2 Forgotten (But Deadly) Techniques of Okinawan Karate

Carefully read this quote:

“Hoping to see Karate included in the physical education taught in our public schools, I revised the kata to make them as simple as possible. Times change, the world changes, and obviously the martial arts must change too. The Karate that high school students practice today is not the same Karate that was practiced even as recently as ten years ago, and it is a long way indeed from the Karate I learned when I was a child in Okinawa.”


The above statement was written in 1956 (!) by master Gichin Funakoshi.

As you probably know, Funakoshi was the founder of Shotokan Karate and widely regarded as one of the most influential pioneers of modern Karate.

Now consider this:

How many times have you found yourself thinking, “Man… this stuff would probably never work on the street” while learning a new kata?

You know, the disturbing feeling that maybe these moves were not really designed to kick anybody’s a** in a real fight?

If you are NOT a McDojo™ zombie, my guess is…

Funakoshi Gichin (1868-1957)


You see, stuff in Karate has been lost.

Techniques that seemed too dangerous, unorthodox or difficult during the historical transition of Karate from Okinawa to Japan and subsequently the rest of the world, were either changed or removed from modern Karate.

And if you ask me, it’s time we revive them.


Today I’ve decided to share two of my favorite traditional, and pretty deadly, techniques of classical Okinawan Karate with you – straight from the birthplace of our beloved art.

These techniques are rarely seen in “modern” Karate today.

Don’t get me wrong though:

There’s a LOT of modern sport Karate in Okinawa too nowadays, and I actually competed myself when I lived there.

But once I opened my arms to embrace the historical awesomeness inherited in the technical registry of ancient Okinawan Karate, I gradually uncovered nuggets of old-school wisdom hidden in narrow alleys, inside secret dojos, run by unassuming masters who couldn’t care less about trophies, belts or accolades.

Stuff that was secret, deadly, and often pretty weird.

Stuff that I think every Karate Nerd™ should know today.

You ready?

Check it out:

#1: Boshi-ken – The Thumb Strike


The first Okinawan Karate technique you should know is called boshi-ken.

  • “Boshi” literally means thumb.
  • “Ken” means fist.

Hence, boshi-ken is a strike where you actually hit with the knuckle of your thumb.

Sounds crazy, I know.

But it’s incredibly effective.

There are two basic ways of doing boshi-ken. Their practical application will vary depending on the circumstances (target, location, angle etc.) as well as your skill level:

  • The left, open hand version, was specifically designed to look like a harmless slap to the face for potential onlookers. In reality, however, it’s a vicious straight thumb strike in disguise; aimed at vital points (kyusho-jutsu) located on the torso, throat or face. Today this strike is primarily seen in Uechi-ryu Karate, where it’s still practiced as a fundamental self-defense technique.
  • The right, closed fist version (sometimes known in Japanese as oya-yubi-ippon-ken), was designed to be used in a circular or sideways fashion, aiming at vital points located in the soft tissue of your opponent’s side or back/neck. For instance, this strike was originally what we today perform as three high blocks in kata Jion, where you actually aim at the back of your opponents neck with this exact boshi-ken strike. Isshin-ryu Karate is a style that still frequently utilizes this fist formation.

Additionally, the second version can be used as a “tui-di” technique (Jap. “tori-te”), where you apply pressure with the knuckle of your thumb to manipulate vital areas of your opponents anatomy in a grappling situation.

Cool, huh?

I suggest you try boshi-ken on your own body and palm before moving on to focus pads, a punching bag or live opponent(s).

Just don’t break your thumb!


#2: Tsumasaki-geri – The Toe Kick


Then we have a kick.

Tsumasaki geri, or “tip of the toe kick” as it’s generally translated in English, was the original version of today’s mae-geri (front kick) – but instead of kicking with the ball of the foot you actually use the tip of your big toe, often with the second toe added on top for support.

Just like boshi-ken, it sounds pretty dangerous…

Especially for the one executing it!

But that’s exactly why the old masters spent so many years hardening and conditioning their hands and feet.

(Obviously, they didn’t have shoes like we have today.)

Anyhow, tsumasaki-geri was the preferred style of kicking in ancient Okinawa, since its brutal effectiveness when aiming at vital points was flippin’ awesome, as made clear in numerous stories that survived from the olden days.

For instance, this one:

“In 1921, a young Karate master named Arakaki Ankichi was having a good time with some of his friends at a tea house in Tsuji, the notorious red-light district in Okinawa. While visiting the toilet, he accidentally bumped into a big man who insisted on picking a quarrel with him in the corridor on the second floor. Although he tried to ignore the man, Arakaki was unable to get out of his way and got shoved down the staircase.

Being in such good physical condition, however, Arakaki was able to roll down the stairs smoothly and avoided injury. The enraged man leaped down the stairs and grabbed Arakaki by the arm, trying to yank him up in an effort to punch his face in. Seizing the man’s arm with his free hand, Arakaki swiftly kicked his big toe into the armpit of the attacker, resulting in the man dropping to the ground like a sack of potatoes.

Here’s the scary part:

About six months later, while reading the newspaper one morning, Arakaki was shocked to see a story about a big wrestler who had died as a result of injuries sustained by “some Karate expert” at a tea house in Tsuji. In spite of the man allegedly dying as result from his encounter with Arakaki, the police were never called in.

