Shotokan Karateka, and perhaps most styles, are often obsessed, even fixated, with ‘power’, and the magic word called ‘Kime’.

Firstly we need to fully comprehend the concept and science of ‘Kime’;  but I am often left wondering if we do really understand its real relevance?  

Is ‘Kime’ just an ideology? 

Is it a creation of Nakayama Masatoshi’s halcyon days of the JKA?  

‘Kime’ is often seen as the full body and muscular transaction at one instant of time, unifying the mind and the body at the exact moment of completion of a technique. 

Since most Shotokan Kihon, Kata, and Kumite make ‘Kime’ into the thin air (here we can read ‘Sun Dome’) is it real? 

Does it differ to the necessity of  ‘connection’ and real contact? Must we actually hit an opponent to really realise the real idea of ’Kime’

Many instructors in Karate Dojo use the English language term  ‘focus’. Yet we see, especially in more modern Kata tournaments, that there is a prevalence of looking as though they use ‘Kime’ as a moment of ‘dramatic exaggeration’ to emphasis a point in their ‘kata’; i.e., ‘the photo moment!’.  “Quick, get it now, I am in the perfect position!”

If we think of ‘Kime’ as a moment of ‘unity of technique and body’ (we can perhaps read Ki Ken Tai Ichi), it makes sense. But the word ‘focus’ seems to often invoke a moment where the Karateka ‘freezes with power at the end movement, describing ‘decisiveness’.

The Japanese verb Kimeru (決める) essentially means to ‘decide’. The web page jlearn.net 
gives possible meanings  of Kimeru as:

  • to decide, 
  • to choose, 
  • to determine, 
  • to make up one’s mind, 
  • to resolve, 
  • to set one’s heart on, 
  • to settle, to arrange, 
  • to clinch (a victory), 
  • to decide (the outcome of a match)

All can these readily fit the standard Shotokan interpretation of ‘Kime’.  

(With permission from Oleg Larionov. C. 2012.)

Some Karateka will perform ‘focus’ that effective becomes a totally dead and exaggerated stop; others will have a more concise, sharper, finite moment of focus that allows a ‘living stop’- capable of moving immediately into another movement, yet with immense power at the moment of impact.

We know that ‘Kime’ can only occur if the stances ‘Tachi-kata’, foot work “Unsoku, and correct use of both internal and external forces allow the correct ‘downward pressure into the ground’ (i.e., lower of the gravity and downward compression of the stomach muscles) augmented by the ‘sharp contraction of the Musculo-skeletal system’ in an instant. 

(With permission from Oleg Larionov c. 2012)

Newtons 2nd Law states ‘the net force on an object is equal to the mass of the object multiplied by the acceleration of the object. It also states  ‘force equals mass times acceleration’.

Therefore, our moment of ‘Kime’ or ‘focus’ once achieved, must see/feel all the elements in the waza ‘peak’ and achieve ‘maximum speed/acceleration/momentum’ at the ‘instant of impact’. 

It is necessary to augment maximum acceleration/speed with sharp ‘contraction of the muscles’, and breath control, without shortening or change in distance between its origin and insertion into the target. Trying to apply focus too soon will slow down the technique at the last instant, and that deceleration will cause a loss of the power.

Traditionally we are taught that at the moment of ‘Kime’ there should be no extraneous movement, else we lose the line of energy that the technique intended to create. 

We need to try and know the difference between a dead stop and a living stop.  The Latter allows the explosive technique to immediately flow to another.  The first is a stand-alone technique that need a restart to continue any Renzoku Kogeki Waza (combination technique).

Looking at Combinations it is evident that there must be ‘Kime’ but equally rhythm, we need to find an amalgamation of correct waza, acceleration, power, relaxation, and the ability to stop in an instant, but triggers are firing to set a follow up technique.

Of course all this must be augmented with correct ‘Kokyu’ (breath control).

As an exercise try to perform a ‘chapter’ of a kata in one breath. Is it possible? Can you be decisive and sharp? Can you apply the concept of ‘Jo Ha Kyu’ into that flow, and move from one ‘Kime’ point to another seamlessly?



