Gichin Funakoshi was the creator of Shotokan karate and is attributed as being the “Father of Modern Karate”.
He was born on November 10, 1868 on the island of Okinawa. He was a school teacher and the son of a samurai.
Gichin Funakoshi defined the following twenty precepts of Karate (also called Niju kun). These which form the foundations and philosophy of Shotokan Karate. The precepts emphasize humility, respect, compassion, and patience, among other things. The karateka shall observe these precepts in all areas of life to seek perfection of character.
The Dojo Kun is a series of principles that are repeated at the end of each class by all students and instructors. The Dojo Kun is not just a set of rules to be followed in the Dojo, but are intended to remind the students why they train and that the principles must be applied to everyday life outside the Dojo.
The basic training methods used in the dojo are generally grouped into three areas:
Kihon means “basics” or “fundamentals”. Kihon includes the techniques such as stances, punches, kicks, blocks and strikes that form the foundation of Karate. The practice and mastery of kihon is essential to all advanced training. Practicing the basics will develop the students focus, concentration and discipline along with strengthening the body. Once the student’s body is stronger and healthier, confidence is inevitable.
Kata is a Japanese word describing detailed choreographed patterns of movements that are intended to simulate defending yourself against many imaginary opponents. The karateka (karate practitioner) visualizes the opponents’ attacks and his or her responses. Generally, each time a karateka advances to the next rank a new kata is learned. However, there is always more that can be learned from early katas and even the highest ranking karateka will continue practicing the early katas. Kata can also be used as a form of meditation.
Kumite means sparring, and is is the part of karate in which you train against an adversary, using the techniques learned from the kihon and kata. Kumite is practiced in several formats depending on the rank of the student. The karateka will be introduced to the following types of kumite as they progress:
Kumite does not only teach us about self-defense. It also teaches us a lot about ourselves. Practicing Kumite teaches about the timing, distancing and openings of life.
Belt rankings are used to indicate the level of experience of a karateka. In the IKD the belts are awarded in the following order:
True martial arts have an important mental or spiritual component. The training in the dojo is not just for learning self defense but also for learning about ourselves. Joe Hyam explained this wonderfully in Zen in the Martial Arts:
“A dojo is miniature cosmos where we make contact with ourselves — our fears, anxieties, reactions, and habits. It is an arena of confined conflict where we confront an opponent who is not an opponent but rather a partner engaged in helping us understand ourselves more fully. It is a place where we can learn a great deal in a short time about who we are and how we react in the world. The conflicts that take place inside the dojo help us handle conflicts that take place outside. The total concentration and discipline required to study martial arts carries over to daily life. The activity in the dojo calls on us to constantly attempt new things, so it is also a source of learning — in Zen terminology, a source of self-enlightenment.”