JKA karate consists of three key elements: kihon, kata and kumite. A typical lesson will incorporate one or all of these, along with other exercises designed to improve technique and increase overall fitness.
At the start of a class
Karate is performed barefoot. Please visit the bathroom before the lesson is due to start and remove all jewellery. You should also ensure your fingernails and toenails are clipped short.
Classes start promptly. The instructor will call for everybody to line up. At Shiranamikai, we line up in one row, facing the instructor, with beginners at the far left and closest to the entrance. The most senior grade present will call out the following:
Seiza! Kneel down
Mokuso! Close your eyes. Clear your mind
Mokuso yame! Open your eyes
Shomen ni rei! Bow to the front
Sensei ni rei! Bow to the instructor
Otagai ni rei! Bow to each other
We say “OSS!” a lot; as a karate greeting, to acknowledge instructions and when we bow to each other.
Warm-up and stretch
A lesson typically starts with warm-up exercises and stretching. This gets your body prepared for the physical demands of the class itself, and improves muscle elasticity and coordination.
Basic techniques. These are the building blocks for karate and encompass stances, blocks, and strikes with the hands and feet.
Forms. A kata is a sequence of techniques that we study to learn correct movement, accurate body positions and different kinds of karate power and transition. Kata contain all the karate fundamentals and can be practised anywhere. There are 26 different kata in the Shotokan style to be understood as well as learned. Students will focus on a different kata at each grade level from beginner up to brown belt (3rd Kyu).
Partner work. This ranges from controlled preset combinations, through to free attack and defence sparring for senior grades. In the dojo, kumite is always practised with control.
Before finishing, we take a few minutes to exercise at a slightly lower intensity rather than stop abruptly. It is better for the body to let its breathing, heart rate and temperature gradually return to normal levels.
At the end of a class
We line up formally again, kneel down as we did at the beginning of the class, then recite the dojo kun (code of conduct for students attending the training hall). The dojo kun consists of five precepts, all of equal importance:
Seek perfection of character
Refrain from violent behaviour
Instructions are given in English but you will hear Japanese terms used for the different techniques. Schlatt’s Shotokan Karate Dictionary is an excellent reference guide to these terms. But don’t worry about getting to grips with them straight away – you’ll gain familiarity with them over time.
Special club sessions
We regularly host special lessons with senior guest instructors and encourage all members to attend whenever possible.