From the get-go I need to state that I was never a great ‘Kumite’ exponent, and for that very reason, plus participating in instructor training sessions I learned the theories and tools that assisted me along my journey. I grew up in the ‘blood and guts’ era of karate where pads were forbidden (other than a groin guard), and ‘control’ (of sorts) was expected. Contact was quite heavy, there were no mats, just hard floors, and falling victim to ‘ashi barai’ not only lost you the fight but often hurt. Blood injuries were usually only awarded a penalty ‘Chui’, and we were expected to just get on with it. Sometimes I would hear ‘it is better to get disqualified than lose’, not a sporting sentiment, but the reality of the 60s/70s Karate tournament era.

The small treatise below is an attempt at explaining some of the tools and strategies we need to understand.

Within traditional Japanese Budo we use words that relate to both concepts and/or strategy, inter alia, ‘ma-ai’(the interval o distance/gap between objects – either moving closer or further apart),  ‘hyoshi, or ‘ma’‘ (timing), ‘suki’ (a ‘rupture’ or ‘gap’ in the opponents defence or movement),  ‘kyo’ (the opportunity created when a person’s state of mind is off-guard or they are physically unbalanced), and ‘jitsu’ (being ‘focused’ or having concentration, i.e. a maximum state of readiness of both mental and physical conditions). It is worth noting that ‘ma’  間 can relate to timing/rhythm and space/distance. (Co-incidentally, and off subject, this is the second character in Gima Sensei’s name, 儀間. The ‘Gi’ can mean ‘ceremony’ or ‘matter’.

I would recommend reading Takuan Soho’s (1573–1645), The Unfettered Mind. That book, like Go Rin No Sho (Miyamoto Musashi), is a book of advice on swordsmanship (to Yagyu Munenori) and the cultivation of ‘right mind and intention’ in ‘Budo’. 

Following is a quote from Musashi about ‘Hyoshi’ (‘ma’) from (an English translation) of his book on strategy, Go Rin No Sho (The Book of Five Rings):

Hyoshi is found in all things, but in the art of the sword, it is impossible to acquire it without training……In the art of the sword, Hyoshi exists in several forms. It is important to learn about concordant Hyoshi, and then about discordant Hyoshi. And it is important among the great and the small, and the slow and the fast Hyoshis, to distinguish the concordant Hyoshi, the Hyoshi of ma (interval of distance), and discordant Hyoshi. The last is essential; if it is missing your sword will not be sure. In combat, knowing the Hyoshi of the adversary, I must utilise a Hyoshi that doesn’t even occur to him, and I will be victorious by bringing forth the Hyoshi of emptiness from the Hyoshi of wisdom.’

These terms relate equally to the both the combative ‘kumite’  and ‘kata’ where they may appear in as the dropping  of ‘zanshin’, weak ‘tachikata’, weak ‘kamae’, or a mistake in timing etc. ‘Kumite’ is of course easier for us to relate to, but we can practice timing using various methods such as playing tennis, hitting the speed bag etc. Within our ‘kata’ we practice ‘waza no kankyu’ (rhythm), i.e., speed or slowness of movement in each technique within the ‘kata’.

Returning to ‘kumite’ we practice various forms of basic sparring (One, three, five semi-free etc.) up to practicing ‘shiai kumite’, often with vigour (the best/only way for some!). ‘Ma-ai’ and ‘hyoshi’ are often the difference between winning and losing. In ‘jissen kumite’ or ‘shinken shobu’ the consequences of failure to use them do not bare thinking about.

My romanticism takes me to the duel on Funa-Jima (now called Ganryu Island) between Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro. It is said that the oar Musashi carved (whilst travelling across the water to the island) and wielded in the duel was slightly longer than the known length of Sasaki’s famous ‘nodachi’. Musashi is said to have turned Sasaki’s known advantage of reach against him.  The thin distance/difference between the two weapons favoured Musashi as he knew his weapon was longer than Sasaki’s. Strategy and ‘ma-ai’ united in an instant of time.

