View Full Version : Is tsuki a worthy attack?

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Ta Kung
01-17-2003, 06:24 AM

A friend of mine asked my why tsuki is a common attack in Aikido, since she figured no-one would punsh that way in a real situation.

I told her something along the lines of that it's not so much the attack, but the direction of attack (yokomen=side, shomen=down a bit and tsuki=straight ahead).

But this is only how I see it. My friend bought it though, but I still wonder what you guys and gals think. Is tsuki a "common" attack, and if not, why practise defense against it?



01-17-2003, 08:07 AM
I think it's because you have to start somewhere. With tsuki, you can practice techniques relatively easily, and then apply that knowledge to other attacks (e.g. kicks). It's hard to start a beginner off by teaching defenses against a haymaker or full nelson.

I think the goal is that it's an easy attack to visualize; I believe that aikido doesn't want us to deal with "attacks", but rather with streams and paths of energy.

Something like munetsuki is just an 'easy' attack to deal with -- no flashy stuff, no distractions, just the straight line of energy coming at you.


01-17-2003, 08:22 AM
think of someone trying to tackle you or "shoot" for your knees. This is similar to a tsuki - it is a energy coming at you in a straight line.

01-17-2003, 08:30 AM
Tsuki is very different in different dojos. In a lot of AiKiKai dojos I've seen, it is done underhand and seems to be mimicing a knife thrust or a even a sword lunge. It's hard to even imagine someone actually attacking this way bare-handed. In the ASU dojo where I currently practice, it's delivered similar to how I was taught to punch as a wee kid in Tae Kwon Do, with an emphasis on speed and a quick retraction. That seems more 'realistic' to me, but I'm not much of a fighter. In Seidokan, we gave a strong, overhand punch, but we left it out rather than retracting it. However, we also did a fair amount of work with other punches, so I guess we were thinking of this as a very didactic approach to punching.

I'm not saying that I have a preference for any of these approaches particularly. Actually, on the whole I have to say that I haven't really felt like there is that much difference between them.

Jason Tonks
01-17-2003, 08:49 AM
Hello there Patrick. Personally I feel that it is a devastating punch when performed correctly. If a solid punch comes at you in this fashion with power and intent, if you don't move you are going to get hurt. If it hits you in the face it'll more than likely put you on your backside and in the solar plexus area it will double you up. I can't go along with Phil's belief that it is an easy attack to defend against at all. If performed correctly from the hip it is difficult to see coming if you're not expecting it.

All the best

Jason T

01-17-2003, 09:00 AM
Is tsuki a worthy attack? IMHO, the question is, is your tsuki a worthy attack? I've seen tsuki mimiced as a karate punch, a knife thrust, and a limp wrist hand shake. Two of the three are very worthy attacks. They also teach you how to take anything on that angle of attack.

Until again,


Ta Kung
01-17-2003, 10:02 AM
Hello Mr. Seiser! I that case every attack is good. :) I meant more in the line of "would people really use it"? If not, why practise defence against it?

I do agree it always comes down to the person, not the technique. I think that o'sensei could use a bitchslap better than I could ever use a punch. But I still don't think the bitchslap is a better technique... :)

Please note: I'm not questioning the tsuki per se, for reasons stated in my first post. But still... who would punch you that way? Are there perhaps deeper knowledge to be gained from defending from a tsuki? I merely want to see what people think about this perticular attack.



01-17-2003, 10:37 AM
If the person has a knife and is trying to stab you in the stomach, it becomes a valid technique. And yes, people do strike this way. Case in point ...

About 7 years ago in Los Angeles, a man tried to kill his unwanted and unborn child by thrusting a knife into the mothers stomach. Thankfully, she moved away just far enough to where the knife missed the baby.

The child was delivered via emergency surgery and both baby and mother are doing fine last I heard. The man is serving time for two counts of attempted murder. (did it in broad daylight and was taken down by three-fours bystanders).

So, I'd say tsuki is a perfectly valid strike.

