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Ta Kung 01-17-2003 06:24 AM

Is tsuki a worthy attack?

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?



PhilJ 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.


JMCavazos 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.

opherdonchin 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

SeiserL 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.



Steven 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 ...

Alfonso 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?

MattRice 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...

JW 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!


W^2 01-22-2003 03:52 PM

It's all about the Mojo baby!
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,


Abasan 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

maintain focus and intensity
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?

opherdonchin 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) 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

full contact

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.

MattRice 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!

jimvance 01-23-2003 11:52 AM

(3 ft) punch - (2 ft 11 in) retract = 1 inch punch
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

Alfonso 01-23-2003 12:06 PM


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

shihonage 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.

Alfonso 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..

opherdonchin 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

Abasan 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.

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