(Sasaki Kojiro and Miyamoto Musashi – the duel at Funa-Jima)

This brings me to the subject of will or ‘intent’, which requires skilful use of ‘ma-ai’, ‘hyoshi’,  and ‘suki’.  Firstly, we need to deal with our own will or intention. In order to form it we need to ensure that we are in ‘jitsu’ and not ‘kyo’; and that the formation of our intent does not place us in ‘kyo’ or create that ‘suki’ (gap) the opponent is looking to capitalise upon. This is a skill that needs consideration, understanding, and development.

We need to fully comprehend our full range of technique distance, surrounding our whole-body area, and control our own space (call it a bubble shield, or even of ‘force field’ if you like). We must ensure that our ‘kamae’ , tachikata’, use of ‘unsoku’ etc. creates both our offensive and defensive effective ranges. We should strive to use our ‘ma-ai’ and ‘seme-te’ to control the opponent. This must be effective in the form of attack or pressuring the opponent into making a mistake. In other words, we are the ‘puppeteer’ controlling our opponent’s actions and reactions! Effectively we need to extend our space in order that part of our ‘bubble’ or ‘area’ needs to enter into their ‘area’.

Once we achieve the above, fully comprehending both ‘jitsu’ and ‘ma-ai’, we know that we need to enter the opponent’s space with offensive technique. Some may say we need to pass through the ‘danger zone’ to reach the ‘sweet spot’. This can be within a single motion or using  ‘renzoku kogeki waza (combinations of techniques)’; the necessity is speed, timing, and effectiveness.

We need to understand the use of ‘kake waza’, and ‘oji waza’. We strike when the opponent shows ‘kyo’, (‘kake waza’); or we use ‘sen’ timing as ‘oji waza’ (responding to the opponent’s technique at the moment of their ‘kyo’. We know that it is difficult to defend when focused solely on attack, and that will be a moment that we can exploit. The ‘kyo’ is often created by an overly focused mind – paying the attention to the leaf, and not the tree! 

Consider this quote:

“Preoccupied with a single leaf… you won’t see the tree. Preoccupied with a single tree… you’ll miss the entire forest. Don’t be preoccupied with a single spot. See everything in its entirety… effortlessly. That is what it means to truly “see.” (Takehiko Inoue).

If we understand our body, our distance, and our capabilities and are skilful in the use of ‘ma-ai’ and ‘hyoshi’ we can explore the concept of ‘shikake waza’, that is setting up  the opponent! We can invite them to attack us by making a purposeful ‘suki’ or feint, our use of ‘sen’ must be skilful and well executed (‘sasoi waza’). 

We can use ‘ kuzushi’ such as a sweep or throw (‘ashi barai’ or ‘nage waza’) to physically unbalance the opponent, again putting them into ‘kyo’, or ‘renzoku kogeki waza’ using combinations or continuous attacks to break their mental or physical balance (‘kyo’).

The above may be in the ‘perfect world’ for ‘kumite’ but they must the tools in our toolbox that we need to acquire and know how to utilise.

A skilful opponent will always have a moment of time to adapt and adjust to our attacks. For this reason, alone we need to employ usage of good ‘ma-ai’ and ensure that our ‘ma’ (timing) is efficient in order to achieve successful range/reach.

Many today still talk about the ‘old days’ when Kanazawa, Enoeda, Shirai, Abe, Yahara, Kagawa senseis and so many other played ‘cat and mouse’. To my mind these are perfect examples of the employment of ‘kyo’, suki’, ‘ma-ai’, ‘intent’, ‘sen’ oji waza’, ‘shikake waza’ etc. 

(Howard Hewitt (my Senpai) vs Bill Pitcher, Canadian National Championships. c. 70s/80s)

The matches were akin to ‘cat and mouse’ and a win was often achieved in the blink of an eye. Movements co-ordinated, in and out, back, and forth, stalking, waiting, then the mistake (opportunity) spotted and the Ippon scored! ‘Ma-ai’, ‘kyo’, ‘jitsu’, ‘sen’ and ‘suki’ were the tools of the match, not just ‘waza’, with flailing arms and legs. 

