Defense & Wrist Technique Against
A Middle Punch
(Mune-tsuki kote-gaeshi hansha tenkan)
By Roy Y. Suenaka Sensei and Christopher Watson
Editor’s Note: FightingArts.com is pleased to
offer the first in a series of articles titled “Effective Aikido,” by
Master Roy Suenaka and Christopher Watson. Suenaka Sensei, founder of
Tetsugaku-ho Wadokai Aikido, is one of contemporary aikido’s premier
practitioners. A student of aikido’s founder, Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei,
as well as Koichi Tohei, Suenaka Sensei is a master technician whose
techniques are known for their practical effectiveness. For those acquainted
with aikido and its terminology, the technique demonstrated below is:
mune-tsuki kote-gaeshi hansha tenkan.
Although Aikido is often translated
as “the way of spiritual harmony” (ai
= harmony, ki = energy/spirit, and do = way), it is by design an effective
method of self-defense.
Many aikido teachers and schools, however, have so misunderstood aikido’s
concepts of harmony and spirituality, and its history, that there has
been a dilution of attention to technical detail. As a result, aikido
technique often becomes so soft, flowing and dependent on cooperation
that, when practiced in this manner, it loses its martial effectiveness.
In this series of articles, Roy Suenaka Sensei demonstrates an aikido
that is both practical and effective. He also demonstrates many common
mistakes that can reduce the effectiveness of technique or leave the
defender vulnerable to counters. The first technique shows how a common
wrist technique (kote-gaeshi) can be used against an opponent who attacks
with a straight middle punch.
The attacker delivers a midsection strike (photo 1). Suenaka immediately
moves to the same side (outside the forward leg), redirecting the attacker’s
strike with his left hand while delivering a counter strike (atemi) with
his right. The attacker’s momentum propels him forward.
Suenaka captures the attacker’s wrist (his left hand already in
place from the initial redirect) beginning the wrist cutting lock (photo
2), and pivots, leading the attacker around him, off balance. Note how
Suenaka keeps the attacker’s captured hand in front of him while
remaining at the attacker’s blind side.
Having successfully led the attacker off balance, Suenaka slides his
right foot backwards, whipping the attacker out before him (photo 3),
further destroying his balance. Simultaneously, Suenaka places his right
hand atop the attacker’s fingers, bending the wrist along its natural,
inside anatomical arc and completing the wrist technique – a kote-gaeshi
Suenaka then cuts the attacker’s wrist downwards – again,
like a sword cut – propelling the attackersoff his feet and completing
Attention to correct technique is important to proper execution of this
technique. Here are some common mistakes:
Suenaka moves to the attacker’s blind side (photo 1), but without
leading the attacker off-balance or striking, risking neutralization
or a counter strike.
While turning outward (photo 2), Suenaka drags, rather than leads the
attacker, allowing him to get behind him, sacrificing control and again
opening himself to neutralization or a counter strike. The attacker is
still not off-balance.
In photo 3, Suenaka cuts the attacker’s wrist to the side, against
the joint, risking injury to the attacker. Improper distance and lack
of lead allows the attacker to maintain his full balance and potentially
deliver a counter-strike, or move himself to the outside to neutralize
The attacker is forced to the mat (photo 4) by strength alone.
The Wrist Turn-Out
Incorrect Kote-Gaeshi Hand Position
The attacker’s hand is forced unnaturally outwards. Lack
of lead forces the defender to rely on strength and the pain of
the outside lock to effect the throw.
Correct Kote-Gaeshi Hand Position
The attacker’s hand is locked and bent backwards along the
natural arc described by the fingers. With proper lead, this lock
is always effective.
(Softcover, 289 pages with 427 photos and illustrations)
Aikido Kyohan: The Definitive Guide to the Way of Harmony
By Roy Suenaka and Christopher Watson
This book illustrates aikido at its best-- a powerful self-defense
art. It is also a historical gold mine. The technical part of the
book details effective technique through photos and descriptions.
And Suenaka has proven his art. He introduced aikido to Okinawa,
the island birthplace of karate where challenges were plentiful.
Suenaka is also an early pioneer of American aikido who studied
under aikido's founder Morihei Ueshiba O'Sensei, as well as Koichi
Karate-ka will also find the book interesting since it details
the author's studies in other arts including boxing, judo, jujutsu
and several forms of karate, most notably under the Okinawan karate
legend Hohan Soken. Also detailed are Suenaka's early years of
aikido in Hawaii, and his perspective on the rift that developed
between Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Tohei, Tohei's separation from the
Aikikai (Ueshiba's Association), and the early development of Tohei's
About the Authors:
Roy Yukio Suenaka, founder of Wadokai Aikido, is one of contemporary
budo’s most experienced practitioners and best-kept secrets. Born
in Honolulu, Hawaii, Suenaka Sensei’s martial instruction began
under his father, Warren Kenji Suenaka, who taught his son budo basics
and carefully selected his primary martial tutors. These included such
legends as Okazaki-ryu Kodenkan Jiu-jitsu founder Henry Seishiro Okazaki,
Kosho-ryu Kempo’s legendary James Masayoshi Mitose, judoka (and
later, aikidoka) Yukiso Yamamoto, and celebrated kendoka Shuji Mikami,
from whom Suenaka Sensei received a nidan (2nd degree black belt).
Suenaka Sensei began his aikido study with Koichi Tohei when in 1953
Tohei visited Hawaii to teach, and continued his study directly under
Founder Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei at the Aikikai Hombu for eight
years beginning in 1961. Suenaka Sensei received a rare aikido menkyo
kaiden (master-level proficiency) teaching certificate from O’Sensei,
and became the first person to open a successful aikido dojo in Okinawa.
He also commenced eight years of private study with renowned Matsumura
Seito and Hakutsuru Shorin-ryu Karate-do Grandmaster Hohan Soken, receiving
from him the rank of rokudan (6th degree black belt). In addition, Suenaka
Sensei continued his judo and jiu-jitsu education at the Kodokan under
famed Meijin Kazuo Ito, who personally sponsored Suenaka Sensei’s
promotion to sandan (3rd degree black belt) in judo and jiu-jitsu.
In 1972, Roy Suenaka relocated to Charleston, S.C., where he served
as Southeastern U.S. director for Koichi Tohei’s International
Ki Society until 1975, when Suenaka resigned to form the American International
Ki Development and Philosophical Society (AIKDPS). He currently teaches
Suenaka-ha Tetsugaku-ho Wadokai Aikido and Matsumura Seito and Hakutsuru
Shorin-ryu Karate-do. He is author of the best-selling Complete Aikido,
and in 2003 celebrated his 50th year of aikido study. Suenaka is an advisor
to FightingArts.com. For more information: Suenaka School of Martial
Arts, 813-A Highway 17 South (Savannah Highway), Charleston, South Carolina
29407, 843-324-5260 or www.Suenaka.com
Christopher Watson is a writer, audio performer and producer. A student
of Suenaka Sensei’s since 1988, he is co-author of Suenaka Sensei’s
book, Complete Aikido.