Historians today suspect Arakaki’s tsumasaki-geri may actually have caused a traumatic pseudo-aneurysm, which would explain the delayed death.”


Smash a cow!

If that doesn’t convince you to practice tsumasaki-geri, nothing will.

Nowadays, tsumasaki-geri is still used by several traditional Karate styles, and I actually once saw a small makiwara (wooden board stuck to the ground) designed specifically for practicing the tsumasaki-geri in a dojo in Okinawa.

It was disturbingly cute.

But I digress.

This wraps up my two forgotten, but super deadly, techniques of Okinawan Karate.

What do you think?

The cool thing about old techniques of Okinawan Karate is that they’re incredibly fun, difficult and deadly at the same time.

The perfect mix of pleasure and pain!


Share this article with friends who might find this interesting.

And then start practicing your two new techniques!

But don’t break any bones. ;- )

Good luck!


  • Nick
    Unintentionally. During a sparring match in class many moons ago I fought a gentleman that would weighed me by about 100 pounds as part of a rank test. As such he was not in the greatest shape of his life but he was well ranked and I believe I was going for Ikkyu or close to it. Anyway, during the course of the match the gentleman slowly increased the power with which he was delivering his attacks. Getting a little nervous about actually having to absorb one of these locomotive like attacks I kind of spazzed out. The large sparring partner of mine was delivering a Mawashi Geri (Round house kick) and I panicked. To defend myself I was going to perform a Mae Geri Kekomi and pointed my toe on accident. Whether blind luck or stupid chance my thrust-ed big toe found the crease between his hip and femur. I actually felt his femur pop out of joint and pop back in around my extended foot. He promptly spat his mouth piece across the room. And I spend the next several minutes apologizing. This is not to claim skill on my part. Again it was mostly dumb luck. But how very effective even if only on soft connective tissue.
    • A broken down mud marine
      Lucky shot or not it worked. There is one target that was not mentioned. A proper kick with the toes could cause damage to the bladder. A strike here is potentially fatal. A tear in the bladder may/can cause the injury to the bladder may result in septic poisoning. An injury here must be treated within 45 minutes to an hour because the toxins once in the blood stream are very difficult to treat with good results. So use this technique with care. Not all fights require fatal techniques. Take and learn control. There are very few times a killing techniques are justified or moral. This(resraint) may also prevent time in prison. So think about it.
      • Joel
        If it hits the crease of the groin and femur it would have to break bone to reach the bladder. This sounds unlikely in the extreme. Do you mean the crease between the belly and the pelvis?
      • Mary
        Great point. I'm curious as to how many instructors teach levels of force.
      • senecaknows
        see Dr Paul Marik of the FLCCC for a more effective treatment for sepsis that he recently developed.
    • Duane
      Wow! How cool is this? I was introduced to the toe kick by a matsumora seito shorin ryu instructor. I've demonstrated it a few times and we do toe conditioning/strengthening exercises in the dojo. I do caution students to be careful IF they ever have to protect themselves. Since most Americans, including "seasoned" black belts, don't emphasize toe kick they don't do anything to condition. Therefore, unless properly prepared you will end up breaking your toe and that might just be the end of your fight. Americans wear shoes all day so dojos don't think about toe kicks. There are a few, I admit, but overall, a very small number. Again, great article.
      • senecaknows
        if the opponent is wearing sandals or soft shoes, the best kick skims the ground and hits their toes/toenails. or sweeping in a circle hits their ankle bone. very painful. but you need to be wearing shoes with a solid sole and toe. Wingtips or boots are perfect lol. or like a james bond antagonist jam and glue a sharpened coin into the sole at the front of the shoe.
      • senecaknows
        sounds like Jimmy Coffman
  • Good post, as for the changes in modern Karate, you can also point out Admiral Kenwa Kanna's preface on Funakoshi's To-te Jitsu. I trained in Okinawa where they still keep both of those techniques in kata and love the toe-kick. For those interested, I wrote an article on it using Medical Journals for reference ( http://karatedr.com/arakakis-legendary-toe-kick-a-possible-real-dim-mak/ ) What I found interesting is that in the case study I used it took 6 months for the man who had the pseudo-aneurysm to seek medical help. The treatment was a vascular surgery.
  • There is much more here then meets the eye. Funakoshi was not the first to dumb down the system. That happened nearly 100 years before Funakoshi wrote those words. After over 40 years of research I now know "Who, what, when,where and why".
    • Paul
      So.....who was the who, what was the what, where was the where, when was the when, and why was the wht? Please and thank you.
  • Both specialized weapons were designed for Kyusho Attack... as they were trained to penetrate to the weaker anatomical structures. By the way I do not believe there is any such thing as a pressure point (I do use them to teach, but they are not really real... long story).
    • fred
      Well if that's the case, does it mean that you think striking nerve endings has no effects ? Striking to the liver, to the spleen would have no effects ?
    • Doctor X
      You have come a long way Evan. :P Nice to see two "secret" techniques that are practiced openly in the classical Uechi kata. Which is not a "knock" on the author.
    • Trevin Ray
      How can I learn these techniques
      • Frank Callahan
        study Uechi Ryu karate
    • Ivan and Jesse!!! I love you guys! Y’all are real Karate Nerds! Keep up the good work!
    • X Mode
      Not really real?? Lol - OK TKD practicioner, I hear you. Signed, ER Physician & Kyokushin Yodan
  • Ted