There is reality in that Ippon Shobu ‘Kumite’; a controlled reality, yet the realisation that a devastating technique was being restrained! To me, this is karate as a ‘Budo’ and not a ‘sport’.

着眼点 Chakugan Ten of Kata – Point of Focus

An instructor’s submission for consideration.

This essay has been submitted by Carl Gigg, Yondan, of the Gima-Ha UK (Shisei Kai Branch).

Please give it careful consideration.

Chakugan Ten of Kata

Essay by Carl Gigg

For this essay, we are looking at the ten elements of kata, highlighting five or six points in detail for discussion. To select five or six points. I first considered if there were some more key to performing a successful kata than others. However, looking at the generally prescribed list of ten elements (as highlighted by many of the known masters and listed below) as being of huge importance to the performance of kata, I found it difficult to break them into categories of higher and lesser importance. The more I looked, the more I realised just how important they all were. In fact, while searching for clues, I found one Shito Ryu list that included 13 key elements. Others shortlisted the key points to 8. Whichever way you look at it. A successful performance of any kata, must demonstrate a multitude of factors, that to be frank, should be demonstrated in all of the karate that we perform. I would actually say that some are for life, not just karate.

So, before we hit the list, what is kata? As karateka we know of it as, a set pattern or moves and techniques that form a kata. A pre-prescribed sequence of techniques, with changes of directions, sometimes jumps and always (nearly always) a couple of set kiai points. If you enter the word kata into Google Translate, the English translation comes back as, Direction. Interesting…. We know often that karate phrases and words don’t often translate well, if at all through basic language convertors. However, I recently read an article in the SKM magazine. It was an interview of Sensei Fred Bonomo of the JSKA in Florida, by David Palumbo. In it, he was describing details of his Ph.D. of philosophy in arts where he was looking at Zen/Budo of the arts. In which, he stated that “the word kata, which became part of the Japanese vocabulary as early as 300 BCE”. It was introduced from China and “the first kata, was a highly detailed plan for instructing a group of people on how to successfully plant rice in a cooperative manner and with a high degree of success”. The value of this kata (training manual) was such, that it became a template for instructing people in many aspects of life. From how to eat (correctly with etiquette), write, bow, dance and even interact with people. Centuries later, it was adopted by the Samurai and dignitaries to define every part of their culture.

If we take this path, it is now natural to consider that a kata is less about a pretty dance and more about a clear instruction manual on how we should perform our karate. We have our kihon, the fundamentals of how to use the body to punch, kick, block and strike for instance. We learn at this point how to harness the energy of the ki, the core, the hara, tanden and directing our energy flow from floor to target to create devastating power. But doing this in isolation does not create a fluid style for defence or attack. Learn three kata and all of a sudden (well several years) and we start to be able to combine moves into sequences. We can turn, alter our focus to another target or person for instance. By learning the kata in a precise manner, we then find, once we have to use our karate in a kumite situation, we have the freedom to move where and how we want. The kihon can be allowed to flow unharnessed, hopefully with devastating success.

Compare the kata to a wiring diagram or a plan for building a shed. Follow a well laid out plan accurately, especially one that has been tried and tested and you will have a successful electrical system, working radio or a shed that can withstand a lifetime of use and abuse. Cut some corners and you will have nothing. A wiring system that keeps breaking down or burning out. A shed that the door doesn’t open, leaks and falls down in the wind. It is okay to freestyle eventually but, you must follow the basic principles (elements) that are proven to give results.

