Nagamine Takayoshi demonstrating Ura-waza in Germany, 2006

Nagamine Takayoshi demonstrating Ura-waza in Germany, 2006

Sōke Nagamine Takayoshi was extremely strict when it came to the absolute precise performance of the Kata, including timing and simply everything.

However, he also taught a lot of what he referred to as Ura-waza, often during free time, even in the taxi. Ura-waza translates to “the hidden meaning of the technique,” but I understood it more like tactical principles that glued everything together from warming-up excercise, to Kihon, to Kata, to demonstration Bunkai (yes: Bunkai!), to Yakusoku-kumite, and free Kumite.

Only with the Ura-waza the specific habits of the style suddenly made sense.

There are many different terms used in different Karate schools, yet, none of these seem to be made “official” by any authority, except the school or the sensei itself. So they differ from school to school. It should be noted, though, that at least I think, from my very individual experience, their meanings and contents are specific to each school and sensei. Just as some sensei tend to get angry when you perform Kata from a different school in front of them, in their dojo, mixing concepts also probably equals asking for trouble.

Anyway, there are different approaches. One school insists on precise Kata, others might use the Kata more as a tool without too much emphasis of the actual “style”. There are any possible parameter settings to be found here. It is like an equalizer, and there are also different equalizers out there.


In budō there is generally the term called Gyaku-te. It denotes different things at the same time, but when using it as budō-terminology, it means:

  1. an armbar (as a technique).
  2. taking the offensive.
  3. a prohibited technique.
  4. a counter attack.

3 and 4 are particularly good (I spent years studying the prohibited techniques of all sorts).

There is also the term Gyaku-waza, which stands for attacking the joints. Sizzling it all together with a pinch of Kyusho-jutsu – attacks against the nerve system, and some shime-waza, it comes pretty close to what understood Sōke meant by Ura-waza.

Does Ura-waza alone make a style? I don’t think so.

© 2015, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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