Chambering By Victor Smith and Christopher Caile

If you are a karate student you probably chamber your non-striking hand. But why do you do this, and what is the position of the chambered hand? Also, why do different systems do things differently, and why isn’t chambering explained by instructors?

There are many who disbelieve the worth of traditional technique, including chambering. For in many fighting arts and styles the non-striking hand is kept up to protect the head. Within their narrow vision of combat, their interpretation is quite correct.

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3 responses to “Chambering By Victor Smith and Christopher Caile

  1. I Enjoyed this post, as it is very seldom mentioned. As a punch is executed and the chambering hand pulled back I would move off line and attack this hand as it is pulled back and apply a kotegaeshi lock and take down then immobilise the arm. I will be happy to demonstrate this to anyone interested at the next training session.

  2. Hi Alex, to me if we were to take all the Kata in all styles of Karate and count the frequency of arm locks, grabs, limb controls, strikes, chokes etc then the most common technique by far is Hikite before or during a strike. So from that I think the people who created the Kata are telling us that one of the key measures to success in any confrontation is the control of the opponents limbs, which then enables a clean strike.

    I always think of Kata/bunkai is based on extending natural movements, so the flinch responses we all have that we can see extended at the start of Kanku Dai/Heian Yondan, and I think Hikite is also an instinctual movement you can see in untrained aggressive confrontations in rugby and ice hockey. Best example I can find is around the 1.55 mark in the following video (, notice how the dominant hand is used for striking and the other hand (in this case both player’s left hand) is used to get a tactile feel for where the other player is? This to me is an instinctual form of Hikite that’s developed as a fundamental base in Karate Kata.

    If we were to expand on that princple of limb control permeating Karate Kata, then to me pretty much every technique is a form of ‘attached’ hitting. So unattached hitting is a boxer wearing gloves, when hitting someone the hand doing nothing doesn’t grab onto anything so it moves up to defend the face, hence the guard in all combat/ring sports. I always wondered why you didn’t see a guard position in any Karate Kata, and now I’m starting to think it’s because the hands in all techniques are always being used, ie one hand used to control/guide the other dominant (ie right hand mostly) to strike or lock a joint.

    So if you take it further all the kicks you see in Karate Kata are always accompanied just before with some kind of hikite (there’s 2 different versions in Heian Yondon for example, and one in Heian Nidan), so actually all the kicks in Kata are ‘attached’ too, ie a grab and then a kick, never unattached kicking with your hands in a boxers guard, like in Muay Thai/Sport Karate or any ring martial art infact

    This is why when we are free sparring now in class I’m trying to grab people and then strike, well this is my excuse ! I think I need to go lie down 🙂

  3. Hi Paul,I enjoyed your views on this subject. As far as I am concerned the Karate Kata,s are amazing as so much of the fighting techniques appear in them from many different Martial Arts.The trouble is that when you train in one Martial Art you sometimes feel that you are in a comfort zones and don’t realize that there are weak points in the technique. I had many comfort zones pointed out to me when I trained for 2 years with Sensei Billy Coyle, Aikido, a Sensei with so much knowledge and to whom I had so much respect but who unfortunately died last year, a big loss to the Martial Arts world. I think all Martial Arts are good and they all have their own thing and you can spend your life in say Katate and still not know it all at the end of the day. Any Knowledge that I have gained over the years was due to Sensei Kenny Davis having an open mind and accepting my involvement in other Martial Arts. I wish to pass on that knowledge too Zanshin Kai in any way I can.So heading towards 80, time is not really on my side but life is a funny old game and who knows? See you next year Paul. Take care. Alex.

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