Thursday, November 25, 2010

Uke Waza (blocking technques) part 1


Our karate distinct advantage and superiority is the precise and very advanced use of body mechanics to achieve Todome (finishing blow), and the use of precise timing and distance so one does not meet the opponent’s strength.

Those elements allow a karate person to use less power to over come big power; the small and week can overcome the big and strong.

Understanding those elements intellectually is not enough one has to digest and internalize to the point that it is no more in our brain, but in the nervous system, the way your nervous system is wired, or in sensei Nishiyama’s wards “body system”.

But mere repetition is not enough, there is a certain order in when and how one should practice timing, and each step should make you ripe and ready to digest and step to next level, and than of course it is like a spiral, we return and repeat certain drills with the emphasize depending on the needs, this is quality rather than quantity training.

The first and most basic timing we learn and repeat the most is Sen (ahead), which is to anticipate the opponent’s action, ideally to hit him at his mental commitment (Kake no Sen)and at the latest during the physical action (Tai No Sen). When doing Sen, our offense is our defense.

Sen teaches us to react with the breath and directly from the nervous system (not brain), to make the reaction and action as one, without space of judgment, and mentally/physically to give everything once we go (Ho Shin).

In Sen we are doing single reaction, we don’t have to select between opponent’s techniques, we trust our feeling and shoot like a bullet, yet with awareness, monitoring.

Uke Waza is similar, when we are slightly late for sen, we attack the opponent’s technique on the way to attacking his body, therefore Uke Waza, is not defensive. In Uke Waza like any other timing the reaction is with the breath, but unlike in Sen timing there is selection reaction, because choice has to be made to what technique is coming at you, of course we developed methods to minimize this selection.

Uke Waza is very important first of all because it is very effective and useful in application.

Second and very important benefit of Uke Waza is that when you get good at it, all other timing and footwork become easy to apply.

When you are comfortable in front of any attack that might come at you, which seem very difficult initially because when you block you do have to select between many options that the opponent has and you move into it. You have to select not with your eyes and brain, but with your intuition, with the wisdom of the body, you have to see without your eyes.

Sensei Nishiyama used to say that if properly trained anyone could use Uke Waza within short time, one needs to repeat over and over.

When you can stay relax and calm and tune to the opponent, no matter what speed or technique he will use, when you can be comfortable to see the attack coming at you and move into it with confidence, than it is easy to apply all other kinds of Oji Waza (response techniques) and footwork, such as Amashi Waza, using space to avoid opponent and than counter, or Mawashi Ashi, (foot circle) to avoid the line of attack, or Hiraki Ashi, (to open the foot) in order to move out of attack line.

When you are comfortable with Uke Waza, all of the sudden all other timing options become easier and natural to use, because you are relax and confident and therefore can perceive the opponent and see what is not there yet, and can easily capitalize on any attack.

When you are expert in Uke Waza, you accept the opponent’s attack, you welcome it, and take advantage of it, which also allows one to set the opponent up without rush, since you have to be confident to set the opponent up and allow him to attack first yet be ahead of him.

In general you initiate Uke Waza as quick and early as possible but it is not always the case, Aiko San used to point out to me to watch Sensei Nishiyama blocks, and he does not move until the attack is almost there, he receive the attack when it starts but actually moves to it late and without rush. This is, of course, mastery.


  1. Thank you very much Sensei, is a great addition to keep learning. Hope to see South America at some point. From Montevideo, Uruguay, OSS!

    Our web:

  2. Great article, Sensei! Thank you very much! Oss

  3. Wonderful article. Every time I read your articles I learn a new concept.

    Vincent A. Cruz, ISKA