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Hikite -- The Pulling Hand

Hikite refers to the pulling or returning hand. Hikeru means to draw toward you. Te means hand. When you punch with your right hand, you typically pull your left hand back to the side of your body. This is called "chambering" by some Karate people.

In our style, we pull our hand back to a point at the bottom of the ribs. Our back hand is not horizontal. It slopes down. When the back hand is horizontal, the lower ribs are open to attack. Since these ribs are not fused (like the upper ribs), they are more susceptible to damage.

Choki Motobu was said to chamber high. However, he did not bring his arm all the way back. He only brought his elbow back to his body, almost like a Western boxer.

There are several reasons for the hikite. New students are taught that the returning elbow can be used if someone grabs you from the back. The elbow strikes this attacker. This is true, but there are more practical reasons for hikite.

There is a saying that you should not bring your hand back empty. This means that you should grab and pull something -- hair, clothes, an ear, the neck, etc. You pull with one hand and strike with the other. This makes it more difficult for the attacker to escape or dodge your strike.

The hikite can also be used after the application of a joint lock or hyperextension (stripping or wrenching) -- you do not just pull back your hand, you are unraveling or breaking the joints of the attacker's arm in the process.

The hikite can also be performed as a pulling, riding, or deflecting type of block. The forearm can be used to slide along a punch to neutralize it. The vertical punches in the beginning of Kusanku are an example of this technique. The elbow can also be used to jam a punch or kick.

Beginners are taught to pull their arms all the way back to their sides. This is a basic technique. At a more advanced level, the arms might only pull back part of the way. The further back the arm is pulled, the further it will have to travel to attack. Advanced punches are executed at close range -- the proverbial one inch punch! Again, Choki Motobu often took this posture.

The hands must work together. One goes out, the other comes back, and the process repeats itself. With proper body dynamics, one body motion will generate the power for both the punch and the returning hand. They are not separate motions.

Remember -- never bring your hand back empty.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin