Home Articles of Interest Okinawan Karate Flow Drills

Okinawan Karate Flow Drills

by George Mattson

Copyright David Elkins
1160 Garden Grove Drive
Roseburg, OR 97470
23 July 2001

Okinawan Karate Flow Drills [That I will be teaching at Summer Camp]


Uechi-Ryu Applications of Tegumi Renzokugeiko adapted from Sensei Patrick McCarthy’s video “The McCarthy Seminars I”  Thanks to Master McCarthy for sharing his knowledge and insights.  Osu!

These flow drills represent one of the “lost” elements of traditional karate practice – that of two person continuous energy exchange drills.  In addition to promoting the development of fear control for typical scenarios of unwanted aggression, they contain aspects of iron body conditioning, foster feeling sensitivity, and encourage consolidation of Sanchin root and center.  The twelve drills can be performed consecutively in a giant chain incorporating increasingly sophisticated variations as the practitioner becomes comfortable with the basic patterns. 

When appropriate, anatomical and/or meridian point targets for strikes are noted.  Obviously, in a real fight we are happy just to connect with our opponent – who is attempting not only to thwart our blows, but also to hit us. As impossible as it may seem to target a small moving “point” which, of course should be struck in a specific direction at an ideal time of day, blah, blah – it is good training.  As our shooter friends say “aim small/miss small”.

1.   Kakie

engage forearms (with force) facing partner in Sanchin.  Press up/in snaking hand at wrist at apogee of movement to then pull vigorously toward self using kakie (wrist) hook.  One partner will be palm up the other palm down.  This will change with every successive movement.  Perform designated number and then clash opposite forearms to switch arms much the same as arm rubbing.


 He R same side grab > R cover/trap (be prepared to raise R elbow to “nosecone” destruction of incoming L cross), hit radial nerve (C10) with L hand, R shuto (as you perform the shuto – the L hand slides down his forearm using shoken flesh grab to seize/pull his R arm to your L hip) convert shuto to reverse neck hook, R knee spike to face, push up on his R arm or shoulder and down on the L side of his head or his L shoulder to spin him around (this is the Silat puta-kapala or double arm crane motion from Sanseiryu kata – a VERY serious application involves stepping on his foot as you perform the spin/ his foot is pinned to the ground and his spine is torqued – the weak link in the chain will break!) spin to deck retaining your hold on his R arm, R iron palm slap to face, double thumb gouges to eyes, head smash on deck using ears as handles, jack chin back and finger spike supraclavicular notch (CV22) – the crane koken strikes from Seisan kata with the exception of the forward movement being palm down

 2.   Straight Punch

to transition from kakie to straight punch one partner simply steps forward and punches

He R lunge straight punch > L retreats and accepts the punch as body conditioning, R Uechi cross block/L iron palm heel strike down on radial nerve C10, L then slides down his forearm in “shrinking ring” (using ripping tiger claw to irradiate his brain with pain/trap/and excruciate tendons and nerves on wrist as it straightens out his arm bringing him into the void and opening his ribcage, R hand slams into lower rib cage.  That hand continues in a counterclockwise arc hitting the richly innervated area of the neck/lower mandible.  From there it hits the forearm again (thus far it has inscribed a reverse circle block), and terminates in a ulna bone forearm smash to the neck.

As a partner drill the “defender” should protect the neck with guarding hand.  The forearm and rib cage border should be conditioned.

To move this drill up and down the deck from the last technique – defender protects neck with guarding hand, sweeps it down and out in a downblock movement (reverse of the initiation of the mawashi uke movement) slap blocks it to the other side of the centerline and punches with the hand used in protecting the neck.

Bunkai – dynamic exit from the drill

After striking the neck – reverse wrap neck in a guillotine movement, lift then sit/roll backwards using the leg nearest your partner to lift his body (in the street you would employ this as a striking lever), as you achieve the “mount” position you are still grasping his R hand.  Using your R hand, iron palm slap his temple with a “tetsui” movement, slip your L foot under his head and fall back perpendicular to him placing him in an armbar and perform an adductive kick to his sternum, xyphoid, bladder, groin, etc. as you break arm.


After forearm strike to the neck bring his R wrist to your L hip locking his elbow.  Roll your striking arm pivoting at the elbow so that your forearm is perpendicular to the deck (this is the lead arm scoop/throwing motion of the dragon in Sanseiryu) the elbow is ideally digging into his triceps tendon.  Using spit and sink of “swallow, spit, float, and sink” exhale and drop your center.  From there, rotate your forearm clockwise to access his groin (in partner drill we grab hamstring) using shoken flesh grab, rip/twist as you sit down and roll back.  You are now both on your backs with heads facing in opposite directions.  You are still holding his wrist.  Slap down on his face, elbow to the serratus.  Raising his R arm that you are holding,  insert your striking hand behind his elbow and pull his forearm toward your groin to dislocate.  You can alternatively wrench his wrist toward his own forearm.

