Article by Emanuel Giordano
Tsuki-uke is a defense and counterattack technique performed simultaneously, with closed hands, using the principle of meoto-de (husband and wife hands). It is a very practical, effective and simple technique, also suitable for beginners, and present in many kata. In some forms it is performed laterally (eg Naihanchi) rather than frontally, and therefore takes the generic name of yoko-uke.
Among the kata in which it is present we remember Naihanchi shodan, Naihanchi nidan, Gojushiho by Anbun Tokuda sensei, Pinan shodan by Chomo Hanashiro sensei, Passai sho by Chomo Hanashiro sensei, Jion by Chomo Hanashiro sensei, Passai by Hisateru Miyagi, Passai by Ieshiro Kotake, etc.
With the exception of the Naihanchi shodan kata, where it is not yet clear whether this technique already existed in some versions, or if it was introduced at some time by Itosu sensei, in the other kata the tsuki-uke replaced techniques such as kakiwake-uke ( Hanashiro no Jion and Tokuda no Gojushiho), shuto-uke (Hanashiro no Passai sho and Hanashiro no Pinan shodan) and kake-uke / saguri-te (Miyagi's Passai and Kotake's Passai).
At a first glance at the names listed above, one detail immediately becomes clear: they are all connected to the school world! Hanashiro sensei taught at Okinawa Prefectural First Middle school (also known as Okinawa Prefectural Daii ichi Junior High school. Source: "Okinawa Kobudo", Nakamoto Masahiro); Tokuda sensei studied under Yabu sensei and Itosu sensei at Shihan Gakko from 1906 to 1911, and then took over from Yabu sensei both at Shihan Gakko and (in 1937) at Okinawa Prefectural Daii ichi Junior High school (source: "Okinawa Karate Timeline and 100 Masters ", Hokama Tetsuhiro); Miyagi attended Shihan Gakko between 1911 and 1916, where he studied under the guidance of Yabu sensei (source: Karate-do, 1953 Hisateru Miyagi). It is therefore highly probable that this technique was introduced in the school environment as a simplification of more dangerous techniques (eg. Shuto-uke) or less practical (eg. Kakiwake-uke). A proof of this is given by the Pinan shodan that Hanashiro sensei modified, at the suggestion of Itosu sensei, to train the boys of the aforementioned school while avoiding accidents during practice (source: https://ameblo.jp/motoburyu/entry-12597534882.html). Hanashiro sensei's kata are still taught at the Bugeikan school in Okinawa, where they came mainly through the work of Kanzo Nakandakari sensei, and still maintain the aforementioned peculiarities intact. Also the Jion practiced today in the Kyudokan Shorin-ryu school derives from Hanashiro sensei, and in fact in this kata the kakiwake-uke is replaced by a tsuki-uke.
Another noteworthy detail is the orientation of the hand held lower than that used to defend. In the Hanashiro sensei lineage it has the palm facing upwards or towards oneself, exactly as in the shuto-uke, while in the Shihan Gakko (lineage of Yabu sensei) where the shuto-uke obviously was not eliminated, it has often the palm facing down as in kake-uke / saguri-te. This may be due to the application of this technique: simple defense or kamae in the Hanashiro sensei lineage (fully in line with the training of Okinawa Prefectural First Middle school children), defense and counterattack performed together in the lineage of Yabu sensei (ideal for older students who attended the Shihan Gakko).