Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What is shotokan karate

Keinosuke Enoeda sensei (the tiger of shotokan) 9th dan JKA shotokan karate

Shotokan Karate the combat art

These are my personal thoughts on shotokan karate.

Shotokan karate is a combat art that is very rich in fundamental principles and techniques, the under lying basic principles within shotokan can be found in most other striking and grappling martial arts in one form or another.

When trained to its full potential shotokan is a complete system incorporating striking and stand up grappling into its arsenal of unique power house self defence techniques that are found in its syllabus.

Shotokan can be two arts in one (striking & grappling) if you know what your looking for, and the beauty about this is you dont have to learn anything knew, well intially you dont have to learn new movements but applications is another story.

The normal route is to learn striking first and then explore the grappling elements which are in the art of shotokan karate-do. 

Shotokan is a systematic art and the majority of the techniques fall in line with modern day physics, physiology and bio mechanics of the human body, a simple art to learn the basics of the system can take up to three months to cover, but a life time to perfect.

Shotokan is an explosive dynamic in your face art that is full of linear and angular techniques by hand or foot that also includes elbows, knees and most parts of the body for striking.

Shotokan karate-do training utilizes the full potential of your body's capabilities through proper bio mechanics in relation to power speed, efficiency, balance and more.

The characteristics of shotokan are found in the basics (kihon) of the system where long deep training stances for leg strength coupled with the fundamental principles of physics and bio mechanics produce unique powerhouse techniques that are peculiar to shotokan.

These kihon techniques are drilled time and again to strengthen the body and ingrain them into muscle memory.

Whether your young or old shotokan is a great way to keep yourself fit and healthy and when trained in the right manner and attitude it's also a very effective self defense system for your personal protection or your loved ones.

Shotokan has three distinct and separate training methods within it along with conditioning exercises of the hands, feet & body, these training methods are sometimes refered to as the holy trinity or three K's (KKK).

1. Kihon
2. Kata
3. Kumite

                     Basics in action

1. KIHON (Basics) are the foundation of the system

These are the core movements of the system everything depends on the basics, this is where the body is drilled to acclimatize muscle memory of the individual techniques, along the way strengthening muscle, bone, sinew, loins and ligaments.

Developing, harnessing and coordinating the individual body parts as one unit in the utilization of,

a. Muscle expansion, contraction and the breath
b. Fast and slow twitch muscle fibers
c. Stability, balance and movement
d. Power, execution, timing and rhythm
e. Concentration and mental focus

Sensei Sam Walker shows some applications for karate blocks

Sensei Frank Brennan shows his kihon form and how to use it.

2. KATA (detailed patterns of martial movements - mnemonics)

Each Kata is said to be one complete fighting system and each has certain traits and characteristics with different emphasis on technique, theme, strategy and tactics.

Although the actual true meaning of kata in shotokan have been lost there is nothing stopping the modern day practitioner from deciphering their own interpretation of the kata in the form of Bunkai and oyo applications, who knows maybe this was the original intention of the creators that’s why no records were left, just my thoughts.

That each and every karateka who found interest in this subject should formulate their own interpretations, since each of us has a unique body shape, size and ability, we will utilize techniques in different ways, so what works for one person will not suit the other.

Also one technique in kata can be used in a number of different ways against a variety of different attacks, i.e. one kata technique can have multiple applications against different types of attack and is not set as THE defense against THIS particular attack.

It is my belief that kata store lots of information in relation to

a. Combination of techniques
b. Different applications of the same technique, e.g. A block can be a strike.
c. Predicts reaction of opponent if technique is successful
d. Has follow up if technique is unsuccessful
e. Utilises philosophy, strategy & tactics
f. Striking, grappling & throwing techniques
g. Makes uses of angles and body shifting
h. Indicates which way you should move for applications

Kata are not meant to be used in sequential order as they are performed individually for grading or competition, each technique or combination of techniques should be isolated for certain attacks.

Overall great building blocks for your basics, and once you think you’ve found something should be tested in an alive manner to make sure it does work under pressure.

Sensei Tom Leeman shows application for first movement of Kanku dai

3. KUMITE - sparring

A systematic approach to sparring where the student is gradually introduced to new methods of applying the foundations and building blocks of kihon (basic technique), at different levels and stages of their progress, each method increasing its difficulty and aliveness and eventually leading to free sparring.

Initially the student is exposed to pre-arranged drills where they are able to attack and defend at full speed and power in relative safety, as they progress the pre-arranged drills start to become more and more free, eventually leading to jiye kumite (free sparring).

In dojo sparring 95% of the time jiye kumite (free sparring) is continuous with your opponent and there are no referees or flag men siting in the corners of the mat, when kumite begins everybody in the class is involved, you choose an opponent or may be chosen by someone and engage in continuous sparring, then after a few minutes a signal will be given to change partners and the process goes on etc etc.

Point sparring (shobu ippon kumite) as we see in competition usually only makes up about 5% of all sparring in the dojo, point sparring might be practiced more in the dojo if a competition is around the corner and contestants want/need to brush up on these skills.

JKA Karate Kumite - Japan