11 Practical Bunkai For Karate’s Jump Kick (Tobi-geri)

Isn’t it funny how you always identify yourself with your style?

You know, the whole “you are what you eat” thing?

Like, if you do Goju-ryu, you are Goju-ryu, or Shito-ryu or whatever… so to speak.

Even if you ended up with your current style just by luck, coincidence or some other external factor (parents put you in the school, friend got you started etc.), which is most likely, you will defend it at all costs when confronted by other stylists, as if you literally chose between a buffet of Karate styles before you finally decided upon your current ultimate one!

It’s like, other styles are “fun to look at“, and perhaps occasionally “fun to spar against”, but “it’s not my thing”.

That’s a sad attitude.

And that’s why I like bunkai.

I mean, you can always argue if a Shotokan kokutsu dachi is “better” (?) than a Shito-ryu neko-ashi or Goju-ryu sanchin-dachi; if the feet should be twisted like this or that; if the hikite should be here or there, but you can never argue against a raw bunkai smack in the face.

Or you can, but it will be from a hospital bed.

No matter what style you do.

In other words, exploring bunkai the practical meaning of kata is an excellent way of building bridges between styles. Because every style has kata. And that’s one reason to why I love it so much.

So, with that new-agey fluff out of the way, let’s head over to the bunkai move of the day:


Also known as forward jump kick.

Here’s a video reference (0:48):


Featured in more Van Damme flicks than I can count to (well, that’s technically the jumping split kick, but whatever…) and quite many Chuck Norris movies too, the jump kick is one of the more flashier moves we have in Karate, although it is by no means a modern technique, since many old masters frequently wrote about legendary bushi (warriors) of Okinawa who were known for their jumping abilities and flying kick skills (one was even called “Bird Man” Makabe).

However, that doesn’t mean jump kicks are common. Except in Kill Bill.

Sure, they might have been, in the Ryukyuan cradle of ancient Karate, but today we only have a couple of kata (evidence) left where they appear.

From the top of my dome:

  • Chinto/Gankaku
  • Sanseiru (most modern versions do the two kicks without the actual jump though)
  • Kusanku Dai/Kanku Dai/Koshokun Dai/Kwanku Dai (gotta please every style…)
  • Chatan Yara Kusanku
  • Suparimpei
  • Shiho Kusanku (“organized” by Mabuni Kenwa)

Then we have some others where there is a 360 jump/drop (Kanku/Kusanku Sho, Unsu) but let’s leave those for now.

Okay, so, as always, let’s see what me and my loyal slav… “colleagues” came up with this time. Like before (here, here, here and here…), we’re just playing around, exploring different options.

Note: Some of it is good, some is probably pure crap. Some works for me, some works for you. Or not. Kind of like my posts on this website. But if you never come up with crap, you’ll never come up with good stuff neither. (It’s like when somebody tells you that they have no good ideas, and you go “Okay, so do you have any bad ones?”, and they are completely silent.)

But, enough with the small talk, here’s 11 easy bunkai to the tobi-geri, Karate’s forgotten frontal jump kick:

#1: Leg Catch Escape

“Oh no. Help. Mayday. I. Am. So. Screwed” [said in a robotic sarcastic tone]. Your opponent has caught your first kick. You’re in big trouble…


Haha, sucker! Quickly snap your foot free as you switch legs and totally catch your opponent off guard.

Baow! Blast your opponent’s guts out.

Or, even better, kick him on his spring roll instead.

#2: Shin Block & Counter Kick

Your opponent attacks with a low kick. Maybe he’s a Thai boxer (who knows?) or just plain stupid. (There is a very low level joke in there somewhere…).

Because, he doesn’t know about your secret blog based tobi-geri application skills!

Do a suna-uke, (block with your shin) 45 degrees angle (obiously!) and deflect your opponent’s low kick.

Then prepare for mayhem!

Kablaow! Bury your foot in your opponent’s skinny excuse for a stomach.

Or better yet, go for the crown jewels instead.

#3: Double Kick

Okay, this time your opponent attacks with basically whatever, and you immediately respond with a low savate style kakato-geri, aiming for his knee, at a slight angle from the inside (for maximum unbalancing effect).

Then, of course, the follow-up is as obvious as the end of Inception wasn’t.

Do a “Semmy Schilt”, and knee him straight up his nose bone. Booya! Well, you could change this to a regular kick too, depending on your preference, relative position, limb length, strength and such.

Or do both.

#4: Knee Frenzy

You are in a Muay Thai clinching position with your opponent. Too bad.

For him!

Fire off a frenzy of well placed knees (does two knees count as a frenzy?).

