“The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants.”
船越 義珍 Gichin Funakoshi, November 10, 1868 – April 26, 1957
Kihon is the corner stone of karate. True technique is the foundation of application, and without it, the karate practitioner will never progress. In kihon, we first learn correct stances, blocks, kicks and punches, as well as how to warm up the body to prepare it for training. Whilst kihon is translated as “basic technique”, kihon can include all the elements of karate, from a punch to a single-finger strike. The “basic” element refers to the fact that in kihon the practitioner concerns themselves more with the correctness of the technique, than with engaging an opponent.
Kumite is the element of karate that pits one practitioner against the other – it is what most people think of when they think of karate – fighting.
However, there are many types of kumite, from the most basic “five attack” sparring where both protagonists execute set moves to jiyu-kumite or “free sparring”.
In kumite, we learn not only about movement and timing, but about maia – the “fighting distance”. Some techniques work better at long range, whilst others will be more effective at close range. Kumite teaches us to react to the situation with the appropriate technique without labouring the thought process. If you have to think about what technique to apply, it will take too long!
Kata is the preset sequence of moves against imaginary opponents. It is in kata that the practitioner starts to consider how they may apply their kihon against a foe. There are over 25 katas practiced widely within Shotokan karate, and these can be split – very broadly – into beginner’s katas and master katas. That is not to say that practitioners who execute master katas are “masters”. Indeed, one can never truely master a kata, only practice it, but the distinction is used widely within Shotokan associations, and so it is made here.
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