    Ok -- cool story about tsumasaki geri. But you realize this means that in the hallway to the facilities of a whore house, Araki wasn't wearing closed shoes? This seems way braver to me than kicking some big guy in the armpit -- who knows what was living on that floor?
      • Trevin Ray
        How can I learn these techniques?
      • Mike Best
        Jesse, Your posted example picture of 'tsumasaki geri' depicts Soke Tatsuo Shimabuku at his dojo in the 1950's in Okinawa. Are you a practioner of Okinawan Isshinryu karate? If so, who do you train under and where are you located? Mike Best Orlando, Fl
    • Any one who has been to Japan knows there is no "disease" in Japan...
    • X Mode
      You do realize that in that era no Okinawan would've worn closed toe shoes, right? And JE speaks Japanese/Okinawan fluently after studying at university in Okinawa and actually living there on top of visiting since he was 8 years old?
      • Old Old practitioner in Asia 55 years
        Not true at all. Okinawa king’s bodyguard wore special boots like you see in modern Okinawans dancing wearing Ming Chinese clothes. Watch Mirukuminari. In old days Chinese and Okinawa body guards put triangular metal in the tips of boots for lethal “ toe kicks”
  • Everyone that practices traditional Okinawan Karate and not sport Karate knows that all kicks are done with the large toe in Okinawan Karate. It is only a big surprise to people who practice sport Karate that includes almost all Japanese mainland Styles and most westerners practicing Karate. Karate was Mainly simplified by Master Itosu for High schools as a Fitness program, to get them ready for the military.
  • Eduardo
    I am a student of Ken-Shin-Kan school founded by Sensei Seiichi Akamine. Akamine's style is Goju-ryu but takes elements of Uechi-ryu school. That thumb technique with an open hand is shown twice in one of our basic katas. They are directed to the neck or throat.
    • David
      I thought Kenshinkan was founded by Fusei Kise. ??
      • Eduardo
        More info https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seiichi_Akamine
    • When I learned for 2 weeks in shotokan. I do not know where the instructor of our instructor learned shotokan. A higher belt will demonstrate the first karate repertoire and then we emulate how it is done until all the repertoire for the training is finish. Then comes sparring- no hit to the face and groin but punch and kick can be hit to the body. we repeat again the same repertoire on the next training day. some movements were, the spear-hand strike, one-finger strike, the chop and others but that was all we did. The student will be on his own to learn to make his finger, spear-hand , karate chop strong so that it can be use as it was taught in the dojo. No wonder many learners at that only learn some actions and no more. as how to develop strong fist, chop and fingers, no instructions about it. I think a learner who cannot make his fist, fingers, chop, toe kick will not be effective in self defense. To me the ideal way to train is the trainer will teach how to train your hand fist, fingers into a strong and hardened weapon. Then the student will make his own training tools and practice the techniques on his own.
      • X Mode
        You studied for two whole weeks? You're the true expert...
  • Joseph Walker
    In 1986, I visited Okinawa, with Grandmaster Trias. I personally, saw Shinjo Sensei break 3 or 4 boards with a Nacho Geri. Nacho Geri is like Tsumasaki Geri, only the toe is bent and the technique is delivered with the Knuckle of the big toe. Shinjo Sensei showed us how he developed his Nacho Geri by holding his foot straight out and striking it with a small paddle like device. Shinjo Sensei is a Uechi Ryu stylists and still participating to this day.
    • Yes. That is the technique taught today still in Kenyukai (Seiyu Shinjo’s Strong Fist Group) Uechi Ryu dojos. The toes are pull up and back making a fist. The shoman geri is like a punch with the foot. Very effective right under the sternum. For a stunning demonstration of this brutal technique, watch Alexander Volkov finish Walt Harris in UFC 254. Volkov’s BIG toe was simply devastating.
      • Bozz Scaggs
        That front kick landed with the ball of the foot not the toe. Volkov's big toe was pulled back. In the TKD I practiced we trained to keep our toes pulled back for a round house, and a front by kick the concrete wall. Even using the round house as a boxer uses a jab we connected with the ball of our foot and not the instep.
    • X Mode
      If you think Nacho Geri is bad try a Nacho Bel Grande !
  • Andrew
    Hi Jesse Having been doing karate longer than most people have been alive these techniques were par for the course when I learnt it. My first Sensie learnt his karate from the merchant seamen that came into Adelaide and we often challenged them to Judo and karate matches. So therefore when I started teaching karate these and other quaint to the western mindset techniques were part and parcel of my classes.
  • Donald Miskel
    Once again I am traumatized (you have a rare ability for doing that). I was so sure that I created the boshi ken technique (closed fist version) though I called it a thumb hook strike. So much for originality. I also teach the toe kick. I borrowed that technique from Uechi ryu. It's proved to be a devastatingly effective technique though it has been the cause of more than one broken toe. Love your articles all trauma and hits to my ego to the contrary. Always informative and insightful.
  • Ummmm....people don't practise these when they do Khion? Next you'll tell me people don't practice a Kakuto Uchi, Haito Uchi or Fumikomi Geri!
  • vic
    hip joint crush now done in kata as knee or instep stomp nasty themselves but nothing compared to the hip joint technique as it is permanently crippling.Still practiced in ryuei ryu and to'on ryu .Method delivered like stomp side kick but the foot is angled 45% to fit the crease formed by the upper thigh and hip . JODAN UKE SHUTO UCHI combo as seen in heian yodan and others .The jodan uke is actually a technique to turn the opponents head exposing the neck and throat you know what to do with the shuto.There are others e.g. sweeps that turn into knee dislocations and shin splitters .A sensei should be very selective as to whom he teaches such methods.
