Sai Uke (Blocks) Step by Step Breakdown

How to Learn Sai Kihon (Basics) Drill, Sai Uke (Blocks), with Step by Step Breakdown

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In this post we’ll go through the step-by-step breakdown of the previous Sai Kihon (Basics) drill video, Sai Uke (Blocks). This breakdown uses a series of freeze-frames from the practice video to show each of the specific moves in the Sai drill along with descriptions and tips. It also includes a step-by-step PDF reference sheet that you may download and print. Along with the previous practice video, this step-by-step breakdown should greatly help you learn and practice this Sai Kihon (Basics) drill as a supplement to your local instruction.

[Note: The photos below are freeze frames from the live action practice video, so they are not as perfect as if they were specifically posed photos for each move.] 

Sai Uke Freeze-Frame Step-by-Step Breakdown

Sai Uke is a kobudo Sai Kihon drill which focuses on three simple sets of basic Sai blocks, including low, middle and high blocks.

They are all done on the left side first and then they are all repeated on the right side. Only the left side is shown in the below freeze frames, but both are shown in the practice video.

Start each with L step forward into a L zenkutsu-dachi, pull back to L neko-ashi-dachi for next block. Keep cycling between those two stances. Do all on the left side first and then repeat all on the right side.

Return to the yoi position between each of the three sets: low, middle, and high.

Opening Sequence

A) Kiotsuke (attention): Stand at attention in Musubi-dachi with both Sai closed in L hand.
B) Rei (bow).
C) Yoi (ready position): Bring Sai in front of you. Take one closed in each hand. Bring hands down to the sides and step out to L soto-hachiji-dachi (like Pinan kata).

5 Sai Low Blocks

1) Closed low block stepping forward into L zenkutsu-dachi. Keep Sai against outside of outward turned forearm.
2) Open low block, deflecting to the rear, while pulling back into L neko-ashi-dachi.
3) Double closed low blocks with palms out, backs touching, knuckles down, while stepping forward into L zenkutsu-dach. Keep Sai to the outsides.
4A) Closed outside to inside low block. Scoop in and up in an arc, while pulling back into L neko-ashi-dachi.
4B) Sweep arm in/up/out to closed chest block with Sai on the outside of forearm, palm forward.
5) Double open crossed-X low blocks, while stepping forward into L zenkutsu-dachi. Front foot/hand on top.
Return to Yoi (ready position).

4 Sai Middle Blocks

6) Closed chest block while stepping forward into L zenkutsu-dachi. Keep Sai outside of forearm.
7) Closed outside chest block while pulling back into L neko-ashi-dachi. Block from outside to inside, keeping Sai on inside of forearm.
8) Open chest block while stepping forward into L zenkutsu-dachi. Flip Sai out to the open position.
9A) Draw back to neko-ashi-dachi crossing arms, lead foot/hand in front.
9B) Then sink into double inside closed chest blocks. Block from inside to outside. Keep Sai outside of forearms.
Return to Yoi (ready position).

3 Sai High Blocks

10) Closed high block while stepping forward into L zenkutsu-dachi. Keep Sai outside of forearm.
11) Open high block, deflecting to the rear while pulling back into neko-ashi-dachi. Angle Sai pointing downward over the opposite side shoulder. Arm/Sai form a roof shape.
12A) Cross high, lead foot/hand forward while stepping forward into L zenkutsu-dachi.
12B) Separate into double closed high blocks.
Return to Yoi (ready position).

Closing Sequence

A) Kiotsuke (attention): L step in to Musubi-dachi while taking both Sai closed in L hand.
B) Rei (bow).

Sai Uke (Blocks) PDF Reference Sheet

The following PDF reference sheet is a distillation of all the moves in the drill to use as reference while learning and practicing the Sai drill. It is useful to help you remember what all the moves are until they are committed to muscle memory or for review to remember them after returning to the drill if it hasn’t been practiced in a while. I had created this reference sheet when I was first learning the drill myself. I hope it helps you as much as it helped me.

Download Sai Uke (Blocks) Drill PDF Reference Sheet


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-Renshi Mike Scaramozzino

Shoshin Nagamine's book The Essence of Okinawan Karate-do Matsubayashi Ryu

2 Responses

  • It’s interesting when you said that Kobudi prioritizes the block power as three simple steps. The other day, my cousin told me that he was considering enrolling my nephew in Kobudo classes because he shows interest in it, and enhances his strength and discipline. Thanks to this helpful article, I’ll tell him that it will be much better if he consults a trusted martial arts class as they can answer all his inquiries and will provide the proper training for my nephew.

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