Tuesday, 28 September 2021



Nami ashi geri translated into English means the returning wave kick. Probably its widest known representations are found in the Naihanchi series of Karate Kata (Nifunchi; Tekki). The kick isn’t one that you’ll often see practised when Karate-ka move up and down the Dojo floor unlike, for example, front kicks, side kicks, etc. It tends to come to the surface during bunkai (Kata application training) or as a method for blocking an opponent’s low kicks during sparring.

Basically speaking, the leg rises toward the inside and up, (toes pointing forward) and then returns along the same path, foot back on the floor. The speed, power and energy of the kick resemble a wave of water rising and then slapping right back down again. Often, there is a stamping of the foot as the foot returns to the floor.


The following link leads to a good example


If the kick remains locked into the side to side performance line then you can certainly use it for foot sweeps, kicks to the outside and inside of an attacker’s legs, blocking an opponent who is kicking you low from the front plus an assortment of throwing techniques.

A more extensive compilation in which the practitioner begins to break out of the side to side performance line can be found here –


Just like Tai Chi’s forward line stepping when performing the brush knee step or Jiu Jitsu’s straight line basic approach to the outer reaping throw, we eventually have to break out of the straightness, if I can use such a term, and switch over to a 360 degree flow encompassing a myriad number of adaptive applications that flow with the situation at hand. That’s how we turn the nami ashi into a fight system.

I think by now you have a good idea of the kick’s structure so it’s time to roll forward into two areas of importance vis a vis its usage –

1.       Almost every part of the foot and the leg proper is used as a weapon, every area from the heel of the foot, to parts of the instep and even the toes as well as the outside edge of the foot upon its return. The inside of the leg can also be used.

2.      Almost every part of the opponent’s lower body from the groin/tail bone down to the feet are treated as targets. So you find bone and muscle structures that are the subject of an attack, joints like the knees and ankles, nerves and blood vessels and, of course, pressure points and meridians.

If you combine the ideas of #1 and #2 from above, then the trajectory of delivery has to obviously expand from the basic up sweep and back as seen in the Kata. (The Kata is never a limitation; it is an icon, a door, that one opens). The concepts of #1 and #2 above invite a variety of angles and trajectories, which are absolutely necessary in sparring and combat.

Here is where we open to all martial systems. You might say: “Do we kick in our Judo or our Jiu Jitsu?” Perhaps not, but you sweep, hook and throw in your system, and now, depending on the situation, the normal sweep turns into a knee break or an attack on the femoral nerve.

Sensei Frank Hatashita, the Father of Canadian Judo, taught atemi (striking) as part of his curriculum.

Shihan Ron Forrester, the Father of Canadian Jiu Jitsu, famously combined Jiu Jitsu locks, throws, etc. with punching, striking and kicking to extend the combative capabilities of his cuuriculum.

So let’s take a moment to combine sections #1 and #2 as described above.


These examples are only if an opponent stands directly in front of you. There is so much more as you and the opponent move.

1. The heel of the foot up into the hollow of the hip or the heel of the foot into the hollow of the hip followed by a snap across and downward or down and backward. The heel or the sole of the foot hacks inward against the nerve packet on the outside of the thigh or against the outside or the front of the knee. The same counts for all targets on the side and front of the leg from the knee down to the edge of the foot.

At the left, (source: Ying Yang House) you'll see some points that involve the Gall Bladder Meridian. Other interesting points and targets run along the back of the leg. You can access these by swinging the leg up behind the opponent and hacking in toward you.

All upswings may not necessarily be followed by the downward swing back along the same path. You may strike the outside of the knee with an upswing, for example, and collapse the joint, and the entire leg, downward with a secondary stomping kick. These stomping kicks are also employed when stripping the Achilles’ tendon. All Kung Fu and traditional Karate contain these trajectories. We always look for secondary pathways through which to continue.

Here’s a sharp little example of a basic approach –



The upswing motion also leads to attacks on the inside of an opponent’s legs, anywhere from the inside of the ankle up to the knee to the femoral region and up into the groin.

The kick can upswing toward the opponent’s right leg but then curve up or backward in the last part of the upswing trajectory, attacking the inside of her left leg. An excellent adaption for this is to slice up into the left femoral region with the toes of your right foot.


This part of the kick is very effective in secondary targeting. For example, you can slice across to the opponent’s right leg just below the inside of his knee then cut back and sharply stomping down into the inside of his left ankle.

Here is an example of practising some low kick angles that are actually found in nami ashi –


In conclusion, all movements in all martial arts forms are doors into combative flow. The returning wave kick is a prime example of a low leg fight system that adapts itself to the needs of combative situations.


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