

Speak of the devil. We've all seen and fallen in love with Bruce Lee's Back Fist from "Enter the Dragon", also made infamous by Rafiki in Disney's The Lion King. In Jiujitsu, if the referee is pointing at you and throwing a backfist on the air, you've just been handed a penalty!

Haito*: advantage 

Karate: Crush The throat
Jiujitsu: a mysterious non-entity that has decided Mundial finals and caused riffs in the fandom of the sport

Nihon nukite: 2 points

Did...did you just throw your opponent / take them down / sweep them / put your knee of their belly? 2 points to you sir!

Ippon Ken: "You need to pay me now!"

Ippon Ken, or single knuckle fist, gets a lot of flack but who the heck wants a hard pointed strike to the soft tissue? Not me! That's why I always make sure I pay my dues. 

*Haito: To the purists, I understand that the action of awarding an advantage (there's that dirty word again!) in BJJ actually more simulates a shuto uchi, shuto was already taken. Lighten up, buttercup.


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1 comment:

Carlo Vanelli said...

I'm a big martial art fan and I love Japanese martial arts particularly, especially Judo. I would like to learn more about the historicity of Japanese martial arts. Is there a good book you can recommend?