  • Funny thing is that even in the Kukki System of Taekwondo (what People often refer to as WTF Taekwondo) the toe kick is still part of the system and is described in the Kukkiwon Textbook:-) I will go through it again to see if the other strike is shown in it, but I did learn the closed Version from my teacher. I just do not know if this is something from the old Ji Do Kwan (it had roots from both Shotokan, Shudokan and Shio Ryu) or if it still is a part of the Kukki system of Taekwondo.
  • Gil
    Jesse, Where was the Funakoshi quote at the head of this post originally published?
    • Gil-san, the quote is from his autobiography 'Karate-do: My Way of Life' p. 35-36.
      • Matt S.
        I find it interesting that Funakoshi would admit to this when in his previous books he always comments about how other martial artists butcher the Karate that he knows and loves. I believe in Karate-do Nyumon (1943) he states the only people, that he knows of, teaching Karate of a true lineage were Kenwa Mabuni and Chojun Miyagi.
        • If you go further back and look at the 1920's translation of his To-te Jitsu, you will find the preface by Admiral Kenwa Kanna it is stated that Funakoshi spent many years making Karate more sutible for the public after it was found too effective in 1910 to be taught to Navy recruits
          • Matt S.
            I believe you might be partially mistaken. The Japanese Navy officer you are referring to is Kanna Hirokazu. And the part you are referring to reads... "Long ago, while General Yashiro of the Japanese Navy docked in Okinawa, he was favourably impressed with karate, and set to study it's value as a physical exercise; in the first year of Taisho (1912), the first 10 or so privates (seaman) were selected to reside in a nearby school in order to train for karate for approximately one week. I was joyous to the fact that the Navy would choose karate as a method of exercise for its men, however, I was also disappointed by the fact that this practice was ceased after it was determined that kartate excels too much in its form of attack, and those individuals who decide to use it for negative purposes could easily do so." The preface (which includes much more than what I wrote here) doesn't imply that Funakoshi modified karate to become more suitable for the public at that time, or even that Funakoshi was involved with the training of these Navy privates. In fact the original quote taken from Karate-Do: My Way of Life suggests that it wasn't until after Funakoshi succeeded in convincing people to use the characters "Karate-do" that he started modifying things to be more simplistic. At the time he wrote the book you are referring to he was still using the characters "Tode" to describe "karate".
          • @ Matt S. they are the same person, Kenwa Kanna is what he was known as in Okinawa (was working from memory so could not remember the name he was known for in Japanese) And you are right that he was not involved in teaching the privates. That was back in around 1912, almost 10 years before the book I was referring to. While it does not specifically say that Funakoshi began to change things, it does say that he made any changes but when something is removed from military training because of its potential for abuse, it would be dificult to promote it as a worldwide activity. Still, I understand what you are saying, that I am looking to deeply. If you have the same version of that book as I do, check out pg192 (fig 147) and look at how he has the foot. you might get a kick out of it.
          • Matt S.
            Right, that does look to be a toe kick mentioned by Mr. Jesse in his article. Doesn't it? :)
  • I really wonder what the fatality to "broken-toes-and-thumbs" ratio is? Is this strike really applicable in a self-defence/escape situation? I imagine it's hard to run away or maneuver effectively with a broken toe. Interesting techniques, but are they worth the effort? I ask this sincerely because I am really curious.
    • Hello Alex M If you watch some dance classes, they will jump and land "En pointe" or on the toes. Usually ballet dancers do not usuall get traumatic fractures of the toes but stress fractures. This means that with proper, I stress PROPER, training the technique would be safe. I said wrote this earlier, if you want the clinical journals of the toe kick, they are on an article on my web. http://karatedr.com/arakakis-legendary-toe-kick-a-possible-real-dim-mak/
      • My understanding is that the force exerted on the toe in a kick making contact would be higher than when dancing or performing anything resembling en pointe (and as far as I know Michael Jackson didn't have any toe problems either) so I'm not convinced it's a fair comparison. However, I understand that with enough training you can strengthen the toe (presumably by fracturing the toe over and over again and rebuilding?) the question is if the time put into getting that perfect toe is worth the trouble? (and that's without counting the general problems associated with kicking in self protection) I guess the scenario I see playing out as highly likely is a student, or master for that matter, who shoots off a toe kick but overestimating his or her own command of the technique. I can totally see myself accidentally kicking somebody's elbow with my "not quite trained toe", and now I'm in big trouble.
        • Actually fracturing something to build it up leads to too many problems in the future. based on weight activation of osteoblast, the bones can be made stronger. It is an alignment and technique issue rather than a bone strength. Think of your basic punching technique (http://karatedr.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/FIST_FALL091.pdf) lining up the bones properly protects from fractures. If you want to see what I mean. bones act like hollow cylinders, if you take a paper-towel roll you can put the heaviest book it and it will support if used like a collumn. But if you put it on its side, the book will crush it. The best example of this is seeing Silva's fracture, the bones are stronger on an axial compression than any other. If you want to see force on toes check out the videos below: check out 1.49 on the video below http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hH8xH_CrwvY&list=PLA6_UYkHmy9BUgcbStXFW4Ot0MwBajr78 or this ballet dancer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOeFqLYJeDk I don't thing that anyone can claim to lift their weight with a basic front or round kick. If you know someone who can please have them take a video of it as I would be extremely interested in seeing that.