Now we are finally at the elements of kata. As I said before, I can’t pick favourites from the prescribed 10. Well in that case, let’s look elsewhere first. The three that appear in Shito-Ryu that are not sat in the top ten for Shotokan. Although, when you look at them, they are there. Maybe the unspoken, taken for granted inclusions of our karate…

Hyoshi: Timing, the rhythm, the tempo. The syncopation of the kata. This can be applied to a musical timing. How a tune can flow. If it is just thud, thud, thud. It is boring, it is lacking life and interest. It is just noise. Create a flow of notes that rise and fall, some sharp, some flat. High, low, long held or fast. Suddenly, if the correct sequence is built, we have a beautiful piece of music. This goes for kata. The speed of a turn, can alter the impression from a decisive action, slow and strong control, OR, if not executed well, a clueless and pointless change of direction. One could also include Hyoshi’s partner here of Maai (distance). Although there are no real opponents in kata, you must believe there are and deal with accordingly.

Kime: Decisiveness, finality, everything together for the completion of the technique. Yes, believe it or not, it is not in that holy ten of kata. Maybe it is presumed included in the kiai points, but really? Surely kime is on every move. If we take kime as that moment of decisive action, then it is throughout every part of the kata. This is from that first move, that is executed with instant action, often into the imaginary opponent, to the final move, where the battle is over. Kime lives here and every move, if not, then it is a bunch of hollow actions without a purpose.

Antei: Stability, steadiness and balance. Adjusting your body weight to maintain perfect balance and form. From transferring the centre of gravity from kokutsu dachi to zenkutsu dachi. Done in a clean and precise movement without any superfluous actions from any other part of the body. Drawing up into Gankaku dachi with poise and no flapping limbs. I remember suffering from a lack of this terribly at my 2nd or 1st kyu grading. Over effort with nervous and stiff limbs creating total lack of poise and balance. That makes it three out of three elements that we would definitely describe as key to a successful kata.

Here is the list, 10 elements of a perfect kata (taken from Gima-Ha UK website)

1. Yoi no Kisin – the spirit of getting ready. The concentration of will and mind against the opponent as a preliminary to the movements of the Kata. 

2. Inyo – the active and passive. Always keep in mind both attack and defence. 

3. Chikara no Kyojaku – the manner of using strength. The degree of power used for each movement and position in Kata. 

4. Waza no Kankyu – the speed of movement. The speed used for each movement and position in Kata. 

5. Tai no Shinshuku – the degree of expansion or contraction. The degree of expansion or contraction of the body in each movement and position in Kata. 

6. Kokyu – breathing. Breath control related to the posture and movement in Kata. 

7. Tyakugan – the aiming points. In Kata you must keep the purpose of the movement in mind. 

8. Kiai – shouting. Shouting at set points in Kata to demonstrate the martial spirit. 

9. Keitai no Hoji – correct positioning. Correct positioning in movement and stance. 

10. Zanshin – remaining on guard. Remaining on guard at the completion of the Kata.  

Now I will pick at random three from the familiar ten. Let us look at the front and back of the kata first. Yoi no Kisin and Zanshin. Call them the bookends of a successful kata.

Yoi no Kisin: Preparing one’s mind, concentrating the mind, summoning your will. There are many ways to put this state of mind. Look at the mind of a warrior (seeing as it fits our world of karate). Do we think that any battle-hardened warrior, downs his breakfast, pats the dog, jumps on his horse and rides off to battle without a care in the world? Of course not. First there would have been planning, preparation of what would be about to happen. Then likely, some form of mental ritual that clears and focuses the mind to the task at hand. They will arrive at the point of battle in an almost meditative state of mind. There may be deflective humour if a group activity, to normalise what is about to take place. This would then dissipate at the point full focus is required. For kata, it is from when you stand to ready yourself for walking onto the tatami. Once you approach your mark, as does the warrior, you will draw in your energy and your gaze will become fixed on the target. To onlookers, there would be a neutral facial expression with steely glazed eyes. The word Hajime would be met with a reaction as if to an attack. How many sportsmen and women do you see, preparing for a race, a lift, a dive, draw the bow, or even drive a car. That focus is Yoi no Kisin, readiness of the highest degree.

Zanshin: Awareness, remaining focused and on guard, until the point you are back at Yoi and maybe told Yame. Until that battle is over, you are ready to react, jump back into the fray. This closes the book on the battle of kata. But, is it not in the kata all the way through? For if we are not in a perpetual state of readiness throughout the kata, how can we truly depict a person dealing with multiple imaginary foe! This may not be something that would show when bouncing through a sequence of two or three linked techniques. Surely though, when a sequence is complete and we are about to turn or launch another sequence, there must be Zanshin, as we cannot (should not) turn off that awareness. Neither do we turn off that spirit from Yoi.

