Hiki uke is a circular block that is more common in traditional Okinawan karate than in Japanese karate.

Hiki uke may look simple but can be a very powerful technique in close combats because it sets you up for follow-up grappling and taking down your opponent and other counter-attacks.

This post will show you how to perform hiki uke correctly from a natural stance, a few examples of hiki uke bunkai and some tips to help you generate more power in your hiki uke.

Table of Contents

What does hiki uke mean?

Hiki means “pulling” and uke means “receive”. So, hiki uke roughly means “to receive an attack by pulling”.

Hiki uke is often translated into English simply as “a pulling block”.

How to perform hiki uke for beginners

Hiki uke can be used to receive an attack aiming at both jodan and chudan levels.

Hiki uke is an advanced technique because it involves grabbing and pulling and is usually used in close-quarter fighting.

If you are a beginner or an intermediate, it is often safer to use techniques where you can get in and out quickly and maintain your distance.

Close-quarter fighting that involves grappling is not a good idea when you haven’t got much experience, especially in kakie practice.

Chudan hiki uke

Chudan hiki uke is executed as follows:

  • Start in a natural stance or hachiji dachi stance with both hands open and in the chamber position
  • Move the right hand across to the left, upward and slightly forward, then down to the right-hand side forming a half-circle. The circular movement should reach around the chin level. The elbow should be kept in. Your body should be relaxed during the whole movement
  • When reaching the right-hand side, imagine that your hand comes in contact with the opponent’s attacking arm, concentrate all power at the moment of contact on your wrist, hook the opponent’s arm, grab and pull to your side using the power from your hip
  • For the left-side hiki uke, do the opposite circular movement.
Photos showing how chudan hiki uke is performed step by step
Source: Morio Higaonna (1985)

Chudan hiki uke can be used against many chudan attacks including a direct punch, a circular punch aiming at the rib area and even a chudan mae geri.

It is important to catch the attack before it has been fully executed in order to deflect it. For example, to block a chudan tsuki, catch the opponent’s arm with a hiki uke before the punching arm has been fully extended.

If you catch an attack at the right moment with hiki uke (when the opponent has already fully committed to the attack but before he or she is fully extended), you can break the opponent’s balance and follow up with various counter-attacks as shown in the bunkai examples below.

Jodan hiki uke

Jodan hiki uke is similar to chudan hiki uke. However, the blocking arm should reach upward to around the eye level when performing the circular movement.

As with chudan hiki uke, you will need to use muchimi (sticky hands) to hook and pull the opponent’s attacking arm.

Similar to chudan hiki uke, you need to use the hips or the dantien to generate the pulling power at the moment of contact.

Photos showing how jodan hiki uke is performed step by step
Source: Morio Higaonna (1985)

Jodan hiki uke is used against jodan choku tsuki (a direct punch to the head area), furi tsuki (swinging punch), or mawashi tsuki (roundhouse punch).

Hiki uke applications

Bunkai 1: Hiki uke followed by an attack to the throat or face

In this bunkai, you block a chudan punch with a hiki uke and control the opponent’s attacking arm, then follow with an attack (a straight punch or an open-hand technique) to the throat or face area (for example, a nukite to the eyes), depending on how deadly you want the counter-attack to be.

This is a bunkai of Gekisai Dai Ni, the second kata in the Goju Ryu curriculum.

Morio Higaonna sensei demonstrating Hiki Uke bunkai.

Below is a bunkai similar to the one above, but this time you move to the inside of the opponent when performing hiki uke.

When moving to the inside of the opponent, you will open yourself to the opponent’s counter-attacks and you need a certain degree of experience and confidence for this kind of bunkai.

Morio Higaonna sensei demonstrating Hiki Uke bunkai.

Bunkai 2: Hiki uke and hiki uke followed by a throw

In this bunkai, you block two consecutive chudan tsuki with hiki uke and then throw the opponent off balance.

This is another bunkai of the Gekisai Dai Ni kata.

Morio Higaonna sensei demonstrating Hiki Uke bunkai.

Below is a similar bunkai but taken from Seipai, a more advanced Goju Ryu kata. After two hiki uke, you throw the opponent to the ground and follow up with an attack to the head.

Morio Higaonna sensei demonstrating Seipai kata bunkai.

Bunkai 3: Hiki uke followed by a gedan barai to the groin area

In this bunkai, when the opponent attacks with a jodan choku tsuki (a straight punch to the face area).

You block with a jodan hiki uke, grab and control the opponent’s arm and then counter-attack with a gedan barai to the groin area.

You can also block a straight punch with a jodan hiki uke and then throw the opponent off instead.

Morio Higaonna sensei demonstrating Hiki Uke bunkai.

Bunkai 4: Hiki uke followed by a neck pull and a knee attack

In this bukai, the opponent attack with a jodan choku tsuki.

You block with a jodan hiki uke, grab and control the opponent’s attacking arm while grabbing the opponent’s neck with the other arm, pull it down and follow by a knee attack to the opponent’s groin.

Bobby Smith sensei demonstrating Hiki Uke bunkai.

Bunkai 5: Hiki uke followed by kick, a head grab and a throw

In this bunkai, the opponent attacks with a chudan tsuki.

You move to the outside of the opponent, block with a chudan hiki uke, then counter-attack with a kick to chudan area, grab the opponent’s hair and throw the opponent to the ground.

Bunkai 6: Hiki uke to counter a wrist grab

In this bunkai, the opponent grabs your wrist with one or two hands, you perform hiki uke with one hand but also use the other hand to control the opponent’s attacking hand to bring him or her down.

In this way, you can block and counter-attack at the same time.

A demonstration of Hiki Uke by David Gambrell sensei.

How to generate more power in your hiki uke

Like all other basic techniques such as yoko uke, age uke, or gedan barai, the power of your hiki uke comes from the correct use of your dantien or the hips.

Hiki uke is a pulling technique. To generate more pulling power, at the moment of kime or contact with your opponent’s attack, you will first need to tense for a brief moment and use your hips to pull your hiki arm.

For example, if you are performing hiki uke with the left arm, imagine when your left arm comes into contact with the opponent’s arm, grab it and pull it back with your left hip. This is the kime moment.

If you only pull back using the force of the blocking arm, there won’t be much power in your hiki uke.

But if you tense briefly at the moment of kime, your hiki arm and the hips will be connected, and using the hips to pull the hiki arm will make the pulling force much more powerful.

The hips or the dantien is what initiates the pulling motion, not your arm.

When practicing hiki uke, try to relax the whole time when you are doing the circular motion. Only at the moment of kime, you then tense and use your hips to pull the hooking and pulling hand toward you.

It should be noted that you need a strong foundation in order for whip or rotate your hips to generate a strong hiki uke, and that means you need a strong well-rooted stance.

This should not be a problem when you practice kihon from a stationary position but it is a different matter when you perform a kata or practice kumite.

All of these can take months or years of practice to get it right.

You will see that even some black belts still don’t get it right either because they aren’t patient enough, don’t have the attention to detail or they are not properly taught.


As you can see, hiki uke is a very versatile technique and you can use it to receive many kinds of attacks and, depending on your preferences and actual fighting scenarios, follow up with different counter-attacks.

The first step is to get the fundamentals of the technique right and to be able to perform it with good pulling power in the natural stance.

The next step is to practice the above bunkai suggestions or whatever you are taught or can think of and choose the ones that you like the most or fit your body physique and focus your practice on those.

Like any other technique, to be able to use hiki uke naturally in a fight, you will need thousands of hours of practice.