Thursday, August 20, 2015

Thumb Strikes



One of the things that is less discussed is the use of the thumb for striking in karate.


This is a recollection of a personal journey, as many stories are.  As I learned Isshinryu, thumb strikes were not part of my art. Along the way I studied many systems but do not recall them being used either.


Thin around 1987 ot 1988, Tom Chan a Ueichi brown belt joined our program. He fit in very well, but did so because of convenience rather than dislike of Ueichi, which he adored. I made certain he continued his practice before or after class. From the first time I asked to see his Seisan kata, I noticed the thumb strikes within the palm strikes he was doing. He asked me how I saw them I just replied that I did. That was the beginning of this inquiry.’


A later discovered demonstration by Kilohide Sensei showing boshiken training in Uechi.


Back then there was no internet discussion, or many videotapes, being before youtube where everything is available if you know what you are looking for.  Many arts were unseen in many areas, Ueichi being one of them. It was found in pockest of influence around the country.


Within the arts were many practices, while not secrets, not often discussed with others. The use of thumb  striking, or boshiken strikes, being one of them, I hadn’t noticed them in the considerable martial arts literature I had collected.


Of course that got me thinking. I had experienced bunkai strikes from Shotokan, to the forhead at the same point Ueichi was striking with the thumb. At the same time that point was struck by Eagle Claw single finger strikes to destabilize an attacker.


That got me thinking, not to try an duplicate what Tom was doing, but to consider the obvious use of the Isshinryu fist I hadn’t thought of before.

The firse use I saw was striking into the solar plexus with the Isshinryu fist, and then continuing the strike by driving the thumb into the soft part of the under jaw, a variation on Sutrisno multiple striking applied to Isshinryu.


(Caution this should only be practiced with a partner softly because it is dangerous.)


Then I got to see the applications within the Isshinryu roundhouse strikes.

Strikes with the thumb to the neck and the temple. Hooking strikes from SunNusu kata to the kidneys and back and solar plexus.


Further uses in a double strike with the thumb and the bent index finger allowed a different variation, such as double strikes into the neck, Absolutely no difference in standard Isshinryu execution .Just how it was used to strike.

Then in 1988 my wife took the time to train with Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming in a 6 month clinic on Chin-na. I was working too far away to make it. I would arrive home and later on she came in and used me for a practice ‘dummy’ I came to understand pain a different way, especially with her finger Chin-na training. Including the thumb. It cast thumb potential in a different light.


Dr Yang Jwing-Ming

While I had studied Eagle Claw with Ernie Rothrock Laoshi in the past, it was just performance of the forms (for knowledge). I really didn’t work applications at that time. Later he went into some of them and of course they included use of the thumb.
Ernie Rothrock demonstrating  Eagle Claw

About 5 years later I began training with Sherman Harrill Sensei and after his death with his senior student John Kerker Sensei. There were a lot of uses of thumb strikes in those studies.




A photo of Sherman Harrill that might be turned into thumb striking.



Borowed from recent article on Karate by Jessie


Something else to consider.


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