Karate practice is divided into three areas:
Kihon comprises basic blocks, punches, kicks and stances.
Kata are prearranged forms and movements simulating combat situations.
Kumite is sparring with an opponent.
In each category, the beginner is given instruction at the most basic level until the techniques become spontaneous.
A beginner’s technical progress in karate is accompanied by physical progress. Gradually the student becomes involved with the study of more intricate and difficult kata and more dynamic forms of kumite.
As the student approaches black belt level, technique, stamina, speed, and coordination become natural as a result of strong practice. It is at this stage that the serious student discovers that the study of karate has only just begun. The object of true karate practice is the perfection of oneself through the perfection of the art.
The ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the characters of its participants.Gichin Funakoshi
Shotokan founder, Master Gichin Funakoshi has said that “mind and technique become one in true karate.” We strive to make our physical techniques pure expressions of our mind’s intention, and to improve our mind’s focus by understanding the essence of the physical techniques. By polishing our karate practice we are polishing our own spirit or our own mentality. For example, eliminating weak and indecisive movements in our karate helps to eliminate weakness and indecision in our minds–and vice versa.
It is in this sense that karate becomes a way of life, as we try to become very strong but happy and peaceful people. Ohshima Sensei, one of Master Funakoshi’s last direct pupils and founder of Shotokan Karate of America, has said, “We must be strong enough to express our true minds to any opponent, anytime, in any circumstance. We must be calm enough to express ourselves humbly.”