Make sure you are controlling your opponent in some way, by grabbing his/her shoulders, neck, clothes, hair, throat (will trigger a fancy pre-determined natural hand grasp response, thereby opening up the mid section even more) or whatever you see fit.

Obviously these knee strikes are done rapidly, the second strike capitalizing on the pain withdrawal reflex induced by the first knee.

Note: In kata you are often grabbing in a juji-uke type position (with fists closed) before the actual tobi-geri.

Consider this point…

#5: Leg Catch Step-Through & Knee

“Oh. No. Holy. Moly.” [use that robotic fake scared voice again].

Your leg has been caught, again. Complete disaster. What to do?

Well, do like the Thai boxers would do (what’s up with all these Thai boxing references anyway?) and charge strongly on.

Shoot forward, and step through.

Brakkaaaow! As you step through, you immediately grab your opponent and deliver a left knee straight to the sternum, or any other equally nice target.

Feel free to grab whatever comes your way for a better result.

#6: Sakuraba Escape & Stomp Kick

Your opponent has been watching legendary Kazushi Sakuraba, King Of Single-Leg Takedowns™  instructional clips on youtube waaaay too many times, and suddenly decides to shoot for your legs, MMA style.

Or, he’s just an evil bum trying to shoot for some hamburger sauce you spilled on your shoes earlier today.

Hell to the no!

You need to escape quickly!

So, as your opponent shoots for your front leg, immediately lift it up and jump back as if standing on hot charcoal.

Then, switch legs swiftly and stomp down on your opponent’s shoulder (for the nice version) or head (for the nasty version).

Obviously let’s not fool ourselves this will never work against somebody who actually knows how to properly shoot for a single-leg takedown.

So let’s pray that our evil bum is not a former college wrestler (or VERY hungry), okay?

#7: Leg Switch & Counter Kick

Your opponent is, yet again, a Muay Thai expert and decides to present you with a signature devastating low kick.



(Except this “fighter” seems to have no idea that he’s supposed to rotate his supporting foot and get his hip into the kick… hey, do you guys smell that too? yup, smells like a degrading coming!)

Quickly switch legs, and at the same time kick with your rear leg, as you “jump”.

Smack! Dig it in!

Or, even better, go for the nutz.

(Yeah I said it. But with a “z”, so it’s okay… right?)

#8: Chase & Kick

You have a nice hold of your opponent’s hand, garment or whatever, and you try to kick him, but before you manage to pull him to you… he does like the tree, and leaves (I’ve always wanted to write that one!) making you miss your target completely!

And we can’t just let that leg hang there all alone, can we?


So immediately do a leg switch as you drive forwards, pursuing your enemy, kicking him with your other leg.


Of course you can grab with both hands instead of one, depending on the context (kata).

#9: Narrow Corridor Jump Kick Gupsy Escape

Okay, here’s a less sterile scenario. Role-playing.

Our beloved jump kicking expert is about to exit a door, right? But, lo and behold, it is closed! What evil people would lock an emergency exit?!

Well… here’s the answer. Behind him, from nowhere, approaches an evil Karate gupsy!

Just look at those sneaky eyes… *shiver*

It seems we have a serious problem on our hands…

Or do we?

Chuck Norris stance activated!

(Note the hostile ape-like movements produced by the evil travelling gupsy Karate man.)

It seems there is only one way to go.

Through him.

Using the first “knee raise” as a giant step/leap, take the initiative (“sensen no sen”, preemptive movement) and fly right through your opponent before he even has time to flip up his hidden stiletto knife.

Quickly pick up all the stolen loose change that he drops, and then do like Van Damme and split.

Situation under control.

#10: Two Opponents Jump Kick Escape

“No way!” As you made your way home, escaping from the previous scenario, your opponent’s evil twin brother catches up with you! It’s like a bad horror movie!

And this time he has backup!

Whoah. A 16 year old mini Anderson Silva MMA fighter.

Time to open up a can of that epic whoopass.

Using your first knee raise (“kick”), horse kick your first opponent on his shin, knee, groin etc…

And then confront the evil gupsy sidekick in front of you, kicking his thigh to pieces. Or some other appropriate target.


Wait until you see the last one…

#11: Two Opponents Double Front Kick

What the freck? As you narrowly escaped the last situation, your evil opponent’s second (!) gupsy twin brother catches up with you.

And he has got even better backup!

A 16 year old, sweat-pants wearing, World of Warcraft addicted, Red Bull consuming MMA fanboy!

Can it even GET any worse?!

Yeah it can. For your opponents at least!

Not caring much for the opponent behind you (his hands are busy anyway), kick your opponent in front with one leg…

And immediately kick him with your other, as you recoil your first leg.


The rest you’ll have to figure out yourself.


