Karate is one of the World’s most popular martial arts. Modern day Karate was developed in Okinawa, a small Island off Japan. Karate is a highly effective system of self-defence, and also an excellent form of exercise that promotes a number of life skills and values.
Karate practise is generally divided up into three components: Kihon (basics), Kata (forms) and Kumite (sparring).
Kihon (basics) covers various strikes, blocks, kicks, stances and movements one might need to use in self-defence. Students practise these in lines each class so that the techniques are refined and become instinctive.
Kihon, or basic practise, allows students to develop an understanding of their body and how it can be used as most effectively as a weapon, for example, how to generate maximum power with minimum effort.
Kata (forms) is often referred to as the ‘art form’ of karate. Each kata (form) is a traditional predetermined pattern of movements that promotes a number of self-defence principles. Kata practise also develops coordination, balance, agility, strength and speed.
Kumite (sparring) is where techniques and principles learnt in Kihon (basics) and Kata (forms) are applied against an opponent. Kumite can vary greatly, depending on the student’s level of experience. For example, beginners only practise pre-arranged kumite. This is where both the attacker and defender know exactly which techniques will be used and when. They do this in a slow and controlled environment.
As students develop in ability and confidence, they may choose to move onto free kumite. This is where students wear protective equipment and spar in an environment where techniques are exchanged freely.
Karate has a coloured belt (or ranking) system allowing students to set goals and measure their progress. As they progress and develop in both physical and technical ability, each component becomes more advanced, giving them a new challenge and skill to develop take on.
As the student approaches their black belt, their technique, speed, coordination and stamina all become natural as a result of strong practice. It is at this stage that the serious student discovers that his or her study of karate has only just begun. The object of true karate practice is the perfection of oneself through the perfection of the art.
Karate As A Form Of Self-Defence
As a self-defence system, karate does not so much teach a set of standard responses to a set of limited scenarios, but rather it teaches a set of principles that can be applied to any situation.
Unlike many martial arts, the size and strength of a karate practitioner is unimportant as students are taught to use their entire body when delivering strikes. Furthermore, students are trained to deliver sharp blows with various weapons of the body towards pressure-sensitive areas of an opponent.
While karate teaches a person combat skills, karate does not promote aggression. Instead it promotes awareness to avoid conflict. Combat should only be used as a last resort.
Health Benefits Of Karate
As a health and fitness activity, karate tones and shapes the body, increases aerobic stamina, improves muscular strength and flexibility, enhances balance, agility and co-ordination and quickens the reflexes.
Karate also improves our mental health. As it challenges the brain, it improves focus and concentration. It also develops a person’s composure and provides a deeper insight into one’s mental capabilities.
One of the advantages of karate is that students may train at their own pace so even those who have not exercised in some time can start learning and gaining from the benefits of karate.
Karate As A Way of Life
Karate promotes a number of values to live by, including integrity, respect, courtesy, humility, loyalty and compassion.
Karate is an individual sport. Therefore the focus is not to compete against another person or team, but rather to compete against one’s self. This ‘self focus’ accompanied with continual improvement develops self-esteem and self-confidence amongst those who practice it.
Karate also promotes self-discipline, goal setting and leadership. People who study karate can attain a high level of commitment and dedication to any chosen endeavor simply because of the skills and habits they develop.