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What are the fundamentals of karate?

I think this should be an easy question, but I'm not sure many people have a ready answer.

If someone asked me what the fundamentals of marksmanship are, I could reply without hesitation "breath control, trigger control, sight alignment and sight picture." These fundamentals, for the most part, apply to many projectile weapons, and they apply whether an enemy is five meters away or five hundred meters.

If someone however asked me what were the fundamentals of karate I would probably hesitate. I might say "Well there's punching, blocking and kicking." But after a few more moments of thought, I would think that this wouldn't apply either. When I studied at a karate school, kihon would be the answer, the basic blocks, kicks and punches, but I don't study at a school anymore. I practice one kata and I think of the kata as the fundamental priciples of its fighting system. But I would think a little more and decided that I couldn't use my kata as an example, because my kata does not encompass the whole of karate.

The thought of this bothered me. I wasn't worried about someone asking me, I was worried because I didn't have an answer.

My ideas so far are breathing and moving to foster power and advantage.

I feel that it is as fundamental as I can personally get it. I figure if you can't breath then most any techniques will be ineffective and if you can't move to generate power or move to get advantage then most any technique won't work either, it will either be too weak, or you won't be in the correct position to use the technique.

These are my ideas.

What would you name as the fundamentals of your karate training?

John's picture

Marc MacYoung talks about this it;s very interesting (along with a lot of stuff on his site):


gazrichards's picture

I knowi it's not really an answer to your question but doesn't the term "Kihon" translate to fundamental?

Holgersen (not verified)
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Yeah, I know. I just use the terms interchangebly. I really like a lot of MacYoungs views on stuff.

By the way, I'm not asking for advice. I was trying to start a conversation. You know swap ideas and grow and that kind of stuff. I can look up definitions on my own time. I don't need to waste yours to do that.

ky0han's picture

Hi everyone,

e wrote:
What are the fundamentals of karate?

Well for me this is Kata. The teacher uses Kata to teach his students: o How to move efficient (when to use what muscles, when to relax) o How to use the bodyweight and the right momentum to generate power o How to breath o How you can utilize the different directions for evasive maneuvers o How to develop the correct bodymechanics for an optimum ratio of stability vs. mobility o At what angle you have to be in order to be effective and as save as it can be in a struggle o The combative prinicples on the basis of the techniques in the Kata as examples representing said principles

It is also a perfect tool for developing a certain level of fitness, a tool for visualizing certain combative scenarios and when you have your teachers instructions and your goals in mind you can work alone for yourself.

When have a first glance of those fundamentals you can start working with a partner. Now you can work on important concepts like Maai (distance and timing), Kiai (intention) and Riai (adaptation).

Regards Holger

gazrichards's picture

I added my comment to suggest that what many of us call basic technique training or Kihon could actually be the fundamental aspect of karate you were asking for. 

If you read kyohans response I think that if you change the word kata and replace with basics or even sparring you will get the same answers. It's a very difficult thing to quantify and is an interesting debate. 

Personally I don't know the answer and I'm still unsure of my own theory but I'm leaning towards saying kata and bunkai and I teach a very kata based syllabus. 

Ps. My original comment above was also partly for my own benefit. I was brought up through the karate grades being told by instructors that Kihon meant "basics" as in basic techniques. It's only a few years back after doing my own research I discovered the meaning of the word could have slightly different connotations. 

DaveB's picture

Ultimately I think this has to be a question to the individual, about each persons art, rather than a whole system, or as is the case with karate, a collection of different systems. 

By my understanding, what makes karate is the conservation of balance and stability while generating maximum power using as much of the body as is advantageous. Everything else that comes to mind is secondary or generic to martial arts. 

Of course this is only looking at the mechanical principles, and only for my non traditional Shotokan base. 

Holgersen (not verified)
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gazrichards's picture

No worries, just don't do it again!smiley

Quick2Kick's picture
Power  Technique (line of motion or moving in the optimal way) Repetition