Karate is the ultimate in unarmed self-defense. It is designed to disable with one move; it has techniques against all forms of attack and has been developed through centuries of harsh experience. Most importantly, it trains the mental and emotional skills of combat, as well as the physical. Strength and size are not important in Karate – it can be performed well with whatever strength you have, by relying on technique, speed and co-ordination. Karate teaches you how to avoid possible confrontations – it is far better to de-fuse or to avoid a dangerous situation than to confront it.
Karate consists of three aspects: Kata, Kihon (basics) and Kumite (sparring). Kihon involves the systematic training of various blocks, strikes, punches and kicks. Kumite is the application of the techniques learned in Kihon. The sparring is all pre-determined and is non-contact, being carried out with great control.
Kata are formal exercises consisting of pre-determined defensive and offensive movements, performed in a sequence. They are performed by oneself against a series of imaginary attacks by several opponents. The secrets of Karate are hidden in these beautiful compositions of lethal movement. They are the means by which the fundamental techniques of Karate are transferred to each generation. There are 27 kata in Shotokan – a new kata or series of kata are learnt after each grading.
Karate is for everyone – men, women and children; old or young; fit or not. Every girl or women should know what to do if attacked. Women in the lesson get the same training as the men. Children can benefit from the self-discipline, and the skills acquired will improve their self-confidence and character. The training is non-competitive. Older people have gained their black belts after 60 and have practiced the art into their 80’s. Older students receive the same training as younger people, although naturally the instructor will not demand the same level of endurance. Everyone’s training is with oneself – the instructor only expects the best that you can achieve; there is no competition with anyone else in the lesson. You can adjust your training to suit your own stamina and abilities, but the harder you train the more you will benefit.
Karate is one of the most balanced and complete ways of keeping in good physical condition. Karate incorporates the use of the entire body in which legs, hips, spine, shoulders and arms are co-ordinated to develop balance, flexibility, poise, speed, strength and stamina. No other form of training uses as many parts of the body to such an extent. Karate is not seasonal and so one’s condition can be maintained throughout the year. Other forms of training, where exercise for the sake of exercise is done, become a chore after the first enthusiasm passes and are invariably dropped. However, Karate becomes more interesting and rewarding as you progress, without any limit. Even after decades of training, students will still be learning and improving their techniques – this is very rare in any sport.
Karate is a means of developing friendship. At its best it is also a means of gaining self-understanding and self-confidence. It is an art form through which one can express individuality. Karate is also a bridge to other cultures and times, and it establishes a contact with one’s mind and body that is rare in Western education. The true rewards lie in the improvement of mind, body and character. Without this threefold development, mastery of the techniques will be impossible. Great personal effort and mental concentration are needed to learn Karate, but the rewards are enormous.