What is Karate?
Karate-Do, which is the proper term, is a martial art originally developed in Okinawa. The name is made out of three terms: kara, which means empty; Te, which means hand; and Do, which means path or way. It’s translation is, therefore, “The Way of the Empty Hand”.
A very good explanation of the history of karate can be found in the following links:
What is Gōjū-ryū Karate?
As mentioned above, Karate was developed in Okinawa, but it did not happen in the same one place. Okinawa had three main cities, Shuri, Tomari and Naha, each one of them had their local fighting art/system formally known as Shuri-Te, Tomari-Te and Naha-Te.
In the first few decades of the 20th century, a number of formal organizations were founded to oversee Okinawan martial arts, and due to their influence, the word karate came to be widely accepted as a generic term for all sorts of Okinawan unarmed martial arts. With the popularity of the term Karate, the practice of naming a type of martial art after its area of origin declined. The term Naha-te is no longer in general use.
Both principles, hard and soft, come from the famous martial arts book Bubishi (Chinese: wu bei ji), used by Okinawan masters during the 19th and 20th centuries. Go which means hard, refers to closed hand techniques or straight linear attacks; Ju which means soft, refers to open hand techniques and circular movements.
Major emphasis is given to breathing correctly in all of the katas but particularly in the Sanchin kata which is at the core of this style. Gōjū-ryū practices methods that include body strengthening and conditioning, its basic approach to fighting (distance, stickiness, power generation, etc.), and partner drills. Gōjū-ryū incorporates both circular and linear movements into its curriculum. Gōjū-ryū combines hard striking attacks such as kicks and close hand punches with softer open hand circular techniques for attacking, blocking, and controlling the opponent, including locks, grappling, takedowns and throws.
The World Karate Federation recognizes these styles of karate in its kata list.
What is Karate training like?
The class is split in the following sections:
- Fundamental techniques (Kihon)
- Moving combinations (Kihon Ido)
- Sparring (Kumite)
Every other training day, a full on pad work out is also introduced instead of kumite. Pad work is an outstanding workout that gives you a real adrenaline buzz and develops strength and stamina.
Working with pads has an effect in the karateka’s frame of mind because they can apply and delivery full power in their techniques without injuring their partners or themselves, thus feeling the technique and not just learning the choreographic move.
The class always begins with a warm-up comprised mostly of stretches and loosening up. We practice basic kihon techniques. There are 13 basic techniques that need to be mastered by practising them over and over again. Repetition and consistency is the secret to success in karate (and probably every discipline).
Kihon and Kihon Ido include blocks (uke), strikes (uchis), punches (tsukis) and kicks (keris) techniques. Kihon also works the stances (dachis). Without a solid, balanced and stabled stance is impossible to deliver properly any technique.
Controlled Goju-style kumite is necessary to learn how to apply the kihon techniques to bring some realism to training. There are different kind of kumites and depending on the level of the karateka, one or another will be practised.
At the end of each class, one or two katas are practised three or four times, depending on the level of the class.
What do I need to start?
In short: loose clothes.
We usually wear the popular white “pyjamas” called a kimono or gi.
Personal hygiene is very important and you must keep your fingernails short (scratching is not part of the syllabus) and keep long hair tied up. Keep your body and your clothes clean, and take any jewellery off before the class starts.
Is there a beginners course?
We keep the Friday classes focussed on basics, so those are especially suitable if you’re just starting.
But actually, since karate is also practised in pairs and everyone adjusts the level and pace of their training depending on the ability of their partner, beginners can just fit in with any normal class. Fernando modifies every class depending on who’s there anyway.
How much does it cost?
The first class is always free. After that, these are the rates are £7.50 per session.
If you join our club, you must have an insurance in place, which the instructor will sort out for you:
- Membership fees + annual insurance premium @ £40 per year
These annual insurances will be provide you with affiliation to the Surrey Karate Academy, the Traditional Karate Federation.
I don’t make a living out of Karate and I teach because I have a passion for karate. The fees are used to pay the premises’ rental, the compulsory insurances and contributes towards the instructor’s own karate studies to guarantee the highest teaching standards.
How do I join?
After a couple of classes, if you want to keep training with us you must join the club to become a member for which you need to fill our SKA form. The instructor will fill in the T.K.F membership for you.
What’s this about insurance?
The SKA requires that everyone practising karate must be covered with third-party insurance (it protects you if you accidentally injure someone else), which the Instructor administers. The premium for this is automatically included in your annual membership when you join the Club. The T.K.F also oversees coaching certification and instructors’ insurance.
Do I need to be fit? Will I get hurt?
Like with any other sport or physical activity, being fit is always a benefit but if you are particularly out of shape don’t worry because you WILL get fit with regular training. Moreover, you will get very fit. If you have any doubts about your ability to do physical exercise, consult your doctor first.
Karate techniques are potentially dangerous, but the system of etiquette, and the cooperative nature of practice are all designed to minimise the risk of injury.
Having said that, practicing karate can sometimes hurt a little since there is a degree of and controlled contact, and this is specially true with kids. A level of contact is essential if you are to build a mental resistance to being hit. You soon learn that being hit is an inconvenience and not an injury and you can, therefore, carry on.
The cruel reality if that out in the street, an attacker will want to hit you and if he or she manages to do it, you need to be able to react to it appropriately and not freeze in panic.
Karate training works the mind as much as it works the body.
Will I learn to defend myself?
Without a shade of a doubt! Ultimately, karate is a martial art and if you become competent at it then you may be able to defend yourself from an opportunist attacker. But most people who’ve practiced for any significant time will tell you that the confidence and body conditioning that arise from practice are the most practical benefits.
The fact is that there is no universal method of fast, effective self defence, but if you want to be able to defend yourself karate will most definitely help. Karate-Do (note that I am using Do now) has an intrinsic contradiction in its philosophy: on the one hand it does teach you how to fight, and on the other hand it always seeks to avoid the fight before it happens. In other words, you learn to fight to avoid the fight.
The self-defence nature of karate is captured in all the katas since the first move is always a defensive move, whether a block or tai sabaki (body evasion).
Does Karate use weapons?
In short, no. Karate, as the terms says is the “way of the empty hand” and teaches how to use your own body (hands, feet, knees, elbows, fingers, wrists and palms) as a weapon.
Having said that, there is a practice of karate with weapons, which is known as Kobudo, and more linked to Shito-Ryu karate due to Mabuni, founder of Shito-Ryu, being a kobudo practitioner himself.
How do the grades work? How long until I get a black belt?
That really depends on how regular your training is, but someone training consistently 3-4 days per week usually takes around four to five years before they are ready to take their black belt grading; many people wait longer than that.
Students before being a black belt are going down in the Kyu grading, starting at 9th Kyu (white belt) all the way down to 1st Kyu, (brown with a black stripe belt). Once the black belt is achieved, you are a 1st Dan. You will need to wait 2 years after you got your 1st Dan before attempting a 2nd Dan grading, you then need to wait three years after you got your 2nd Dan before attempting a 3rd Dan grading and so on. A 7th Dan karateka has been training for at least 5 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 = 32 years assuming he or she passed every grading in their first attempt.
It comes down to you. The reality is that karate-Do is for life…
How do I contact you?
You can contact sensei Fernando, the instructor, by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or alternatively call him at 07834 40 9642.