Ukekata of Matsubayashi Ryu: Part 2, Seiken-Ude-Uke

I’ll be quite honest that tackling the Ukekata has been an intimidating task, due to the quantity of individual techniques within this category. As such we are going to approach translating these in a slightly different manner. Instead of going through every term individually we will break down the compounds used to form the descriptions of said techniques. However, before we get to breaking them down that lets list the individual Seiken-ude-uke first.

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
7. Sasae-uke
8. Sayu-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
15. Morote-barai-uke
16. Hazushi-uke
17. Otoshi-uke

Shall we start with Seiken-Ude-Uke itself? They are receiving techniques utilizing the Correct Fist (Seiken, 正拳) and Forearms (Ude, 腕). Though it is worth mentioning Ude can also refer to the entire arm.

Lets investigate Gedan, Chudan, and Jodan. These terms are part of a methodology of dividing techniques and wide sections of the body. Gedan utilizes two Kanji 下 and 段. Ge (下) means Low but can also mean Below. Dan (段) can have many meanings but in this case it is Level. So our Gedan-Uke are Low Level Receiving techniques, representing not just a single technique but a category of techniques in its own right. It is also worth mentioning that 下 can have multiple pronunciations but in this case only “Ge“ is correct, thus the other pronunciations are not worth mentioning at this time as it can cause confusion. (Overloading people with information is not a good teaching practice, nor a polite discussion tactic.)

Next we have Chudan (中段). Chu is 中 and again has that extended vowel sound, ちゅう. It means Middle. As Dan (段) doesn’t change we will not cover it again. So our Chudan-Uke (中段受け) are a collection of varying Middle Level Receiving techniques.

Finally we have Jodan (上段). Jo is 上 and like Chu it also has an extended vowel sound, じょう. Jo (上) is both Upper and Above. Meaning our Jodan-Uke (上段受け) is an Upper Level Receiving technique, but also an entire collection of varying Upper Level Receiving techniques.

After this, we have three directional terms: Soto, Yoko, and Uchi. Soto is 外 meaning Outside, while it has other pronunciations they again are irrelevant at this juncture. Yoko is 横 and can be thought of several ways, such as Side, Besides, Next To, etc. Personally I like Next To as it seems to give a decent mental depiction of the hand techniques and can help differentiate between “Outside” and “Side.” Uchi is 内 and is Inside. It is worth expressing that in Nagamine’s book Chudan-uchi-uke is described as, “…it blocks toward the inside…”

Remember how I keep bringing up Rendaku or Sequential voicing? Our next one -barai (~払い), is again only pronounced this way in the middle of a compound word or as a suffix. As a stand alone word or prefix this is pronounced Harai (払い) and comes from the verb Harau (払う), which means To Sweep. Harai/ -barai describes that the technique is more of a horizontal, sideways movement rather than a vertical movement.

Sasae (支え) is simply a support or prob, and comes from the verb Sasaeru (支える).

Sayu (左右) we have seen before and actually means Left-and-Right.

Wari, seems to be a somewhat obscure term in karate and uses the kanji, 割, though you may also see it as 割り. This means to Divide or to Separate, and comes from the verb Waru (割る). Note: there are multiple kanji with similar meanings and pronunciation, so you may occasionally see them as well.

Kosa (交差) has an extended O vowel (こうさ) and means Crossing or Intersecting.

Morote (両手) is a compound that is best taken as a single word meaning Both Hands. You may see it written in an overtly poetic “Husband and Wife Hand,” but Both Hands is a better direct translation.

Soe (添え) comes from the verb Soeru (添える) which means roughly, To Add Support or Supplement, which can also mean Augment in English.

Mawashi (回し) are the clothing worn by traditional Japanese sumo wrestlers. Sorry, I enjoy that joke. Mawashi (回し) just implies that something is rotating. Note: Do not google the kanji without parent controls on, as Mawashi has a slang use that is not safe for work nor children.

Now you remember when I mentioned kanji can have multiple meanings and pronunciations? Hazushi is one such case, as the kanji are 外し and comes from the verb Hazusu (外す). However this means To Remove, To Evade, or To Get Out Of, such as “to evade capture” or “to get out of their grasp.” The description of this technique (as techniques don’t actually have names) comes from one possible application (read: Ōyō).

Lastly we have Otoshi or 落とし which just means Drop, but can also mean Trap, so feel free to play with that concept.

With all these terms you should be able to mix and match them to figure out all 17 of the Seiken-Ude-Uke, presented in The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do by Shoshin Nagamin.

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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