This post shows you how to perform the gyaku tsuki which is an important training punch and a common counter-attack in sports karate.

What Is Gyaku Tsuki?

Gyaku (逆) means reverse or opposite. Tsuki (突き) means to thrust or punch. Therefore, gyaku tsuki is frequently interpreted as the “reserve punch”.

In karate context, gyaku tsuki refers to a straight punch executed with the back hand instead of the leading hand. When executed correctly, this punch can potentially be very destructive and powerful, especially if you can engage the full body mass in the technique.

How to Perform the Gyaku Tsuki?

Performing the gyaku tsuki can be done either from a stationary position or during transitions between zenkutsu dachi stances.

To execute the gyaku tsuki from a stationary position, follow these steps:

  1. Begin in a left zenkutsu dachi stance
  2. Extend your left hand forward; it can either be open or formed into a fist. Keep the right hand in a chamber position with the palm facing upward
  3. Simultaneously punch with your right hand while pulling your left hand back to the chamber position. At the completion of the punch, your right hand’s palm should be facing downward, while the left hand’s palm should face upward. Ensure that your muscles remain relaxed throughout the technique, contracting them only at the moment of contact with the target
  4. Repeat this exercise as many times as desired
  5. Transition to a right zenkutsu dachi stance and repeat the gyaku tsuki drill, this time using the left hand.
Gyaku tsuki drill from a stationary stance

To perform the gyaku tsuki while transitioning between zenkutsu dachi stances, follow these steps:

  1. Step forward into a left zenkutsu dachi stance. Form a fist with your right hand and bring it forward, targeting the solar plexus. Keep your left hand in the chamber position with the palm facing up
  2. Transition into a right zenkutsu dachi stance by stepping forward with your right leg. Maintain your left hip behind, and position your torso in a hanmi stance. Keep your right hand extended forward
  3. Drive your left hip forward while executing a punch with your left hand. As you punch, let your punching hand rotate so that when it reaches the target, its palm is facing downward Simultaneously, pull your right hand back to your side, just above the belt, with the palm facing up. Your body should be in the shomen position at the completion of the punch
  4. Ensure that your muscles remain relaxed throughout the technique, contracting them only at the moment of contact with the target
  5. Repeat the drill as many times as desired.

Gyaku tsuki can be executed at jodan (high), chudan (mid), or gedan (low) levels.

This technique is a frequently employed counter-attack in sports karate and combat sports. However, in free fighting, gyaku tsuki is often delivered from a higher and more natural stance rather than the deep and extended zenkutsu dachi stance used in training.

Below is an example of the gyaku tsuki being used in combat sports.

Tips on Mastering the Gyaku Tsuki Technique

Here are some tips to assist you in practicing this technique effectively:

  1. Maintain a straight back and keep your shoulders relaxed
  2. Breathe naturally and stay relaxed throughout the entire process, except at the moment of “kime” (focus and tension)
  3. Keep both elbows in; the straight line is always the shortest route
  4. Initiate the punch with your hips rather than relying solely on your arms to engage maximum body mass
  5. Ensure your back heel remains grounded during the gyaku tsuki. A solid foundation is essential for effective technique. Your feet should maintain contact with the ground during both the transition and execution of the technique, as is the case with all tsuki techniques
  6. The strength of your pulling hand (hikite) influences the power of your punch, as it assists in driving the opposite hip forward. It may help to imagine that you are attacking an opponent from behind you with the elbow of the pulling hand
  7. To improve your gyaku tsuki technique, it may be helpful to break down the movements and practice individual components. Begin in a zenkutsu dachi stance and practice driving the hip on the side of the punching hand forward, as if you are throwing a ball with your hips. Then practice the pulling motion with the hikite hand. Finally, add the punching hand and practice executing gyaku tsuki from a stationary position
  8. Utilize a makiwara or a punching bag for practice, as it is extremely helpful in developing real power and kime (focus)
  9. Avoid rushing; practice gyaku tsuki in a stationary position extensively until you are confident in your form before incorporating the transitioning movements.

For further guidance, watch the video below in which Sensei Paul Walker explains the fundamentals of gyaku tsuki.

Below is an example of a weak gyaku tsuki (heel up, lack of kime and power), but this can also work in light contact or no contact kumite.

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