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bSix winds hands of Tensho

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Tensho (Rotating palm)is a Ju (yielding/soft) form specific to Goju Ryu and was created by Chojun Miyagi to compliment the Go (resisting/hard) form; Sanchin. The source of inspiration may have been the book, Bubishi, a collection of hand written martial notes by Chinese teachers that was passed on from master to pupil as a Meikyo or master teachers license.

Within the Bubishi is a section on Rokkishu, the Six Wind Hands (of Shaolin). This is a set of 6 diagrams with annotations on the method of using 'Iron', open hand techniques to effect the Dim Mak or death touch. The term 'death touch', is misleading, deliberately so in my opinion, as deep penetration is required to a strike a vital point often over an artery that leads to aneurysm and thrombosis.

These hand methods require 'Iron Hand', training to make them effective, as conditioning of the hand and fingers is required. This is not the same as the indigenous Okinawan fist conditioning on the Makiwara - punching post. Instead the hand is initially conditioned over a period of months using the Chinese method of using a canvas bag of dried beans for 'slapping', and a bucket of sand for 'drilling'. As the hand develops more abrasive material can be used, small pebbles, iron filings etc.

As the bones of young people are still developing, it is not recommended that anyone under the age of eighteen should undertaken Iron hand training.

Six wind hands refer to hand movements that strike fast like the wind and also change from one hand to another as circumstance requires.

The Six hands are:

Iron Spearhand - the cutting or chopping hand, using little finger edge of hand
Iron claw drilling hand - seizing technique, with individual fingers squeezing into target
Iron sand hand - palm/palm heel strike, includes the open back hand and wrist
Iron wing hand - ridge hand strike around base of index finger
Iron spearfingers hand - handstrike using the fingertips pressed together
Iron dagger hand - extended index finger.

Tensho contains the first five 'hands', but omits the extended index finger as a distinct hand, which is shown in other forms notably GojuShiho, or 54 steps. This is usually practised by Shorin styles, but some Goju schools have adopted this, seeing this as a missing crane form from Naha Te that follows the Buddhist numerological sequence 3, 6, 18, 36, (54), 108 or Sanchin, Rokkishu, Sepai, Sanseiru, (Gojushiho) and Suparipai.

Six also refers to the number of directions from a central starting position: up, down, left, right, forwards and backwards.

With Tensho concentrate on moving with relaxed shoulder, elbow and wrist joints. The shoulders should always be down and the elbow is held one fist in front of the chest protecting and issuing from the key rib point.

Inhaling and exhaling, expands and contracts the lower ribs and lattimus dorsi muscles, not the upper chest. The hand movements and breathing are synchronized, breathing in and out with fluid movement so enhancing effortless effort.

The legs hold a natural Sanchin - not forced, this allows for movement when required. There is a slight body drop by bending the knees slightly that generates a recoil from the ground up through the legs and body to generate additional power.

The potential speed and lightness lends itself well to kumite, being able to move and change quickly with the opponent. At the very end of the movement, just before the final point of extension, the strike comes from an expansive contraction in the torso that then issues through the arm and hand.

When practicing Tensho, look to strip away superfluous tension, maintain whole body awareness and extend lines of intention.
Sodokan Goju Karate Association
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Mike Clark 1997-2005. Reproduction of material on this site is not permitted