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Welcome to this introductory karate course which is everything required for the first exam at ShotokanKarateOnline.com.

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lesson #1

the karate bow

It is upsetting when I see someone bow disrespectfully.

I used to love the fighting more than anything else in karate, but the older I get, the more I realize, karate is more than just fighting.
Let us get to it! People with good characters are liked and are content, people with bad characters, are not liked and are not content.
One of the best ways to start working on the development of character through karate practice, is the bow.
When someone first starts karate, the Sensei (teacher)will always emphasize the importance of the bow.

the karate bow

The Karate Bow (Rei)

1. Starting from the feet together, toes out stance (musubi-dachi), thumbs bent, hands open and placed flat against the outside of the thighs.
2. Bend from the waist, keeping the back straight.
3. Head and eyes remain fixed, so as you bow you look down.
4. The degree of bend in the body, does not have to be great, but the sincere attitude you have when you bow, should be!
5. Hold the final bow position for one to three seconds, then slowly return to the straight back starting position.
6. Breath out naturally and silently on the downward movement of the bow.
When someone first starts to learn karate, it is really important to spend time on the basic techniques and the bow or rei, is classed as a basic karate move.

lesson #2

karate warm up and stretch

This is one of the most neglected parts of karate practice and it is a part of karate that a karateka ignores at their peril.

Not only is stretching healthy, it also helps prevent injury during karate classes. Stretching should be practiced before and after your karate practice.

My sensei said to me, ‘the only time your whole body is stiff, is when you are dead!” and he is absolutely correct.

Keeping the body soft and supple should be a priority for all karateka.

But before you start stretching, it is very important to warm the body up. An example could be, gently shaking the legs and arms, gently swinging the arms, walking slowly, then speeding the walk up and finally into a slow jog. Obviously this is just an example, but this demonstrates a warm up before the stretch.

There are many stretches and to get the maximum benefit, these stretches should be held for anything between, twenty five seconds and three minutes. I also encourage our dojo members to hold the stretches longer in the summer and when they are practicing karate at home, as in the dojo, sometimes time is the enemy.

Stretching at the end of training should also be encouraged as this allows the body to warm down slowly, keeping the elasticity in the muscles.

the warm up and stretch

1. Ballistic stretching is a form of passive stretching or dynamic stretching in a bouncing motion.
2. Dynamic stretching is a form of stretching beneficial in karate, utilizing momentum from form.
3. Active stretching eradicates force and its adverse effects from stretching procedures.
4. Passive (or relaxed) stretching is a form of static stretching in which an external force, like a karate partner, exerts pressure upon the limb to move it into the new position.
5. Static stretching is used to stretch muscles while the body is at rest.
6. PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) stretching is a stretching system that was first used in the 1940s and 1950s to rehabilitate patients with paralysis.

Although stretching may feel uncomfortable for someone just starting to learn karate, persevere and very soon your karate techniques will take on a whole new level and meaning.

lesson #3

yoi stance

Yoi ( Natural Position Or Ready Position)

This is the position we go to after the karate bow (rei)

In Heiko-dachi, the feet are approximately shoulder width, outside edges of the feet are parallel. This is also a basic ready stance in Karate.

Shizen-tai or Yoi Dachi – natural position

Shizen-tai or yoi dachi translates as “natural stance” (literally, ‘natural body,’ or ‘natural body stance’). In Shizen-tai, the feet are shoulder width apart, toes pointing forward. The karateka stands up straight, facing forward. While in Shizen-tai, the karateka is usually in the yoi (ready) position, arms slightly in front of the thighs, fists clenched.