  • Marcelo Luna
    Well, I practice Shotokan ryu, and certainly never seen these techniques in any school of Shotokan. But as some here have said, are very common in Uechi ryu (Youtube ^ ^). I particularly appreciate the very Uechi ryu, and surely would practice this style to add to my knowledge of Shotokan, but unfortunately there is not even one of Uechi ryu dojo here in Brazil. :'(
  • Brandon
    He Jesse, I like your site and just thought I should add something here: Uechi-ryu uses both boshiken strikes and toe kicks - many demonstrations by Shinjo Kiyohide today can be seen where he shows how to break thick slabs of wood with just his toes. We practice as closely to Kanei Uechi's teachings as possible, and he kept much of what his father created as well as his own flavors in the 1940s.
  • Cassie
    I've done Isshin Ryu for years and I've never heard of using the thumb like that for striking. That's just how we always have our fist. Very interesting. I must investigate this. I do know that with the open handed version you can use the thumb knuckle to press on the nerve underneath the cheekbones. It doesn't take a lot of strength to get someone dancing on their tiptoes and it's very unexpected. You can latch on to their face, unbalance them really quickly, then set them back on their butt. I know how to do it, but I'm not sure I could get away with it in a real situation.
  • This Bushiken has been in Karate for a very long time, but most probably altered over the years, decades, centuries. A similar weapon (most likely the predecessor) is found in the Bubishi and called the Iron Bone Hand (one of 6 "wind" hands). This weapon can be seen most prominently in the Kata of White Crane as well as in Uechi Ryu (Pangai Noon). It is very adaptable and deploy able in real situations.
  • You mentioned the Isshinryu fist on the first techniques, and then a picture of Tatsuo Shimabuku (Isshinryu founder) for the second, delivering a toe strike to the arm pit. There are many people who feel Isshinryu isn't a legitimate style in Okinawa. I just found it funny both references are both used in Isshinryu.
    • If you read the history of Karate Tatsuo Shimabuku was a student of Kyan and that is not under debate as Shoshin Nagamine and other Karate historians confirm this. People always claim that one style or another is not "Real Okinawan." There are many styles that do not have Hombu dojos on Okinawa but Isshin Ryu does. I have not met any of their members but was told about a school in Nanjo when I was in Okinawa a few months ago.
    • Isshinryu is sometimes considered a type of shorinryu on okinawa. It is a recognized system in the okinawan karate associations. Isshinryu won the first okinawn championship and many subsequent world championships. It is the largest okinawan style taught outside of okinawa and not real popular on okinawa itself. Sometimes criticized for being a 'base style' taught on us military bases, it is simple and to the point. Fast and snappy.
  • Steve Gombosi
    Like most practitioners of Okinawan styles, I don't think of these techniques as being "forgotten" - they're just the way we do things. I've been doing tsumasaki-geri for nearly 40 years and I just don't think of it as being anything unusual. As others have noted, training to use the toe should be gradual and non-traumatic. Mostly, I've just worked on being able to stand on toe-tip (I've seen senior instructors on Okinawa who were quite comfortable walking on toe-tip, which I've never been able to manage). I recommend practicing with dip bars, using your arms to support you, in order to gradually develop the ability to hold your body weight on toe-tip. If you do decide to do actual impact training, use a softer, more flexible (and angled) makiwara, or a bag with a foam outer layer. I'd recommend against using a water bag, because it's very easy to rupture the inner bladder on such bags with a toe kick. I'd recommend learning to cross your second toe over your big toe for added support - for an illustration of this see Nagamine-sensei's Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do. You'll have to do this by hand initially (at least I did), until your nervous system and foot musculature get the hang of it. Even if you never get to the point (no pun intended) of being comfortable kicking an object this way barefoot, it's an extremely effective way to kick when wearing shoes. Conceptually, it really isn't any different from nukite - and *everyone* does that, right?
  • Vincent
    For the 1st part (the hand technique) I find it 2 be rather true. (and yes It's known 2 be able 2 Kill) In our Shotokan Dojo,we still do it. In the Kata Hein Nidan(right after the four knife hand blocks) Whereas for the toe kick,you'll find them in some old books However now that we have footwear,our toes might not do well and break
  • Marco
    In Matsumura Seito, those techniques are still widely used. However, please note that the two pictures above are a bit inaccurate. In the first, the thumb should be kept OUTSIDE the other fingers, for two reasons: 1) it lowers the risk of breaking your own thumb in case of a wrong impact; 2)it allows the user to exploit / train the hand muscles more efficiently. Concerning the tsumasaki, the foot should never be stretched like that - Frontal and side kicks that hit with the tsumasaki should hit from down to up, slightly towards the opponent's center of the body, in order to damage internal organs. Stretching the foot like that weakens the kick by a lot, and it's also risky for the user. Keeping the foot in a hammer-like position is safer and wastes less energy. Just my 2 cents :P
