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Hikite – The Retreating Hand

One important concept taught in classical martial arts is how to use the opposite hand when performing a karate technique. The use of the other hand when executing a karate technique is usually divided into soide (the following hand) and hikite (the retreating hand).

This week we will discuss hikite or the retreating hand. Many modern fighters make fun of the classical martial artist because we pull our hand back to a chamber position along the side of the body. Apparently, this is because they do not understand the purpose behind this motion. This action serves several purposes, but the two most important are trapping and the development of additional power through the powerful retraction of the opposite hand.

Trapping occurs by encircling the opponents extended limb and by instantly trapping and pressing it to the side of the body. This action holds the opponent for a split second to allow us to counter-attack or escape. Once we have trapped the attacking limb, this allows us a variety of predetermined counter attacks, which are learned through the correct practice of kata.

Another attribute of hikite is the generation of more power through the explosive retraction of the opposite hand. It is understood that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Therefore, if you work on developing more power in the retreating hand, the power of your punch will increase as well. This is one of those subtle details that help create the awesome power of a well-trained karate-ka. The average person sees the difference in the power generated between two people, but doesn’t understand how the difference is created.

The principle of hikite is evident in many areas of our lives, but one of the most important is in the act of giving and receiving. In punching, one must pull the other hand back hard in order to punch effectively.

In getting things in life, it is important to know that one has to give first and then you can receive. Although many people today feel that they are entitled to things without having to earn them, this is contrary to natural laws. For example, we use this concept in the dojo when talking about respect. While some schools demand that a student shows respect to those senior to them, in the classical school, respect is earned through learning to give respect to others first. In order to get, you must first give. This is modeled by those that truly understand the concept of hikite.

The use of hikite is another step on the path to martial arts mastery.

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