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"Ideally, your self-defense will never get physical. Avoiding the situation and running or talking you way out - either of these is a higher order of strategy than winning a physical battle." - Wise Words of Rory Miller, Facing Violence: Chapter 7: after, subparagraph 7.1:medical

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Warning, Caveat and Note: The postings on this blog are my interpretation of readings, studies and experiences therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. The content surrounding the extracts of books, see bibliography on this blog site, are also mine and mine alone therefore errors and omissions are also mine and mine alone and therefore why I highly recommended one read, study, research and fact find the material for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the books.

Note: I will endevor to provide a bibliography and italicize any direct quotes from the materials I use for this blog. If there are mistakes, errors, and/or omissions, I take full responsibility for them as they are mine and mine alone. If you find any mistakes, errors, and/or omissions please comment and let me know along with the correct information and/or sources.

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What is the very first thing you teach a newbie?

Tate-ken [縦拳] or the vertical fist in most Isshinryu halls. Why? Because it has become a symbol of the system since Tatsuo-san is believed to have been the first Okinawan karate master to actually recognize and use it in lieu of the more traditional twisting punch [転拳]

Then I asked myself, many years later, why do I bother teaching the tate-ken to newbie's? Why indeed simply because most individuals already know how to make a fist instinctively. Now, one might argue that making a fist and making one properly to be effective is behind teaching the tate-ken. I disagree wholeheartedly simply because as a newbie progresses to say the makiwara or use of the heavy bag it will become apparent to them whether the fist is properly used. This allows them to feel fully involved with the system of learning with greater feedback than articulating the tate-ken or any fist for that matter.

There is another reason as well. It may seem or be perceived as teaching down to the person since making a fist is natural and instinctive. It is something they have been doing since birth so why would you assume the person cannot make a proper fist. Then I take into consideration that it is more important to start introducing the fundamental principles of martial systems that are the foundation of the techniques, etc. used. 

Look at it like asking a practitioner to go-back-to-the-basics vs. fundamental principles. We equate basics as something a newbie does while most at this stage have earned a higher level. It can seem demeaning to the person when it is better to build on their efforts and progress in lieu of sending them back to the perceived beginning. 

It is better to introduce the newbie to the principles that govern the punch all the way from cocking at the waist (beginner stuff only as this will change in time) or chambering through the entire cycle keeping the body, arm and fist aligned and moving in a more economical and powerful way, etc. This will seem kind of simplistic but it is just an example to get the old gray matter thinking in a inventive and creative way.


  1. However, the Issinryu vertical fist is not a natural fist. Thus it must be taught and learned. I've written a post on why the Issinryu fist is constructed the way it is constructed which is not understood by Issinryu exponents.

    1. Hi, John: Thanks for your feedback. I would tend to disagree simply because making a fist is natural and the only difference regards the placement of the thumb. I have found some to actually make that type of fist and others I have allowed the natural fist, i.e. one without the thumb placement, until they achieve a fundamentally good punch or strike.

      Then I will introduce the benefits of the thumb placement. I also had taught that there are several ways to make a fist and for what purposes, i.e. the placement of the thumb in different locations have an effect on a type of strike or punch or thrust punch, etc.

      Isshinryu tends to spend an exorbitant amount of time on this vertical fist thing when Tatsuo-san only allowed the slight adjustment in kata as related to kumite as well as actual fighting or combat. In reality it was American influences that stressed the thumb on top vertical fist.

      Tatsuo-san, according to my research, didn't spend much time explaining or training but rather allowed that natural tendency toward a vertical fist application to be applied naturally be students, both new and not so new.


      Charles J.

  2. Impressive! My son is karate obsessed and because of the irresistible tantrums that he had been making at home, I took him to a <a href="http://www.martialartstoronto.ca/”>Martial Arts</a> Center in Toronto. Now he is extremely happy about it and is getting trained in different 'moves' and 'kicks'