Saturday, 15 July 2017

Kungfu Moves in Karate: Move 3- Swinging Punch/ Reinforced Block

Hi, everyone!

I have taken some time before today's training to make these short videos about this very versatile move.

You don't really have to study Karate for very long to come across the Morote Uke. It is right there in the Heian/ Pinan Katas from Heian/ Pinan Nidan!

At your 8th to 5th kyu grades (I won't mention belt colours anymore after I have heard how Kyokushin belt grades are made up) you learn that this move is a block, as the "Uke" in the name connotes. I really have no objection to that to be honest. In Shaolin it is taught as exactly that. Then it is called "Stopping Fist"- if done with a closed fist- or "Beauty looks at Mirror" or just "Mirror Hand" when it is done with an open hand.

In one of the Shaolin forms I have learnt the Mirror Hand is followed up with the Precious Duck punch that I have written about last week. In Taijiquan forms it can flow into a Single Whip, Cannon Punch or a double handed push, depending on the form you have learnt.

Now- just so that everyone knows what move I am discussing today I direct your attention to the video showing the block as it appears in the form Bassai Dai from 3 angles. Just to be fair to all the styles I have done it once with the raised knee at the beginning as Shotokan does it and twice in the floating step manner as it appears in Okinawan-based styles.

In Karate and Taekwondo a conscious effort is made to swing the arms from the back forwards into the adversary's attack or just into the adversary if it is used as an attack. I remember feeling like pitching a baseball when I have first learned Bassai Dai. In this kata the block is never followed up, by another attack, but I have seen bunkai demonstrations featuring an uppercut very much like Kungfu's Cannon Punch.

In my view, under the right circumstances, I do not deem it necessary for there to be a follow up.

Here is why:

Let's say my opponent is taking a horizontal swing at me with a chair. His attack comes in a huge arc and if I intercept it in time one of his arms will be jammed across his centre line, making any other attack impossible. Now- this is not a competition setting. Pushing and shoving is definitely allowed. So- stepping forcefully into the attack I use my forward momentum and a good measure of peng-force to cannonate my opponent across the room while he is still gathering power to swing that chair.

In that context you can think that this attack would work against someone just standing too close to you in a normal guard out fighting posture. Sure- he may be closing him off from punches to scoring areas, but he's not going to do you any harm while he is flying backwards...

One of the huge differences between Karate and Kungfu is that with Karate the body and feet shoot forward when advancing.  The attack is timed to finish off as weight settles onto the lead foot, but the shifting of weight that we see in Taijiquan you do not really find in Karate.

As the video above shows, however, the Morote Uke in Karate breaks away from the normal method of blocking that involves one hand pulling back while weight is kept fairly centered. I have a habit of shifting from Kokutsu Dachi (back stance) to Zenkutsu Dachi (Forward Stance) that can be seen in the video. I have seen many karateka not doing this, though.


I have heard that the back fist (Uraken) is regarded as an inferior blow in Karate. In Shaolin Kungfu the horizontal back fist is called a Whip Punch. The vertical back fist- as shown in the video above- is called a Swinging Punch.

Where thrusting techniques start out with the body's support behind them strikes such as these fly into their targets at blinding speed, building up a huge amount of momentum before the body'muscles contract and the energy is sunk into the ground to prevent any force of the collision to be sent back to the user. This does not mean just a broken nose- the person on the receiving end of this attack can get a nasty concussion as well. 

Adding a Following Step like here below adds even more momentum.


Taijiquan is known to use the shift of weight in many of its movements and the Mirror Hand is no exception.

This approach strengthens my opinion that this block is best done closing up the opponent's centre line. It is not so difficult to conceive closing up your opponent's centre line and shaking his brain at the same time with the swinging punch done at nose-level.

With the Mirror Hand the energy does not need so much to be focused in the blocking hand. If the energy of your explosive forward attack gets focused into the blocking arm you can easily push your opponent off-balance or do knock the wind out of him in very much the same way as is done with kao force or Musashi's Body Strike.

From a pragmatic point of view we can all agree that people with no martial arts training usually raise both their arms in defence when being attacked. It takes some time to learn to jam the attack with one hand while the other pulls back.

Also- if you are standing in a natural, non-aggressive posture and suddenly needs to strike you will find that the single circular movement of this strike is much faster to perform than first aligning the fist with the target and bending the arm for a straight punch and then straightening the arm into the punch.


That's it for today! :)

Join me next week as we look at the single tiger emerging from the cave. :D

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