In some karate styles, shizen-tai is the same as heiko-dachi.

karate yoi
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lesson #4

seiken the karate fist

1. Start from your little finger and bend the fingers in half, one finger at a time.
2. Once the fingers are folded in half, start from the little fingers and roll the fingers, one at a time into a full karate fist, make sure the thumbs are tight and in position, as in the video.
3. If you look at your closed fist with the palm towards you, try to get the fist so you cannot see your finger nails.
4. Keep the wrists straight when seiken is formed.
5. Pull the finger knuckles in towards the palm as much as possible.

seiken

lesson #5

chokuzuki straight punch

Choku-zuki Straight Punch Must Be Like A Whip Not A Thud
Shotokan Sensei teach many variations of this punch. As your karate should be ever evolving , the punch described below, is the way I am practicing at the moment.
This article focuses mainly on the basic fundamentals of the shotokan straight punch.

Choku Zuki (Straight Punch)
The first punch practiced in Shotokan is choku zuki or straight punch from Heikō-dachi (parallel stance).
Starting from a natural stance (shizentai), feet hip width, toes facing forward with the left arm out and the right arm at the side of the body, ready to punch (see image 1).
1. Use the whole body to punch!!!
Many karateka will only use the arms when punching, but tremendous power can be generated when the whole body is utilised.
Start the right arm punch from the right leg!
Load the punching arm by slightly squeezing the right rib cage down. To begin with, you can exagerate this by also dropping the right shoulder slightly down. Obviously this dropping of the right side is not shown when punching properly.
2. Push through the right leg, then drive with the hip, next use the rib cage and shoulder then finally the arm. So the body throws the punch and not the arm!
3. Just before the right punch makes impact, the whole right side of the body is forward, pushing the punch at high speed towards the target.
4. Just as the punch makes impact, the right side of the body and hip, snaps sharply back, whilst the left hip snaps forward sharply. The arm continues to full extension and there should be a few inches natural recoil of the punching arm.
5. Breathing should be natural, silent and hidden. Breath out on the punch.

chokuzuki

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lesson #6

age uke upper block

Age Uke (upper block) is one of the first blocks practiced in shotokan karate. Here is a basic explanation of the block. It should also be mentioned that karate blocks can also be used as attacks. In this article we are going to go through the movement rather than the applications of Age-uke.
Starting from the yoi (ready) position in shizentai (natural stance). Place the left arm above the head, so the elbow is directly above the shoulder, one fist away from the head and just above the eye line.
keeping the elbow as explained above, bend the left arm, so the fist is just above the head. The fist, forearm and elbow are about a fist to a fist and a half away from the forehead. Try and keep the wrist straight.
The left arm is now in the upper rising block position. The right arm should be in the hikite (hiki=pulling, te=hand) position. The right hikite fist should be clenched and placed on the right side of the body, palm up, at the bottom of the ribs, with the right elbow pulled in tight. You should now be in the age uke position.

Lets now look at the actual sequence of arm movement, when practicing Age- uke.

1. Open the left hand. Now imagine you are going to use your right hikite fist to punch your left arm, in the middle of the forearm. That is roughly, the path your right fist is going to take.
2. As you start to lift the right blocking arm, drop the left elbow and turn the left hand, so the thumb (which should be bent), is facing towards you. As you lift the right arm and drop the left, both arms should cross in front of the chin. The right blocking arm should be on the outside, so the left pulling arm, is closest to the face. Still keep the arms, a fist to a fist and a half distance, from the face.
3. Continue the upward movement of the right arm, remembering you were aiming a punch at the middle of the left forearm, when it was in the age uke position. As you raise the right arm from the crossed arm position , start to rotate the forearm counter clockwise, so the palm faces away from you. The left arm now becomes the hikite (pulling hand), moving down to the finished hikite position at the left side of the body.
4. Breathing should be silent and natural. Breathing in on the preparation and out on the execution of the block. Both fists should stop at exactly the same time.

age uke

lesson #7

uchi uke inside block

This karate technique should be first practiced in the shotokan stance, shizentai (natural stance), with feet approximately shoulder width apart and toes facing forward.

