Shotokan Karate - Training
‘Shoto’ (shotokan) is representative of pine needles moving in the wind. ‘Kan’ is symbolic of a house. This is how the name of the style Shotokan came about. 'Karateka (student of karate) learn the art of transferring whole body energy into a limb ready to strike. This energy is then transferred to the intended target. Before doing this, a student needs to develop perfect stance, breathing and timing.'
The three core elements of Shotokan Karate Training are kihon (fundamentals), kata (patterns) and kumite (sparring). The student also develops strong long stances. This strengthening of the legs provides stability and balance during fights. The student practices an external or ‘hard’ martial style. The senior students and black belts develop more fluid and flowing style.
Kata are a stepwise sequence of techniques or movements. It can be said that the movements are directed against imaginary opponents or enemies. These can include stepping, jumping, stances and turning/twisting. The techniques are kicks, punches, blocks, throws and sweeps. The most important focus of kata is the perfection of technique and timing. Over the years variations of the original kata have developed but originally 27 kata were described by Nakayama and followed by the Japanese Karate Association (JKA). Nakayama was from Yamaguchi and it is he who founded the JKA. He had trained under Gichin Funakoshi and his son Gigo. He introduced kata and kumite as tournament material. After his death, the JKA split into Japan Shotokan Karate Association.
Kumite allows the students to use practical applications of kata. The first stage is kata bunkai (theoretical opponents). This then progresses to free kumite. Beginners first learn kumite by repeatedly stepping back and blocking. A punch is then released as part of a counter-attack. This exercise allows for development of distance judgement. As the student progresses they move onto ippon kumite (one-step sparring). This promotes the use of a variety of attacks and improvement in defence. The next step is jiyon ippon kumite (freestyle one step) and then eventually Jiyu kumite (free sparring). Self-control is required and it is expected that techniques are pulled/ withdrawn following light contact. Kumite training within the dojo is different to competition.
Shotokan training - techniques
Techniques make use of the whole body. The bony areas are formidable weapons. In order to use these correctly, the student needs good form. Acheiving this requires various components. The first is having a good attitude. The mental state should be uninterested in ego or exerting power, however qualities such as self-control and concentration are desirable. The next component is determination and perseverence to master a technique. In this way, power and speed can be developed. Timing and distance during execution of techniques are key skills. Zanshin is the final component and this means having a total awareness so that the student is not caught out by a counter-attack. Makiwara (padded boards) allow students to develop power from kicks and punches. They also help to toughen the contact points. Children must exercise caution during impact training so as not to affect their bone growth.