The 3 K's
The core disciplines or elements of Shotokan Karate are Kihon (basic techniques), Kumite (sparring) and Kata (form). These are often refer to as the 3 K's of shotokan karate.
Kihon means basics which include all the basic blocks, punches, kicks, strikes, sweeps and stances.
The training of basics is essential for the development of efficient and powerful technique. We learn how to work and improve various aspects such as balance, speed, power (kime), technique and mental concentration (zanshin). Emphasis is placed on correct use of the whole body in the areas of posture, range and balance of movement and breathing. Diligent training in kihon will benefit our performance of kata and kumite as well as promote good health and fitness.
Kumite means sparring i.e. fighting between two karate-ka with controlled techniques. Key points are fighting distance (ma'ai), rhythm, gamae (on guard), target, observation, fighting spirit and kiai (spiritual shout).
- Gohon Kumite - five attack sparring.
- Sanbon Kumite - three attack sparring.
- Kihon Ippon Kumite - basic one attack sparring.
- Kaeshi Ippon Kumite - basic one attack sparring with returning step counter attack. Example, defender blocks jodan stepping punch and counter attack with a chudan stepping punch; the attacker will then block and finish off with a final counter attack.
- Jiyu Ippon Kumite - semi-free one step sparring.
- Okuri Jiyu Ippon Kumite - as in jiyu ippon kumite but with a second free attack of attacker's choice without telling the defender. Defender must block and counter attack with his own choice of techniques.
- Jiyu Kumite - free style sparring. Any of the afore-mentioned techniques against one's opponent without warning.
Kata means patterns or forms. It is a set of routine pattern where the various defensive and attacking techniques are put together and one is fighting against an imaginary opponent(s).
When we perform a kata we must strive for technical perfection. The movements must be performed at the correct speed and with a smooth action, finishing with good kime (focus). A good kata is one that uses strong kime, good timing, controlled complimentary breathing and a strong sense of zanshin (mental focus and awareness).
As we progress and get to a higher grade we must start thinking about bunkai (kata application). Bunkai is open to interpretation and the only limit it has is that of your own imagination.