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Basics of Karate

There are many styles of Karate; e.g. traditional and modern (Sport Karate), but many of the basic techniques are the same.


Training in Karate generally involves four aspects:

  • Kihon (Basic techniques)

  • Kata (Form or pattern)

  • Bunkai (Study of techniques encoded in kata or "kata application")

  • Kumite (Sparring or paired form).


In kihon, you learn the Karate way of punching, blocking, kicking and movement. 

Often you will do drills for your Sensei that may be dull and boring, however, you should always try your absolute hardest, sound motivated, get low, and snap out your blocks, punches, and kicks.


In Kata, you learn to combine the basic techniques in a flowing movement.

Each kata is built around a specific fighting strategy for you to understand. Always remember to look where you're going, and remember what you learned in kihon.


In bunkai, you analyze every movement in a given kata and develop possible applications in real combat situations. 

Bunkai is a transition step to kumite.


In kumite, you learn to apply kihon and bunkai in a controlled environment.

Kumite is one step towards real combat, in that two practitioners will attempt to perform moves on each other, whether in turns or in Du Kumite which is another step towards free fighting. Remember to be relaxed, and don't pay any attention to the size of the person. Pretend you are playing a video game, and don't be afraid of getting hit. That will happen often.


Basic Punches: 

Karate punches use a straight punch technique with a twist of the wrist near the point of impact. Always hit with your first two knuckles, and make sure that your elbow is not locked because you will overextend it and get hurt. Pull the fist that isn't punching back to your waist as you punch. This is called 'Hikite' and if timed correctly, will help your punch be stronger and sharper.


Upper rising block (Age Uke)


Middle block (Yoko Uke for inside to outside and Yoko Uchi for outside to inside)


Downward block (Gedan Barai)


Front kick (Mae Geri), hit with the ball of the foot


Side kick (Yoko Geri), hit with the blade of your foot, toes pointing down


Roundhouse kick (Mawashi Geri), hit with the ball of the foot, curl your toes up and try to turn your foot sideways


Hook kick (Ura Mawashi Geri), reverse roundhouse kick.


Back kick (Ushiro Geri) this is a kick behind you, make sure you look where you're kicking and hit with the heel


Grappling and joint locking (Tuite)


Pressure points(Kyusho jutsu)


Karate stances are common to all types of Karate and Karate forms. They are far more than the dramatic combat postures they appear to be. They keep the body balanced and stable and allow attacks and defences to be made with maximum effect.

The 3 main Karate Stances of Shotokan are;

- Side stance Kiba Dachi
- Back stance Kokutsu Dachi
- Front stance Zenkutsu Dachi

Basic Karate moves become masterful techniques when the position of the feet, knees and hips all come together to create the right base. The move itself will determine which of the Karate stances is best for the situation.


Karate Stances – the Big Misconception
The ‘frozen’ leg positions we see in Karate forms known as kata and basic Karate Moves Kihon are ‘point in time’ poses. They are simply the best position to perform against an imaginary fixed target, not a real moving one!

If Karate stances are ‘held’ a moment longer than necessary, mobility will be restricted giving the opponent a chance to strike. Take a look at any serious Kumite match and you will see free-flowing movements, not rigid posturing.

Bottom Line...
Correct practice of Karate stances strengthens the legs and hips and leads to ‘fluid’ motion. Ultimately the Karateka should not be conscious of stance. A deep, fixed posture is great for training in the basic Karate Moves - but may be fatal in a fight.


  • Focus on what you are doing, not what others are doing. If someone else is doing something wrong, don't try and correct them - you might be making the same mistake. Leave the teaching to your Sensei or the Senpai (senior) in charge.

  • Remember: the secret in mastering advanced techniques is a solid foundation, master the basic techniques first.

  • Always stretch before you work.

  • Always pay attention to your stance. Low and short is best.

  • There is one rule only in karate training; never injure a training partner.

  • Remember to ki-ai (shout/yell) when told to do so - it should be strong and powerful, coming from the hara, just below the navel.

  • There are two types of punches: forward and reverse.

    • 'Forward' is punching with the 'leading side' (same side as the 'front foot');

    • 'Reverse' is punching with the 'trailing side' (opposite side as 'front foot').


  • Don't fool around - it is wasting your time and other people's time, and you may end up hurting yourself or someone else (martial arts techniques are designed to damage people, and should not be handled carelessly).

  • Don't hit anyone without permission - it is not only impolite but dangerous, as someone who is unprepared is much more likely to be injured when struck.

  • Make sure you do the best you can in practice. The simple reason for this is that if you practice at your best, in a competition or self defense, your best effort will now be second nature.

  • If you have any physical complications, consult your doctor before beginning karate classes.

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