Classes usually cover the three main aspects of karate training:

  • Kihon (the basic strikes, kicks and blocks, practiced separately or in combinations),
  • Kata (a fixed pattern of moves, to practice defense against multiple opponents), and
  • Kumite (sparring exercise performed between at least two Karateka).

Kihon (Basics)

Practice of Kihon is like building tools to use. If the tools are not made correctly, you may not be able to build the best product no matter how hard you try. Naturally, this component is the foundation of other two components in Karate-Dō practice and no matter how advanced one becomes in Karate-Dō practice, there is no practice without practicing of Kihon. The most important aspect of Kihon is building a strong and correct stance. Without it, any other technique built on top would not be as effective as it could be.


There are 25 Kata in the JKA – 5 Heian Kata, 3 Tekki Kata and 17 higher level Kata (Bassai-Dai, Kankū-Dai, Jion, Enpi, Hangetsu, Jitte, Gankaku, etc.). The Heian and Tekki Kata are considered to be fundamental, and these Kata are practiced by senior students as frequently as they practice more complex and advance Kata. In fact, the higher the rank of a student is, the more technical details are expected to be demonstrated in Heian and Tekki Kata. In other words, the expectation for a black belt to perform the simplest Kata, Heian Shodan, is very different from the expectation for a beginner student.

Shōtōkan Kata
Name Counts Kiai in count 
Heian Shodan 平安初段 21   9 and 17
Heain Nidan 平安二段 26  11 and 26
Heain Sandan 平安三段 20  10 and 20
Heain Yondan 平安四段 27  13 and 25
Heain Godan 平安五段 23  12 and 19
Tekki Shodan 鉄騎初段 29  15 and 29
Bassai-Dai 抜塞大 42  19 and 42
Kanku-Dai 観空大 65  15 and 65
Jion 慈恩 47  17 and 47
Enpi 燕飛 37  15 and 36
Gankaku 岩鶴 42  28 and 42
Jitte 十手 24  13 and 24
Hangetsu 半月  41  11 and 40
Tekki Nidan 鉄騎二段 24  16 and 24
Tekki Sandan 鉄騎三段 36  16 and 36
Wankan 王冠 24  24
Gojūshiho-Dai 五十四歩大 67  59 and 66
Gojūshiho- Shō 五十四歩小 65  57 and 64
Meikyo 明鏡 33  32
Chinte 珍手 32  28 and 32
Bassai-Shō 抜塞小 27  17 and 22
Kanku- Shō 観空小 48  6 and 48
Sōchin 壮鎮 41  30 and 41
Nijūshiho 二十四歩 34  18 and 33
Unsū 雲手 48  36  and 47

Kumite (Sparring)

Kumite, which only involves simple attacking and blocking techniques for the junior students, becomes more challenging as the students develop their skills. The development of a student’s Kumite technique can be seen through in the progression from basic sparring to free sparring.

In basic sparring, well practiced standard techniques are used to attack and block and this includes:

  • Kihon Gohon Kumite (basic five-point sparring),
  • Kihon Sanbon Kumite (basic three-point sparring), and
  • Kihon Ippon Kumite (basic one-point sparring).

Students attack and block five times, three times, and once, respectively.

In Jiyū Ippon Kumite (semi-free one-point sparring), the attacking student may select from a number of options such as punching or kicking to attack the announced target. The defending student will respond by blocking the attack and then launching a counter-attack. Finally, there is nothing pre-arranged in free sparring (Jiyū Kumite).

In all cases, the students should strive for speed and power along with accuracy to contact with good control so as not to damage the target. Learning good control is a very important part of training Karate-Dō. Good sense of distance is required for both attacking and defending sides.

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