1. The right blocking arms elbow is approximately a fist, to a fist and a half distance from the body. There should be a 90 degree bend at the blocking arms elbow. The fist of the blocking arm is approximately shoulder height, shoulders down and relaxed, with the palm of the right fist, facing towards you.
2. The left hikite arm, should be placed at the bottom of the ribs on the left side of the body. The fist should be palm up, with the elbow pulling down slightly, both shoulders down and relaxed. Try not to let the elbow stick out, keep the elbow directly behind the fist.
3. Extend the right arm forward, so the back of the fist is pointing up, arm straight and fist directly in front of the right shoulder. This can also be done with the hand open and fingers stretching forward.
4. At the same time the right arm stretches forward, the left fist slides across the stomache, towards the top of the right hip, with the palm of the left fist facing down.
5. Now bring the blocking left arm forward and across the centre of the body. The blocking part of the arm, is the outside of the forearm, so as the blocking arm travels forward, keep the back of the left fist facing upwards, then rotate the forearm strongly, so the finished arm position is the same as explained in number 1.
6. As you perform number 5, pull the right hikite (pulling arm) strongly back. As the hikite arm reaches the side of the body, finish the rotation strongly, by rotating the forearm and fist, so the fist finishes palm up, elbow pulling down slightly and with both shoulders square and relaxed.

Uchi Uke Top Tips
When you block, think forward, not around!
The blocking arm should travel in more of a straight line, from the side of the body above the hip, more of a direct line from start to finish, not a large sweeping arc.
Remember, the blocking part of the arm, is the outside of the forearm, not the edge of the arm!
In the finished blocking position, make sure you can tighten all of your arm muscles properly, if you cannot, your blocking arm will be to high, to far forward, or to far across the center of the body.

uchi uke

lesson #8

gedan barai downward block

The Shotokan Karate Gedan-barai, or downward block is one of the most commonly used karate techniques, in the karate dojo.
This technique should be first practiced in shizentai (natural stance), with feet approximately shoulder width apart and toes facing forward.

1. Extend the left arm down and out, so the back of the fist is pointing up and is positioned four to five fists distance in front of the left thigh.
2. The right arm or hikite arm, should be placed at the bottom of the ribs, palm up and elbow pulling down slightly, with both shoulders down and relaxed.
3. Lift the right fist to the left shoulder, keeping the right arm as close as possible to the body. The palm of the right fist should be facing the neck.
4. As you start to slide the right fist down the outside of the left arm, bring the left arm towards the centre of the body.
5. As the right fist reaches the left elbow, start to pull the the left hikite arm back to the left side of the body.
6. The back of the right forearm, is the part of the arm that blocks. Just before the right arm reaches full extension, rotate the right forearm strongly, so as the palm of the right fist faces down. At exactly the same time, the left hikite arm (pulling arm), also rotates and stops at left side of the body, at exactly the same time as the blocking arm.

Gedan Barai Top Tips
When you prepare to block, try and focus on bringing the elbow across the body strongly, then as you block, drive the elbow down and and across. Try and stay relaxed until the block lands, then kime! Breathe out sharply and tighten the muscles, as soon as you have tightened the muscles, relax the muscles, but keep your form.

gedan barai

lesson #9

soto uke outside block

Soto ude uke, or outside forearm block is one of the basic karate moves, in the karate dojo. A tricky move to begin with because it contains both linear and circular arm movements, this karate technique should be first practiced in shizentai (natural stance), with feet approximately shoulder width apart and toes facing forward.

