Basics are the key to Karate – 10/1/09 – Thursday Karate class

Sensei Cieplik was very profound tonight.  He said that the key to Karate is basics (kihon).  This comment was very simple but very hard to grasp.

Working on the fundamentals…

Sensei has us work on our kihon fundamentals, specifically our kicks, punches and stances.  This was a very enlightening class, at least for me.  I didn’t realize how many details I haven’t thought about for some while and how I have stopped doing them.

Sensei had us work on our front kicks but with a twist.  He had us stand in a front stance and curl our toes on our back leg up toward the ceiling.  From that position, he had us throw a front snap kick.  This keeps us from peeling our feet off the flow when kicking.

We need to move from the hips not from the shoulders or chest.  We started in a cat stance with our right leg in front.  From there, we reached to the front with our left hand, then stepped back with our right leg into a front stance and threw a reverse punch.  We then moved our right leg back into a cat stance again and repeated the drills.  Again, the key to this movement was for us to move with our legs and not our hips.  We did this movement stationary, then stepped forward and did a blocking movement.

Another good bit of advice was for us to do the blocks with more hand motion and less arm motion.  Instead of reaching way out to the side with our hand for say, an inward block, move the hand in a smaller, more linear path.

Sensei also said that we should place our draw hand on our hipbone.  He said that many people put their wrist on their on their hipbone where as, the hand needs to be on the hipbone.  He said to pull the draw hand back about two inches father than the wrist and it should be in the correct position.  Also, when we punch, our draw hand elbow should be pointing down not out to the side.  If the elbow is pointing down, we can pull our shoulder back and elbow down farther on our draw hand.

Another stance drill that we worked on was, start in a left foot forward front stance, move into a right foot forward cat stance, then turn the left foot out to the side about 45 degrees and stance in a blocking cat stance.  From there, put the right leg behind, into a front stance, and turn the foot back in.  The key to this drill is to turn on the heel not the ball of the foot and keep the weight loaded on the front leg.

The next drill was very similar but Sensei added back stance.  We did the same as above but after the blocking stance with the left foot at 45 degrees, we turned our left foot 90 degrees out to side, same as a back stance and then pushed our front leg out farther.  The idea of this drill was to move the front leg back and turn the support leg at the same time.

Another back stance drill was to start in a shorter back stance and from there, wiggle our foot from side to side out in front as far as we could go while keeping the back leg loaded, then point our toes up and pull our heel back in without using our shoulders.

Another point that Sensei made was if we turn on the ball of our foot when moving in a back stance, it will make the toes of the back leg turn in about five or 10 degrees.  This will allow us to throw a kick easier than if our back foot was at 90 degrees out.

Weak in the knees….

Sensei gave us a little drill to help make our knees stronger.  From seiza, you raise up on your knee about five inches while keeping your upper body totally upright.


We started with Heian Shodan.  Sensei asked us to apply what we worked on in the kihon drills to our kata.  When those things are fresh in my mind, it always make my kata feel much better.

We then did Heian Sandan.  For the last two moves of the kata, Sensei said to make sure that our fist is not turned over.  If our fist is turned over or up, it engages the bicep and doesn’t allow for the full range of motion.

We also did Jion and Bassai Dai.  Sensei asked what Jion meant and the answer was temple sound.  One point that Sensei made about kata really stuck in my mind.  He said do your kata as if your opponent is within arms length.  I often do my kata imagining my opponent father away and I am looking forward to spending some time working with this idea.

So much great stuff packed into one class!  I am sure there is more that I missed but there is a good amount here to work on.

About doug
Doug is a Shotokan Karate student that enjoys sharing his Karate training experiences with everyone. He is a Computer Consultant, an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer, blogger and a freelance writer..

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