Editorial – Wrist grabbing is often seen by the naïve as an entry which is seldom the case.  A more likely scenario would involve an individual grabbing another’s wrist to attempt a disengagement from a painful situation such as a groin grab.  Thus the universality of the Tegumi flows – like kata the movements are finite but the applications infinite. Similarly, everything has an entry, an execution, and a follow through.  As in knife fighting, command of the nuances of transition is what distinguishes novice from journeyman from master.

3.   Forearm clashing

 to transition from straight punch to forearm clashing, one partner simply steps forward and delivers a low forearm strike rather than a punch

 Face partner in Sanchin.  Hand not in use should be in guard.

 a.     R low arm clash (from cross block motion)

b.    L high arm clash (from shuto movement)

2 kakie movements as in exercise #1

c.     R hand performs circle block to high clash

both partners form guarding hand structure and press out/up/down/and in forming an invisible elliptical plane between them similar to the triple hirakins of Seisan.

d.    after two energy exchanges of part c., partner A performs a straight punch at B’s head.  B defends with hajiki uke.  Both return to origin and the roles reverse with B trying to hit A.  A defends with hijiki uke.  All of these motions are done with the same arm that initially clashed in “c”.  It is single sticky hand (dan chi-sau).

e.     Once again for the third time, press dynamically out/up/down/in

f.      Conclude this flow with a low sweep block (gedan barai) movement using the same hand.


 Now it’s your turn, enjoy being creative.  Anything goes as long as it conforms to the fighting concepts and principles of Uechi-Ryu.

 4.   Shoving

 to transition from forearm clashing to shoving, one partner simply steps forward and delivers a middle gate shove rather than a low forearm smash

 He shoves > circle block allowing the circle block to dissipate/guide his energy into a “push hands” exchange – think of it as Uechi arm rubbing turned on its side.  Exchange roles by aggressively trapping his arms, stepping forward and shoving with other hand.  He responds by stepping back and repeating drill.  This exercise emphasizes the origin of movement being from the dan tien not the shoulder/arms.  In the initial stages of learning this drill, go softly.  One of the primary objectives of this drill is to learn the skills of “cotton body” – the ability to displace your mass at will denying your opponent centerline advantage.  You will retard your progress in this skill if you approach it as an iron rod rather than a wad of cotton.

 5.  Defending/attacking

 to transition from shoving to defending/attacking, one partner simply delivers a shove as in the previous drill

 he R shoves > R “catch-up” block (a slapping palm moving backward on the elbow line as opposed to the usual manifestation of it moving forward slightly preceding the circle block – think of it as a continuation of the retraction phase of the Sanchin thrust.  L slams on his radius/R shuto to throat.  He stops with his L guarding hand, pushes my strike down and away as he circles his R hand toward and then away from himself to launch shuto at me.  I protect similarly.  We then flow with reciprocal exchange of shutos/deflections. 

 To switch sides – when he shoves my hand down, he continues to drop his elbow down into my chest, continues forward energy into a shoulder bump to my chest, and finally attacks with his own shuto with the opposite hand (actually the same side that is folding) > defend and drill continues.

 This drill teaches a late defense (the catch-up movement), the ability to “fold” joints when your attack is blocked, allowing you to hit with the next weapon in the line of your skeletal structure, and the ability to defend and immediately launch a counteroffensive when you are caught off guard and surprised by an attack.  As in the previous drill, go easy at first to develop great speed in this drill.  It should look like hitting a speed bag!

 6.   Hook Punch #1

 to transition from defending/attacking to hook punch, one partner simply delivers a hook rather than a shove

 He R hooks (sucker punch) > L shuto, snake R hand underneath to circle block (this is an interesting movement as it could easily be either an eye poke, fish hook, throat grab, or a ripping tiger claw movement inside or outside his arm as a function of the directional flow of combative energy at the moment), L hand checks his arm at elbow, launch my own R hook (in the street both of my “defensive” movements seek to destroy in the manner of a FMA “Gunting” targets being the radial nerve and the ulnar nerve – funny bone, or the vulnerable elbow joint) .

To switch – duck the hook and return fire from the opposite side – slick! 

 7.   Straight Punch

 to transition from hook punch to straight punch, one partner simply delivers a lunge punch rather than a hook.  Alternately, my partner can check my hook with his shuto and immediately return fire with a lunge straight punch.

 He throws R straight P > L slap block/R circle block, L check, and return fire with a R lunge P.  To switch, when I check he steps in aggressively and punches me.

 This drill is reminiscent of Uechi kokekitae only it uses a checking hand in the penultimate movement rather than trusting the circle block to keep his striking arm under control.  This drill (as any of the others also) can be “spiced-up” by adding variety in the angle of attack.  It teaches aggressive response particularly on the switch – if you check and hesitate, he will continue his attack.  Your “defense” must be continuous and relentless.

 8.   Hacking Elbow

 This technique is the mirror image of the second movement of “hijizuki”

 to transition from hook punch to hacking elbow, one partner simply delivers an elbow rather than a hook

 He R hacking elbow > L hand soft “catcher’s mitt” absorbs his energy, R circle block (or hajiki uke for a destruction approach), turn his arm internally, L check his arm, and return hacking elbow.

