By Ethan Miller
Nukite training, or spearhand training is probably one of the more underestimated strikes in Uechi-Ryu and other styles of Karate. In sparring it’s generally not permitted or adaptable, while it becomes more accessible to the advanced user it appears to commonly become a grey area in usefulness. I had often downplayed its’ usefulness in the past. Partially this is due to the westerners’ overwhelming bias to the Seiken or closed fist (not always a bad thing). Partially, it is the result of lack of appreciation of the technique.
An innocuous Nukite strike without enough force to pierce a sheet of paper can cause significant distress and even damage to an adversary’s larynx. Imagine the reaction to such a hit: the assailant has trouble speaking, breathing and coughs. The hands fly to the throat, the chin tucks and often the eyes water. What has happened, is the assailant has become open to a number of other techniques and decisions by the defender.
This is not to downgrade the importance of hand toughening drills; such as the makiwara or thrusting hands into beans or sand, or piercing drills. I’ve heard of someone practicing a piercing drill on a stretched deer hide – in order resemble the act of hitting harder targets on the human body with confidence. I stress the with confidence part. What you are doing is adding an enhanced ability to a weapon.
In the opening of Sanchin kata the Nukite shows up very strongly. I like to think of this an excellent strengthening tool and also a good way to focus attention at the hip level. Repeating the Sanchin opening over and over is a very useful drill. On the other hand, often in Kata we emphasis hip movement to the detriment of the strike – by accident. I don’t believe that the hip movement in the Seiken strike is the same for the Nukite whether it is overhand or underhand. In fact, I think the mechanics for the lower body ideally should be adapted (maybe subtly) for whatever hand strikes are applied. I see it as adapting the force continuum for different weapons.
In a tie-up for instance a Nukite to points under the jaw line is very painful and requires smaller “thrusts” like a spear. While the training and confidence to use the technique requires time the actual conditioning of the hands (toughening) is not as necessary. The strike is going to hurt like hell.
Another thought on the matter is that Nukite hand shape is a good place to keep your hand while fighting. Good for defending, striking, moving into a kansetsu (jointlockng) approach or moving into Ukemi (falling) drills. So it can be used very successfully as a transitional shape. This can be over used, and over relied on, but it works in many situations.
Also, an application for fighting with the Nukite, which calls for the practice of hand toughening drills: This is an application you might not have considered. In a barroom “negotiation” a cowardly attack from a person sitting next to you would be to pin your hand flat out and bring a beer bottle down on it. (The assailant hoping to shock the defender with the first few strikes, then attempting to break the bottle on the hand in order to begin cutting) The trained Nukite practicioner might have valuable seconds to respond because they have conditioned their hands to withstand severe treatment – less feeling of shock. Similarly, a barroom altercation that goes to the ground, or a pile up, could result in an additional assailant getting it in their heads to stomp on a defenders’ free hand. The value of hand conditioning might save you valuable time and help maintain a cooler head. Though, I’d avoid that particular bar in the real world.
Best wishes training,