A little while ago I wrote an article for issue 5 of Jissen Magazine. In it I gave a brief overview of the main tools a classical karateka has at his/her disposal. I’d like to dip a bit deeper into one of those tools today.
Most of us equate karate with the hard blocks and strikes that have made the style famous (was it very fashionable to break boards and bricks before karate came along? I don’t know, but I doubt it). Unfortunately, this preoccupation with percussive power has left some of the lesser known but equally important aspects of the art behind. One of those aspects is tuite.
What is Tuite?
Tuite basically means grabbing/gripping hand. In karate, it is the art of joint manipulation and grappling. While karate does place a strong emphasis on striking, it is also understood that combative situations often involve ‘entanglements’ wherein it would be necessary to manipulate your opponent, causing them pain, dysfunction, and loss of balance.
To become proficient at tuite, students analyze how the joints work in the body.
The thing about joints is that they only like to work in certain ways and directions. The elbow can bend inward, but gets grumpy if you overextend it. The wrist can swing in a circular fashion, but reacts very painfully if you press it in a backward 45-degree angle (as seen in the picture above). Knowledge of these joint manipulations and off-balancing factors are very advantageous when a fight closes range.
Is Tuite Its Own Art?
Sometimes when people hear about tuite they wonder if it is its own art. After all, one could spend a good portion of their life improving their ability to manipulate joints. That being said, tuite is meant to be part of a continuum in the karate lexicon.
At its best, karate has aspects of combat for all ranges and situations. It has the omni-useful percussive strike. It has tuite that compliments striking by adding the ability to cause disabling pain and throws to an opponent. It also has a concept called tegumi which is a form of grappling. And finally there is kyusho, vital point striking. (I’ll talk more about these other concepts at a later time). When meshed together and practiced fluidly, practitioners are meant to be competent and natural in any situation.
How Does One Train in Tuite?
Over the years different ryu-ha (or karate styles) have developed different means of training tuite. One of my favorites comes from the GojuRyu and is a drill called kakie. Here is a sample:
In kakie the goal is to feel the directional energy of your training partner and sense moments of weakness. You then train your body to react to those moments with effective technique (trying to make technique more instinctual and less thought-processed).
Other methods of developing kakie include kata and bunkai training. Kata shows the body how to move and distribute weight while bunkai gives you an actual training partner to explore with.
Another way to drill tuite is through simple ippon and sanbon kumite (or one/three step sparring drills) wherein an attacker aggresses and the defender blocks, counters, or applies a tuite joint lock.
Where Have I Seen This Before?
Kung Fu, aikido, tai chi, jujutsu, even judo people may be having smacks of recognition here. Tuite technique is very similar both in intent and execution to these other arts. Kakie, as shown above, is like an aggressive version of push hands, seen in Tai Chi Chuan.
One of the most important concepts in aikido is redirecting momentum and applying technique that flows with the opponent (much like in tuite).
Jujutsu utilizes a lot of pain inducing techniques combined with trips, throws, and kuzushi (off balancing), which we see in tuite as well.
Some people wonder why I’m such a fan of other traditional arts – it’s because I see the level of excellence they’ve achieved at something my own art places importance on. If I can improve my tuite skills by paying attention to aikido (etc), I will do so.
When analyzing these classical aspects of karate from Okinawa, it’s important to remember some of the chinese influences that came to the island. The hardy Okinawans took the genius aspects of chinese arts and combined it with indigenous ideas and concepts they absorbed from other countries. The results are dynamic. The results are tuite!