... Cheers ...

01-17-2003, 11:34 AM
I've been taught that thinking of technique as something you can "do" will just get you clobbered. Practice and eventually you'll "find" the technique; so maybe in reality no one will ever do "mune-tsuki" and hang out there for you to do your stuff; so what? This is a practice drill, not a battle!

As you work on these drills, you'll be able to keep your head about much better in a situation where you're under real pressure. At least, you'll have a better opportunity to SEE what the hell's going on.

If technique ever works out it'll be when you see the opportunity, when the technique is "given" to you. In the tussle, if you're able to keep your wits you may find that you've got the angle, the vector, the position to apply that technique (the right one) you practiced in a manner you find so "contrived".

I mean even in the dojo, do you try in

Randori to "do" kihon , or even anything that looks like it?

01-17-2003, 12:22 PM
I do bag work on a 100lb heavy bag. Nothing special, just working on combinations, power etc. (karateka) One day I messed around with doing munetski the way we do in practice. IE, start in hanmi, step with the back foot, when the back foot has become the front and planted, the punch unfolds out from the hip. (we would have called this a 'dash punch' or 'step through reverse punch' in my karate dojo) I found that punching this way was so powerful, about 1 out of 10 punches buckled my wrist. (if you've ever done any bag work, you know this hurts like hell!)

I think this is a devastating strike. In a more realistic setting, it would be set up with a jab or two or a hook punch, whatever. I would not want to take a fully committed punch like this to the body, and to the head? forget it...

01-17-2003, 12:58 PM
I think the real reason we do it that way is because that's how punches are traditionally practiced; so the question is why are they done like that? I mean, all styles of striking arts have these tsuki in their forms.. TKD, etc all do it this way. But then you go to sparring class and NO ONE does it that way. So why is it done that way traditionally??
I guess as some people have discovered it really is a good strike for a good fighter(when properly set up).
That's one reason I guess.

I always thought the other reason is that punching in its various forms is a very common and well accepted way of striking. The tsuki as traditionally done, although it looks a little unrealistic, really makes many things about a punch VERY clear. In other words, it is a way of learning about the punch in general, so then when the tsuki makes sense to you, you can better understand the more common kinds of punching.

I like it when dojos do a technique from tsuki and then from a more common-looking punch, and you can see it really is very related. It helps to learn from tsuki.

Ta Kung
01-17-2003, 01:38 PM
I mean, all styles of striking arts have these tsuki in their forms.. TKD, etc all do it this way. But then you go to sparring class and NO ONE does it that way. So why is it done that way traditionally??


Good answers from everyone. I gained a bit more perspective from this thread. I always liked the tsuki, even though I'd hardly ever use it in a real fight (and I'd hardly end up in a real fight anyway).

Have a nice weekend people!


01-22-2003, 03:52 PM
I've seen a number of non-Aikido people who watch Aikido practice with an air of 'that isn't what happens in the real world' about them if you know what I mean. They see it as applying Euclidean Geometry i.e. idealized shapes (circles, squares, etc.) to a Fractal world, so to speak. Sometimes we're quick to judge what we don't understand...

As I understand and practice Aikido, their initial observation is somewhat correct, but they don't understand the purpose of said practice. In the beginning we use large, slow, telegraphed movements along more or less idealized lines of attack to facilitate learning to respond to energy from these vectors. As we progress, those movements become smaller, quicker, and more practical in their application. In this way we learn to respond to incoming energy from all angles, with flexibility, and without creating bad habits (hopefully!) - whatever the attack might be. So this progression in Aikido practice is designed to produce Takemusu Aikido, applied in the broadest sense, to everything we do in life.

Of course, this is just my perception of the subject - we all practice and learn in very individual ways, regardless of Dojo affiliations, etc.

Needless to say, this isn't often explained to the casual observer and people draw their own conclusions.

Hope that helps in some way,


01-23-2003, 12:22 AM
Opher, you mentioned the retracting punch. This is something that has been bothering me so I hope you or anybody else can elaborate.

