Kihon (basic techniques) is the fundamental part of karate training. During this kind of training it is easier to focus on both physical and mental power. Since there is no opponent it is possible to optimize every technique. You often practice more simple techniques, so it is possible to perform every individual movement with maximum speed, spirit, power, and length. In practice with a real opponent, it is also possible to use techniques with shorter range (Ko-waza).
Kata is predetermined pattern consisting of defense and attack techniques in combination used against one or more imaginary opponents in different situations. Every Kata has its own Embusen (the pattern of the movements) and follows its own rhythm.
When you are learning a Kata:
- practice the Kata in parts
- learn the outer form
- learn the rhythm
- strive for perfection with power and speed
- automate thereafter each Kata as a reflex
Kata, the classic way is executed in Sen-No-Sen when you approach and confront the opponent. Kata Ura is according to the same principle as the classic way, except in mirror image. Kata Go is performed backwards, you wait for the opponent and retreat. Go-No-Sen gives the Kata more practical application. Kata Ura-Go (mirror image – backwards).
When you have automated the movements in the Kata you can practice every movement in different ways against the opponent, Bunkai. Here, the reality of the Kata is shown for the first time.
Kihon Ippon Kumite means a predetermined attack, in which the opponent defends himself in a predetermined way. This is the first step to prepare yourself for blocking at the right moment.
Jiu Ippon Kumite. The attack is predetermined but is executed when the attacking person decides. This is the second step towards free-fight. You can now change distance by moving freely.
Jiu Kumite. Sparring with partner, so-called “free-fight”. Here you use your techniques freely and tactically. At the beginning only a few techniques are used, later when the Karate-ka becomes more advanced the newly gained techniques are added.
Karate as a martial art has existed for hundreds of years. It is not until the last forty years that rules for competition have been established. This happened with aim of popularizing and bringing Karate out to a larger number of people. As soon as the rules were created this meant great restrictions, a loss of Do (the way).
The rules have been changed at regular intervals to suit the prevailing conditions ever since that time. Because of these changes, Karate has not yet gained Olympic status. Hopefully a part of Karate will remain traditional and non-competitive even if Karate becomes an Olympic event.
Karate-Do is not limited by weight category or age. Judo now has Olympic status but has at the same time changed its Do (the way).
“Karate must be a reality, not only a form.”
— Sensei Yoshitaka Funakoshi
Kiai is a powerful, penetrating yell. The stomach is tensed to its maximum and the forceful pressure from the bottom of the stomach pushes out the air in an explosive way. The purpose of Kiai, besides a greater physical and mental focusing on the power, is to destroy the breathing rhythm and the mental balance of the opponent. At a high level Kiai is executed with a maximally contracted stomach but relaxed upper body to ease further actions and reactions.
During practice we often use the Japanese word Kime. By this we mean maximum and quickly focused contraction and decontraction of all muscles to create an explosive energy for a brief moment. Karate-ka at different levels (Kyu or Dan grades) has different ways and means to create Kime.
At first you are taught to have Kime in one element. The next level is to be able to execute several techniques in rapid sequence but still be able to attain the same power as in the first technique.
In every movement executed with Kime the muscles that are involved in the technique in question, work with support from Hara (the stomach muscles). In Japan today great Hara is still considered equivalent to big Kime power.
Zanshin is a psycho-physical state of consciousness when both body and mind are prepared to the maximum and are deeply concentrated. This condition, Mu (emptiness) leads to total physical and mental freedom. This is especially conspicuous at the beginning of the Kata, in Kiai and at the end of the Kata. During competition Zanshin is one of the criteria of point-winning technique.
In Zazen (meditation) the eyes are slightly closed and the breathing is totally controlled. You inhale deeply through the nose and exhale through the mouth. The back is straight, the shoulders are relaxed but the body should be in a state of readiness.
During practice you incur psycho-physical strain. Because of that you need to meditate and in this way renew your energy. The more power you have used, the more power has to be replenished. To obtain this, though, there has to be harmony between body and mind.
Before and after practice a short moment of meditation in Seiza (seated position) is performed to clear and prepare the mind for new knowledge. Meditation in Zazen can also be done with crossed legs.
Maki-wara & Bag
Maki-wara, a sprung punch-board and bag training means practice against resistance to develop the feeling of contact. It is important that every technique has breakthrough force and maximum speed.
You should execute some hundred repetitions and start with Tsuki techniques and then continue with Shuto technique, Haito etc. So as not to change the muscles too much, you should execute techniques without resistance in between large numbers of repetitions on the Maki-wara. The same principle applies to bag training. The difference is that, on the bag, it is easier to practice Uke and Keri techniques.
In the old days Maki-wara and bag were used to a great extent. The Karate-ka of today has a lot to gain from this type of training.