The Goju-Ryu Karate method of training has four main components of instruction. The first and most basic is Kihon which deals with the fundamentals of blocking, striking kicking and stances. The second method is Kata. Kata or forms are precise sequence of moves that represent a battle with multiple opponents. Kumite is the third method of training where students learn to apply the techniques from Kihon & Kata. The final method of training is Kobudo Weapon training featuring traditional weapons of the Bo, Sai, Nunchaku and Sticks. Kobudo training is limited to high grades requiring an adequate understanding of Kihon, Kata & Kumite.
It is important to remember that all classes begin with warm up and stretching exercises preparing the body for the four K’s.
Kihon deals with the execution of basic techniques including Blocks, Strikes, Kicks & Stances. They are also performed as combinations up and down the dojo called Kihon Ido. Kihon is performed after the warm up and should be a regular part of every lesson. It develops correct technique, correct body mechanics, posture, tension, speed, balance and endurance. Repetition is critical to Kihon in order to achieve perfection of technique. It is not uncommon to repeat a technique over 50 times in one class in an effort to establish correct habits (muscle memory). When first attempting Kihon, all movements should be executed slowly while establishing correct technique. When the technique is correct it should then be executed with speed and focus (Kiai). By constant repetition of correct technique at high speed, muscle memory is established allowing the student to execute any technique spontaneously, with correct form, speed & power. This is crucial for real combat, which leaves the mind free to deal with situational & strategic issues, rather than the mechanics of the technique.
Kata’s are considered the soul of karatedo and are the foundation of the art. They ensure that the most important techniques of Goju-Ryu are never forgotten, they are preserved within the kata’s which are passed down from generation to generation. They are to be practiced thoroughly by both student and master. Although kata’s are performed without a partner, they represent a battle with multiple imaginary opponents utilizing attacking and defensive techniques. The practice of kata leads to the development of the physical, intellectual and spiritual self and when performed correctly can be classed as a form of moving meditation. The movements must be executed at the correct speed with a smooth action and finishing with good focus striving for technical perfection. Rhythm and timing must be maintained through breathing which is considered the tool which links the mind and body. The physical benefits of kata include improved coordination, balance, speed, focus, muscular control & strength. But most importantly, the practice of Kata develops “Mushin - Mind without thinking” which is a flow state in which the student and the movement become one. It is a state of mind where the student is no longer conscious of the activity, they become the activity. This mental state is the principle source of the traditional warrior’s quick reactions, extrasensory perception, and steely calm. Kata through Mushin teaches the student to become one with their instincts and have a greater understandin.
Kumite or sparring is the partner work which allows the student to apply the techniques learned in kihon and kata against a real opponent. There are two types of kumite; Pre-arranged kumite (yakusoku) and free-form kumite (jiyu). Pre-arranged partner work is where one opponent has a set attack while the other opponent blocks and counters. Pre-arranged kumite consists of one-step, two step, three step sparring, fighting techniques & wrist lock techniques. These various methods of prearranged sparring restrict the student to only one opportunity to demonstrate proper technique, target and distance. The attacker learns to make single, explosive attacks and learns to reduce telegraphing the attacks, while the defender learns to recognise incoming attacks and to react accordingly. Pre-arranged kumite is used to develop the principles of timing, shifting, control, distance, decisiveness, posture and ettiquette. The more advanced form of kumite is Free Sparring (Jiyu) which allows the students to move freely around the dojo in a free-style posture and stance as opposed to the structured pre-arranged sparring. This teaches the student to recognize opportunities, take advantage of targets presented to them, and react accordingly. Advanced students enter Free Sparring with the attitude of “Zanchin - total awareness and martial spirit”. It is important to remember that the definition of kumite is not to fight, but it implies that two or more people are working together, learning from the interaction.
Kobudo refers to an Ancient Okinawan weapon art which is not formally part of karate-do (open hand martial art). However, the development of kobudo weapon training has shadowed the development and evolution of karate to the degree that they are almost inseparable. Kobudo utilises similar stances, postures and fighting strategies as Karate. Therefore Kobudo should not be pursued unless the practitioner has a sufficient understanding of empty hand martial arts. In the 16th Century the Japanese invaded Okinawa and banned the use of weapons, only permitting the Japanese Samurai to own weapons in order to control the islands. Just as the monks in China had developed weapons from seemingly innocent items such as the staff, so did the Okinawans. These creative farmers and fisherman resorted to converting the implements of their working life into destructive weapons. They developed complex weapon forms for such items as the 6 foot staff (bo), pitchfork (sai), and the nunchaku was considered a harmless tool for grinding rice. It is important to remember that Kobudo weapons are based on karate principles. And with proficient practice of the chosen weapon the body and weapon will become one, making the weapon an extension of the body. Kobudo therefore maximises reach and power of all blocks and strikes through the use of weapons.