What to look for and how to prepare yourself, so you can confidently walk into a karate school and not only know what to expect, but know what to do!
People have practiced martial arts for thousands of years. There are many reasons why people practice martial arts and the reasons have changed and evolved over the years.
In times of war, it was the fighting skills learned from karate that were the main reason to train, in times of peace, health and character development took precedence and now we have the competition side of karate, which is huge!
Master Gichin Funakoshi, who was the founder of Shotokan karate, believed the development of character was the most important part of the martial arts. He believed and passed on the philosophy of, no first attack in karate.
It seems modern day martial arts go into one, or a combination of four directions,
3.Health and character development.
The self defense aspect of karate is plain to see, but if the karateka (someone who practices karate), doesn't train with the correct attitude, it doesn't matter how many moves they learn, or for how long they train, they WILL be ineffective in a street situation.
The physical gains seen by practicing karate are obvious.
Karate is very anaerobic, short explosive bursts. Many sensei (karate teacher), will advise their students to compliment their karate with aerobic exercises such as, running, cycling, swimming, or even walking. A lot of karate dojo (training hall), have the philosophy that you should not practice karate for fitness, instead, you should be fit to practice karate! This is a very confusing philosophy for someone new to karate, but as time goes by, the karateka will understand this philosophy.
Master Gichin Funakoshi said, ' karate begins and ends with respect'
Respect, discipline, courtesy, effort, dedication, humility, achievement, perseverance, etc, etc, all these positive human attributes are encouraged and taught in most karate schools.
Competition arenas are a great place to test your karate skill without causing injury to yourself, or others. Important areas of karate are tested in competition (shiai), speed, timing, distance, balance, spirit, reactions, etc, etc.
Some karateka do not agree with competition, they believe if someone has a bad character, competition can only make things worse, some karateka will show disrespect to their opponents, instructors and referees, but I believe this to be very rare and the majority of karateka at competition show respect and humility whether they win or lose.
Chose The Right Karate Dojo For You!
It's important to know what you want from karate, if it's self defence, you will need to find a karate school that place emphasise on street self defence training. If it's fitness, you may not want sparring or kata (forms), but lots of stamina training. For competition training you need to find a dojo that concentrate on the competition side of karate. If you are looking for health and character development, it may be a karate dojo that practice kata (forms), kihon (basic karate moves) and kumite (sparring), a majority of the time. The majority of karate schools practice a mixture of the above areas, but check before you start training and be sure it's what you're looking for.
Karate's Three K's
Kata (forms). The best way to describe kata, is a sequence of karate strikes, blocks, kicks and manoeuvres, put together to form a pattern, similar to a gymnastic floor display with emphasise during the kata being placed on technique, fighting spirit, relaxation, speed and power.
Kumite (sparring). Where two karateka partner each other and attack and defend against eachother, karate kumite starts with very basic moves, eg. Attacker steps in with a single punch and the defender blocks with a single block and counter strike. Over time the karate sparring develops into free sparring, where anything goes.
Many karate dojo teach the philosophy of, 'Ikken Hisatsu' or to 'finish with one blow'.
Kihon (basics). Practice of the basic strikes, blocks, kicks and stances is a fundamental part of karate training, whether it's competition, self defense or regular training, the karate techniques need to be practiced until they become second nature and when needed, just happen as opposed to consciously thinking about which move to use.