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Defense Against The Shove

By Stan Hart & Nate Meiers

Image- select one for the sequences to use as a lead

Many martial artists train themselves to be prepared for any situation. It is ironic, therefore, how many neglect training against the most common form of attack: The Push.

This article will discuss the push, explain why it so often occurs and illustrate an effective means of defense against it. We selected the push attack for two reasons. First, it is so common. Second, the defenses used illustrate important concepts such as the use of simultaneous technique, the art of grabbing or seizing, and targeting vulnerable areas of the body. I believe these methods were once integral and taught together and as such served as fundamental technique and foundation of old Okinawan karate. Unfortunately, however, this integration of fundamentals has been lost by successive generations of modern karate-ka.

I use the term “Hakuda” to encompass and encapsulate these methods into a combined concept illustrated in the two self-defense sequences shown below. (1)

Defense against push from close distance

Cover & ward off push, kick simultaneously

Grab attackers open hand

Hold open hand with pressure on the wrist

Maintain pressure on the wrist, if attacker is positioned properly then attack his shin with your foot and his head with your elbow

And/or attack with head strike

Why is the push attack so common? Look at the natural progression of most confrontations. Many physical attacks do not occur unexpectedly. There are often at least three stages of confrontation that build upon each other toward physical aggression.

The initial level, posturing, often begins when someone takes offense at another’s words or actions. Posturing can also be instigated when someone feels threatened either physically or socially. Whether the offense or threat is intended makes no difference in the confrontation. The actions taken at this stage may include harsh words and an aggressive physical stance.

If the initial phase is not successfully defused by the martial artist, the second level of pushing or grabbing is reached. But between a grab and a push, the push is more common, probably because it is the least committal of the two attacks. When grabbing the attacker must have his next step planned; not so with a push. A push can establish superiority with minimal commitment on the aggressor’s part and it requires no training or skill.

Often times too, the aggressor is larger and stronger than his victim. A push uses his strength and weight to his advantage. A push makes the attacker appear superior by creating the visually impressive effect of moving the defender across a lot of space. Also, a push makes for an easy surprise attack, with little physical cues such as making a fist or winding up to warn the defender.

Unfortunately, however, few are trained in how to defend against the initial push attack. Reacting incorrectly at this level could prove very detrimental to the defender. At best the result will be the squaring off of the two opponents. At worst, without a proper response, a push can put the victim in a hard-to-defend position such as losing his or her balance and falling, or being pushed back against a wall or other object, into a group of others who might be the aggressor’s cohorts, or further away from an exit.

In this situation the confrontation could quickly escalate to the third, tertiary level, where the confrontation escalates into punching (where the aggressor grabs and strikes with hands or feet) or grappling.

But this third level can be avoided. A martial artist can maneuver himself to an advantageous position if he responds properly. Self-defense training and kata can prepare us to respond to this secondary level attack, preventing the escalation to a tertiary level of confrontation. We can prevent the dangers of a push listed above and even defend ourselves against the very common situation of multiple attackers.

A second defense against the grab.

Defense against push from close distance

Cover & ward off push, kick simultaneously

Grab attackers open hand

Bend wrist down, apply pressure on wrist "gooseneck"

Maintain pressure on the wrist, attack his shin with foot and his head with fist

And/or attack with head strike

We should note at this point that there are exceptions to this three-stage building of physical aggression. On occasion a mugger or rapist will attack with no provocation. Many times, however, a push is the first stage of attack. Perhaps the aggressor hopes to move the victim to a strategic (for the attacker) position, or disorient or knock down the victim. But regardless of whether the martial artist anticipates or is surprised by the push, if the defender responds with the right method, the defense will be successful.

It is also worthwhile to understand the psychology behind the push. What kind of a person pushes another? All people can probably be divided into three types: passive, assertive and aggressive. The passive person may be taken advantage of by the other two types.

Instead, the martial artist should be assertive, meaning that he or she won’t back down when physically attacked and will defend others when the occasion demands it. The assertive person sets certain boundaries that when crossed, as in the case of a physical attack like a push, signal him or her to respond physically to protect the self and the defenseless. In other words, the martial artist prepares for the aggressive person who instigates physical aggression and takes advantage of others

Why do aggressive people resort to the push as an attack? (Note that the push is an attack. It is a threat to the victim’s safety and grounds for physical response.) Ultimately, the push is intended to place the attacker in a superior position. If the attacker is among friends, the push may be used to signal the attacker’s superior “social position,” an action designed to show that the attacker is superior (higher in the pecking order).In the case of the unwarranted and unexpected attack of the mugger or rapist, the intention is to establish a “superior physical position” as discussed above.

The effective defense in turn is achieved through use of the triad of combined methods discussed briefly above.

First, the defender employes simultaneous movements to provide superior technique and application. No untrained and even few trained attackers are capable of simultaneously using hands and feet in separate offensive and defensive techniques. The well-trained martial artist will be able to separate the right and left sides of his body as well as the top (hands) and bottom (legs), using each quadrant as a distinct weapon during self-defense. Therefore, while virtually all attackers fight with a 1-2 count, the experienced practitioner will be able to accomplish three or four techniques within the time span of his attacker’s 1-2 count, not because he is necessarily quicker but because he can defend and counter attack simultaneously.