  • I don't think most westerners get it, in Okinawa, Okinawans always do the toe kick regardless of style. That is how Okinawans learn karate in ntraditional schools I'm not talking about schools that have aligned themselves to the mainland organizations. It is the westerners who have forgotten these techniques, or never trained in them. Westerners are interested in sports karate, winning trophies, jumping around like a chicken with its head cut off when they win a plastic trophy or medal in some sportsparring just like the Japanese, so it is no surprise that these people think these are old forgotten techniques.
    • Josef-Peter Roemer
      You have that right in!, all Okinawa Front kicks are toe kicks regardkess of style. All ball ofthe foot kicks are Sport kicks, devised for the Westerner.
  • vishal
    :D beautifully written article short and succinct!GEE THNXX!
  • Irwin Chen
    Here's my take, Jesse: Boshi-ken is also known as 'Black Tiger Fist'. Surprisingly, it is derived from a Northern Kung-fu system called Shantung Black Tiger. How it came to the south that I wouldn't know. I've been trying to bring forth the animal spirits in my kata . Felt something was missing. So, I went through each animal style and bumped into this book in doing so. Title: 'Shantung Black Tiger: A Shaolin Fighting Art of North China' Authors: Tjoa Khek Kion, Donn E. Draegger,and Quintin T.G. Chambers. It's an old book published in 1976, and features a diagram of a thumb curled as a fist. Then, I remembered your article. Cheers!
    • vic
      In the list of arts that influenced early OKINAWAN KEMPO are WHITE CRANE MANTIS AND SHANTUNG BLACK TIGER.It is also mentioned in THE BUBISHI .It has been suggested "hard" styles like SHOTOKAN and the changes made by FUNAKOSI were black tiger influenced.Whether this is exactly true no one can really say but when I compare the movements of advanced kata in other ryu I get the feeling it may be true to some extent.GOJU RYU is in a class all it's own influenced almost entirely by crane and mantis technique.
  • Irwin Chen
    Mantis Kung fu was popularized by Lo Kwang Yu in Southern China through the Chin Wu Athletic Club. It was in or about the same era when brisk trade was occurring in that region (probably). I have a hunch it might have somehow influenced Okinawan Karate in general. The Hung Gar style was likewise prevalent during that period. The 3 animals of that style are expressed in the Katas. Other Sub-Styles: Ngo Cho Kun, Jow Gar, Hung Fut (all Southern). Interesting, but just hunches. Kung fu history can be as mythical as a Chinese Drama Fight Scene.
  • Gareth
    I recognise the thumb knuckle strike. I've learned it as Koppo Ken from my studies of Taijutsu/Jujitsu, and it would be used to attack harder areas of the body like bone.
  • Billy
    “Hoping to see Karate included in the physical education taught in our public schools, I revised the kata to make them as simple as possible. Times change, the world changes, and obviously the martial arts must change too. The Karate that high school students practice today is not the same Karate that was practiced even as recently as ten years ago, and it is a long way indeed from the Karate I learned when I was a child in Okinawa.” -- Funakoshi Gichen Where did you find this quote? Could you please provide a citation?
  • So with such agreement these are real tools forged to really hurt someone by really penetrating the body to the Vital Targets (Kyusho), then Kyusho must be really real. (Sorry must have read too many posts by Jesse). It is not the BS that some "Known" Kyusho Masters and Experts banter (TCM - Acupuncture), but real anatomically correct and validated targets, using of course a correct tool (http://www.kyusho.com/tools/). All documented throughout history by many highly trained and highly regarded Martial Warriors. One thing I would like to interject on organ striking though... all organs more or less hang in the body cavity. Struck up into the organ can of course cause damage like ruptured spleen, kidney or liver, etc.. They are all protected by the ribs so that the greater damaging downward attacks (to not only inflict the same as mentioned prior), also stressing the connections. As for the vascular tissue of the legs, these too are best attacked downward to stretch, tear and also to pull blood (if that was the intended target) away from the heart. That toe kick could do just that if practiced, intended and correctly aimed at a weak anatomical target.
    • Greg Gudson
      Sensei Pantazi, what are your thoughts on Kotikitai?
  • jonny
    "But I digest"..........?????????? Did you mean digress?
  • David
    I remember when I was a green belt. I was fighting with our top rank sensei for next belt examination. And I accidentally hit him with that Toe kick and he immediately fell to the floor. He stayed in the ground kneeling for at least 7 minutes. I said I was sorry and that it wasn't my intention I didn't throw that hard a kick, he told me "your Toe Happened". From that moment forward always remembered the power of a concentrated strike like the toe kick. Btw is that Boshi ken the same as Haito uchi ?? I always did Haito uchi with the knuckle of the thumb anyways.
  • roverill
    I see boshi-ken in tekki nidan and tekki sandan katas
  • M
    A bit late to the party, but isn't the open-hand boshi-ken practically identical to the hand position in keito? (I find keito is asking to hurt yourself but I digress)
  • lilysong
    this is dim mak skills. you can find it a lot from Dim Mak skills. for example, Jiang Xi province, five hundreds money Dim Mak, there are this kind Dim Mak skills, use your body any out part to strike your enemy acupuncture points
  • ricky may
    This is awesome, Jesse-San!!! I am a newbie to traditional Okinawan Karate and have been wondering why we practice the toe-tip kick in Shorin-Ryu. I practice diligently and Sempai always says this kick is very effective when aimed at soft spots like the belly below the rib cage. But it still felt extremely silly to me until I read this article! I can kick like a mule with my heel (and most likely will if the situation ever arises unless muscle memory takes over and I execute the toe-tip because of practicing it so much,) but it's awesome to read that it is a totally legit and deadly technique. What do you prefer to use for front kick? Heel? Ball? Toe-tip?