In normal tsuki where uke attacks and focus his energy outwards, nage then tries to blend with that energy either with tenkan or irimi and therefore does not stop the energy/or clash into, but redirects it into a technique or whatever. normally though, this does not work with a limp attack/non commital attack unless nage is a really good aikidoka which i'm not. so i need an understanding uke to make it work.

but with retracting punches, that line of energy is pulled back in. the only way i see in getting the technique accomplished is to actually blend with that energy before uke retracts, or... failing that forcing your own energy into the technique which i think is a total failure on my aikido. this i feel is because timing or otherwise, a retracting punch is a whole faster then moving my body in and taking his balance.

What are your thoughts? Thanks.

mike lee
01-23-2003, 03:52 AM
One solid punch and the wind can get knocked out of a person. Then he can't breath for about 10 seconds. An attacker can do a lot of damage in 10 seconds.

In practice, I always imagine nage is punching with a knife in his hand. This makes the exercise seem more life threatening.

If someone wants to be cute and quickly withdraw the punch, follow the fist in while moving to the side and execute an irimi-nage.

Nevertheless, even if you miss grabbing the hand, everybody's still safe, right?

01-23-2003, 09:02 AM
If someone wants to be cute and quickly withdraw the punch, follow the fist in while moving to the side and execute an irimi-nage.Exactly. Although keep in mind (see this thread (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=3254)) that in the variant of a punch off the back leg, this puts you in a place that is much less safe than in a punch off the front leg.

In the ASU dojo where I practice, where the retracted punch is the norm, a lot of practice goes into finding the timing to put yourself in the right place. There is also emphasis on the fact that if your hands don't connect with uke's arm then they should be well placed to atemi.

mike lee
01-23-2003, 09:09 AM
There is also emphasis on the fact that if your hands don't connect with uke's arm then they should be well placed to atemi.

I stay extremely close and keep my palm on nage's elbow so he can't counter-attack with an elbow strike to my ribs. I'm a headhunter because I'm tall, at least in Asia.

If he punches from the back leg and doesn't step foreward, I move around behind him about 270 degrees and pull him down from the shoulders. If the timing is right, he almost throws himself as he withdraws his arm. (If he spins around, I immediately go to irimi-nage.) Admittedly a difficult and dangerous move, but that's aikido sometimes!

My training in karate years ago has made me aware of a host of possible counters, and how damaging they can be.

In the end, one realizes how important the basic waza are as we advance, our timing just gets better.

01-23-2003, 09:47 AM
Off topic, but...

hey Opher, have you been to the dojo in the last couple of days? The dressing room was so cold yesterday morning my shampoo was frozen! It made the most marvelous crystalline structures.


I think Mike is right on, it's all timing. You have to catch it on the way out, or on the way back in. If you failed to do both, then you better move quick!

01-23-2003, 11:52 AM
Here's my two cents on the "retracting punch". Every punch thrown using upper body musculature as the power generator (or half of it, with the legs used as the other half) is going to retract because the force being generated comes from a spring-like action in the arm and shoulder. So unless you practice some other form of striking (which does exist, such as in hsing-i and some forms of aikido), the techniques used to control the arm (e.g. ikkyo, nikkyo, sankyo to name a few) should have the retracting motion factored into their movements.

How do you defeat a "retracting punch"? Easy, either don't let it retract (the striker's own muscles will pull their body off balance to the front) or accelerate the retracting motion (the striker's own muscles will pull their body off balance to the rear). You can do either through muscular force, or through the "blended centers" paradigm that is taught in Aikido. From either of these kuzushi, a plethora of different ending sequences are possible. The correct distance, timing and targeting required to make this work should be supervised under someone competent in all the above, and you should be ready to spend lots of time on it. Lots of time.

