Rochford Shotokan Training : Kihon Basics

Kihon is the practice of fundamental, or basic, techniques: blocking, punching, striking, and kicking. These techniques are the beginning and the end of karate, since while a student may learn them in a matter of months, he or she must work to completely master them during a lifetime of training. In other words, basic techniques demand regular practice, applied with as much concentration and effort as possible.

According to the late Sensei Masatoshi Nakayama, kihon must be practiced with the following in mind:

Balance and stability are necessary to basic techniques.
Karate movements involve shifting the body's center of gravity, which demands good balance and control of the body. Kicking -- in which one leg supports the entire body -- is an example of technique that depends on a highly developed sense of balance.
In addition, karate practitioners (karateka) require stable joints, stances, and posture to deliver (or withstand) maximum impact in (or from) a blow.

Power and speed
Power is not simply a matter of muscular strength : power must be maximised by developing the ability to concentrate maximum force at the point of attack (or block). This is called kime.
In addition, power is directly related to the speed of techniques, but this needs proper control to be effective.

Concentration and relaxation of power
Maximum power cannot be achieved if punches rely on the arm's muscles alone, or kicks on the leg's muscles alone. The greatest level of power comes from concentrating all of the body's strength, from every part of the body, on the target.
In addition, power must be generated efficiently, using power when and where it is needed. Maximum power is required only at the point of impact.
Until then, the karateka should stay relaxed, since by tensing the wrong parts of the body or tensing at the wrong time, the power of the technique is diminished.
However, despite being relaxed, the karateka should stay mentally alert.

Strengthening muscle power
The principles of kihon must be reinforced by the development of strong, elastic muscles, and this demands constant, dedicated training. It also requires the knowledge of which muscles to use in techniques: well-trained muscles will lead to strong and effective karate.

Rhythm and timing
Karate has its own rhythm : no technique takes place in isolation; in combining basic techniques, the karateka should pay attention to timing as well as the techniques themselves.
A master karateka's movements not only contain a great deal of power but also rhythm and, in their own way, beauty. A sense of rhythm and timing will help the karateka understand the techniques and the art in general.

The hips are a crucial, yet often neglected component in executing karate techniques. Hip rotation adds power to the upper body, and is thus essential to strong blocks and punches.
The hips' proximity to the body's center of gravity make them the foundation of strong, stable movements, good balance, and proper form. The karateka cannot move as smoothly, quickly, or powerfully if the hips are passive : for this reason, teachers often remind their students to 'block with your hips,' 'punch with your hips,' and 'kick from your hips.'

Breathing must be coordinated with techniques. Breathing enhances the ability to relax and concentrate maximum power.
Correct breathing -- fully exhaling when finishing a strike, for example -- is necessary to develop kime. Yet breathing should not be in a uniform manner : it should change with the situation. Proper inhaling fills the lungs completely.
Proper exhaling leaves the lungs about 20 percent full -- exhaling completely makes the body limp, leaving the karateka vulnerable to even a weak attack.

Kihon - summary
The above points give a summary of the major points which must be considered, absorbed and developed during karate training. Karate demands -- and develops -- a high level of commitment, and in the study and practice of kihon, the student will attain high levels of fitness, motivation and self-discipline.
Copyright 2009 Rochfords Shotokan Karate Club