SKIP in an acronym that stands for System of Kanji Indexing by Patterns. The description here is not complete but intended to give a brief overview for anyone that has never used SKIP. This tutorial uses the Kanji Learner's Dictionary by Jack Halpern, a paper dictionary, as an example, but SKIP can be used to search for kanji using software as well if supported. The big benefit of SKIP is that kanji can be indexed quickly with no prior knowledge of radicals or readings. If a kanji has a large number of strokes, actually counting the strokes is often not necessary.
Figure 1 - SKIP step 1
I will use the above kanji for this tutorial. The first step is to identify the geometric pattern. There are 4 basic kanji patterns used in SKIP. For example, pattern 1 is left-right, pattern 2 shown in Figure 1 is top-bottom, pattern 3 is an enclosure, and pattern 4 is used for patterns that do not fit the first three patterns. Our kanji can be separated visually into top and bottom components and so pattern 2 is used. The first number in the SKIP reference is 2. As shown in Figure 1, flip to the pattern 2 section of the dictionary.
Figure 2 - SKIP step 2
The next step is to count the strokes in the main component. For example, left in a left-right pattern, and top in a top-bottom pattern. Pattern 4 works a little bit differently. Our kanji has 9 strokes in the top portion of the top-bottom pattern so 9 becomes the second number in the SKIP reference. Staying within the pattern 2 section of the dictionary, we flip to the 2-9 section and locate the actual component in the index on the edge of the page (bottom-most) as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 3 - SKIP step 3
The final step is to count the strokes in the subcomponent. For example, right in a left-right pattern, and bottom in a top-bottom pattern. Pattern 4 works a little bit differently. Our kanji has 4 strokes in the bottom portion (kokoro) of the top-bottom pattern so 4 becomes the third and last number in the SKIP reference. Our SKIP reference is now 2-9-4. Starting from the first entry for 2-9-4, search for the kanji entry as shown in Figure 3.
Now I know I said you wouldn't need to count the strokes and we just counted all the strokes in the above kanji. Well this is true. But what I meant was this. You will not need to count strokes the way you did before. Count and then search through dozens of kanji just to find out you were off by 1 stroke. In skip you do have to count strokes but if you are off by 1 stroke you often know immediately and can easily check the previous or following patterns for the one you are searching for. Because you are not counting all the strokes in the kanji, but instead the strokes in the component, you get feedback as to whether you are on the right track sort of speak much sooner than looking up kanji by stroke alone. Give it a try. I can usually find difficult kanji by SKIP faster than with my electronic dictionary!