1. The left blocking arms elbow is approximately a fist, to a fist and a half distance from the body. There should be a 90 degree bend at the blocking arms elbow. The fist of the blocking arm is approximately shoulder height, shoulders down and relaxed, with the palm of the left fist, facing towards you.
2. The right hikite arm, should be placed at the bottom of the ribs on the right side of the body. The fist should be palm up, with the elbow pulling down slightly, both shoulders down and relaxed. Try not to let the elbow stick out, keep the elbow directly behind the fist.
3. Extend the left arm forward, so the back of the fist is pointing up, arm straight and fist directly in front of the left shoulder. This can also be done with the hand open and fingers stretching forward.
4. At the same time the left arm stretches forward, lift the right elbow straight up from the hikite position, as the elbow reaches shoulder height, lift the right forearm and fist, so as the fist is directly above the elbow, with the palm of the fist facing out to the right, now take the elbow as far behind you can, without feeling uncomfortable. In this position, the elbow should be at least shoulder height.
5. Now bring the blocking arm down and across to the center of the body, the elbow takes a straight line from the high position to the finished position. The blocking part of the arm, is the inside of the forearm, so as the blocking gets level with the right side of the body, rotate the forearm strongly, so the finished arm position is the same as explained in number 1.
6. As you perform number 5, pull the left hikite (pulling arm) strongly back. Be sure to keep the elbow on line with the side of the body, as you pull the arm back. To make sure the elbow and fist come back in a straight line, as soon as you start the pull back, rotate the left hikite arm clockwise, so the bottom of the fist faces down. As the hikite arm reaches the side of the body, finish the rotation strongly, by rotating the forearm, so the fist finishes palm up, elbow pulling down slightly and with both shoulders square and relaxed.

Soto Uke Top Tips
When you block, think forward, not around!
The blocking arm should travel in more of a straight line, from the high preparation point, to completion and not a sweeping arc.
Remember, the blocking part of the arm, is the inside of the forearm, not the edge of the arm!
In the finished blocking position, make sure you can tighten all of your arm muscles properly, if you cannot, your blocking arm will be to high, to far forward, or to far across the center of the body.

soto uke

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Question 1. Is there a set time between gradings?

There is no stipulated time frame between gradings as many of our members have trained before, some members seem to fast track through the first 3 or 4 gradings.  Our offline Dojo has examinations every three months, but really its all down to the individual, as people progress at different speeds.

Question 2. Will the monthly fee of $19.97 be consistent throughout the programme or will it increase when the limited time offer is expired?

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Question 3. Is there a grading fee or any other fee that I should know about?

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Question 4. Will printed certificates be sent to us and if so at what cost if any?

At the moment we have downloadable certificates (example attached), but we are looking at the cost of nice gold foil printed certificates and how much they would cost to post around the world, but these will be purely optional.

Question 5. Do we need to do our grading video in uniform (gi)?

We would prefer our karateka to wear Gi for testing, but this is optional and up to each member.

Question 6. Is there a Dojo patch/badge?

We are having patches designed and once our members have been with us for three months they will get one posted to the address of their choice.

Question 7. Do you have to be fit to join the dojo?

All fitness levels are suitable because you train at home and only do what you feel you can handle, you are in total control, the fitter you get, the more you can put into your karate practice.

Question 8. How much space do I need?

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Question 9. What if I have injuries or disabilities?

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Question 10. Will I need any special clothing or equipment?

We do like our members to video their exams in a karate uniform (gi), but this is not compulsory. We have a Dojo patch (see question 7) Other equipment is purely optional, as in a punch bag, makiwara (striking board), recommended books, etc.

Question 11. What about the sparring if I train alone?

This is a very good question and one of the hardest things about training at home. One of the most important concepts of karate is Ikken Hissatsu or to finish with one blow. We try and instill this concept in our members by explaining that when blocking and attacking techniques are practiced at speed, they should be executed as if your life depends on it, when you hit the makiwara a full speed, you should not just try to hit it, but break it,destroy it! (obviously after you have executed hundreds of techniques lightly.

Question 12. How long will it take me to reach black belt?

It can accomplished quite quickly, but is entirely down to the individual and also the results can sometimes be very confusing and not make sense at all, let me explain.....If someone is practicing once per week and someone else is practicing three times per week, you would expect the person practicing three times per week to way more advanced after six months, but it depends completely on the attitude of the karateka whilst training, if someone is totally focused and applying the concept of Ikken Hissatsu with all their fast moves and train once per week, they will be way stronger and progress much faster than someone training three times per week, but simply going through the movements with no intent, so it's all down to the attitude of the karateka.

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