Daikento no Kempo:
The Great Fist Sword of the Martial Arts

by William Durbin, Soke of Kiyojute Ryu

Modern times are a far cry from the ancient times. Mostly. However, some things never change. Many years ago, Sokon Matsumura wrote that there were three types of martial artists, two of which should not even be called martial artists, at least according to Matsumura. To paraphrase them into modern language; there are brutes, prima donnas, and real martial artists.


          Brutes are those who simply love to intimidate and abuse people. A lot of these types of people become teachers of the martial arts so that they can hurt their students. There are many horror stories, not from the ancient past, but from our current day, which illustrate the behavior of the brutes. One that comes to mind is the green belt Karate test of a youngster. The instructor, who was definitely a brute, put the young man in the center of four brown and black belts. He told the seniors to attack the student extemporaneously, while the youngster was ordered to stay in the circle and only try to block. Needless to say, the youngster was beaten about the back, chest and head. When he came home from taking his test, his family was shocked at the bruises covering his body. Unfortunately, they thought that this is the way all Karate was taught, and while they didn’t like it, they continued to send their son to the brute, until he just couldn’t take the beatings any more and quite Karate forever.

          Many times the brutes are excellent competitors in modern times, but are generally the types that insist that full contact fighting is the only real Karate. Or if they do participate in the point tournaments, they tend to run the edge of legal techniques, usually intimidating people by hitting them harder than necessary, but not quite enough to get disqualified. Their classes usually consist of a great deal of sparring, in which they are overly rough with their students.

          Philosophically, they generally claim that all talk about spiritual growth is nonsense. To them martial arts are only about fighting, and nothing else matters. A lot of time brutes are addicted to physical fitness, since they believe in nothing more than strength and power from the body. Many times they are big people, carrying a little extra weight, hoping for a body mass edge in combat.

Prima Donna

          The next type of martial artist is that known as the prima donna. This type of person is one who many times trains for a while in the martial arts, but does not like the hard work and sweat involved in serious training. Thus they practice enough to look good but lack the power and true strength of the martial arts.

          Some prima donnas are excellent form technicians and many times quite excellent contestants in Kata competition, though they avoid sparring, since they generally lack actual fighting knowledge and understanding. Fitness is seldom a goal with prima donnas, many are over weight, carrying extra pounds due to a lack of sufficient exercise. Their muscles are many times underdeveloped, in that they avoid actual exercise, preferring not to engage in Taiso, warm up exercises such as push ups, sit ups, and the like. They constantly love to demonstrate self defense moves, as long as they have someone who will cooperate with them. Generally any type of resistance foils their attempts to demonstrate their art. They always talk about the martial arts, to anyone who will listen, being very proud of their rank, or in some cases, making rank up.

Real Martial Artists

          Finally, there are real martial artists. First and foremost, these are people who train simply because of a love of the art. They love the physical exercise, the symmetry of motion, the mental development, and the spiritual emphasis. Real martial artists tend to be physically fit, not being afraid to work hard or sweat, though their shape may vary. What this means is that while the real martial artist tends to exercise sufficiently to maintain a high cardiovascular level and high degree of physical strength, they generally eat as individuals, so that some are at their prime weight, while others are heavy, though regardless they tend to be very solidly built.

          Most of all, the real martial artist has power, strength, and skill. Generally they also have realistic self defense skills. Nearly all legitimate martial artists and especially those who practice the martial arts of Okinawa, agree on the application of power inherent in the punch of Ikken Hissatsu, the one strike certain death. While most people are aware that Okinawan martial arts teach the one point knockout, they are unaware that many Japanese Jujutsu styles also teach the same principle.

          The most prominent example is that of Aikikai Aikido. Morihei Ueshiba wrote and posted at the Hombu Dojo several rules of Aikido practice, prominent among them being, ‘one blow in Aikido kills’. This was not an admonition to strike to kill, but rather a warning of the power of true martial arts. Taught properly, any strike can kill.

          The punching skills of such Jujutsu systems as Kito Ryu, Tenshin Shinyo Ryu, and Ryoi Shinto Ryu, are well known in Jujutsu circles, and it has been said that Sokaku Takeda of Daito Ryu had a devastating punch. Police students of his said that his use of throws and joint locks were designed to be merciful to his opponents, for his punch would surely kill.

Ikken Hissatsu

          There are many brutes, and nearly all the prima donnas, who claim that Ikken Hissatsu does not really exist. Generally this is because the real art of Ikken Hissatsu cannot be mastered by sheer strength alone, or without hard work. The brute only believes in his physical strength, the prima donna does not want to work hard, thus they can never achieve the one point knockout.

          Okinawan martial arts have for a long time used the body weapon known as Daikento, the great fist sword, to deliver the power of Ikken Hissatsu. The Daikento is both a hand formation and a mental attitude. The Daikento is known today by most Karate styles as Seiken, the right fist. Generally speaking the Daikento uses the knuckles of the forefinger and the middle finger as the striking surface. This is for two reasons.

