Hiki-te, another of those Japanese terms that means more than it says. Hiki-te: the pulling hand. Firstly, the hand that is the counter-piece, of any given hand technique is not just pulled back per se. The difference from most hand striking (punching for the most part, but taking in all other striking and blocking) from the various fighting arts - and for the moment we’ll take boxing as an example - is, instead of using a shoulder and or a lean in or swing, making the weight of the initiator a major part of the power generation, the (switched on) Shotokan karateka should use the rotation around the central pivot, or Hara (the core), of the body to (1) utilise the whole body and not just the side of the body that is punching; (2) therefore building more explosive speed; which, as everyone knows, is instrumental in power output and delivery: Force = Mass x Velocity.
I stated in that last paragraph that the hiki-te is not pulled back per se; let me clarify. The hiki-te is used to counter pivot the energy from one side of the body to the other via the central pivotal core; pulling the opposite side of the body, not back but, spiraling through the core, adding more mass, generating more speed, and therefore more power to the striking technique: Force = Mass x Velocity. By the way, this action does not necessarily mean that the Hiki-te hand ends up at the hip; however, when teaching this power transference, it is generally thought easier, initially, to teach this way.
I have heard many so called experts criticising the hiki-te as a pointless exercise, and that it makes no sense to say that pulling one hand in the opposite direction to the one that is punching is going to generate power to the punching hand. They usually go on to say that the original reason for the hiki-te is easily seen in the older Okinawan forms of karate, which operate at a closer range between the attacker (who was probably a felon and not a karateka) and the defender: karate being originally created purely for selfdefence when attacked by an adversary, and not for sport, where two karateka are facing off. And so, in their opinion, the hiki-te – originally meant for destabilising the opponent, grabbing limbs, clothing or hair, to assist in a throw or takedown – is a waste of time unless used for those reasons; and in fact the free hand would be put to better use as a cover, for the face say, while the opposite hand is punching.
I do not disagree in regard to those other uses for the hiki-te. However, in my humble opinion, those experts don’t know what they are talking about, or totally misunderstand the other side of the equation and therefore don’t see the whole concept. To talk about pulling and pushing is somewhat redundant; of course, pulling one hand back is not going to power up the pushing or punching side… duh. That is where most of the power generation naysayers get their nickers in a twist. At the risk of repeating myself; the hiki-te is not pulling back, it is pulling the opposite side of the body into the equation by powering it through the central pivot or centre axis, enabling the karateka to utilise the power of the entire body.
There is an equation for this power generation: Centripetal force (defined as, “The component of force acting on a body in curvilinear motion that is directed toward the center of curvature or axis of rotation”) is equal and opposite to the Centrifugal force (defined as, “The force, equal and opposite to the Centripetal force, drawing a rotating body away from the center of rotation, caused by the inertia of the body.”) adding to the Mass and the Velocity. Again, we have a measurable, Force = Mass x Velocity.
All the other possible and probably constituents of the hiki-te – destabilising the opponent, grabbing limbs, clothing or hair, to assist in a throw or takedown – actually become even more relevant. The power generation, on its own, is a very real component of hiki-te; however, the additional power element makes all the other mechanisms of hiki-te even more practicable.