Tegatana (handsword)

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Tegatana (handsword) better known as a knife-hand.

The knife hand is perhaps the best know/recognized and least understood of all martial arts basic moves. Often referred to as a ‘karate chop’ the knife-hand attack is powerful enough to render an opponent unconscious (knock out) when executed properly. In the movies we rarely see this move performed correctly or even that accurately, but it looks good! While it is always nice to look good when defending yourself it is truly more important to use the proper technique and end things quickly.

There are five basic steps to performing the knife-hand correctly:

  1. Ensure that your fingers are held together firmly and the thumb is held firmly against the side of the hand. Loose fingers will slap together on impact. Loose fingers also means a loose hand which will collapse on impact causing you injury instead of your opponent!
  2. Tense and slightly cup the palm during the strike to ensure that you deliver a solid strike to the target as well as protecting the hand. (cupping your hand slightly for all open hand strikes helps protect the fingers from bending backwards on a miss timed hit or finger strike.) Angle your fingers away from your hand edge slightly to pronounce the side of the palm and protect your fingers. This also helps you connect with the correct striking surface.
  3. Know appropriate targets. Initially you should only strike soft areas such as the eyes, throat, sides of the neck, below the ears, the bridge of the nose and underneath the nose. With practice and makiwara work you can hit medium targets like the collarbone, inner arm and ribs.
  4. Always be accurate! The knife hand relies on accuracy of technique and target to be effective.
  5. Stay flexible. Never fully extend your arm, this will leave you vulnerable and potentially hyper-extend your elbow. Keeping your arm bent aids in being prepared to alter your attack as the situation changes. With a knife-hand attack it is “easy” to transition to a block, grab or closed-fist strike.

The knife-hand attack has many variations and incorporated into various combinations. It is also easy to practice your knife-hand technique outside of the Dojo. Start slowly with soft items, the back of a padded chair or couch, a rolled towel and work to harder items like a broom handle, with each increase in hardness begin with slow motion and perfect your technique before increasing speed and power.

With enough practice you will soon be able to perform amazing feats with your knife-hand attack…

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