And lastly for this essay…..

Chakugan/Tyakugan: Focus, aim, direction of our attention. Keeping in mind the target. Where are you aiming and why? Again, the prescribed format of any kata is precise as to where your target points are and what you should be striking with. A jodan tsuki is precisely that. It cannot be a chudan nukite. To put the wrong move in at any point is like missing a solder joint in the wiring setup or missing a few fixings or timbers on the shed. The point is missed and the kata becomes worthless for what it is intended. You must show clearly (nothing ambiguous) what you are striking/blocking/kicking, at what target with what technique. Anyone left guessing, you have missed the point of Chakugan.

My conclusion is. Study the moves of the kata. Know what they are and what their purpose is. Practice in sections. Perfect each sequence as a miniature kata. Each one of these mini kata, perform with spirit, awareness, focus and commitment. Be precise, do not accept nearly, or almost. As a master carpenter aims to create a perfect joint, so it not only works properly and is strong, but it can be beautiful to see. Function and form, no compromise.

When we perform kata, we are trying to depict the most perfect view of what karate is. Call it a dramatic dance, like a ballet. A ballet isn’t real life but it tells the story of real life in an art form. Because of this, the elements must be there to ground it to realism. Onlookers must feel what you are seeing, be fearful in your presence, believe what and why you are doing what you are.

Although the kata is a form of displaying our ideal techniques, every kata has a reality below the surface. There are real blocks, locks, breaks, chokes, punches and kicks. Each one can be pretty realistic if performed correctly, with the elements in place. This makes them real. You can perform the Bunkai of the kata, but Bunkai is a stylised reality too. It must be close to the kata when performing the practical defences and attacks on a real opponent. If we wish to take it to a more realistic version, that will likely pervert the beauty of the kata performance, we go to Oyo. In Oyo, we can have more freedom from the confines of the kata. An onlooker will be aware of which you are demonstrating but the techniques should be more real, less precise and often slightly altered for practicality. Directions become more diverse than straight up and down, more Tai Sabaki, more shifting.

So, kata becomes a great learning medium, an excellent teacher. After all, a student will be more interested trying to perfect a kata than perfect a 1000 tsuki waza. Partly because it will engage their imagination. They have a succession of achievable goals. Learn the sequence, understand it, improve the effort, tidy the techniques, slow down the slow parts, speed up the fast. Turn quicker, be more balanced and then continue through those improvements again. A student gains a confidence and pride in performing a kata nicely. In many ways it is the perfect medium of disguising repetition of techniques.


Ramblings on Kata 

Formalised karate ‘kata’ are normally practised within the Shoto-Ryu/Shoto-Kan/Shoto-Kai systems (and in fact most Okinawa and Japanese Budo systems, not just karate-do/), as a solitary ‘enbu’ (performance); therefore, the ‘Kata No Ju Taiyoso’ (ten elements of kata) appropriately apply to the person practising or demonstrating the kata (read ‘performing’), and not the ‘imaginary’ opponent being ‘contested’ or ‘battled’. 

It is probably fair to say that ‘kata’ is ‘the core’ of karate. ‘Kata’ contain the fundamental principles and concepts of Karate, from striking, to throwing and choking etc.Keeping in mind that in comparison to the 20th centrury there are little  known ‘ancient writings’ on kata. We must, however, remember that they are the ‘hand me down teachings of the ancient masters.

We also know, from our ancient beliefs that it takes years of dedicated practice to execute and understand a kata fully. There is an old adage ‘Hito kata san nen’ (One kata, three years); in other words it takes three years to learn, understand and efficiently execute a kata.  There are several old masters who believe that in-depth study three or four kata are sufficient for a lifetime of karate; albeit some would also state that adding others create depth or breadth to a style.

