An Introduction To Shotokan Karate

What is Karate?

The word ‘Karate’ is derived from the Japanese words Kara (empty) and Te (hand), implying that its practitioners, known as Karateka, are unarmed and strike with their hands and feet.

To different people, karate signifies different things. It is a hobby for some and a way of life for others.

Who can practice Karate?

Karate can be done by adults, women, and children alike. Students range in age from toddlers to seniors. It promotes self-awareness and respect for others, as well as physical fitness and concentration.

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What is Shotokan Karate?

Karate is divided into various basic styles, with some emphasising strength, quickness, or a wide range of techniques. Shotokan karate is a type of karate that aims to balance all of these elements while teaching confidence and self-control.

In the early 1900s, Okinawa gave birth to the Shotokan style. In 1922, Master Gichin Funakoshi introduced it to mainland Japan, where it was improved by Masatoshi Nakayama, a Japanese master.

What is the KUGB?

The KUGB has approximately 400 clubs around the country, which meet in sports centers, Universities, schools, and local halls. It is by far the largest and most successful single-style association in Great Britain with almost 12,000 members.
Membership of the KUGB allows students to enter Gradings, attend free courses with top instructors, enter regional and national championships and attend the KUGB spring and summer training camps.

What is a ‘Kata’?

A Kata is a set of sequences of Karate techniques performed against imaginary opponents. It is designed to demonstrate the skills, speed, power, and awareness needed in a real fight situation.
There are several katas, ranging in complexity and difficulty that students learn as they progress in Karate.

What is ‘Kumite’?

Kumite is controlled combat against an opponent and is designed to demonstrate a student’s ability to defend themselves as well as being able to attack their opponent’s weak points.
Students advance from practicing single techniques, to a combination of techniques and finally ‘free’ sparring.
Kumite is practiced within a controlled environment during training sessions, but students can also enter into competitions. Points are scored when a technique is judged to have been executed correctly, on target, and with the right amount of power – this requires a great deal of skill, concentration, and experience.

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What do the different colored belts mean?

Different colored belts denote seniority and experience. A student starts by wearing a white belt and then progresses through various grades to Black Belt. There is a minimum period between each grade, which becomes greater as students advance towards Black Belt.
There are 10 levels of Black Belt, or Dan grade, from 1st Dan to 10th Dan, with the higher number denoting the most senior grade. There are fixed times between Dan grades, which means, for example, a 5th Dan will usually have spent a minimum of 20 years studying and perfecting his technique and expanding his understanding and knowledge of Karate.

Karate Terminology

General terms:

  • karate do – empty-handed way
  • sensei – teacher
  • sempai – senior student
  • dojo – training hall
  • rei – bow
  • yoi – ready
  • hajime – begin
  • yame – stop
  • jodan – upper
  • chudan – middle
  • geidan – lower
  • dachi – stance
  • zuki – punch
  • uchi – strike
  • uke – block
  • geri – kick


  • zenkutsu dachi – front stance
  • kokutsu dachi – back stance
  • kiba dachi – horse stance
  • fudo dachi – rooted stance
  • neko ashi dachi – cat stance
  • hangetsu dachi – hourglass stance


  • kazama zuki – jab
  • oi zuki – lunge punch
  • gyaku zuki – reverse punch
  • uraken – back fist
  • empi – elbow strike
  • shuto – knife hand


  • hiza geri – knee strike
  • mae geri – front kick
  • yoko geri keage – side snap kick
  • yoko geri kekomi – side thrust kick
  • fumakomi – stomp kick
  • mika zuki geri – crescent kick
  • mawashi geri – round kick
  • tobi geri – jump kick
  • ni mae geri – double front kick
  • ushiro geri kekomi – back thrust kick


  • geidan barai – down block
  • jodan age uke – upper rising block
  • soto uke – inward middle block
  • uchi uke – outward middle block
  • shuto-uke – sword hand block
  • juji-uke – X block

This article was provided Graham Guffie of the Kilbirnie Shotokan Karate Club.

For further information on the Kilbirnie Shotokan Karate Club visit

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