According to Shotokan Karate of America, “Karate history can be traced back some 1400 years, to Daruma, founder of Zen Buddhism in Western India. Daruma is said to have introduced Buddhism into China, incorporating spiritual and physical teaching methods that were so demanding that many of his disciples would drop in exhaustion. In order to give them greater strength and endurance, he developed a more progressive training system, which he recorded in a book, Ekkin-Kyo, which can be considered the first book on karate of all time.
The physical training, heavily imbued with Daruma’s philosophical principles, was taught in the Shaolin Temple in the year 500 A.D. Shaolin (Shorin) kung-fu, from northern China, was characterized by very colorful, rapid, and dynamic movements; the Shokei school of southern China was known for more powerful and sober techniques. These two kinds of styles found their way to Okinawa, and had their influence on Okinawa’s own original fighting method, called Okinawa-te (Okinawan hand) or simply te. A ban on weapons in Okinawa for two long periods in its history is also partly responsible for the high degree of development of unarmed fighting techniques on the island.
In summary, karate in Okinawa developed from the synthesis of two fighting techniques. The first one, used by the inhabitants of Okinawa, was very simple but terribly effective and, above all, very close to reality since it was used throughout many centuries in real combat. The second one, much more elaborate and impregnated with philosophical teachings, was a product of the ancient culture of China. These two origins explain the double character of Karate extremely violent and efficient but at the same time a strict and austere discipline and philosophy with a nonviolent emphasis.
Techniques in kihon and kata are characterized by deep, long stances that provide stability, enable powerful movements, and strengthen the legs. Shotokan is often regarded as a 'hard' and 'external' martial art because it is taught that way to beginners and colored belts to develop strong basic techniques and stances.
(Forms Or Patterns Of Moves)
Initially strength and power are demonstrated instead of slower, more flowing motions. Those who progress to brown and black belt level develop a much more fluid style which incorporates grappling and some aikido-like techniques, which can be found in the black belt kata's.
Kumite techniques mirror these stances and movements at a basic level, but are less structured, with a focus instead on speed and efficiency.
Kata is often described as a set sequence of karate moves organized into a pre-arranged fight against imaginary opponents. The kata consists of kicks, punches, sweeps, strikes, blocks, and throws. Body movement in various kata includes stepping, twisting, turning, dropping to the ground, and jumping. In Shotokan, kata is not a performance or a demonstration, but is for individual karateka to practice full techniques—with every technique potentially a killing blow; while paying particular attention to form and timing (rhythm).
Shotokan Karate is comprised of 26 katas, each with their own emphasis on fast and slow or controlled and powerfull movements. Virtually all of the katas taught today in the Shotokan system have two kiai points.
The kiai or "spirit cry" as it is sometimes referred to, occurs only at certain pre-determined moments in each kata. It is precisely at these pre-determined moments that the karate-ka is required to demonstrate a total commitment of body, mind, and spirit, and to channel all of their available energy and apply it appropriately to the required technique. The kiai is a common thread that runs through all major styles of karate.
It is important for every student to remember that as they rise up through the various kyu levels and Dan ranks, the continued regular practice of all of the previous katas that they have been taught is vital to their future progress.
|Heian Shodan||21||"Peacefull Mind One"|
|Heian Nidan||26||"Peacefull Mind Two"|
|Heian Sandan||20||"Peacefull Mind Three"|
|Heian Yondan||27||"Peacefull Mind Four"|
|Heian Godan||23||"Peacefull Mind Five Universe"|
|Tekki Shodan||23||"Iron Horse One"|
|Tekki Nidan||24||"Iron Horse Two"|
|Tekki Sandan||26||"Iron Horse Three"|
|Bassai Dai||42||"Penetrating the Fortress-Big"|
|Bassai Sho||27||"Penetrating the Fortress - Small"|
|Kanku Dai||65||"To look at the Sky - Big"|
|Kanku Sho||48||"To look at the Sky - Small"|
|Jion||47||"Love (and) Goodness"|
|Gankaku||42||"Crane on the Rock"|
|Meikyo||33||"Mirror of the soul"|
|Ji'in||38||"Named after the Saint"|
|Gojushiho Dai||67||"54 Steps - Big"|
|Gojushiho Sho||65||"54 Steps - Small"|
|Wankan||24||"Crown of a king"|