We should always remember that the father of modern Japanese karate Funakoshi Gichin stated in his Niju Kun (20 precepts):

 “Hitotsu, tekki ni yotte tenka seyo” – “Make adjustments according to your opponent”.  

The “bottom line” is that kasso teki’s intent and movements must be clearly visualised by the karateka whose response must be accurate and with focused intent.  

Shizufumi Ishido Hanshi (Iaido Senior Master) in his article from the book ‘The Eyes of the Iaido Shinsa’  (Iaido Shinsa no Me) 2009 states:

 “Take for example the phrase “Kisen wo seishite (to get a jump ahead of)”. What condition does this refer to? How would you like to deal with your opponent? What will you do when you become aware of your opponent’s ill-intent? Will you draw before your opponent starts to move? What does it mean to draw with Jo-Ha-Kyu? This refers to the draw starting slowly, gradually increasing in speed, then finally reaching its fastest speed the moment the swords leaves the scabbard. It is not good to blindly draw quickly, but rather to draw in accordance with your imaginary opponent’s movement. I am sure that everybody knows this, but it is still important to repeatedly read the manual and confirm this point.” 

To repeat: it is not good to blindly draw quickly, but rather to draw in accordance with your imaginary opponent’s movement. Our “imagination” mentally provides us with a tangible and realistic opponent. 

I believe that an observer of a kata ‘enbu’ should be able to see the ‘kasso teki’ (invisible opponent) if the ‘enbu’ has a realistic feel.  To put in another way, we must ‘sense’ the majority of the 10 elements rather than actually see them. Of course, some are evident and easy to spot as an observer, but others can only be ‘sensed’; such is a fine line of technical proficiency augmented by ‘martial understanding’!

To correctly practice Kata the following elements should be clearly assimilated and demonstrated by Karateka.

Remember the technical details, the understanding of what we do, as we build our habits into practice, we must remember why we are doing what we’re doing!  Not just performing a dance.  Our practise and our thinking must be foundations (Biomechanics) and how we can strengthen each block and strike that we perform.  Our movements cannot just be based on science or academia, but they must also be realistic.

Certain admonishments need always to be made to students, novice, intermediate or advanced, to wit:

  • keep the shoulders down so we don’t telegraph techniques, 
  • use clean lines not to create ‘suki’, 
  • our movements once ’mastered’ should be fast, explosive, and an immediate response/attacks to techniques. 
  • we must remember to learn slowly and increase timing speeds with proficiency. Timing will make sense when we understand the whole kata, i.e. it is  imperative that we understand what we are doing.
  • speed is not rushing
  • low does not always mean long! 
  • stability and rooted techniques are important, not to be discarded at the expense of ‘flashiness’!

In the excellent site ‘Karate by Jesse’ -Jesse Enkamp Sensei writes:

Sakumoto Tsuguo (hanshi 9th dan Ryuei-ryu), perhaps said it best when he once told us:

  “The more you need to change Karate, the less you understand.”

We should study The ‘Kata No Ju Taiyoso’ – read the Ten Elements of Kata, as described by Kanazawa Horokazu Soke and others. These ten elements carry huge importance and are of great significance to the serious karateka.

1. YOI NO KISIN – the spirit of getting ready. The concentration of will and mind against the opponent as a preliminary to the movements of the Kata. 

2. INYO – the active and passive. Always keep in mind both attack and defence. 

3. CHIKARA NO KYOJAKU – the manner of using strength. The degree of power used for each movement and position in Kata. 

4. WAZA NO KANKYU – the speed of movement. The speed used for each movement and position in Kata. 

5. TAI NO SHINSUKU – the degree of expansion or contraction. The degree of expansion or contraction of the body in each movement and position in Kata. 

6. KOKYU – breathing. Breath control related to the posture and movement in Kata. 

7. TYAKUGAN – the aiming points. In Kata you must keep the purpose of the movement in mind. 

8. KIAI – shouting. Shouting at set points in Kata to demonstrate the martial spirit. 

9. KEITAI NO HOJI – correct positioning. Correct positioning in movement and stance. 

10. ZANSHIN – remaining on guard. Remaining on guard at the completion of the Kata.  

In conclusion, karate may have its origins, and much of its current meaning in the ‘Bunkai’ and ‘Oyo’, but these work only when the above ten elements are truly understood and some of proficiency (if not mastery) gained by the karateka.