These historic photos illustrate catching and grabbing techniques combined (simultaneous technique) with attacks to vulnerable points in the body. From left to right are Chojun Miyagi founder of Goju Ryu karate, Choki Motobu the famous Okinawan karate-ka who greatly influenced several styles of karate, Gichen Funakoshi founder of Shotokan karate and considered by many to be the father of Japanese karate and an illustration from the famed and once secret Okinawan text, the Bubishi.

The concept of simultaneous technique is not new. In karate many early photos of Chojun Miyagi, Choki Motobu and other karate pioneers illustrate the use of feet and hands at the same time. Wing Chun and many other Chinese martial arts also employ this principle.

This illustration taken from the Bubishi illustrates various dangerous points on the human body that can be attacked.

The second leg of the combined concept in these defenses is an old sub-specialty of karate -- the art of kicking and hitting “forbidden places,” or Kinsho-Jitsu (2) This is a hot topic of discussion in martial arts today with various theories and teachers. Many believe that that this art has been hidden within karate kata and represents an important sub-specialty of martial arts. It is also found within the once secret book known as the Bubishi. It was the prized possession of many early Okinawan karate pioneers and faithfully copied by their most trusted students. But, knowledge of where and how to hit an opponent is not enough. It must be buttressed with other technique.

The third leg of the combined concept of self-defense illustrated is also an old sub-specialty of karate-- the art of gripping and grabbing, which I call, Hakushu. (3) Many teachers and historians believe that these techniques were once integral to the original Okinawan defensive art of “te,” (meaning “hand”), but now remain largely hidden within karate kata. The Chinese arts sometimes refer to this as Chin na. (4)

When combined this triad of methods add to karate, self-defense or any art. The secret, however, is that they are combined.

The reader should note that the techniques and concepts discussed and illustrated in this article are merely a brief introduction and that neither discussion or visual images can adequately portray the dexterity and application developed with proper instruction and training.


(1) When teaching these techniques in seminars I use the term Hakuda method. Hakuda is an old Chinese term which I have adopted and re-interpreted based on my own martial arts background. It does not represent an art or style, but instead represents what I believe to be a lost part of old Okinawan karate and many Kung fu systems that also represents an effective self-defense methodology. Thus, it can be adopted and used by a variety of systems or arts.

(2) Similar terms include pressure points, vital points, kyusho points, etc.

(3) Related terms include tuite, torite, and karamiti.

(4) On a philosophical level the technique I teach (and also integral to the combined concepts I call Hakuda) is based on the premise that the object of self-defense is to escape. The point of self-defense, or go-shin, “talk-protection”, is to defend the body (or life) and not property. The point is not to gain victory, but protect yourself. There may be many people a practitioner cannot defeat but that they can defend themselves against and secure escape. In order to teach these concepts of movement and philosophy, I adopted an ancient Chinese term Hakuda, which translates as “striking without impurity.” The concept is derived within a philosophy of Buddhist priests who strived for purity of thought and deed. Although pacifists, they believed that in some instances it was acceptable to strike, in other striking without the impurity of evil intentions. This is not to suggest that the techniques themselves are ancient, or that the techniques taught represent some lost art. Although something is known of the history and philosophy of the original Hakuda art, little is known about the techniques themselves other than some of the strategic principles it incorporated. These have been incorporated along with the karate and other martial experience into what I now call Hakuda.

Historic photos provided by

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About The Author:

Stan Hart is a karate and self-defense teacher, lecturer and author with over 40 years of experience. He is also the founder of Hakuda. Over the last 25 years he has traveled extensively within the US and Canada giving seminars on his unique methods of self-defense, including the ancient arts of seizing, body control combined with striking vulnerable parts of the body. He is also a specialist in kata applications. Hart began his teaching in association with the Bucyrus, Ohio YMCA in 1972 a program that is still ongoing. He also instructs Karate Classes at the Marion, Ohio YMCA and is the owner/operator of the Richland Karate Center, Mansfield, Ohio. He is president of the International Hakuda Association that began as the Shurite Kempo Technique Association in 1985. His training has included several styles of karate, jujutsu, kempo and boxing under a number of instructors including: Andrew Akens, San Francisco, Ca; Jerry Banks deceased; Victor Louis, Youngstown, Ohio; and Seiyu Oyata, Kansas City, Mo. For more than 30 years Hart has researched karate, karate kata, special technique, pressure points and various obscure arts. His website is

Nate Meiers is a first dan in Tae Kwon Do and a second dan in Shotokan karate. He also has earned a brown belt in Uechi-Ryu. He began his martial arts training in 1986 but has been actively training and teaching since 1999. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1990 with a B.A. in English and from Columbia International University in 1995 with a Master of Divinity degree.

To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

self-defense, karate, Okinawan karate, pressure points, tuite, Kinsho-Jitsu, Hakusho, Hakuda

Read more articles by Stan Hart

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