  • Daniel
    The last picture on this page is of the Founder of my style. Isshinryu.
  • Jim
    Thanks for the article on these two unique techniques. I have seen them both , but being from Shotokan, I haven't ever been taught these two....and I suspect, many other Okinawan techniques. It is too bad all of these interesting techniques were omitted from Shotokan years ago...but, that doesn't mean we can't learn and practice them anyway.
  • Frederick M, Alexander
    Hi Jesse leat you forget Uechi-Ryu uses both these techniques quite heavily...
    • Exactly! That's because Uechi-ryu is an Okinawan Karate style... and not Japanese. ;-)
  • Yes, Uechi uses both of these. here is a good video showing Kiyohide Shinjo breaking boards with his thumb and toes: https://youtu.be/HWOn0ZY4ev8
  • JW
    A little knowledge is dangerous.It is true that many schools are not teaching these things and more. It is not good to suggest that one should go and add these thins in their karate and not provide any instruction on how to add them. This does not teach you how to condition the thumb, knuckle, or toe for these types of strikes. It does not teach you the target areas that make these effective. It can lead to injury if not taught correctly.
    • I am training my thumb, knuckle and toe kick. I do not emulate the Uechi Ryu way of using the thumb because one of my thumb was injured in my high school days, so I use my thumb like an extended knuckle by thrusting its point and laid straight on top of the forefinger when the fist is closed for punch. Keep thrusting my thumb on a hanging basketball filled with sand. I tried thrusting my thumb to the rib cage just below the breast and it gives hurt. I Think it can be also use to tweak the eyes. and neck. I practice thrusting the extended knuckles (ippon and nakadaka) on the same ball filled with sand and on the swinging door panel. My toe kick, I hit it with the same ball filled with sand , and also on the door panel or on a plywood wall because it is not so hard but will flex a bit. I do not know if feasible but I hope that Karate Nerd will give a fact of what my idea in using the toe kick, that is when I will do the front kick, my toe will hit first then goes the ball of my feet or the ball of my feet and toe will hit hit at the same time.
  • Lance Velez
    While both techniques are old school okinawan karate the toe kick does not make sense today since we wear shoes
    • I disagree. In the summer, I mostly wear sandals. When I'm sitting around my house, i'm usually barefoot. Even if I had shoes on I would still do the toe kick, you would still feel the toe through a pair of sneakers. If you had on a pair of work boots or something like that, I agree that it wouldn't be as effective...
    • I suppose that is the way to train the feet to kick with shoes. Train the toe including other fingers of the foot so that when you kick the point of your shoes your foot and its fingers will not get really hurt inside the shoes. I practice kicking with shoes in frontal kick using the point of my shoes
  • jwbulldogs
    It still makes sense to me. Also, they wore shoes too. The type of shoes would depend on the climate. In today's society we often wear closed toes shoes. These kicks can still be used with shoes. It won't have the same affect on some nerves that are target areas. But there are times when we don't have closed toes shoes or shoes on at all. You can be in the comfort of your home. You can be relaxing in the park on a picnic blanket with you significant other. You can be on the beach or at a pool Of course we hope we never need to use what we have learned, but it is possible that you might at the time you least expect.
  • Guilhem
    Interesting ! Boshi ken is a technique I knew about in bujinkan taijutsu, but I'd never have guessed it was on the karatedo curriculum as well
  • Hieu Nguyen
    First, thank you for the informative post. Secondly, I am still a bit confused about the boshi ken technique. By your description of an open-handed strike with the thumb's knuckle, it sounds like a straight ridge-hand strike. And when I searched for 'boshi ken' on the Internet, I actually saw a few sites mentioning the use of the tip of the thumb to attack pressure points in a manner similar to a spearhand strike. So what is the exact technique? And what is the exact difference between a ridgehand strike and a open-handed thumb strike as described in your article? Thank you in advance.
    • JW
      Nguyen, try not to think of it as a single technique. It can be and is many techniques or applications of a principles or concepts. It can be a ridge hand. It can be used to strike a nerve. It can be used in a choke. The kata allows for this technique to have a variety of applications. It is up to you to practice and to learn to use those applications under stress with a training partner. Look at gedan barai. Most people call this a leg block. It is not what it appears to be. It is not really used to block a kick. It can be used to avoid a kick. What it is is determined by the attack and the knowledge and skill of the one being attacked. It can be a parry and hammer fist strike which boshi ken can be used in this strike. It can be a throw, It can be an arm bar or another joint lock. You learn this when doing bunkai. Unfortunately many schools only teach sports karate. Not enough teac life preservation skills that was originally part of karate.
      • Hieu Nguyen
        Thank you for your information, JW. Really appreciated.
  • Pavol Bajusz
    Dear Karate nerd, Please accept my admiration to your level of dovetedness to Karate, but as a long time (over 30 years) instructor - not master of Karate - I can assure you that there is only one secret to Karate, or any martial art, to be better in any part of the three "T"- Tactics , Technicques or Trast regardsninig- also meant as endurance or stamina, while maintainign roughly an equal level of proficiency in the two areas left. In my oppoinion, revealing secrets are good for marketing. For those really interested, revealing other approaches to the same can prove more fruitful. Best regards, Paul
  • Graziela
