In shotokan karate, Shuto uke or knife hand block is probably the most difficult of all the basic karate techniques. Especially when stepping in kokutsu dachi (shotokan back stance). Many shotokan karate dojo do not practice this technique until the karateka has been attending karate lessons for several months. Even if you have just started practicing karate, the sooner you understand the basic fundamentals of this karate move, the faster you will progress.
In this post, we will cover the arm movements associated with shuto uke.
Video tutorial at the bottom of this page
The blocking arm positions for the three shotokan karate basic mid level blocks (soto uke, uchi uke, shuto uke), are almost the identical. The blocking arms elbow is approximately a fist, to a fist and a half distance from the body. There should be a 90 degree bend at the blocking arms elbow. The finger tips of the blocking hand are approximately shoulder height, keep the shoulders down and relaxed. The blocking hand should be at a slight angle, so do not have the palm facing completely down, or the edge of the hand (shuto), facing down. The shuto is somewhere in between. A good gauge is having the back of the bent thumb, on the blocking shuto, facing directly at you, at completion of the block.
The hikite (pulling arm), is placed on the stomach, so that the edge of the hand is on the belly button, finger tips approximately level with the forward side of the body. Fingers and wrist straight, whilst keeping the thumb bent and tight. Feel like you are pulling the tip of the thumb, to the the base of the thumb, on the inside of the hand. The whole length of the hikite arm, from elbow to finger tips, should be parallel with the floor.
Starting with the left arm out blocking shuto uke. (pic 1)
1. Lift the right arm up from the stomach to the left shoulder. Keep the forearm close to the body as you lift the arm and keep the elbow in the center of the chest. When the right hand reaches the left shoulder (palm facing the neck), the hand is open, fingers and wrist straight.
2. At the same time you lift the right arm, stretch the left arm forward, hand open, palm facing down, fingers and wrist straight.
3. Try and keep the elbow of the right blocking arm in the centre of the body and close to the chest.
5. As the blocking arm starts to move forward, the left hikite arm starts to move back with the palm facing down.
6. As the blocking arm finishes it’s movement, rotate the forearm and hand strongly and at exactly the same time, the left hikite arm finishes with another strong forearm and hand rotation, finishing with the palm facing upwards.
Here is a video tutorial showing shuto uke in shizentai (natural stance)