The Push/Pull Technique: Turn a Disadvantage into Leverage, and Victory


What is a Push/Pull Technique?

Many karate techniques use the opponent’s force against himself. This allows the karate ka to effortlessly put herself into an advantageous position. If she is pushed then she pulls--if she is pulled, then she pushes...either way the karate ka remains balanced and the opponent becomes unbalanced! In order to better visualize this concept, let’s imagine another scenario in life where the same rules apply.

Imagine two teams playing tug-of-war. At first, as both groups pull, there is no ground covered. But, over time, the team with the most stamina eventually wins. Those who are smaller and weaker are at the mercy of those who are not. This can not be allowed in self defense. But we have all seen or at least can imagine what happens when one group of a tug of war battle lets go of the rope. The other side goes flying back, not because of the effort of the opposing side but rather the loss of the opposing force of the pull--they fall back by their own force!

In contrast, when the karate ka is pushed, the opponent should feel nothing. The karate ka should receive the momentum like a curtain being pushed. Since the attacker expects the karate ka to push back, he over-commits and falls out of a centered state. This is to put the karate ka at an advantageous position.

What happens after the initial push/pull response?

First, take care to waste no motion. For example, in order for a one shoulder to be behind then the other shoulder is in front. This geometry allows for a simultaneous defend and attack! When the karate ka is pushed, receiving and controlling that “strong” forward motion allows for a leveraging technique versus a strength based technique. The action nullifies any differences in strength and allows the karate ka to gain the advantage. For example, the sudden redirection of motion against the forward momentum of a striking limb, allows one to strike with little effort in a very unassuming way while the attacker is thinking about regaining balance.

Can Push/Pull be used in other aspects of life?

This same Push/Pull Concept can easily be taken out of the dojo and placed in both the professional and private areas of one’s life, but that’s a blog for another day! That being said, this concept has to be constantly practiced. Just like the physical movements in a kata, the mindset of the karate ka must also be made habit.

Western culture tends to say pull the hardest when pulled and push the hardest when pushed. Karate opens one’s mind to alternative options to get the best result with less effort. Though many karate techniques strike with snapping power and penetrating force, giving and receiving force in different ways adds to the completeness one is looking for in a self defense system.


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© 2019 Jon Oshita