          First of all, the bones in the hand behind these knuckles are relatively large, which makes for a very strong weapon. The bones behind the ring finger and little finger are small, which means they tend to break relatively easy. Almost all professional boxers break the bone on the outside edge of their hand, behind the little finger, even with their hands wrapped and in a glove, simply because it is too small to absorb much impact. By punching with the first two knuckles, the hardest and strongest surface is used as a weapon.

          Second, by punching with just the first two knuckles, the striking area is very small, which means that more pounds per square inch are generated. In example, a person who weighs one hundred and eighty pounds, if they can generate their entire body mass into the punch, can hit with the power of one hundred and eighty pounds per square inch, if they restrict the striking surface to only the one inch area of the first two knuckles. But if they hit with the striking surface of the entire fist front, then the power is deluded to only twenty or thirty pounds per square inch, according to the size of their hand.

Tachi Ido

          Another important consideration in the use of the Daikento is the Tachi Ido, or stance movement, sometimes called the stance conversion. This is where a person stands in either a Kiba Dachi, horse stance, or Shiko Dachi, square stance, (according to the style practiced by the martial artist) and pivots into a Zenkutsu Dachi, forward stance, so that the power of the entire body is directed into the strike through rotation and body torque. This is why it is said that you hit with the body, not just the arm.

          This is only the beginning of the power contained in Ikken Hissatsu, a force that the brute could possibly develop, but never surpass. For the full power of Daikento to be developed, there is now a mental aspect that must be mastered. This incorporates several important Okinawan principles, the first of which is Kime.


          Kime, while it is usually translated focus, actually means decision or decisiveness. It is the active principle of the mind in use. The decisiveness meant here by Kime refers to the martial artist deciding where the fist is going to travel, and then not allowing anything to stop it from reaching that point. Now you are not only hitting with your body, but literally with your mind.

          In safe practice, done in such a way as to not injure your training partner, the principle used is referred to as, Sun dome, literally, to one inch stop. To practice Kime, the martial artist focuses the fist just outside of the partner’s body, so that the fist actually goes to the point of focus. This is extremely important, for this is what develops the power of the punch, without this training in Kime, the movements are empty.

          This concept is carried on in the practice of Kata, forms. Each move, each punch, each kick, also is performed with Kime. The practitioner ‘sees’ the opponent, only now instead of focusing outside of the attacker’s body, as with a living partner, the Kime is within the assailant’s body, directed to vital points. This teaches the ability to hit with power and authority. While in partner practice the blows are directed to vital points, only in Kata training is it possible to hit the vital points realistically.

Naibu Hakai

          This is why Shingan, visualization, is so important to Kata practice. The practitioner must ‘see’ the opponent and ‘strike’ fully into the vital points. Thus Kime is developed to its true level, that known in actual fighting arts as Naibu Hakai, inner destruction, which is the second principle. It is a principle of Ki. The blows penetrate one to two inches into the body, delivering a Ki pulse, which would rupture, damage, or destroy tissue and organs within the opponent, thus creating the Ikken Hissatsu, one strike certain death.

          Without this concept, that of Kime, and especially as it relates to Kata practice, martial arts are little more than ceremonial dance. While in both Okinawan martial arts and in the teachings of Daito Ryu, there is a reference to Odori, dance, this is not to be misconstrued as motion only for the sake of movement. Rather, this allusion is to martial dance, which is strictly, movement with meaning. This is why Bunkai, analyzation, has always been considered the single more important factor of Okinawan martial arts training.

          To true and traditional Okinawan martial arts, all Oyo are derived from movement training which is then subjected to Bunkai. It is through this that the Daikento, great fist sword, and all other techniques of Okinawa derive their skill.

          Because of full contact fighting, where trained athletes fight for multiple rounds, there are many people who no longer believe in Ikken Hissatsu or the legendary power of the Daikento. Yet the very use of gloves in the kickboxing game and the limitation of range or the yielding surface in the rings of most other forms of competition, literally limit the application of this ancient skill and weapons form. On the street gloves are not worn, while concrete and asphalt make a very solid surface from which to punch.

          It is interesting to note that a Japanese Soke of a powerful system gave a demonstration a few years back of his system. Out of the many techniques he demonstrated, eighty percent of them contained one or more Daikento punches. Many of the Americans attending the demonstration thought the art was very weak, because of the reliance of the demonstrator on the Seiken Tsuki. Yet it was because the Japanese Soke had confidence in the Daikento and had learned from Okinawan masters the correct application of the technique, which caused him to emphasize the skill so much.

          The Daikento, when applied as it should be, with Kime and Naibu Hakai, will be devastating. Without a glove to dissipate the force, by spreading it out over too large an area, and with the space to take a solid stance, and have the ability to deliver a full body torque in the technique, the standard Tsuki can truly deliver a blow, which is capable of Ikken Hissatsu, and is worthy of the term Daikento.

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