Shotokan is a Japanese style of martial arts. Because it is more straightforward and offense-oriented, it is considered a "hard" style. It is a physically demanding art, but athletic prowess is not a requirement to begin: male or female, young or old, only determination and a willingness to try are needed.
New students will be taught the basics, starting with warm-up and stretching exercises to avoid injuries, then the mechanics of blocks and punches. Once a certain number of basics are learned, students begin putting them together in pre-arranged combinations called kata (forms).
The katas progress in length and intensity as students become better at combining the moves. Students then begin to apply this knowledge by participating in controlled exchanged punches, kicks and blocks until they are ready for free-sparring (fighting). This protects the students until they learn the elements of timing, rhythm, focus and control. It is possible to achieve such a level of proficiency that one could knock down an attacker with one punch or kick.
Although martial arts is an excellent way of working off everyday tensions and stress, self-defense is the main reason most people take it up. Self-defense is a combination of physical training and repetition of coordinated moves that is designed to stop or repel an attack. Constant training develops awareness as well, allowing the person to recognize dangerous situations in time to avoid them.
Major Components of Shotokan Karate Training
- Kihon (basic training): This is extremely important for the beginner and puts emphasis stances, breathing, basic blocks, hand techniques and kicks. Although stressed for the beginner, a karateka must practice kihon as regularly as any other part of his or her training.
- Kata (forms): This is the pre-arranged defense against multiple attackers. Kata is the core of all karate and enables the practitioner to fully grasp the meaning of kihon, breathing, concentration, balance, co-ordination and focus. One who practices precise kata will excel in other aspects of karate-do. There are twenty-six kata in the Shotokan system.
- Basic Sparring: The goals of sparring training are to learn to apply the fundamental stances and techniques against attacks and defenses of an opponent. There exist five step or or one step attack drills. For best results and complete safety, the attack and defense techniques are known in advance as well as which is the offense/defense side.
- Kumite (free sparring): Kumite is controlled sparring and the participants are governed by certain rules and etiquette. This is the most athletic aspect of karate training. The emphasis is on proper technique and control, and not on harming the partner (not "opponent").
- Self-defense: This is one of the most attractive aspects of martial arts to those who do not know much about the arts. In Shotokan you can learn how to subdue an opponent consistent with the attack. There are takedowns, breaks, grips, throws, locks, holds and numerous other defenses learned individually or in a series called Kobo. These can be enjoyable to learn and like most of karate-do can be learned by people of almost any age.
- Teaching: Learning to teach is a keystone to any martial arts training, especially at a club where students typically are only there for four years. Teaching allows one to learn how to identify the many errors that beginners make in their practice, and in so doing eliminate those errors from their own techniques. It also means that in addition to the high level of instruction offered by Sensei Tabata, our group has instructors close in age and life experience to the rest of the class, making them excellent, easy to talk to sources for information or extra help.