What ever happened to that ole classic: The Karate Chop?

Ever wonder where that old favorite of the ’60s and ’70s television disappeared to? You know what I’m talking about–The karate chop! That open-hand slice to the back of the neck that took down an adversary in record time. And it was pretty safe too! When someone woke-up from it they just shook their head a couple times, rubbed their neck and said something like, “Uhg, what hit me?” or “How long have I been out?” No concussion check, no hospital visit and back in action in hardly no time at all.

That was the extent of violence you’d see in shows like: Peter Gunn, The Chevy Mystery Show, Dragnet, 77 Sunset Strip, T.H.E. Cat, Danger Man, The Saint and I Spy. Of course there were shootings! But usually never much blood and normally “He’ll be all right, it’s just a flesh wound.” And should a mortal wound be required by gun or knife, it usually went unseen. No blood, or just a dollop or so, then a quick double-over and fall down you’re dead. But the karate chop! You might get chopped two or three times in one show and still come out OK…”Uhg, what hit me?”.

Charlie Chan in Shanghai (1935)

Charlie Chan was not really big on physical violence, especially in the novels. So I dare say we never read of him using this time-honored weapon of choice, except perhaps one time (that I recall.) But even then with no other option. It happened on an unlit staircase in an abandoned house in Keeper of The Keys (1932). And truth be told he didn’t really chop (he flung himself on his opponent!) In film, however, that’s a whole other story. While Charlie didn’t do much choppin’, Sons No. 1, 2, or 3 did not hesitate to use the karate chop; especially to slice a weapon from the hand of a dastardly opponent aiming it at “Pop!”

Below watch a rare instance where although he didn’t chop, with lightening speed Charlie Chan disarms an opponent using his Jujitsu skills (Hey! It’s only 1 minute, 40 seconds…you can do it):

So, are they real? Do they exist? You betcha! Here’s a list of chops we’ve seen throughout television and film over the years, from the site martial arts fandom:

  • Palm strike A strike made with the bottom of the palm. The fingers can be open or folded against the bottom knuckles.
  • Knifehand (commonly called a karate chop) A strike with the outside edge (between the wrist and knuckle of the pinky finger) of the hand with the fingers extended.
  • Ridgehand A strike with the inside edge of the hand or the forearm.
  • Hammerfist A strike with the bottom of the closed fist.
  • Extended knuckle Similar to a punch, except with one knuckle (either that of the index or middle finger) extended. It can only be used on weak targets.
  • Backfist A strike with the top of the two largest knuckles.
  • Long fist or leopard strike (in Chinese martial arts) A strike with the first two joints of the fingers folded inwards, chestting with the fore-knuckles.
  • Elbow Strike A strike with the elbow. It can be delivered forwards, sideways, backwards, upwards, or sideways.
  • chestnut strike– a strike using the knuckles off your fist

Want to sharpen your karate choppin’ skills? I recommend Milton Bradley’s Karate Chop Game for 2 players. One player holds the Styrofoam brick, while the other starting with their hand at ear level tries to strike it (if your right-handed use the left hand, etc.) One point is awarded either the holder, if they pull it away in time, or the striker if they successfully break the brick. When either player earns 5 points the roles are reversed. First to reach 11 points wins the game (Um, this may take awhile!)

This is actually all that’s in the box (instructions on reverse!)

Finally, I’ll leave you with a wonderful demonstration of most of the above chops. No, not by Sons No. 1, 2 or 3, or even Bruce Lee, but by Captain James Tiberius Kirk! Although Kirk does start off by “sucker-chopping” two girls, he goes on to chop some pretty bad characters! I say let’s end all the unnecessary CGI and makeup-artist gore in TV and film today and bring back the simple karate chop–I kinda miss it. “Ugh, how long have I been out?”

“Aged men should not consort with ruffians. Eggs should not dance with stones”

Keeper of The Keys, 1932, Chapter 7

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