legend, the inventor of karate was also the founder of Zen, Daruma Taishi, who
lived in the sixth century and was the head of an obscure sect of monks given
to wearing beards and writing poetry who performed their devotionals in coffee
houses. By constant practice the members of this sect learned to kill a man
with a six-inch blow.
This group soon
became extinct. However, their science of assassination spread throughout the
Orient and was developed to its present excellence by the natives of Okinawa.
When the Japanese conquered them in the 17th century the Okinawans were
forbidden to own any sort of weapons. As a result, they studied karate,
secretly, so that they could cope when necessary with belligerent and heavily
Later it was
introduced to Japan, where it got its name—kara (empty) plus te (hand). Today
all of the technical terms used in karate such as shuto, tsuki, geri and ouch!
are of Japanese origin. Geri means "kick." Tsuki means
The shuto is the
best-known karate blow, a paralyzing smash with the side of the hand, which has
been hardened by constant pounding on something. Or someone. The serious
karate-ka will spend months pounding his hand against a table top or a brick.
Minimum practice is considered to be 300 pounds a day. Eventually the side of
his hand develops a callus, which will enable him to use it as a club; after a
couple of weeks of pounding he certainly isn't going to be able to use it as a
delivered to the base of an opponent's skull can dislocate his spine, unhinge
his pelvis and run down the battery on his automobile. If followed up with a
kin-geri (groin kick) and a couple of me-tsuki (eye gouges) it may also cause
loss of appetite and, sometimes, Bad Feeling.
The Shuto is
also the tsuki used most often for the theatrical form of karate called
tamesi-wari (busting-up stuff), the practice of chopping-in-two stones, bricks,
tiles and four-inch wooden planks. Tamesi-wari is merely a device used to
demonstrate karate (there are no such things, of course, as formal karate
"matches") and to frighten Squares. But it is highly spectacular.
A young man who
had had only three hours of training in the American Advanced Super Karate
recently gave me an amazing demonstration. He struck a regulation-size brick
with only his bare hand, and it broke immediately—on the first blow. In fact,
it broke in four places, including the thumb, and he is still wearing it in a
I cannot list
all of the hundreds of karate tsukis, geris and pinans (forms) here, but I will
try to note a few in order to provide you with a better understanding of this
(free fighting) is useful when meeting an opponent who is walking down a dark
street toward the bushes in which you are hidden. First use go no sen by
stepping out and assuming a charming smile. Then cleverly misdirect his
attention by saying: "Hey, Joe, you want to lend me a match?"
When he pauses
to reach into his pocket, counter this threatening gesture by bringing the left
seiken (fist) down in a powerful gedan-tsuki (low blow) to his abdomen