The Reaction Hand

The Reaction Hand 

The reaction hand. The pull back hand. The fist chambered at your side. 'Hikite.'

The hikite is a beginner-level lesson, too often over-rated during advancement.

When performing a front lunge punch, the pull back hand or reaction hand is drawn directly back towards the side of the body. It should not be snapped downward to the hip but should be pulled back towards the side of the ribs. If you perform a shuto or soodo or knife hand, the reaction hand floats in front of your solar plexus when you present one side of your body forward.

Video: The reverse snap punch above shows the chambered hand for the soodo markgi or knife hand being used as a strike. This is powerful demonstration that the pull back hand for the reverse snap punch does not in fact generate any power for the strike - and that the strike in itself is propelled by the acceleration of the body using the idea of kinetic chaining the legs, hips, and torso. The move is a very efficient and very powerful motion.

I have heard that the pull back motion can be considered an elbow 'backwards' to an opponent standing behind you. That's the possible 'self defence' use for the pull back hand. That's utter rubbish, and an example of lazy thinking. An elbow strike to the back is an elbow strike to the back. A pull back hand is a pull back hand.

After many decades in this industry, I've come to the conclusion that the pull back hand for most part is a legacy artefact of group training. I'll of course contradict myself later in this article. But essentially, the pull back hand allows an entire group to train technique up and down a line, allowing the instructors to see uniformity, and to ensure everyone in the group is doing that one thing 'correctly'.

The reaction hand is:
  1. A tactical move to hold an opponent still (to be struck with other hand), 
  2. Creates a great deal of shearing force (when trying to break opponent's joint or when performing a throw), 
  3. Allows a practitioner to learn proper upper body tension in order to transmit the power of your legs and hips into strikes levelled on your opponent,
  4. Is able to be used as a limb control against an opponent, and
  5. Helps to focus a group exercise towards the primary hand or the technique being deployed. 

Many beginners get confused with the pullback hand especially during self defence or sparring. One of the most important things in sparring is to provide defence and coverage to the body. Pulling the hand back to the hip creates a void between yourself and your opponent - allowing openings that your opponent can take advantage of.

The confusion of the pull back hand lies with:

  • Instructors saying that the pull back hand helps to create power - rubbish
  • Students thinking that this is part of the art that will help with their skill - rubbish
  • Patterns having the pull back hand generously scattered throughout the set of moves, without fully explaining the tactical implications of WHY anything ACTUALLY WORKS. 

Yes, the pull back hand is a not a tactical movement in of itself. The rule of thumb is that you draw your hand back - into the pull back position - when you have something in your hand that you've grabbed or gotten a hold of. The pull back motion should be used in such a scenario when you attempt to pull or hold onto your opponent whilst hitting him with the other hand. Or if you intend to break his arm - meaning you hold onto the limb while striking it perpendicularly. Otherwise, the hikite need not be pulled back to the hip UNLESS your opponent is not going to hit you with either of his two weapons.

I persist in having the pull back hand in my system and can benefit from working both hands because I don't see the pull back hand as a power generating tool. The pull back should work in synchronicity with the striking (or blocking) hand. Without both hands working together, including the chambering motion of crossing over, spreading apart, moving the arms forward-backward ... there cannot be a dynamic relationship between the two arms. If you don't study the movement of both of your arms together, and look at them tactically, your Taekwondo or Karate will only be as good as a person working out on a heavy bag.

For a continuation of this post, please see the discussion I've had on Traditional Taekwondo Ramblings Taekwondo Punch v Boxing Punch. And for the follow up, see The Reaction Hand with a Vengeance.

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Last Edit: 1 Dec 2018
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