Out of the five main categories of techniques (Kamaekata, Tachikata, Semekata, Ukekata, and Kerikata) Ukekata definitely consists of the largest grouping of individual techniques. However it should be noted that many westerners misunderstand what Ukekata are and how they should be used. As such lets start off by establishing Uke (受け) does not translate to Block. Ukekata are much more general than such a concept. Uke (受け) comes from the verb Ukeru (受ける) which in its most general sense means to Receive. However, as we established in our first installment, Ukekata (受け方) can mean Methods of Defense, as an Uke (both the person and the technique) are often Receiving an attack. (Again this goes well beyond the general concept of Blocking.)
In The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do, Nagamine Shoshin Sensei divides the Ukekata into five main subcategories:
2. Shuto- and Haito-uke
Again we will make no assumptions of previous knowledge.
Seiken-ude-uke (正拳腕受け), as the romaji (Roman Characters) suggest is divided into three main parts. Seiken (正拳) is a Correct Fist possition with all fingers curled in. Ude (腕) refers to the Arm or Forearm. These Receiving Techniques are thusly performed with a closed fist utilizing the forearms.
Nagamine Sensei discusses seventeen distinct Seiken-ude-uke:
1. Jodan uke
2. Chudan soto-uke
3. Chudan yoko-uke
4. Chudan uchi-uke
5. Gedan uke
6. Gedan yoko-barai-uke
9. Jodan wari-uke
10. Chudan wari-uke
11. Jodan kosa-uke
12. Gedan kosa-uke
13. Morote soe-uke
14. Chudan soto-mawashi-uke
Next we get to the pairing of Shuto-uke (手刀受け) and Haito-uke (背刀受け). Shuto (手刀) is pretty straight forward. Shu (手) is one of the pronunciations for Hand. The suffix -to (~刀) means Blade, and can realistically imply anything from a small chisel (彫刻刀) to the massive anti-calvary swords that were sometimes wielded by multiple men (斬馬刀), but considering the size of a human hand, the translation Knife is sufficient. It is also important to note, -to is とう in Japanese phonetics meaning the O sound is slightly extended. Also you may see 手刀 pronounced as “Tegatana” in mainland Japanese arts such as Aikido, Judo, Jujutsu, etc.
I have to be honest that Haito (背刀) was a pain to translate. Reason being is that Haito is an obscure compound, with the more common usage being Tohai (刀背). I do not know why the kanji are switched around, but I can tell you that regardless of the order they mean the same thing, the back of a blade. Hai (背) in this context means Back (such as the part of a body, rather than the direction), and again -to (~刀) is Blade. If you research the term Haito on your own, you may come across two other compounds that are homonyms: 廃刀 and 佩刀. However, while they are worth noting for those interesting in the history and culture of mainland Japanese martial arts, these are not the same as what we use in Karate.
In The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do, eleven techniques are discussed in this subcategory:
1. Chudan soto-shuto-uke
2. Jodan uchi-shuto-uke
3. Chudan yoko-shuto-uke
4. Gedan shuto-uke
5. Gedan shuto yoko-barai-uke
6. Chudan hasami-uke
11. Gedan haito-yoko-uke
Shotei-uke (掌底) is another straight forward translation. Sho (掌) is the palm of the hand. Tei (底) is the bottom or base. When you put those together we get what we call in English, the palm heel.
Nagamine only discusses two Shotei-uke:
1. Chudan shotei-uke
2. Gedan shotei-uke
Hiji-uke is a single technique rather than a subcategory like the previous. Hiji (肘) is the elbow. Done! Moving on!
Hangetsu-barai-uke (半月払受け) as you can see is a little more involved, but still straightforward. Han (半) is Half. Getsu (月) is Moon. So Hangetsu (半月) is the half moon shape. Next we have -barai (~払い). Hopefully you are noticing the pattern involving Rendaku (連濁), -barai (~払い) is the noun form of the verb Harau (払う), which in this context is to Sweep. Interestingly this is the only defensive technique Nagamine Sensei discusses in The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do involving the feet.
That is all for now on Ukekata of Matsubayashi Ryu. For those curious, we will eventually go deeper and translate each and every individual technique. However we are working our way from the outside in. We started with the five major categories, now we are looking at subcategories within each of those five, then we will get into individual techniques. Next time will will translate the Kerikata (蹴り方) of Matsubayashi Ryu, presented in The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do by Nagamine Shoshin Sensei.