This post shows you how to execute the kagi tsuki (鉤突き), a short hook punch in karate, and a few valuable tips to train and improve your kagi tsuki technique.

Table of Contents

What Is Kagi Tsuki?

Kagi (鉤) means “hook,” “clasp,” or “barb.” Tsuki (突き) means “thrust” or “punch.” In karate, “kagi tsuki” is translated as “hook punch” and specifically denotes a “short hook punch,” as opposed to the longer hook punch known as “mawashi tsuki.”

The image below shows the slight difference between the trajectories of the kagi tsuki and the mawashi tsuki.


Kagi tsuki appears in the kata Sesan practiced in Goju ryu and some other styles.

Kagi Tsuki‘s Application

As the kagi tsuki is a short hook punch, it is primarily employed for short and medium-range attacks or defense in close combat situations.

Kagi tsuki can be executed at both chudan and jodan levels, although it is more commonly targeted at chudan levels, focusing on areas like the back, ribs, bladder, or dantian.

Kagi tsuki is not a very popular nor much talked about technique in point-scoring kumite or combat sports. However, it can be a very practical and useful technique in close-quarter fighting scenarios.

Since people usually have their hands up in guard to protect vital areas like the head and chest, the area under the elbows is exposed, making it a favorable target for the kagi tsuki. In this regard, kagi tsuki can serve as a stealth technique to exploit an opponent’s blind spot. Furthermore, when facing larger opponents, their area beneath the elbows remains exposed and susceptible to kagi tsuki attacks.

In addition to being a useful counter-attack in close combat, kagi tsuki can be used as a deflection technique as well. For example, you can use evasion techniques and then use the kagi tsuki from a distance to deflect a punch or a kick.

How to Perform the Kagi Tsuki?

Here’s a general guide on how to execute the kagi tsuki:

  1. Stance: Different dojos may use different stances for practicing the kagi tsuki (e.g. shizentai dachi, kiba dachi, naihanchi dachi, or heiko sanchin dachi). However, if you just start learning the kagi tsuki, it is best to start with a basic natural stance to totally focus on the technique itself
  2. Guard Position: You can assume a standard guard position with your hands up, similar to what you use in free-fighting practice. However, some instructors may teach kagi tsuki with both hands starting in the chamber position (see image below). This approach helps beginners better generate momentum for their punch
  3. Hip Rotation: Kagi tsuki is executed with the same hip movement used in other tsuki techniques. Use your hip to drive the striking hand into a hook-like trajectory with the fist starting at the side and moving parallel to the ground until impact
  4. Elbow: Keep your elbow close to your body while delivering the punch. At completion, the elbow should bend at an angle of approximately 90 degrees
  5. Striking Point: Aim to strike the target with the first two knuckles of your fist. The targets can be the opponent’s side, solar plexus, bladder, back, or dantian. Depending on dojos, at the completion of the technique, you may be taught to have your palm facing the ground or facing you
  6. Kime: Briefly tense all muscles and focus all your power on your fist at the moment of impact.
Source: Fundamental Techniques of Karate by Higaonna, Morio

Tips on Improving Kagi Tsuki Technique

To improve your kagi tsuki, consider these tips and practice them consistently:

  1. Basic Stance: Practice kagi tsuki in a basic natural ready stance to focus on only the hips and arm movement
  2. Grounding: keep your feet in contact with the ground throughout the technique. Power comes from the ground up, if you have a weak stance or lift your heels up, your technique will not reach its maximum potential
  3. Hip Rotation: Focus on your hip rotation, which generates the power for the punch. Use your hip to initiate the punch rather than your hand
  4. Relaxation: Aim to remain relaxed throughout the technique, except at the moment of impact. It’s not an overstatement to emphasize that relaxation is the foundation of speed and power. Tension in any part of your body can disrupt the kinetic chain and the efficient transfer of power from the ground up to your fist
  5. Striking Point: Work on targeting different areas, such as the side, back or solar plexus
  6. Do not rush: Initially, practice the kagi tsuki slowly and with control. This allows you to refine your form, accuracy, and precision
  7. Visualization: While practicing your kagi tsuki, don’t go through the motion mindlessly, visualize yourself attacking an invisible opponent
  8. Conditioning: Include conditioning exercises in your training to strengthen your arms, wrists, and hand muscles, as these are crucial for a powerful hook punch
  9. Practical Applications: Engage in controlled sparring sessions and drills to practice the kagi tsuki in realistic scenarios
  10. Consistent Practice: Regular and focused practice is essential because only consistency helps build muscle memory and improve technique.

The tips listed above cover fundamental principles of good techniques (e.g. solid stance, hip rotation and relaxation) and can be used to improve other karate techniques as well.

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Fundamental Techniques (v. 1) : Higaonna, Morio