"Spirit first, technique second"
- Master Gichin Funakoshi
Kihon is all of the basic moves in karate including: stances, kicks, punches, strikes & blocks.
Stances are hugely important in karate. Here we will focus on the three main stances of basic training: Zenkutsu Dachi (front stance), Kokutsu Dachi (back stance) and Kiba Dachi (horse stance). There are many other stances to learn, especially for kata, including: Hangetsu Dachi (half-moon stance), Fudo Dachi (rooted stance) and Neko Ashi Dachi (cat stance).
Zenkutsu Dachi or front stance
Zenkutso Dachi should be approximately one shoulder width wide and two shoulder widths long. The back leg should be straight and the front knee should extend over the toes. Around two-thirds of your weight should be on the front leg. Shoulders and hips should be square or at a 45º angle depending on the move.
IF YOU CAN SEE THE TOES OF YOUR FRONT FOOT YOUR STANCE IS TOO HIGH
Kokutsu Dachi or back stance
In Kokutso Dachi the back heel should be in line with the front heel. The back leg should be bent naturally and you should sink down onto your back leg. Around two-thirds of your weight should be on the back leg. The front knee should be slightly bent and facing forward. Shoulders and hips should be in a straight line. For example on the right is Kokutso Dachi Shuto-uke (also known as knife hand block).
TRY PRACTICING UP AGAINST A WALL
Kiba Dachi or horse stance
In Kiba Dachi the heels should be in a straight line, feet facing forward and around two shoulder widths apart with both knees bent. The weight should be evenly distributed. Shoulders and hips should be in a straight line. With your back straight and bottom tucked in you can sink into the stance. For example on the left is Kiba Dachi Choku-zuki.
TRY PRACTICING SQUATS EVERY DAY TO BUILD STRENGTH
There are many different blocks in Shotokan karate. Here we will focus on the five main blocks of basic training: Age-uke (rising block), Soto-uke (outside block), Uchi-uke (inside block), Gedan Barai (low block) and Shuto-uke (knife hand block).
Age-uke or rising block
This is performed by extending the non-blocking arm forwards for focus and then raising the blocking arm from underneath it, turning the wrist as you make contact. The arm should end on a 45º angle.
USE TO DEFEND ATTACKS TO THE FACE OR FROM ABOVE
Soto-uke or outside block
Extend non-blocking arm in front for focus, then raise the blocking arm bringing it around behind the ear and then using that momentum to swing it around to block with the outer forearm, turning it on contact.
USE TO DEFEND AGAINST ATTACKS TO THE BODY
Uchi-uke or inside block
Extend the non-blocking arm forward for focus and then bring the blocking arm underneath the armpit and bring it out strongly, turning as you make contact to block with the inner forearm.
Gedan Barai or low block
Extend the non-blocking arm forward for focus and bring the blocking arm over the shoulder before swinging it down powerful and low.
Shuto-uke or knife-hand block
With fingers tight together and straight on both hands and with thumbs tucked in, bring the non-blocking arm forward for focus and the blocking arm over the ear before slicing it downwards to block with the outside of the hand.
BASIC STRIKES & PUNCHES
Again there are several strikes/punches in Shotokan karate with variations including reverse strikes/punches as well as to different parts of the body, for example: Jodan = face, Chudan = solar plexus, Gedan = groin
There are 5 main kicks in Shotokan karate, with variations including reverse kicks as well as to different parts of the body, for example: Jodan = face, Chudan = middle body, Gedan = groin. The 5 main kicks are: Mae Geri (front kick), Keage (snap kick), Kekomi (thrust kick), Mawashi Geri (roundhouse kick) and Ushiro Geri (back kick).