The following will give you a general idea of what usually happens in a karate class. We are a small, friendly club, and though we train with seriousness, we do not practise the sometimes military-type discipline of some schools. We are here to help and encourage each other to better ourselves through our training.
All sessions start with a warm-up. This is very important for reducing any risk of injury during training, and consists of exercises to warm up the joints and light stretching. These will include things such as hip rotations, trunk twists, leg extensions, shoulder rotations, leg swings and light jogging.
Sometimes we will do slightly more athletic stretching part-way through a session when the body is warmer and more able to benefit from such exercises. Stretching can help to increase your movement (for instance with kicks), and help condition the body resulting in better and safer karate techniques.
At Kanzenki we tend not to focus too much on non-karate fitness exercises (eg. sit-ups, press-ups, etc) as you can do these at home or in a gym - we're here to do karate. But these kinds of exercises should not be ignored and will help your karate a lot.
After the warm-up we will usually move on to basics which consists of the fundamental techniques of karate - including blocks, punches and kicks. No matter how long you've been doing karate, techniques always need polishing, and the repetition is what gives you a 'muscle memory' so the movements become more natural and instinctive. It is also a good next level of warm-up as you start to increase the effort.
Basics may be done 'on the spot' - standing in a circle (sakuru undo) and concentrating on just the arm and leg movements, or as moving basics (kihon ido) - using stances to advance and retreat while practising combinations of moves with various levels of complexity. Often we will start with on-the-spot basics and then shift to moving combinations, where more power, agility and focus are applied. Combinations can be created from scratch, or may be pre-arranged, such as our '1 to 12' set.
Partner work (kumite)
Partner work is done in the form of a series of controlled pre-arranged attacks and defences whereby the karateka can put into practice the basics and combinations they have been learning. This is important for learning distancing and control, as well as the general practicalities of a technique.
At Kanzenki the main focus of our kumite training is the application of techniques found in the kata (the application is the important bit, the kata is a way to practice them in solo form).
Another aspect is semi-free sparring, where a pre-arranged attack is defended using any technique and counter-attack. Then there is free-sparring (jiyu kumite) where two karateka face each other and engage in a (controlled) free exchange of techniques. This is most useful for competition, and though we do some free-sparring, it is not a focus of our club.
Another kind of partner work involves practising techniques against pads and shields, where full contact can be used for safe impact training.
Kata are a pre-arranged set of techniques laid out in a pattern on the floor, consisting of strings of combinations of defences and attacks in multiple directions. They are the heart of karate and a kind of dictionary of techniques.
Beginners will start by learning the most basic kata, Heian Shodan, which consists of just five techniques and two stances, and is twenty-one movements long. They will then progress through a variety of basic kata with more and more variety of technique. Shotokan has five basic kata and 21 advanced kata. The longest, Kanku-dai, has 64 moves.
To truly understand a kata, the combinations are isolated and practiced with a partner.
Rather than just stopping cold, at the end of the training session we will do a warm-down to help relax the joints and muscles, usually with a bit more light stretching. This will also help to lessen any aching from the exercise over the next couple of days.