Tonfa Uke (Blocks) Step-byStep Breakdown

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

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Happy New Year!

In this post we’ll go through the step-by-step breakdown of the previous Tonfa/Tuifa Kihon (Basics) drill video, Tonfa Uke (Blocks). This breakdown uses a series of freeze-frames from the practice video to show each of the specific moves in the Tonfa 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 Tonfa Kihon (Basics) drill as a supplement to your local instruction.

Stay tuned for our future posts on the Tonfa Uchi (strikes) and Tonfa Combinations drills which have already been videoed.

[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.] 

Tonfa Uke Freeze-Frame Step-by-Step Breakdown

Tonfa Uke is a kobudo Tonfa Kihon drill which focuses on three simple sets of basic Tonfa blocks, including 3 low, 4 middle and 3 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 the next block. Keep cycling between those two stances, unless otherwise noted. 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

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

3 Tonfa Low Blocks

1) Closed Low Block
1) Closed low block, stepping forward into zenkutsu-dachi. Keep Tonfa against outside of outward turned forearm.
2) One Leg Flipping Low Block
2) One leg flipping low block. Flip down front, around to back, deflecting down and to the rear, while pulling back and raising front leg into ippon-ashi-dachi.
3) Double Low Smashing Blocks in Angled Shiko-Dachi
3) Double closed smashing horizontal low blocks, dropping into angled shiko-dachi.
Yoi (ready position)
Return to Yoi (ready position).

4 Tonfa Middle Blocks

4) In to Out Closed Chest Block
4) Inside to outside closed chest block, stepping into zenkutsu-dachi.
5) Out to in closed chest block
5) Outside to inside closed chest block, pulling back to neko-ashi-dachi.

(NOTE: Keep the R hand in chamber position. In the freeze-frame photo, I had already started moving the R hand up toward the cross of the next move a little too early to get a clean freeze-frame.)

6A) Cross for Double Chest Blocks
6A) Cross arms, lead foot/hand in front for double chest blocks while stepping forward.
6B) Double Closed Chest Blocks
6B) Double inside to outside closed chest blocks, stepping into zenkutsu-dachi.
7A) Out to In Flipping Horizontal Block
7A) Outside to inside flipping horizontal block while pulling back.
7B) Inside to outside flipping horizontal block.
7B) Inside to outside flipping horizontal block in neko-ashi-dachi.

(Note: Keep the flipping Tonfa horizontal. In the freeze-frame photo 7B the Tonfa tipped up a bit off the horizontal plane.)

Yoi (ready position)
Return to Yoi (ready position).

3 Tonfa High Blocks

8) Closed Tonfa high block, while stepping forward into zenkutsu-dachi. Keep Tonfa on outside top of forearm.
9) Flipping high block. Flip Tonfa up from front to back by side of head, deflecting backward, while pulling back into neko-ashi-dachi.
10) Double closed high blocks in zenkutsu-dachi.
10) Double closed high blocks, stepping into zenkutsu-dachi.
Yoi (ready position)
Return to Yoi (ready position).

Closing Sequence

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

Tonfa 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 Tonfa 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 Tonfa Uke (Blocks) Drill PDF Reference Sheet


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Arigato Gozaimasu (Thank You Very Much!)
-Renshi Mike Scaramozzino

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

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