And that’s basically it. Eleven (somewhat) practical bunkai to Karate’s jump kick, tobi-geri. Okay, those last ones might have been more fun than practical, but wut-evv-urr…

Personally I am a bit sceptic against training for these sorts of situations (bunkai) where you are attacked by more than one person. But that’s just me…

Anyhoo… let me know if any of you smarter (though arguably less handsome) dudes or dudettes come up with other bunkai.

I’d love to hear it.

And no jumping over dead ninja bodies in a rice paddy field things, mmkay?

Let’s keep it real.


  • Hey Jesse. I'm curious as to your thoughts/interpretations for the bunkai of one of the moves in the beginning of the Goju-ryu Sesan kata. I'm not sure of the proper name for it, but it's the one where you sort of sweep/flip your hands in an upward motion while simultaneously kicking backward. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXNjK_HuV1Y Like at 0:11 of that video, in case my communication just fails XD. Thanks!
    • Aah, Seisan, one of my favorites. In this case, I do it as defense against a double lapel (or wrists) grab(/headbutt combo), where you first knee the opponent in the cashews, and then reach in (from the middle) and twist both of your your opponent's hands out in a double wrist lock (I believe an aikidoka would term this nikyo?). Then the two next ones are escape and counter (gyaku-waza) takedown defense... Of course, not so many "secret" extra "hidden" bonus movements (which is what most people resort to when their practical application skills and interpretational abilities run out), just straight proper kata form like it's supposed to be. :) Indeed, some (most?) people like to interpret the move as a kick back...
      • sanjuro
        It would be so cool to have an "authentic totally awesome karatebyjesse mobile" for seisan bunkai...
          • sanjuro
            Great, thanks for sharing!!!
    • Szilard
      Look what this guy is doing with his leg: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Ck5jtx5l2Q&feature=related I think that footwork part of Seisan is something similar. On this video he is doing it just an addition to the main element. It is just a nice extra move to add insult to the injury, still it is worth remembering.
      • Dr. Yang Jwing Ming, who performs the chin-na (qin-na) in the video, is superb. I urge everyone to look up his books and DVD's for great original Karate bunkai thinking (disguised as qin-na)! :)
  • Ørjan Nilsen
    Hi. We have this kick in Taekwondo as well. But it appears only twice and only in one "kata". It has most certanly a kick we inherited from what was to become Shotokan. Two of my favorite applications are: 1: There is greater than kicking distance between you and your opponent (not a realistic I know but just pretend it is for one moment;) Use the first "kick" to close the distance (it is not really a kick but a way to propell yourself faster than a normal jump. The second kick is a kick aimed at the groin area or stomach area. The groin area will either hit and hurt your opponent, or trigger a reflexive response (bend forward while retreating or something, but I think perhaps a handsome blogger as yourself should make a future article on that??:) The second application is very simular to one of the ones in the article. The first kick is to the groin area, the opponent bends forward, the second jump kick is either a knee blast to the face or a kick to the head (depends on the "defenders" mood and how the planets are alligned.
    • Hi there! Cool that taekwondo people join the discussion! I think your first example is the same as my #9: Narrow Corridor Jump Kick Gupsy Escape?
      • Ørjan Nilsen
        Ahh. Of course:) I re-read it and you are right:) The first one is the same as number 9.
  • lionel
    I like #7 There's also the idea that.... with the first, you step onto his thigh, then kick him jodan with the other.
  • Sayo
    Nicely applied tobigeri in bogu kumite at 2:30m: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P27IPrd7qwI&feature=related
  • Leo
    Wonderful! Finally another article about bunkai, how I love these! Tobi geri, I am still wondering about its use. I can't imagine to jump in karate, at least it doesn't fit in my view. Losing connection to ground seems like a huge danger (aka. mistake) to me. So jumping would be something to do if it is the last thing to to; probably sutemi would be the right term. From this point #4 (and maybe leg-catched-cases) seems practical to me.
  • Szilard
    You didn't show the slapstick style bunkai that I saw on one of your videos on your youtube channel: you knock down 1 opponent, as he is on all four between you and your second opponent: instead of the first kick you step on him, and execute the second kick against the second opponent jumping off from the first guy's spine. I really like the idea of the first kick being a block, or kicking an obstacle out of the way: a chair on the ground or a knife ( or a Kalashnikov, just to counter your other famous bunkai article) or other weapon in the opponent's hand. If you never tried to kick a chair out of your way, you should try it. It is not as easy as it seems. It is not difficult either, you just have to figure out how to aim it.
  • Stephen Ferraro
    Hilarious. I love the mma kid drinking red bull reference!
  • Aryan Gupta
    More photos with a guys foot on anothers head showing victory by kick

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