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Tsuki means “thrust,” “jab,” or especially in karate, “punch.” When combined with another word, tsuki is often pronounced zuki, as in gyaku-zuki, or “reverse punch.”  A drawing of a closed fist is used as a logo by many karate schools. The simple punch is the most fundamental mode of attack in karate. It is the staple of karate practice.

There is a saying in karate, “One strike, certain kill.” In fact, a large part of training is conditioning your hands so that they are able to deliver blows powerful enough to render an opponent unconscious, and also to withstand the shock of such a strike’s impact on your hands. This is done by doing push-ups on closed fists, and by striking a heavy bag or makiwara, a vertical post wrapped in rope. (In conditioning your hands, however, be aware of safeguards against damages repeated stress can inflict on your bones and joints.)

The true meaning of the saying, however, is far more than simply gaining the ability to harm others. It reflects the truth that in life there are often no second chances. In self-defense, this is true in the most practical and immediate sense. If you do not make use of every opportunity to defeat an attacker, the consequences may be dire. But the same truth holds in other, more common aspects of life. Most people have experienced missed opportunities: shying away from a job promotion because it involved travel to an unfamiliar country; not expressing romantic feelings toward another, and never knowing if they may have been mutual; a moment’s distraction in a race resulting in defeat; a lack of preparation resulting in a failed examination.

These examples illustrate the importance of staying alert for all opportunities that come your way, and being prepared to fully exploit them.  

Thus, when you practice your punches in karate-and you will practice them countless times-strive to make each one as powerful as you can, Deliver each with spirit, as though you are really defending yourself and each strike has to “kill.” Devote your full attention to proper technique, maximizing the opportunities with which your imaginary opponents present you.

And as you do this repeatedly in your karate training, you will find that you are growing better able to maximize the opportunities with which life presents you as well.

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