What Is Karate?

There are 3 main disciplines in karate: Kihon, Kata, and Kumite. "Kihon" is the practicing of the basic punching, striking, blocking and kicking techniques which all karate students from beginners to experts must master in order to make their karate effective. This exercise involves repeating the various techniques and stances, which not only enables the student to learn the various techniques but also to use proper breathing and muscular control which allows the student to attain the maximum power from each technique.

"Kata" is a formal excercise consisting of systematically organized series of techniques performed in a set sequence. They include all the various attack and defence techniques. There are many different kata, each becoming more complex than the last, and most are based on the imagined attack of 4 to 8 enemies. Some kata are very simple, while others are extremely complicated, some require fast agile movement while others depend on muscular or breath control.

"Kumite" means sparring, and is a way of practicing karate against an actual opponent. It was not until the 1920s, under the leadership of Gichin Funakoshi, that a system of elementary sparring was devised, which eventually developed into the present day free-style sparring which is used in tournament fighting. For beginners, sparring is a basic exercise consisting of a pre-arranged set of attacking and defending moves and as a student gains experience the set of pre-arranged moves becomes more complex, eventually leading to free-style sparring, for which pads and gum-sheilds are worn. Sparring is carried out under strict supervision, and the fundamental priciples of control and respect are observed at all times.