Jim Vance

01-23-2003, 12:06 PM

that should put to rest the myth of "Aikido can deal with REAL punches":rolleyes:

01-23-2003, 01:33 PM
When you're being surrounded by a gang, all it takes is for one of them to talk shit to you, while another will mount an unbelievably telegraphic and predictable punch right in front of you, and then knock your brains out with it.

01-23-2003, 03:12 PM
Aikido can deal with REAL punches

Should read
Aikido can't deal with
In any case as the old refrain goes...

"shut up and train.."

What's up with the gang story?

- I'm not worthy..I'm not worthy..I'm not worthy..

01-24-2003, 04:04 AM
And when you're surrounded by a gang with knives and three of them are holding you down while one of the holds a gun to your head and your feet are tied together THATS WHEN your technique is really put to the test. Remember, we train for when things are hard, not when they're easy!!!

Jason Tonks
01-24-2003, 04:28 AM
I guess negotiations have really broken down by that point Opher!

All the best

Jason T

01-24-2003, 09:33 PM
Ok, great. I'm suppose to take his balance preventing his arm from retracting which results in his own muscles doing the work for me. I guess, it means my whole body has to move out of the line whilst irimi, and brace my arm on his all in the time it takes from him to punch his fist.

Now I suppose good aikidokas has the speed for that, I don't think i do as yet. Moving out when uke starts to punch gives me the time needed, but only a really accomodating uke will carry on punching on the original line. Even he can see that i'm moving out of the way, and whats going to stop him from redirecting that missile? In fact, i've seen that happen many a time when a sensei asks a beginner to punch him. They really punch him.

I guess it just goes back to more practice and learning the timing. Thanks again.

01-25-2003, 01:47 PM
Excellent questions, Ahmad. I'm not sure they have 'easy' answers, but they do have some sort of 'standard' answers.

If you move at the right time, they say, you will not have to be fast.

If you move into (or along the path of) the punch and not away from it, uke will not try to track you because uke will think they are still hitting you.

Unfortunately, these are hard things to 'explain' using words. A few minutes on the mat might help me show you what I mean, but it's hard to capture. The feeling is not one of 'avoiding' the punch or 'hurrying,' though, so that should be a start.

One interesting comment I heard once was to try imaging where and when you want to be, and trying not to 'get yourself there.' Instead, if you just imagine that you WILL be there or, even better, that you ARE ALREADY there, your body does it for you. I didn't think it would work, but if I found the results very interesting.

01-26-2003, 08:57 PM
'Teleporting', now that would be so cool. :P

mike lee
01-27-2003, 03:21 AM
O-Sensei once said something to the effect that when facing one attacker, treat the situation as if you were facing many attackers. There are numerous benefits to training with such an attitude.

It helps us to maintain 360 degree awareness during waza, which also means continual readiness to face a new attacker at any moment. This leads one to keep the eyes and head up, also leading to better posture and ki extension.

Training this way, in the long run, helps one to make major improvements in waza, while also preparing one for multiple attacks.

In the end, even though we train one-on-one against a wide range of attacks most of the time, we can also always be training for multiple attacks.

There are numerous benefits to this way of training, but I haven't reached the level of teleporting myself yet. If such an event should ever happen, I hope I don't soil my drawers.

01-27-2003, 03:55 AM
I think that it's not about teleporting. It's more about intending to teleport. If you intend to 'move' somewhere, you often do funny things like leading with your head and leaving your feet behind or leading with your feet and leaving your head behind. Something in your brain tells you it can't all move at once. On the other hand, if you just intend to 'be' there, and imagine youreslf just there, the motor system seems to produce a much more efficient movement.

Like I said, I didn't have much faith either, but I found the results very interesting. I don't think I teleported, but I did improve my technique quite a bit.

I like what you say about multiple attackers, Mike. I've heard it before, but never realy tried to internalize it. It seems worth trying.

01-27-2003, 01:03 PM
I had the hardest time trying to catch real punches to do waza, because they almost always retract. However two things that Doran sensei said at a recent seminar were extremely helpful to me. (paraphrased and massively interpreted of course)

1. All the blend you need for tsuki is to try to see who uke is trying to punch. They are obviously behind you so look at them..

