42 Bunkai to “Monk’s Salutation”

By Jesse Enkamp

Let’s look at some bunkai (applications for techniques found in kata) again!

Last time we did kakete, “hooking hand”, and I think it’s the most read post on this site ever! So today, let’s do another one!

The technique of today is the “Monk’s Salutation” found in kata like Jion, Bassai Dai, Jitte, Chinte (only in Shotokan), Jiin and perhaps some other obscure kata.

The move in itself is not that hard to do, you simply place the right fist in the left.

Historically speaking, it is believed that this salutation was originally used among Chinese secret societies who opposed the rule of the Ching and wanted to re-establish the Ming dynasty. The symbolic meaning of the salutation is the Ming dynasty, with the sun represented by the closed right hand, and the (half)moon by the left. Today it is still used in many Kung fu schools.

So, the move is a salutation? Can it have a deeper meaning than simply saluting? Yes, I think so. If the salute with the bo (in Kobudo) has bunkai, then why shouldn’t the empty hand salute have a bunkai?

At least many techniques seem to fit quite nicely…

Now, before I give you the pictures where my loyal slav… oops I mean colleagues Viktor and Vincent show the bunkai, I want to explain one thing: It’s easy to place your hands in the appropriate position for a bunkai, but hard to actually do it “from zero” (the opponent attacking). Now matter how fancy it looks, if you can’t easily make it from square one to the last position, then it isn’t practical.

And if it isn’t practical, it’s most likely wrong.

Lastly, since they are only showing the last positions here, (one picture/bunkai) it’s hard to see the details. For example, look at this one:

Looks like some sort of… wrist lock, right? Nope. A detailed shot reveals it’s a thumb lock:

This applies to many of the pictures. They are often not what they look like.

Anyway, enough with the talking, here’s the other 41 bunkai to Monk’s Salutation:

The last empty spot is for the one we did in the intro (thumb lock), making it a total of 42. Today we only had 20 minutes to take these photos, so I believe it is possible to do around 50-60 with more time, without altering the hand formation too much!


About the author

Jesse Enkamp is a self-titled Karate Nerd™, #1 Amazon best-selling author, national champion and founder of Seishin - the world's first crowdfunded & crowdsourced gi. He thinks you should become a Karate Nerd™ too.


  1. Szilard

    September 10, 2010 at 12:22 am

    And they thought I was crazy when I made up bunkai for our version of the same thing: it is done at groin level. You smack your fist in your palm. I think the effect can be devastating. Try it with kime-kiai. “The kata starts and ends with polite bowing.” therefore the monk salutation is part of it. (And the bowing could be a headbutt.)

  2. Tommi Prami

    August 10, 2012 at 10:28 am


    This is just wrong… Bows in Karate and KungFu are ceremonial. There should not be thought as a technique. (this does not mean you can’t make up ones) Every Kata starts with an defensive move, or should…

    There are other movements in Karate Kata without combative meaning. Like Kamae or Strengthening for example.

    I think there is too much of making up Bunkai’s that are not in line of the Karate-style, Bunkai should come from the master. And too many karate teachers are trying to make Karate into very Bad Ju-Jutsu. There are locks and throws in Kata of Karate, but not in every single move.

    Anyone can make up anything they just come up with, and teach what ever they like (just need to ask permission to do so from the master(s) of the style). But at some point many teachers should drop the word Karate from the name on the art they are teaching at…

    Just my 0.02€


    • kai-ru

      February 3, 2013 at 4:02 pm

      I do to some extent agree with what you are saying however I do think you are missing the point that Jesse may be making. I believe he is trying to show that with the proper knowledge of body mechanics each and every movement can be given meaning. I think here he is simply giving us a starting point for discussion.

      Where this discussion becomes very muddy is in the hands of these so called ‘masters’ you speak of. Many people become diluted in the martial arts as they search for messiahs, seemingly enchanted godly beings of all knowingness. Who simply do not exist. Just because a man practiced Karate a hundred years before you, does not mean he is magical it simply means he did it before you.

      The term sensei or simply means the one who came before, or lived before. Only when translated into english does it come to mean master. That does not mean Sensei’s should not be given respect but by no means should any one Sensei be seen to be an all knowing master.

      Karate is a journey, one that is different for every one who partakes in its practice. Every person who embraces the practice of Karate is due to error. Some times errors can be avoided by following those practices that have stayed strong through out the tests of time but that does not mean those who stray from such traditions are wrong. I would argue that in many cases those who have strayed from the normative journey are more likely to lead you towards truth than those who have strictly adhered to marked practices.

      • Jesse

        February 3, 2013 at 4:57 pm

        Thoughtful and intelligent comments like these make the Karate world a better place. Thanks Kai-ru san.

  3. Sensei Ando

    February 3, 2013 at 8:05 am

    Why don’t these CRAZY GREAT bunkai articles have more comments? Or more thank-yous?

    You could have easily laid out all these techniques in book form and sucked up my dollars and time. But no! You could have easily released one technique at a time over a period of years and risked someone dying of a heart attack and never seeing the whole list. But no! You could have easily revealed only one or two ideas and kept the others to yourself. But no!

    You know what just happened? You just took the award for most content-rich blog posts of all time. Congratulations! And thank you!

    • Jesse

      February 3, 2013 at 4:58 pm

      No, sensei Ando -- thank you! Your comment totally made my day.

  4. Kamui

    February 3, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    What about the bunkai idea of someone doing a lapel grap and this monk’s salutation is a kote gaeshi throw/takedown. You could do it statically or in the case of something like Chinte (the three bunny hops) it might be a takedown that drops them directly to the ground… Then again maybe not. Haha. Great article and fun experimentation none the less! 😀

  5. Patrick McCarthy

    February 4, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Thank you Jesse…

    Nice of you to post more practical application practices on your blog. We share the same ideas.

  6. shankar

    January 8, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Forgive my comment but, why can’t we just leave it as a salutation?
    P.S I hope I didn’t sound like Master Ken

  7. shankar

    January 29, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    Hey the third one is a hapkido armlock

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