So far we have looked at the major categories of techniques, laid out by Nagamine Shoshin Sensei in his book The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do. We have translated the meanings of the terms: Kamaekata (構え方), Tachikata (立ち方), Semekata (攻め方), Ukekata (受け方), and Kerikata (蹴り方). We have also done deeper translations of the various Methods of Positioning/ Ready Stances as well as Methods of Standing. This time we will be looking to translate Methods of Attacking discussed in The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do.
Nagamine Sensei divided these into four main subcategories:
1. Seiken Waza
2. Yubi Waza
3. Uchi Waza
4. Ate Waza
Though most students will probably know a rough translation of all these terms, we are going to make no assumptions of previous knowledge.
Before getting into each individual one lets recap what the suffix -kata (~方) means and look at the difference between it and the suffix -waza (~技). For starters this suffix kata (~方), varies greatly from the term for prearranged forms or patterns practiced in karate, such as Fukyugata (普及形) and Kusanku (公相君). Instead of, “Forms or Patterns,“ (形/型) we are looking at, “Methods of,” (方). Again, note the use of Rendaku (連濁), or Sequential Voicing, presented in the word Fukyugata, where the term Kata (形) changes its initial pronunciation when used as a suffix, -gata (~形).
When we go beyond general methodology, into specific techniques, we start to delve into the realm of Waza (技). As Waza specifically translates to, “technique” or “skill.” Kata and Waza may seem similar at first glance (because they are), but just as there is a nuanced distinction between Method and Technique in English, there is a similar distinction in Japanese.
That aside, lets talk about our first Method of Attack, the Techniques utilizing Seiken Waza (正拳技). Seiken (正拳) is comprised of two kanji and is extremely simple to translate. The first kanji is 正 and means Correct. The second kanji is 拳 and means Fist.
That being said, there is a bit of confusion for many westerners, as when most people think of the word “fist” they only tend to think of Seiken. However for the Japanese and Okinawans there are many different types of fists. Seiken (正拳) being merely one of them. Granted Nagamine Sensei does not discuss other types of fists (that uses the term “ken”) in The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do.
He does however discuss ten Seiken Waza:
5. Tomoe-zuki (pronounced Tomo-eh)
Before moving on to Yubi Waza there is an easily over looked fact that needs pointed out. While I will not be going into translations of the ten Seiken Waza (正拳技), I do feel the need to discuss the suffix -zuki (~突き) as it is grossly misunderstood (both in quantity and in detestability). If you have been following along hopefully you noted the reoccurring mention of Rendaku (連濁), or Sequential Voicing. The term -zuki is only pronounced such as a suffix. Anyone who pronounces this term, “Zuki,” as a stand-alone word has made a gross grammatical and linguistic error. As a stand alone word, or prefix, it is pronounced Tsuki (突き). Furthermore, many people will tell you that Tsuki/ -zuki means, Punch. It actually doesn’t. It translates to Thrust, Stab, or Lunge. You don’t Punch someone with a spear, but you can Thrust a spear and Stab with a spear. We do this same thing with our fists! This is why your instructor has probably told you, many times, to envision going through your target… more like a Thrust or Stab. Sure Punch and Stab are similar in English (including this for the argumentative types out there), but in Japanese Punch is プンチ (pronounced Punchi) while Thrust and Stab are 突き.
Ranting out of the way, let’s move on to Yubi Waza! While many people struggle is translating and pronouncing Tsuki, Yubi (指) is extremely simple. Yubi (指), in this context, are your fingers.
Bonus Translation: Yubi (指) can also mean toes, but you’ll notice it differs from the “Toe Kick” or Tsumasaki-geri (爪先蹴り) mentioned earlier in The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do. For, you see, Tsumasaki (爪先) doesn’t actually mean Toe. Tsumasaki refers specifically to the front of the toenail, as Tsuma (爪) means Nail or Claw and -saki (~先) means Precede.
In The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do, Nagamine Sensei discusses three Yubi Waza:
You may have wondered why I took such a long time ranting about Tsuki (突き) and -zuki (~突き), it is because there are other methods of hitting with the fist, such as Uchi-Waza (打ち技). Uchi (打) means to Strike, Hit, Knock, or Pound. When most people translate this they stop with just Strike, but due to some nuance I like to include all four of these translations. I think it really pounds home the point, hits the nail on the head, strikes an accord, knocks it out of the park, etc. If we think of the tools used to hit, pound, knock, and strike it helps us understand the distinction between how a Thrust works (linear movement) and how a Uchi Waza works.
Which if you knew the meaning of these next four specific techniques, discussed by Nagamine Sensei, it becomes very clear:
Lastly lets translate Ate Waza (当て技). When dealing with this one we have to understand there is again some nuance to wade through. Literally speaking, ate (当て) is not the droid we are looking for. We are looking for the verb Ateru (当てる) which gets shortened to Ate, when used as a prefix or suffix. Ateru (当てる) means to Hit, such as, “by a car!” The nuance is that it is a very serious/ devastating hit. This is why, in martial arts, the prefix/ suffix of Ate (当て) is often translated to Smash.
Nagamine Sensei lists three main Ate Waza in The Essence of Okinawan Karate-do:
Next time we shall look at translations of Ukekata (受け方), Methods of Defense/ Receiving.