    I think the tsumasaki-geri is not only not used anymore because it's deadly, but because when done falsely or sloppy, the attacker might break his toes and not die from it, but still be injured. And, of course, especially in competitions, you don't want anyone to get injured.
  • JW
    These techniques are used today. However, they aren't taught as much or in many schools today. there are some schools that still teach it and practice using them. They are not taught in many places today because many are unaware that is should be taught. The focus of many school changed from life preservation to competing. In competing you would never use these techniques as these techniques are used to attack nerves. But you don't score points striking these nerves. In fact you will be penalized. Also, keep in my the karateka is not the attacker. The karateka is the defender. There is no fear of sloppy technique. Sloppy techniques came with tournament play. Old chool training was precise. Every technique has applications meant to do specific things. One technique has a variety of applications. Every application has a known reaction. The object was to kill or maim.
  • Lukken-Do
    The toe kick is a part of the modern art of San-Jitsu and as well the older art of Greek Pankration.
  • An Truong
    I prefer a nukite to the throat that is performed a lot in many katas. You know, it's easier to defeat a guy by attacking the throat with a nukite (training nukite is easier than hardening the tip of your toes I guess)
  • The toe kick and bushi-ken a both primary strikes in all Uechi Ryu. kata. All front kicks are intended to be done with the toes.Having had the privilage to study on Okinawa under Master Kanei Uechi three different times in the '70s, Iasked for advice on how to develop this. I learned to pull my toes back and walk on the ball of my feet to strengthen the muscles. This is referred to as a Tiger toe.
  • Dear Jesse, I appreciate your going into such details as to finding out the most efficient ways of hitting the opponent, as it also develops the sense of precision, a quality that is not so easy to achieve. Having seen films mostly of Honkong production I have never stoopeed admiring the skills and the precision they were able either to block, catch or elimininate techniques of their highly skiôlled opponents. With time, however I started to experience that to arrive at the moment of performing the special technique, an adequate strategy, and movements had to be taken as no oppononet is that stupid to let him hit with the most efficient hit at the most vulnerable part. It was only after this I came to realize why in the old Chinese army under General Jue Fei (apology for unintentional spelling mistakes) adepts of military services were taught movements first (Long distance) and hitting or striking techniques later (Short distance). Well. Good luck anyway! Let everyone train either, techniques, movements or even strategies, !such as Musahshi´s Go Rin No Sho), the pleasure of doing something meaningful to the benefit of both their soul and body are what counts. Best regards Paul but In my view it is not the technique of kicking or hitting thatThe two The toe-kick and bushi-ken
  • Dear Jesse, I am sorry for my inconsistence in deleting ideas speaking more strictly, as in part : "but In my view it is not the technique of kicking or hitting thatThe two The toe-kick and bushi-keno not" This part, originally, was my first reaction to the topic, but thinking it through, I have dicided to give a something of bettter explanation to the idea, and I kept pushing the beginning in front of my writhing until losing it from sight. Anyway, it is still true, that movement play a dominant role over techniques of kicking or hitting , especially, when it is not our intention to hurt our opponent, but only teach him a lesson by simply circumgoing his techinques . Again, Best regards. Paul
  • Heath White
    Jesse, Where did you pick up the bit about Jion high blocks originally being thumb strikes? (What else do you know about "X was originally a Y but now we do it lame"?)
  • Hector
    How does Shorinryu and White Crane rank for self defense?
    • Sensei Jamal
      Hector Shorin Ryu derived from White Crane. As far as how it ranks for self defense, there is no such thing. That is subjective. It is no better or worst than any other legit form of self defense. What matters is how good the instructor at teaching the system and how good you are at applying what is being taught. Now I could have told you how awesome Shorin Ryu is since I study and teach it. However, that would be no more than a biased opinion.
  • Kenneth Worsham
    Both of theses strikes are used in the Bujinkan.
  • Bruise Lee
    Kick sum bootee.
  • Hello, I know this is old, but it is still informative and I have a question. When I was young (30 years ago) I took Goju-ryu long enough to attain purple belt so I don't claim to be an expert, but I do remember enough of what I was taught be confused by something. In #2 about the toe kick I was taught that you NEVER keep your toes out, that you are supposed to bend them back to protect them from being broken and this was drilled into us by both our shihan and sensei who were both there always. I have to admit it was a YMCA class, but the Shihan had been doing it for 30 years or so and had trained in Okinawa in the military and then for the rest of his life after service. He was a humble man even though he was extremely gung ho about the military and law-enforcement...
  • I re-read #2 again and I seen the answer. I don't know how I missed that, please dis-regard my inquiry...
  • Dave
    There is a great in Provo Utah that teaches the old days his name is Larry Heather's his is one art look him up has is own web site one art.com
  • Dave
    Correction on his name Larry bothers agreat teacher. Sorry for the spelling evreryone
  • many years ago, a yoshinkai black belt visited our dojo and demonstrated kicking with the big toe turned up. he did an inside roundhouse with it and it sunk it real well. he was bout 6'5 and his toe was about as big as my heel. he sassy he condition sit by kicking the makiwara and the bag
  • lars
    I tend to prefer to use the thumb similar to sean connery in "presidio"....

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