Fist Method or Clasping Hand
So what if the very name (Chuan Fa) means grasping hand, or the action of clenching the fist as opposed to Fist Method (or Law) does that not change the context of the arts stemming from it?
Another question that must be asked is; did most of the Okinawan Arts originate from derivatives of Chuan Fa or were they more indigenous with just influence from China Arts?
The grappling of Karate... or as it was originally known "Ti" may have started with a simple type of wrestling, evolving into a more combative action with much many Chinese fighting methods influencing them. This employed the Seizing (muscle, nerve and vascular structures) of the Tiger Styles which in turn mandates the "Clasping Method". This close range or in-fighting method also included striking and kicking with all variations of each, but it is the grappling or seizing that we must consider as part of the action of "clenching" that fist to incapacitate the opponent.
One of the great Maters of Karate, Anko Itosu stated that "the rule for Torite is to enter, counter and withdraw as a means of self protection".
Torite is a name for grappling with the more literal translation as "Seizing Hands" in relation to close range combat and in-fighting. Again we see that it is the clasping, clamping, closure or formation of the hand into a fist that is the essential component.
If so; we need to look at the seizing skills inherent in these styles... and the influences also brought in from Chinese styles like Hung Gar, Pangainoon and others.
As you watch a Tiger bring down it's prey, you will see the reach out of the paws with claws extended, the claws then sink into the flesh to penetrate and paralyze the muscles. The Tiger then applies a full body contraction (as in Sanchin) to bring it's entire weight into the seized animal, to fell the prey. It then releases to enjoy the spoils.
This seizing (entering), contraction (countering) and victory (withdrawal) is the key to many fisted positions in Karate Kata (like the image at the top of the page). But this Seizing, Tegumi and Torite is not limited to this one clasped hand posture, as it can apply to all fisted positions in the Katas.
The hands reach out,clasp onto the opponent, the fingers sink in to the vital structures to paralyze and subdue, then retract for control.
Nai Han Chi
One Kata that is a bedrock of many Karate Styles, which is taught in all territories of Naha, Shuri and Tomari, is the Nai Han Chi (Nai Fuan Chin). This is a classic example of this fisted (seized) concept as the myriad of rotating fist positions indicate.
Looking ath the double stacked Fist position pictured at the Right (Choki Motobu), this obviously is not a ready or preset position to the next move, it is a grab and pull action. Only by knowing the vital structures of the anatomy it is possible to use each fist position in Nai Hanch (or any Kata) as a grabbing or Seizing process that can paralyze or dysfunction the opponent, as does the Tiger. And it would explain some actions in the Kata/s far better than would thinking of each as an already closed fist in a preparatory or striking action.
A Punch (or Backfist) Action
These actions at first sight seem to both be just a bludgeoning type of attack at head or body level. However even these actions can also have devastating affect used as a clenching action as well.
The punching action (instead of a bludgeoning process), could also be a grab or seize of a vital structure such as a larynx, trachea or carotid sinus. The real damage would be enacted with the clasping or seizing along with a twisting (torquing, to tear or snap the structures) and forward pressing action, to destroy the grasped object. This can be accomplished with the thumb or fingers of the hand depending or the clenched position.
The back fist action could also accomplish this as well, but with the added ease of application from the rear of the opponent. This will be best accomplished with the fingers as the damaging claws digging into the deeper vital targets and with the thumb to act as the also penetrating base and additional attacking penetration.
Sanchin (The Tiger)
Looking at this image to the right, we see the fingers dig into the arteries and nerves of the neck, with thumbs also attacking nerve structures behind the sternocleidomastoid muscle. This has a paralyzing affect on the entire body's muscle system as well as the obstruction or cessation of blood and oxygen to and from the brain.
Then by rotating or torquing the hands into the back fist position, you can cause further damage to the blood vessels and nerves.
Using one hand to accomplish the damage, it would appear as a classic Chudan-Uke, (Middle Level Block)... and with both done simultaneously as another bedrock Kata; "SANCHIN"
First Image is the Tiger setting the claws, the second image is the Tigers body weight and constriction causing the destructive process.
A highly revered Okinawan Master, trained in Nai Han Chi for 10 years before learning another Kata, he was versed in Tuite and Grappling methods as he so stated in his books. He also stated that there are 10 weapons on the hand the most basic of which was the fist... well then as the fist is a basic tool, we must then explore how or what the the advanced and or secret aspects were.
Funakoshi said a lot in that statement... as the fisted position is not the premise of Kata (yes a part of them, but not the most advanced). So then is the fist that is in so many Kata and Advanced Kata still only using the exterior of the fist as a bludgeon... or is it that the action of clenching the fist the real advanced action (seizing of vital - Kyusho structures inside the body).
And since both the fist striking and grabbing are workable methods... why not integrate both in your Karate?