2. If you imagine a tsuki as a train, you don't want to catch that train when it's left the station and is full speed, catch it in the station when it gets back and is much slower.

(short rant about atemi's that has no place here..)

I hate it when you atemi someone and they just stand there. You shove your fist right into their nose and no reaction what-so-ever. DO PEOPLE NOT KNOW HOW TO PROTECT THEMSELVES ANYMORE!?!?<shift 1>!!

01-27-2003, 04:26 PM
(short rant about atemi's that has no place here..)
:) Me too! (Although I always blame myself and not them, but that's just me.)

01-29-2003, 01:18 AM
I'm going to try those things out tonight. I hope I don't bleed too much.

Anyway, about protecting yourself from atemi, what lines must not be crossed? I mean for instance some ppl atemi for distraction, you can basically put your hand in front of your face cause you see it coming and you know its not going to make contact.

But on the other hand, if nage is throwing an atemi that i can actually see, and its coming with force, surely as an aikido/uke I will be doing my darnest to keep safe... which may include returning with a technique, or plain atemi back.

Though, I've heard it said that proper atemi comes without you seeing/realising it, much less being able to block it.

01-29-2003, 04:59 PM

my experience is that Atemi as a "mind catcher" has to reach the awareness of Uke.

Some people have good reflexes, they can sense a hard and fast atemi and react properly. Some people haven't been kicked in the head enough to have that reaction time. the typical result with those folks of 'benevolent' atemi is that they'll ignore it (as if it they weren't providing openings).

As nage you can time your atemi so that the lightbulb goes off in uke's head (shit I'm open) which ultimately gets uke to move into the technique. Surely you've noticed that usually uke's best defense path is the ukemi for the techique..

So sometimes atemi can be more effective slowing it down than the other way around.

You're probably right that striking shouldn't be something that allows for this reaction; but if that were all there was to Aikido technique then most technique wouldn't be required; I mean there's such an opportunity for mayhem all through the course of any technique ..

..ugh don't mind me..

01-30-2003, 05:05 AM
Interesting, and in resonance to the way my first sensei taught. Very2 benevolent way though.

My current sensei says that moving in is already an atemi. Of course, i may just be misinterprating what he's telling. But it does make sense in iriminage.

01-30-2003, 12:44 PM
hard to know exactly what people mean. I've seen people conceptualize irimi as atemi and I'm sure I can rationalize that perspective;it's kind of what I mean but differnetly

Atemi (still in the mind catching sense) can be different in defree I'm sure. Whatever works. If you can react back to an atemi that you find is unconvincing then (if you were playing with me) I'd say go for it, but.. it's just as easy to let nage now you're not taken by tapping them through their opening. Just follow along; be aware of what you're seeing and let nage know what's going on (hopefully nage gets the hint). if not, train on yourself.

its training..

01-31-2003, 02:56 AM
Ok thanks.

01-31-2003, 11:00 AM
2. If you imagine a tsuki as a train, you don't want to catch that train when it's left the station and is full speed, catch it in the station when it gets back and is much slower.
This metaphor captures very well, what I've always thought about strikes. That is, the hand is moving a lot, with a lot of force, the bicep and shoulder are not. So with a strike get out of the way of the fast moving hand, attack (or attach) to the bicep or shoulder and let that lead into the technique. So for a wrist technique we know that if you travel down the arm away from the body, the wrist will be there. This doesn't change for a retracted punch or an extended one (in fact for a retracted punch the bicep/shoulder is closer to the hand).

01-31-2003, 03:44 PM
Back to the original post question -

Everything you do in early training - say the first 15 years - is about learning principle. Tsuki, yokomenuchi, kote gaishi, whatever, is only a prelude to understanding aikido. You have to do Something untill you start to get it. Aikido is formless. Train, train, train.... Do everything as if your life depended on it, but don't take anything too seriously. Enjoy.