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In the meantime, you might be interested in this short module of karate essentials for beginners!

Karate is an ancient martial art built around self defense that originates from Japan. Karate has many styles and AAMA practices a style called Shito Ryu. This Karate Essentials module will help you begin to understand and practice karate by teaching terms and basic techniques we use in the dojo. It is an insight into what you will do when you first come to training.

Understanding different styles of karate
Karate has its roots in China, but was largely developed in Okinawa, Japan in the 1600’s as a method for self-defence due to weapons being outlawed. Karate can be translated to “empty hand.” There are many styles of karate from traditional, to modern, western styles known usually as American Freestyle Karate, and Full-Contact Karate (Sport Karate), but many of the basic techniques are the same.

The style of karate that we practice at AAMA is called Shito Ryu.

AAMA was founded in the 1970s and our history is documented further on our website.

Understanding the elements of karate
Training in karate generally involves four aspects, or fundamentals. These fundamentals are the different forms of movements that make up combinations and techniques practiced in karate.

  • Kihon (Basic techniques)
  • Kata (Form or pattern)
  • Bunkai (Study of techniques encoded in kata or "kata application")
  • Kumite (Free sparring).
Understanding how karate is different to other martial arts
People often confuse different styles of martial arts, and interchange the names of these martial arts. It can be easy to confuse karate with other martial arts, especially because so many arts employ similar techniques.

  • Karate focuses on striking moves with and on open-handed techniques. Karate combinations involve the use of punches, kicking, knee, and elbow strikes.
  • Other martial arts involve different fighting techniques and the use of weapons. Aikido focuses on evasion, joint locks, joint breaks, throws and controls. Judo focuses on throws and some grappling while taking your opponent to the ground. Kung Fu is a Chinese martial art which has various styles that are inspired by animal movements, or by Chinese philosophies, and work to improve muscle and cardiovascular fitness.
  • While several martial arts use a ranking system depicted by a belt or sash, karate has a specific system of colored belts. White represents the beginner with black representing an advanced level.
Understanding kihon

Kihon translates to “basic techniques”, and is the foundation on which karate is built. In kihon, you learn the karate way of punching, blocking, kicking and movement.

At every training session there will be a component of the lesson dedicated to kihon. Whilst it may seem repetitive at times, these blocks, punches, and kicks are vital to being able to perform karate proficiently. The basics include blocks, strikes, kicks, and different stances. Once you have started training with AAMA, you will practice these basic techniques repeatedly so they become ingrained in the body and mind.

Kihon | Fist formation and punches
The correct fist formation is essential at all times to avoid injury. Sensei demonstrates how to form the perfect fist in the video below.

Karate punches use a straight punch technique with a twist of the wrist at the end near the point of impact.

  • Always hit with your first two knuckles, and make sure that your elbow is not locked, because you may 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, your punch will be stronger and sharper.
  • Incorporate a kiai. Kiai is broken down into Ki, meaning energy, and Ai, meaning join. It is the sound you often hear when someone makes an attacking movement such as a punch. The purpose of kiai to release your stored energy, creating a greater impact on your attack

Kihon | Zenkutsu dachi (stance) with blocks
There are a range of stances commonly used in karate. This page lists the majority of the stances.

In the video below, Sensei will take you through the basics of a training stance called zenkutsu dachi, and then shows you how to use these stances with a number of different blocks. Zenkutsu dachi with gedan barai (downward block) is a common 'ready position' in karate.

Kihon | Oi-tsuki and gyaku tsuki
There are two basic (and most frequently used) types of attacks used in karate. In the video below, Sensei will take you through the basics of:

  • Oi-tsuki - also referred to as lunge punch
  • Gyaku tsuki - also referred to as reverse punch

Kihon | Blocks
Because karate is used primarily as self defence and not offence, there are a number of basic blocking techniques that you will learn in order to defend yourself in any situation. You will notice many techniques may be preceded by the words jodan, chudan or gedan. These terms denote the region of the body.

  • Jodan (top)
  • Shudan (middle)
  • Gedan (lower)

In the video below, Sensei will take you through a number of basic blocks:

  • Soto uke
  • Uchi uke (smashing block)
  • Age uke (rising block)
  • Gedan barai (downward or sweeping block.

Kihon | Kicks
Though karate means “open hand” and is primarily used as self defense, kicks are used for a number of reasons like keeping distance between you and your attacker, or as alternative option when your upper body may be unable to perform a move due to having to block or deflect an attack.

In the video below, Sensei will take you through two kicks:

  • Shomen geri
  • Mae geri

Kata translates to “forms” and builds upon the basic techniques you learn in kihon. With 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 and practice against imaginary opponents.

Kata is a way for teachers to pass along knowledge of techniques used in karate. As a student, you will learn to perform a series of blocks, strikes, and kicks together with kata. In the video below, Sensei will take you through one of the basic kata learnt by all beginner students - Sonoba Shiho Waza.

Etiquette and protocol

Karate is not only about the physical - the discipline of karate improves the mind, body and spirit. More indepth information is available on our protocol and etiquette page, but the video below demonstrates just one aspect - that of the ceremony which is conducted at the beginning and end of each class.