Characteristics of Shotokan Karate

 

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CHARACTERISTICS

Shotokan training is usually divided into three parts: kihon (basics), kata (forms or patterns of moves), and kumite (sparring). Techniques in kihon and kata are characterised by deep, long stances that provide stability, enable powerful movements, and strengthen the legs.

Shotokan is regarded as a dynamic martial art as it develops anaerobic, powerful techniques as well as developing speed. Initially strength and power are demonstrated instead of slower, more flowing motions. Those who progress to brown and black belt level develop a much more fluid style that incorporates grappling, throwing and some standing joint locking jiu-jitsu-like techniques, which can be found even in basic kata. Kumite (fighting) techniques are practised in the kihon and kata and developed from basic to advanced levels with an opponent.

RANKS

Rank is used in karate to indicate experience, expertise, and to a lesser degree, seniority. As with many martial arts, Shotokan uses a system of coloured belts to indicate rank. Shotokan uses the kyū / dan system but have added other belt colours. The order of colours varies widely from school to school. Dan level belts are invariably black, with some schools using stripes to denote various ranks of black belt. Gichin Funakoshi himself never awarded a rank higher than Godan (5th Dan).

KIHON - BASISC

Kihon - basics is the practice of basic techniques in Shotokan Karate. Today most school have Kihon as part of their grading symbols. In general goes in this order for a karateka to be graded. (Kihon - Kata - Kumite) kihons are pre-arranged set of different techniques done in order forward and backward. Different school using different sets of kihon.

Also there is a Kihon Kata, or Taikyoku Shodan, which was developed by Yoshitaka Funakoshi, the son of Gichin Funakoshi, as a basic introduction to karate kata. The kata consists of successive restatements of the theme of gedan barai - oi tsuki.

KATA   -  FORMS  and  BUNKAI  -  The application of the forms.

  Kata is often described as a set sequence of karate moves organised into a pre-arranged fight against imaginary opponents. The kata consists of kicks, punches, sweeps, strikes and blocks. Body movement in various kata includes stepping, twisting, turning, dropping to the ground, and jumping. In Shotokan, kata is a performance or a demonstration, with every technique potentially a killing blow (ikken hisatsu)—while paying particular attention to form and timing (rhythm).
As the karateka grows older, more emphasis is placed on the health benefits of practicing kata, promoting fitness while keeping the body soft, supple, and agile.
Several Shotokan groups have introduced kata from other styles into their training.

KUMITE - SPARRING

Kumite, or sparring (lit. Meeting of hands), is the practical application of kihon and kata to real opponents.

The formalities of kumite in Shotokan karate were first instituted by Masatoshi Nakayama wherein basic, intermediate, and advanced sparring techniques and rules were formalised. Shotokan practitioners first learn how to apply the techniques taught in kata to hypothetical opponents by way of kata bunkai.

Kata > bunkai then matures into controlled > kumite.

Kumite is the third part of the Shotokan triumvirate of kihon, kata and kumite. Kumite Is taught in ever increasing complexity from beginner through low grade to  black belt (1st - 2nd) to intermediate (3rd - 4th) and advanced (5th onwards) level practitioners.

Beginners first learn kumite through basic drills, of one - kihon ippon kumite three - kihon sanbon kumite or five - kihon gohon kumite attacks to the head (jodan) or body (chudan) with the defender stepping backwards whilst blocking and only countering on the last defence. These drills use basic (kihon) techniques and develop a sense of timing and distance in defence against a known attack.

Later the karateka learn more advanced > one-step sparring (ippon kumite).

Though there is only one step involved, rather than three or five, this exercise is more advanced because it involves a greater variety of attacks and blocks usually the defenders own choice. It also requires the defender to execute a counter-attack faster than in the earlier types of sparring. Counter-attacks may be almost anything, including strikes, grapples, and take-down manoeuvres.

The next level of kumite is > freestyle one-step sparring (jiyu ippon kumite).


This type of kumite, and its successor—free sparring, have been documented extensively by Nakayama and are expanded upon by the JKA instructor trainee program, for those clubs under the JKA.

Freestyle one-step sparring is similar to one-step sparring but requires the karateka to be in motion. Practicing one-step sparring improves free sparring (jiyu kumite) skills, and also provides an opportunity for practicing major counter-attacks (as opposed to minor counter-attacks). Ohshima states that freestyle one-step sparring is the most realistic practice in Shotokan Karate, and that it is more realistic than free sparring.

> Free sparring or freestyle (jiyu kumite) is the last element of sparring learned.

In this exercise, two training partners are free to use any karate technique or combination of attacks, and the defender at any given moment is free to avoid, block, counter, or attack with any karate technique.

Training partners are encouraged to make controlled and focused contact with their opponent, but to withdraw their attack as soon as surface contact has been made.

This allows attacking a full range of target areas (including punches and kicks to the face, head, throat, and body) with no padding or protective gloves, but maintains a degree of safety for the participants.

Throwing one's partner and  performing takedowns, grappling or ground-wrestling,  are permitted in free sparring, but it is unusual done with control. Shotokan karateka are encouraged to end an encounter with a single attack (ippon), avoiding extended periods of conflict, or unnecessary contact in situations where there may be more than one attacker.

 

In dojo
Kumite within the dojo often differs from competition kumite. In dojo kumite any and all techniques, within reason, are valid; punches, knife hand strikes, headbutt, locks, takedowns, kicks, etc. In competition certain regulations apply, certain techniques are valid, and certain target areas, such as the joints or throat, are forbidden.


In competition (karate as sport)
The purpose of competition is to score points through the application of kumite principles while creating an exciting and competitive atmosphere,

whereas the purpose of training kumite in the dojo is to be prepared to kill or cripple an opponent in a realistic situation.

 

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