Kizami tsuki is amongst the most popular attacks in sports karate. This post shows you how to execute the kizami tsuki and a few valuable tips to train and improve your kizami tsuki technique.

What Is Kizami Tsuki?

Kizami (刻み) means mincing, cutting, chopping, notch, or nick. Tsuki (突き) means to thrust or punch. Kizami tsuki therefore refers to a punch that bases on advancing a short distance (similar to mincing or chopping actions).

In karate context, kizami tsuki (刻み突き) refers to a straight punch executed with the leading hand. It is often called a “jab” because it is similar to the jab in boxing.

Kizami Tsuki In Sports Karate

Kizami tsuki is a very popular technique in sports karate. A study has found that 76% of attacking techniques in karate kumite competitions were hand techniques with kizami tsuki being the most common and accounting for 29% of all used techniques.

In sports karate as well as other point-scoring competitions, jodan kizami tsuki is often used as a mean to provoke your opponent to react and defend themselves and therefore open themselves up for follow-up attacks like a long gyaku tsuki or a step-through oi tsuki using the back hand.

In addition, kizami tsuki can also be used as a follow-up attack immediately after intercepting the opponent’s attacks. Some example combinations are soto uke followed by kizami tsuki or uchi uke followed by kizami tsuki.

In free fighting, the traditional view has been that the leading hand or the hand closer to the opponent is used for defensive techniques and the back hand is reserved for counter-attacks.

However, some karate masters challenge this view. For example, Motobu Choki (1870–1944), widely regarded as one of the best karate fighters of his era, considered this hand position as “a severe mistake” and not effective in actual combat.

Motobu did not favor using the reverse punch for counter-attacks because he thought it would be too late in a real fight. Motobu would often use the front hand to strike and when asked about which hand should be used to attack, he said that “the hand closest to the opponent.”

Given the short distance between the leading hand and the opponent, kizami tsuki, indeed, can be a powerful attack in real combat if properly executed with good speed and optimal body mass engagement. When performed at lightning speed, it is very hard for the opponent to see it coming and respond effectively.

The kizami tsuki can target either the body or the upper region, focusing on areas such as the neck, chin, nose, or even the temple when combined with evasion techniques and executed from the side. When executed correctly, like all karate techniques, kizami tsuki has the potential to inflict significant damage.”

How to Perform the Kizami Tsuki?

The kizami tsuki can be done:

  • from a stationary natural stance
  • from a stationary zenkutsu dachi stance
  • in motion, for example, while bouncing around and exploding into a kizami attack either from a stationary position or during transitions between zenkutsu dachi stances.

Generally, beginners will learn kizami tsuki from a stationary zenkutsu dachi stance, following the steps below:

  1. Begin in a right zenkutsu dachi stance; hands up in a ready guard position
  2. Step forward a half step with your right foot to extend your reach and at the same time punch with your right hand aiming at around the jinchu point (the point between the nose and the upper lip). The right hip should rotate forward as you execute the kizami tsuki. At the completion of the technique, the body should turn almost a 90-degree angle relative to the starting position
  3. Retreat your front foot and go back to the starting position to repeat the above steps as many times as you like
  4. Change to a left zenkutsu dachi stance and practice the above drill with the left hand.

Kizami tsuki – front view
Kizami tsuki – side view

Below is a demonstration of the kizami tsuki by Hanshi Michael Randall (1944 – 2020), MBE, 10th Dan.

Below is an example of the perfect kizami tsuki delivered by Masao Kagawa sensei in a kumite match against Shirogane sensei.

Tips on Mastering the Kizami 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. Ensure that your muscles remain relaxed throughout the technique, contracting them only at the moment of “kime” or contact with the target
  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. Some instructors recommend you breathe out at the moment of impact but I believe you should breathe naturally throughout a fight
  5. Use the front hand to deliver a straight punch while maintaining a solid stance. The back hand is kept close to the body ready for any follow-up techniques.

Also check out below the kizami tsuki training session by Raphael Aghayev, a multiple time WKF kumite champions.

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