Semekata of Matsubayashi Ryu: Part 2, Seiken

Up to this point we have taken the time to do a deep linguistic delve into the five main categories of techniques, and their subsequent subcategories, as laid out by Nagamine Shoshin Sensei in his book The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do. From this point forward we are going to be looking to translate individual techniques into their literal and nuanced meaning. Due to the vast number of techniques contained in this book, we are going to breach from our previous practice of making no assumptions of previous knowledge. Instead, I will be labeling the following installments something along the lines of, “… of Matsubayashi Ryu: Part [insert number],” to help those following these mini-articles keep track of which ones they have, and have not, read. (I will also copy and paste this paragraph in each new write up, so next time feel free to skip it if desired.)

This time we are going to look at the ten Seikan Waza Nagamine Sensei discusses:

  1. Jodan-zuki
  2. Chudan-zuki
  3. Gedan-zuki
  4. Kaku-zuki
  5. Tomoe-zuki (pronounced Tomo-eh)
  6. Sayu-zuki
  7. Kakushi-zuki
  8. Oi-zuki
  9. Wari-uke-zuki
  10. Morote-zuki

Before we get into this I’m sure most have noticed that all these techniques have the same suffix attached to them, -zuki (~突き). It is important to note that this term, which means Thrust or Stab, is only pronounced such as a suffix. When it is presented as a stand alone word or a prefix it is actually Tsuki (突き). For example, all of these techniques could be classified/ described as Tsuki Waza (突き技) as well as Seiken Waza (正拳技). Again, this is due to the process of Rendaku (連濁) or Sequential Voicing, where sounds change based on placement within a compound word or phrase.

Next we are going to translate Jodan-zuki, Chudan-zuki, and Gedan-zuki. As we have already discussed the suffix, -zuki, lets focus on the prefixes and roots of these term, starting with dan (段). Dan is used in several different contexts with martial arts: level, rank, part, etc. In the context of Jodan, Chudan, and Gedan it is referring to Level. Jo (上) is Upper, so Jodan-zuki (上段突き) is an Upper-level-thrust. Chu (中) is Middle, so Chudan-zuki (中段突き) is a Middle-level-thrust.
Ge (下) is Lower, so Gedan-zuki (下段突き) is Lower-level-thrust. It is also worth noting that both Jo (じょう) and Chu (ちゅう) have extended vowel sounds, represented by the additional う when written in Japanese phonetic characters.

Next we get to Kaku-zuki (角突き). This is often translated as a Square Punch, however like we discussed before our suffix -zuki, isn’t really the same as “punch,” and Kaku isn’t square in the way most people think of the term. In other words, it isn’t square like a four sides figure, but rather square as in an Angle. Thus Kaku-zuki (角突き) is more of an Angled Thrust. *

Next we get to Tomoe-zuki (巴突き). This is another one where there is a bit of nuance to wade through. Tomoe (巴), is a word that is harder to translate as it is more of a proper noun rather than a description. While many translate Tomoe to circular, that simply doesn’t take into consideration the nuance. Similar to how we spoke of Hachiji (八字) describing a shape/ symbol, Tomoe is a shape consisting of two camas, or tadpoles, that are circling each other. Similar to a “Yin-Yang” (In-Yo: 陰陽) or Taichi (Taikyoku: 太極), but in the depiction of Tomoe the tadpoles usually aren’t touching. It is also worth noting this symbol is used throughout Japanese martial arts.

Sayu-zuki (左右突き), is pretty forward. We have already seem the kanji previously when we spoke about specific Tachiwaza, but here they are pronounced differently. Sa (左) is Left, Yu (右) is Right, and as we know the suffix -zuki (突き) is thrust. Sayu-zuki (左右突き) is a thrusting technically that goes out to the left and right simultaneously. Please not the the vowel sound in Yu (ゆう) is extended.

Kakushi-zuki (隠し突き) is pretty straight forward. Kakushi (隠し) is Hidden or Concealed. So a Kakushi-zuki, is a Thrusting technique that where the first starts from a hidden position. Which is great when carrying concealed weapons, but you didn’t hear that from me.

In Oi-zuki (追い突き), Oi comes from the verb Ou (追う). This means to Pursue, Chase, or Follow. So either a Pursuing Thrust or Chasing Thrust work great.

Wari-uke-zuki (割り受け突き) is an interesting technique. Wari (割り) is Mixed or Matched. Uke (受け) as we discussed previously is to Receive. Again -zuki is our suffix for thrust. Thusly Wari-uke-zuki (割り受け突き) is a Matched Receiving and Thrust, implying you are doing some sort of Uke Waza (受け技) and Tsuki Waza (突き技) simultaneously.

Finally we have Morote-zuki (両手突き). To be honest I have never been happy with the usual translation for Morote (両手), as I feel the literal Japanese does a better job expressing this concept. Morote (両手) literally translates to Both Hands or Two Handed. A Morote-zuki (両手突き), is simply where Both Hands Thrust.

Of the Semekata (攻め方), these were the methods of attacking involving thrusting with the Seiken (正拳). Next time we will finish the rest of the Semekata.

*for those wishing to do followup research but are against animal cruelty, kindly refrain from putting the kanji for Kaku-zuki into a search engine. Besides Angle, Kaku can also mean Horn and “Ushi no Kaku-zuki” is a type of Japanese bullfighting.

Published by mattskaratecorner

A martial arts student and instructor. A school teacher and researcher. A curmudgeon with a lot on his mind.

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