42 Bunkai to “Monk’s Salutation”

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!



  • Szilard
    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.)
  • Tommi Prami
    OK, 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€ -Tee-
    • kai-ru
      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.
      • Thoughtful and intelligent comments like these make the Karate world a better place. Thanks Kai-ru san.
        • Adam Miyagi Quinlivan
          There is the understanding of the salute as a gesture. Though there is story to this salute which exceeds the limit of this salute as a gesture. Unpacking this gesture there are many narratives to open hand over fist. Some traditions would differ, but a popular one says: the fist symbolises conceptual idea of foundation through hard work and training. The four fingers of the open hand are like north, east, south, and west. The thumb tucked under represent the humbleness of the individual. Encamp Sensei deconstructed the salute and created a bunkai. A parallel practical application. A parallel story. This exceeds the limits of the meaning philosophically. It has merit through the practicality. The key to Martial Arts is to exceed limits. A Master is only a beginner that did not surcome to their limits. Salute!
    • Graeme
      Yes I agree with some of what you say here about technique. I read somewhere about the symbolic meaning of the salutation as way of showing I have no weapons and I do not want to fight.
    • Margaret Lo
      You are so right. Has no one watched any Kung fu movies and checked out typical Chinese greetings?
  • 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!
    • No, sensei Ando - thank you! Your comment totally made my day.
  • Kamui
    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! :D
  • Thank you Jesse... Nice of you to post more practical application practices on your blog. We share the same ideas.
    • Some of my bunkai: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=483196695074504&set=a.176771235717053.45063.100001525347299&type=1&theater
  • 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
  • Hey the third one is a hapkido armlock
  • Philipp
    Thank you for another interesting post, Jesse! I've already read this some time ago, but nie I samt to add One of my personal favourites. The first one: Kamae of the Shotokan version of Jion (monk's salutation at chest level) the left open hand is a kind of Soto Ude Uke or Nagashi Uke or however you want to call a block/deflection from the outside. You Grab the attacker's wrist (no matter if you die Duisburger block before or if you just grab it) and pull to break his balance by using his forward momentum and then strikte upwards to the chin/temple/nerve points: under the wrist/on the bicep/etc or simply somewhere in his face :) The second one is quite similar: it is the Kamae of the Shotokan Bassai Dai. You just grab/catch/deflect a leg and smash the ankle/knee/balls or strike to a nerve point (Kyusho) three fingers above the inner ankle or somewhere on the thigh. Best regards
  • Cory
    A very simple bunkai for this salute is one my sensei taught me. If your opponent has you in a lapel grab (one hand will work, but if they have one hand on each lapel is how I was taught) you bring your arms over top of theirs in the salutation form then pull down and inward. This not only locks their arms, but also disrupts their balance, pulls them into your space, and leaves you able to do any number of things from there. (head -butt, double punch, knee or groin kick, and almost infinite other possibilities.
  • I believe that is one of the so much important information for me. And i'm satisfied reading your article. But should statement on few general things, The website taste is wonderful, the articles is actually excellent : D. Excellent job, cheers
  • Emanoel Queiroz
    Some time ago I was talking with my sensei about this in Jion, for me, the salute was to grab the enemy's hand and the second movement which looks like a double defense is more like breaking the enemy's arm that you held before with using your other arm, difficult to explain but maybe you understood.

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