How Araga Beats Human Reaction Time with the Kizami Zuki

Did you know that most kumite fighters in Japan don't kick very often? Or that some fighters have never used a keri-waza (a kick) at all in a tournament?

Surprising, isn't it. After all, kicks net you at least two with a wazaari, usually three points with an ippon. That's a hell of a lot more points than a yuko from a punch, which gives you one point.

In fact, many Japanese kumite experts win on the basis of their tsuki-waza (punches) alone. One of these tsukis happens to be the fastest attack in karate. And unblockable. In fact, Ryutaro Araga, the world champion in kumite, is so fast that most of his opponents have been unable to react to it fast enough...since he was 15 years old.

Sounds like a Street Fighter fantasy move? It isn't. Read on to see why the World Champion and gold medal prospect Ryutaro Araga uses the kizamizuki as his main point getter.

Araga with the kizami, in the finals of the Japanese National Championship. His opponent is Matsuhisa, who was Japan and World Champion for a number of years.

How the Kizami Gets You a Quick Yuko

Are you one of these:

  • Need to get the first point to establish rhythm and control of a match
  • Want to get senshu, the initiative score
  • Have a shorter reach than your opponent for most fights
  • Have a long reach and want to use it
  • Are more comfortable with punches than kicks
  • Have an awesome ura-mawashi but can't get into range often enough

If "oh yeah!" was your reaction to any of this, then the kizami is right for you.

I personally prefer punches, even with a good mawashi and ura-mawashi. Even with a small reach (I have short arms and long legs, go figure), the kizami is my most reliable point getter.

How to do the Kizami Zuki

The kizami-zuki is a punch that is somewhere between a jab in boxing, and a forward lunge in fencing. The benefits are enticing:

  • this is the fastest attack in karate
  • the kizami cannot be blocked (to know why, read on)
  • it can be followed up by a second attack like a gyaku-zuki or an ura-mawashi

The kizami can be broken up into three stages.

Stage 1: Preparation

  1. The forehand is relaxed. The grip is loose. This is important for defence, because it is your leading hand and needs to stop incoming attacks. Keeping your hand loose is also important if you want to keep your stamina through a match. Tense muscles drain your body of energy a lot faster.
  2. Stepping in with both feet. A common mistake here is to take a 3-count approach to moving forward. The correct way to do this is the 2-count approach. Watch Araga's video here:

Here, Araga demonstrates the 3-count and 2-count. By switching to the 2-count step, you save precious milliseconds off your attack that can mean the difference in who gets the point.

Stage 2: Full Extension and Contact

  1. At the point of (light) contact, your back leg is raised. Try it out now, stand up, and reach for something far away from you. Your back leg will rise. This natural body movement will stabilize you when you reach towards for your opponent.
  2. Speaking of reaching and making contact, the best targets are the chin and the top of the chest, right at the bottom of the neck.

The chin is a great target because it is closest to your lead hand. The bottom of the neck / top of the chest is another great target because it's a big area and your opponent cannot evade your punch.

Stage 3: Completion

  1. This is the most crucial part: you step into your opponent when you're done with the punch.
    It may be uncomfortable at first, and will need practice. But. When you're able to step into your opponent, there are many advantages.
    First, your opponent can't hit you with a counter, the distance is too close for a clean punch.
    Second, you're in position for an ashibarai (sweep) or an ura-mawashi (reverse round kick).
    Third, to the judges, it looks like your punch was close enough to score.
  2. The other parts of completing your kizami are just as important. You need to pull your hand back by rotating your waist, straighten out your back, and get your backfoot down into position.

Kizami Benefits Reviewed

A kizami done with a 2-count is the fastest attack in karate. It covers the most distance, it is the shortest punch away from the opponent. These two factors make it difficult for the opponent to read your incoming attack.

The kizami is an ideal setup for a sweep or a high kick, both ippon-scoring moves.

If you think about it, the kizami cannot be blocked. Assuming two right handed karateka and correct range, your opponent's lead hand will not be fast enough to parry / block your kizami from coming in. Their back hand will likely be closer to the chest or the waist. If the back hand is closer to the face, you can be confident about their gyaku-zuki counter not coming to you any time soon.

The only defences to the kizami? Moving out of the way, ducking, and an anticipatory counter. 

Practicing Kizamizuki and Using it in Tournaments

The biggest challenges in the kizami would be

  • transitioning from the 3-count to the 2-count step-in. This will give you a large speed advantage. Use a recording device, and practice (500 times? 1000 times?) until doing the step-in takes only 2 counts. Then practice with your stance reversed: left leg back, if you had the right leg back the first time around.
  • stepping into the opponent in stage 3. This will require the presence of another karateka.

Ryutaro Araga Kizami

Araga is really a great example of how to effectively use the kizami to score. He is so fast that his opponents can only react after Araga is in Stage 2 or 3 of the kizami. Here's a video of his best kizamis.


The kizami has created many national and international champions. In a karate world that is big on kicks, the kizami is a quick point getter that you should add to your kumite repertoire.