 To switch, I catch and he aggressively steps forward to throw elbow from other side.

 9.   Lock-Flow

 Sorry, you should have figured out transitions by now

He R overhead strike > L hajiki uke, R circle blk, immediately grab/pull to extend his arm, enter with L foot/pivot clockwise to deliver a rising forearm to his tri tendon (elbow strike structure of middle Seisan kata)

 He will likely pull back resisting the hyperextension of his arm

 Then snake your L arm over his arm in the crook, your R hand bends his hand in a “gooseneck” fingers toward his face (your L hand can brace on your own R upper arm for leverage in a figure 4 configuration – you may as well as you’ll be using it in a minute)

 He will likely try to back away from you resisting the wrist lock

 Then shoot your R foot out so that you are now facing him and apply forward downward pressure on the shoulder joint with the figure 4 on his R arm

 He will likely try to resist in a forward direction to alleviate the pain in his shoulder

 Then shoot your R foot back so that you are once again at his R side, R grab/pull his wrist, L drive your forearm into the bottom of his mandible/neck area of s9 and s5.  this is a set-up for the next movement which is

 Turn his wrist over so that palm faces ceiling, snake your R arm down/over/around his arm so that your radius bone presses on his tri tendon, grab your own gi or shirt and lift your elbow up in front to jack his elbow joint

 Shove him away – like the phoenix that rises from its ashes, he foolishly comes back for more with an overhead on the other side.

 10.                       Uppercut

 He R uppercut > fade back that side (use “cotton body” to move your gut out of harm’s way – imagine that he has a knife).  For that matter, don’t imagine, train it with one partner stabbing with a drone.  As you step back, L downward/forward strike to his brachialis.  Wing Chun players call this motion a “gum sau” (‘pressing hand’).  It is the energy of the double strike from Sanchin with hand structure in fingers facing internally/palms down and parallel to the ground.  You are not trying to merely stop him, but to hurt him at the same time.  R nukite or Sanchin thrust to the suprasternal notch (cv22), R shuto to his R tricep tendon (c12), circle your L hand up so that you twist his arm into a half-nelson.  As he spins around he throws a L rear elbow to your head which you protect with your R palm “catcher’s mitt”.  Push with your R/pull with your L so that his body spins back toward you.  He will uppercut with his L hand and you repeat drill. 


 11.                     Hook #2

 He R hook > L shuto (which quickly converts to a grab/pull, R vertical palm or Bushiken to temple (Yang reservoir, gb3), R neck grab pulls his head in to a R shoulder butt, pop his head back by explosively straightening your R arm hitting his face with your bicep, just as explosively – pull his head back in to a L elbow strike. 

 This is a good place to experiment with broken timing strikes.  Actually, it’s not a good place to experiment as it is far too dangerous to learn on the head/neck.  The concepts can be used with the wa-uke strike from Sanchin with much less potential risk.  After popping his head back with your arm extension, use the neck grab that pulls his head back to the elbow strike as an adductive strike – don’t just pull him, hit him.  The broken timing comes in via delaying the elbow a ½ beat after the neck/jaw strike.  This sets up rotation. Remember that neck breaks are done with rotation + extension of the cervical vertebrae.  A neck break can occur if the two strikes are done with broken timing and some angulation to hyperextend the neck. This potentially lethal strike would best be done with a L palm rather than an elbow in view of the additional control offered by the hand.

 As if the preceding was not sufficient to dissuade the bad guy from further unwarranted aggression, add the following:  after the elbow sandwich (looks like the mirror image of elbow strike into the hand in the dragon sequence at the end of kata Seisan), jam your R radius bone against his L mastoid process (neck below/behind the ear) as you drive/grind your L ulna bone into the orbital nerve of his R cheek.  This exposes his R temple which you immediately head butt.  Push him away – he returns with a hook from the other side, and the drill begins anew.

 12.                     Hook #3

 He R hook > check with shuto that quickly converts to a grab/pull, R radius forearm smash to his sternal mastoid area of the neck,  R ulna strike to his upper forearm (c10), retaining your L grab of his R arm, R step cross body so that you are in front of him as you rotate his arm (hand thumb up) internally to your L shoulder.  Lever his elbow joint (called “old man carries a pole”), bring him to his toes then L downward palm strike to his groin, step back outside him with your L leg as both hands perform an Irish whip (clockwise rotation) to his R arm, R downward palm strike to his occipital area, shove him away – he returns with opposite side hook.

 Where to go from here?  Well, if we were training together we would be adding footwork supporting various attitudes, we would interrupt timing, consider various entry and exit scenarios, add kicks, and later stop-kicks.  We might even take some or part of the entire sequence to the ground and see how we could use our skills in that venue.  We would definitely train outdoors on hard and soft regular and uneven or slippery surfaces.  Later, we might even put something in our hands to do the drills – maybe to begin with, something hard like a stick or a claw hammer, then maybe something sharp like a knife or a BBQ skewer (just kidding?), and when we really thought we were hot stuff, we might try the whole routine blindfolded!  Just some food for thought.  Enjoy. 

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