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Shotokan Karate Handbook: Course Overview & Class Procedures

Karate is a system of unarmed self-defense. The word karate is made up of two parts: the first, kara, means "empty" and the second "te", means hand. In addition to self-defense, this empty handed system is designed to promote physical and mental development.

Karate uses the body as a weapon to block, punch, strike and kick. Body shifting and breaking an opponent's balance are also important facets of karate. In all techniques the key ingredient is kime or focus. Kime is achieved by bringing the total strength of the body--upper and lower--to bear at precise point of impact.

Karate training is not merely technique. It is also important to apply the knowledge of this and any, other martial art rationally. The ability to do damage to another human being must be tempered with the development of character and proper attitude. In Shotokan karate this can be summed up in the expression " Karate ni sente nashi " (" There is no first strike in karate.") The techniques learned in class are to be used as a last resort, when no other reasonable recourse is possible.

Class Procedure

A. Warm-up - Warming-up exercises are designed to prepare the body for the training session by gradually increasing the individuals body rate of metabolism. Calisthenics and flexibility exercises are performed to loosen muscles and joints which will be used in the subsequent training period.

B. Kihon - Kihon are the basic techniques of blocking, punching, striking, kicking, stance and body shifting. These techniques are executed with a full range of motion.

C. Kata - Kata are pre-arranged sequences of techniques done in a prescribed pattern and rhythm. Kata are the "textbooks" of karate, since much of our present knowledge of karate has been passed on in these forms. The kata also contains most of the self-defense techniques practiced in class.

D. Kumite - Sparring is learned in a progression. Starting with basic pre-arranged sparring at the earliest stages of training and leading into jiju (free) sparring in which nothing is pre-arranged. In all stages control is essential. Sparring is a chance to practice techniques with a partner in a dynamic way. It is not an opportunity to cause someone injury.

E. Cool-down - This is the opposite of the warm-up phase. Cool-down is designed to return the body from its heightened metabolic rate to normal levels. Stretching is emphasized rather than calisthenics.

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