Shotokan Karate Training


SenseiSays "No matter how you may excel in the art of Karate, and in your scholastic endevours, nothing is more important than your behavior and your humanity as observed in daily life. - Master Shoshin Nagamine";

What is the purpose of Karate training?

There are several purposes that people take up Karate as a hobby. The first and most important in the United States and other Western Societies is self defense. However, self-defense is not the only purpose for Karate training. Some people take up Karate simply to lose weight, to improve their cardiovascular health, and to enjoy a competitive activity (more advanced training). Some people take the Japanese martial arts very seriously and hope that Karate training will give them discipline and self control. Others simply take it up because they want to meet people and get out of the house. It is inevitable that each person tends to view everyone's karate training from their own perspective, therefore leading to judgmental and narrow-minded assumptions concerning "all karate training."


The primary purpose of karate training as seen in our organization is to provide a means for our membership to strengthen themselves both physically and emotionally through continuous, regular training. Overcoming training challenges help everyone to achieve this goal.


What are the three areas of training in Karate?

Kihon, kata, and kumite are generally regarded as "The Triad" of karate training. Basic techniques, dance-like shadow boxing routines, and sparring exercises are the components. Many instructors have come to reject the notion of balancing their training between these three areas, however, and have begun to explore new ways of organizing their knowledge of karate. Instructors at the RRSKC tend to be traditionally motivated and tend to design classes with all three aspects of training incorporated into a class. However, each class in the RRSKC has a specifically emphasized topic each week that reoccurs on a routine basis. The schedule is posted each month. This allows students to know what the emphasis will be and for the instructors to better develop skills on a continuum..


What is kihon?

Fundamental techniques are called, "kihon." (say "keyhone") Fundamental training in Karate involves training in punching, blocking, kicking, striking with different edges of the hands, feet, knees, and elbows, stances, hip rotation (for more power), and body shifting. There is also more advanced fundamental training in changing direction, shifting the body out of the way of an attack, and using the different fundamentals in combination with each other.


What is kumite?

Kumite (say "koomeetay") is sparring training. There are several different ways to practice sparring in Karate. Only the most advanced students are allowed to practice free sparring. Other students usually only practice various drills to prepare them for free sparring training. There is one step, three step, and five step sparring. No one is intentionally hit during sparring practice in Shotokan Karate. Some Karate players with more experience will touch their opponents with their techniques, but no pain is involved. Junior Karate practitioners usually pull their strikes short of contact for safety reasons. Some people acquire bruises on their shins and forearms during their first few lessons of Karate sparring. Shortly, the bruising goes away, and the forearms have been strengthened to withstand blocking techniques from larger, stronger people.


What is kata?

Kata (pronounced "kahtah") is a Japanese word that means shape, form, or style. When a Karate enthusiast puts basic techniques together in a kind of floor routine, it is called a kata. However, most Karate enthusiasts do not create kata. There are 26 existent kata that are considered to be necessary for study. Karate students are required to learn a new kata for each rank up to black belt (shodan). Then they are required to learn four or five kata per rank until 5th dan (Godan). Some of these kata are very athletic and contain much jumping, ducking, and acrobatic display. Many of the kata are simple and merely involve changes in direction, blocking and punching.


How much of a lesson is dedicated to kihon, kata, and kumite?

That depends on the skill level of the class and the individual instructor teaching the class. A beginner’s class will usually emphasis more kihon as a beginning, then incorporate more kata and kumite as skills increase. In the West, where sparring is more popular, kihon practice only takes about 15 minutes to 1 hour, leaving the rest of the 2-hour class for kumite drills. Most schools perform kata after class or at the end of class for about 15 minutes or so. Many instructors vary the amount of time spent on each of the three areas depending upon the time of the year, half-year, season, or month. Some instructors have a kata class on one day and a kumite class on the other. Depending upon the instructor, you could get a totally different class in the same Shotokan style.


When can I stop practicing kihon and kata and just do kumite?

Never. Those two training methods will be required of you for as long as you practice karate; and karate can be done for an entire lifetime. Part of the Shotokan philosophy is to ensure that each technique is absolutely perfect, not sloppy, and this requires constant and total dedication to improving the level of technique that one has. This takes precedence over anything else that you might do in Karate. The day eventually may come when you are too old to continue practicing kumite, however.


Do I have to learn kata?

Yes. Kata training has many benefits. Eventually it will be kata that you will enjoy the most. It is through extensive kata training that a student develops skill. Most of the world champion karate players in kata are also champions in sparring. Kata develops sparring skills.

All karate organizations practice kata - kata being the correct performance of movement. Many style of karate have characteristic kata. Shotokan is no different in this regard.


Will I learn weapons?

The martial art of kubudo is the Okinawan Martial Art which teaches weapon use. Shotokan karate training tends to emphasis more effective unarmed techniques. However, in understanding defensive responses to situations involving weapons, the students of the RRSKC must learn how to use weapons so that they might be able to defend against them. These topics are usually addressed in more advanced training sessions or camps. Specialized training courses held periodically by the NESKC have included kubotan (keychain), baton and knife fighting.


Will I learn to throw people to the ground?

This question refers to how karate relates to judo or jujutsu. Each martial art has a schedule for training including what to teach for fundamentals and what is an important basis for understanding the philosophy of the particular art. Karate tends to teach blocking, kicking and punching skills as fundamentals. Other martial arts teach falling, joint locking and throwing skills as fundamentals. However, if someone trains long enough in any martial art he/she will find that karate teaches throws and an understanding of balance in a more advanced level where judo and jujutsu teach striking and some kicks at the advanced level.


Will I learn cool moves to escape from different holds?

Shotokan Karate primarily involves punching and kicking enemies, regardless of the situation. As an opponent reaches for him, the Shotokan expert punches him in the chin and drops him unconscious. Yet the NESKC promotes a complete understanding of human anatomy including pressure points and pain centers. Practice of these techniques are secondary but are taught as part of self defense training.