Questions & Answers
1. Do I have to be in good physical condition prior to learning Shotokan?
One need not be in top shape, only the desire to learn and better yourself. Eventually the workouts will get you there, but of course, it won't hurt to be in good physical condition.
2. Will the benefits of Shotokan show immediately?
It depends on how much energy and effort one puts into training. The benefits are proportional to one's efforts.
3. Is breaking boards required?
No, although most of our students enjoy the opportunity to do so.
4. Will I have to fight in class?
We do not "fight" in class. Fighting is venting aggression. We interact with others to learn proper timing and distancing, as well as what a technique should feel like. We also teach and learn from each other when we interact. Without interaction with a partner, it's like learning how to swim on dry land.
5. Do males and females practice together?
Yes, all classes are coed.
6. How will Shotokan help my child in school?
By learning how to focus on perfecting their techniques in class, this mindset permeates into other aspects of their lives.
7. How does Shotokan help in sports?
By learning and exercising proper body dynamics in class, and developing a tenacious attitude, a student builds a firm foundation for any physical endeavor.
8. Does one have to enter tournaments?
Students are not required to enter competitions but are encouraged to do so, especially youth students. Tournament competition is the closest one will get to a real situation without ever being in one. Competition also helps to motivate one to achieve higher levels of learning and helps competitive drive and confidence.
9. What's the main difference between Tae Kwon Do and Shotokan?
The main difference between these two styles is that Tae Kwon Do focuses more on leg techniques than Shotokan does. Shotokan uses about 50% hands and 50% legs compared to Tae Kwon Do's 70% legs and 30% hands. Also, Tae Kwon Do is a Korean martial art and Shotokan has its origins in Japan.
10. What are the fundamental training areas of Shotokan Karate?
The fundamental training areas of Shotokan are stances, hip rotation, advancing and retreating, changing direction, and the techniques used in all of these situations.
11. What are the primary skills of Shotokan Karate?
The primary skills of Shotokan Karate are the step in punch, the reverse punch, and the front snap kick [oizuki, gyaku-zuki, maegeri]. These are the most basic techniques and the most heavily used by Karate experts.
12. How are the stances trained?
Stances are usually trained by demonstrating the proper proportions and joint positions in the lower body. Following this the instructor usually forces the students to stand in stances for a length of time in order to strengthen their leg muscles. The stances are practiced while utilizing the rotation of the hips, and they are practiced while stepping forward and backward up and down the floor. Finally, the student learns to move about in various directions and to combine different stances in different situations.
13. How are the hips used?
The hips are used to add body weight and force to techniques by increasing the mass that is being accelerated toward the target. These motions also increase the amount of distance the technique will cover, increasing the striking force. There are several methods that are taught in order to accomplish this. They are hip rotation, advancing, and thrusting the hips in various directions to aid kicking.
14. How are the hips trained?
The student practices rotation by standing in place and rotating the hips from the half front facing to the front facing position over and over again. The hips are trained in the other methods while performing techniques or stepping about without making any techniques.
15. How are the techniques trained?
Techniques are usually first practiced in a stagnant position that isolates the arms and legs from the torso. Then, the techniques are applied during stepping and hip rotation exercises. Finally, the student begins to combine techniques with each other, combine stances, and change techniques rapidly in combinations of movement and techniques that are very difficult and complex. When taken to a particular level, this type of training becomes kata.
16. What is a makiwara?
Maki means to wrap or a roll. Wara means rice straw. A makiwara is a bundle of tightly woven rice straw that is attached to a flat post deeply rooted in the ground. The Karate enthusiast strikes this post repeatedly in order to strengthen the muscles of the body that resist the reaction force that inevitably occurs upon impact with a target. Many think that the purpose is to condition the knuckles against impact, but this is not true. The makiwara can also be used to practice applying force to a target, to practice aiming and to practice punching "through" a target.
17. What are important aspects of good technique?
There are three large categories listed in Dynamic Karate as the important aspects: expansion and contraction of the body, concentration of power, and proper speed of technique. Others have identified as many as fifteen different variables which could be trained separately: preparatory attitude, ending attitude, fixing the eyes, proper lower body structure, proper upper body posture, raw speed, controlled speed, distancing, timing, expansion and contraction of proper muscle groups, relaxation and tension of the muscles, breathing, kiai, and other variables. One important aspect of learning techniques is the order in which actions are learned. Mechanics, dynamics, and then control are learned in that order during the process of studying any technique.
18. What is kime?
Most Westerners use the English expression 'focus.' However, the word in Japanese means 'decision.' The idea behind the English expression is to focus all of the tension in the muscles upon impact with the target so resist any reaction force that will occur. The Japanese word suggests that one will make techniques decisive and deadly.
19. Are the fists tight throughout the punch?
When making body tension to resist the reaction force in Karate punches, the muscles of the body are tensed to lock the body in position so that the target absorbs the damage from the collision rather than the person punching. There is a point of confusion, however, about whether or not the fist is tight throughout the punching action, or whether it is clenched only at the moment of impact. One answer is this: beginners should probably clench the fist all of the time. Intermediate students (brown belts and shodan) should begin to try to clench the fist only upon impact. Higher ranking students should have the timing and distancing necessary to easily choose the proper moment to clench the fist, so that safety is not a concern and they can benefit from the total relaxation provided by a loose hand. During kumite drills, many very high ranking Karate players like to keep their fists loose even on impact, so that they can strike actually touching the opponent without injuring them. After long years of training, the expert can easily choose to clench the fist or to keep it loose in any situation.
20. What are the two kinds of techniques?
There are techniques that snap and techniques that thrust. Thrusting actions are usually taught first using the hands, but snapping techniques are usually the first kicking actions taught. As the student progresses, they are taught thrusting kicking actions and snapping hand actions.
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