Unsoku and Tameru


‘Unsoku’ or ‘Footwork’ is an essential element to all ‘Fighting Arts’, and within ‘Japanese Budo’ it becomes part of the ‘Kihon’ structure. We see it within all the ‘Kata’, and it goes without saying that without it, ‘Kumite’ become ‘limp’ and most likely ineffective.

‘Unsoku’ is essential for being able to fight with ‘skill’ rather than speed and strength . We must, therefore, develop strong technique and good footwork. Using footwork efficiently allows for controlling distance and timing, for advantageous position relative to the opponent.

Good ‘Unsoku Waza’ allows us to be mobile, but perhaps more importantly, we can ‘load’ our technique ‘internally’ as opposed to reliant upon physicality.

We all know that we use pressure from the floor, causing a chain reaction through the body. This allows ‘power’ with less output of energy. We use our feet daily (those of us who are fully ‘able bodied’), without thought, yet within ‘Karate’ it often seems a ‘stumbling block’!

We need to save our energy (‘Tameru’), therefore, It is essential to connect the ‘chain’ from the feet, through the legs, torso and the attacking ‘weapon’. Any rocking backwards, or obvious ‘loading’ stops the instantaneous reaction, and potentially creates a moment of ‘Suki’ or ‘Kyo’ within us.

Yokeru – Koto

For the past few days, during Zoom training, we have been looking at Happo Sabaki/Tai Sabaki; i.e. the 8 directions of attack and defence.

We are now moving forward, from ‘simple Sabaki’ to the more ‘complex Sabaki’. This will bring terminology that you may not be as familiar with.

It is quite important, within karate, to understand these Japanese terms, and describe them, not just be able to do the practical move or application. Why? Because Karate is a traditional Okinawan/Japanese Art, and the language used in Traditional Karate-Do can be spoken in any dojo, in any country, anywhere in the world, even though you don’t speak French, Italian, Welsh, Urdu, Swahili, etc.

Today, I am looking at the simple terminology for ‘Yokeru – Koto’! Yokeru is the Japanese verb meaning ‘to evade’; and in Japanese language we can turn the verb into a noun by adding ‘Koto’ indicating ‘things’. Thus, Yokeru – Koto = Evasion.

In essence, we move our body (Tai Sabaki) in such a way that we avoid the opponent’s technique (attack). Simple enough, as a concept, more difficult in execution. We must put it in our minds and focus on developing these.

We will also hear the terminology ‘Naname’. Simply put, ‘Naname’ means ‘Diagonal’

We need to understand that with simple attacks the opponent’s strike or body will be normally moving in the line or direction of their attack! By evading, not necessarily blocking, they (the Teki), are for a moment in time placed in disadvantage (Kyo), as they can not quickly recover enough to change their attack. For this to work, we must allow the attack and wait until the last possible moment before we move, otherwise we show them our intent – creating our own moment in Kyo that they can exploit.

This is of course a Go-No-Sen concept.

If we apply Yokeru-Koto arduously and consistently in our practice, we find options; 1) there may be no need to block, 2) their attack is too strong so we must still block then add the counter, 3) we could be blocking and countering at the same time as we employ the ‘evasion’, and 4) the end game – a De-Ai with a strong attack or simultaneous block/attack.

For the purpose of this text, all the attacks are Migi Oizuki or Migi Maegeri from the Semete.

Now don your ‘Dogi’ and practice ‘Hidari Mae Naname’ as simple ‘Sabaki’, from Shizentai; then we with some concentration and arduous practise, move to another phase – ‘Hidari Naname Ni Yokeru Koto’ and ‘Migi Naname Ni Yokeru Koto’ from ‘Hidari Jiyu No Kamae’.

Enjoy! OSS!