What is karate ?
Karate is a system of blocks, strikes, kicks, locks and throws designed for self defense which increase in complexity as you progress in your training. Practice in the dojo (training hall) can be done with a partner or by yourself but often uses strike shields to give a realistic feel to the techniques.
In Goju Ryu ‘kata’ (traditional sequences of techniques designed to strengthen and deepen understanding) is of key importance and supported by kumite (sparring) and hojo-undo (supplementary training with equipment).
Where does karate come from ?
Karate began as a martial art on a small island south of Japan called Okinawa and was developed over many years. Fighting traditions were also added from Southern China as practitioners travelled between the two locations, resulting in a cross-pollination that evolved into the four main schools of Okinawan karate. These are Goju Ryu, Shito Ryu, Uechi Ryu and Shorin Ryu. These styles took root in Japan in the early 20th century and have further developed into the many styles we know today. The focus of each discipline varies, with some remaining true to tradition while others lean more towards sports karate.
What can karate do for you ?
There are many reasons for beginning karate such as self defense, fitness and coordination which will begin to appear after a few months. However, as you progress in your training, you may find deeper benefits beginning to emerge. This could be a simple increase in confidence in any given situation, not just combative, a calmer approach to life’s stresses and heightened self awareness.
Can anybody learn karate?
Karate can be studied by people regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or religion. Adaptations can be made for most situations and a diligent instructor will strive to make their sessions accessible to anybody interested in learning.
Of course, policy varies from dojo to dojo, so it is always worth researching them and contacting the instructor with any queries or concerns you may have. With regards to medical or physical disability, consult your GP before starting training, check venues for access and work to your own capabilities.
Am I too old or unfit ?
No, karate can be practiced by anybody with a mind to do it. Listen to your body while you practice rather than trying to “keep up” and with time you will feel the benefits both mental and physical that karate has to offer.
Is there risk of injury ?
Karate is a contact sport and as such there is always risk of injury. However, we always practice with care for one another, so it is only as likely as in any popular sport. Complaints tend to be limited to minor bruising, aching muscles and the occaisional strain.
How long til I get a black belt ?
For our association the average time taken to reach black belt is 5 years. This is based on a person of average fitness training 2/3 sessions per week and regularly attending seminars led by senior instructors. Obviously, many students will have commitments or injuries that will prevent regular training and slow things down somewhat. At the end the day the colour of your belt is not important, it is what you get out of the training.
What do I need to start ?
Tracksuit bottoms and t shirt, an open mind and plenty of enthusiasm!