Why should I practice karate?

The benefits of karate practice are myriad. Physically it enhances strength, coordination, stamina, balance and flexibility. It is well documented that regular exercise can improve both the quality and longevity of your life and that it makes people feel happier and more alert. There is also evidence that exercise can help cognitive brain function. Everything that you do in your life becomes a bit easier because of your karate practice.
Karate trains the mind as well as the body, resulting in improved self-awareness, discipline, confidence and will power. Not only will you become more confident that you can defend yourself, but your confidence to tackle all of life’s trials will grow.
One of the translations of the Japanese symbol for martial arts (the “bu” in “budo”) is “to stop conflict”. This is a philosophical goal for a martial artist, but does not only apply to external conflicts. Karate training results in feeling less conflict within yourself as a result of what’s usually referred to as increased “inner harmony” and “inner strength”.

What should I wear? Do I need to buy a uniform?

Beginners are not required to wear uniforms (called a “gi”) during the first 3 months of practice. Any kind of light clothing that you can stretch and move easily in is OK. Beginning students do have the option of purchasing uniforms if they wish.

Do I need previous martial arts experience?

No, most of our new members have no previous experience. If you have experience in karate or some other martial art, of course you’re also welcome.

How often should I practice?

Beginners (and advanced students for that matter) should establish a regular and consistent training schedule in order to learn techniques efficiently and not develop too many bad habits. In general, the more you train the faster you’ll learn. Three times a week is a reasonable target for beginners to aspire to. Two times a week is OK, but learning is slower. Progress is very slow and bad habits become rampant at practice levels below two times per week. We don’t recommend you join a club if you cannot attend at least twice a week.
It is important that beginners not expect instant results. Karate takes patience and perseverance – it takes years to become proficient no matter how often you train. You must also balance training with your life. Don’t neglect other things due to excessive training.

How old should a child be before starting karate?

This depends on the child’s maturity and attention span, which can vary widely among individuals. We do not take children under the age of 8 for that reason. For most children, age 8 should be considered as a minimum and around age 10 as an optimum starting age. If your child expresses interest in karate, they should be told that karate practice is very serious and that only “big kids” who can be responsible are allowed to do it.

Can older adults practice karate?

Karate can be practiced at any age as long as a person is relatively healthy. A physical exam and doctor’s OK is a good idea for anyone older than age 50 or so if you haven’t worked out for a long time.. Older people may not be as strong, fast or flexible as someone in their 20’s, but they can still practice karate at their own pace and derive great physical and mental benefits from it.

How coordinated and physically fit do I have to be to practice karate?

Most world karate champions, like any top athlete, were probably well-coordinated natural athletes before they began their karate training. Most of us, however, come to karate in order to become more coordinated and physically fit. So the brief answer is, “not very”. Even if you feel like the world’s most uncoordinated person, you can still practice karate and by doing so, your coordination and fitness will greatly improve.

Will I get hurt practicing karate?

Karate training is very rigorous. Bumps, bruises and sore muscles are not uncommon. Serious injuries are extremely uncommon; however, because karate emphasizes physical and mental control as well as respect for your training partner. No contact is allowed during our basic sparring exercises. The result is that karate practice is considerably safer than many other popular sports.

How effective is karate REALLY?

Again this depends on the ability of the individual karate student. The most adept technicians in the world, who train constantly and have devoted their lives to mastering the art, are certainly able to vanquish multiple, variously armed attackers under most circumstances. The key to this is highly developed timing, reflexes, and accuracy as well as developing sufficient power to disable an attacker with a single blow. The average karate student with only limited training experience may not be able to do the all the things you see on TV, but his karate knowledge could nonetheless save his life.

What do I call the teacher?

Instructors are addressed as “Sensei”. Sensei is a Japanese title of respect (sort of like “Sir” or “Mister”). It means “teacher” and is literally translated as “one who has gone before”. This is in reference to that persons training and overall experience.
“Senpai” (“senior”) is another term of respect that is often used when addressing someone who is not an instructor, but is senior to you in karate experience. “Kohai” (junior) is used when addressing someone with less experience.

What's all this bowing about?

Bowing is a gesture of kindness and respect for another person. Common among Eastern cultures, we have no real equivalent here in the West. Bowing is a both a greeting and an acknowledgement of another person’s worth. Karate students embrace a philosophy that all people are worthy of respect. Learning to respect others is paramount to correct understanding of martial arts. Great physical and mental power must be offset by making a habit of putting other people before oneself, otherwise karate students might easily become bullies. So as we gain strength with the potential to harm others, we also endeavor to become kinder people. Bowing and other forms of martial arts etiquette are training tools to help the karate student make kindness a habit.

What are the belts (ranks) in karate and how long does it take to reach them?

Beginning students first go through the “kyu” ranks. Students typically rise in rank by one kyu every 4 to 6 months. Kyu ranks and the color belts that go with them are:

  • White belt – 9th kyu
  • Yellow belt – 8b kyu, 8 kyu
  • Orange belt – 7b kyu, 7 kyu
  • Green belt – 6b kyu, 6 kyu
  • Purple belt – 5b kyu thru 4 kyu
  • Brown belt – 3b kyu thru 1st kyu

One year after students attain 1st kyu, they may then start testing for “dan” (black belt) ranks. Students who train regularly typically require 2 to 3 years to reach the first level (Shodan) of black belt. Each succeeding black belt level requires increasingly more time to attain. For example, it generally takes at least 2 years to go from Shodan (1st degree) to Nidan (2nd degree), at least 3 years between Nidan and Sandan (3rd degree), and at least 4 years between Sandan and Yondan (4th degree).

What's a karate class like?

Karate training is a combination of aerobic, endurance, flexibility and strengthening exercises, all the while honing the practical skills of the art. The training can be rigorous – expect to sweat. Classes are typically 1.5 hrs in duration. Beginners have separate classes for 2 to 4 weeks where they gradually build up technique and fitness levels before joining in with the regular class.

How does Shotokan karate differ from other martial arts?

All martial arts have their specialties and unique character. Shotokan is traditional Japanese karate that specializes in punching, striking, kicking and blocking techniques. However, there is much overlap in technique among martial arts styles. For example, we also do sweeping, throwing and joint-locking techniques. In Shotokan, you won’t see much of the flashy spinning and jumping about that is popular in martial arts movies – just techniques that are powerful and effective.

What's different about traditional martial arts?

Traditional martial arts emphasize training both the body and the mind. Philosophy and ideals are just as important to traditional martial arts as physical prowess. Traditional martial arts are based on time-honored techniques and systems. Classes are more disciplined and place more emphasis on etiquette than the typical street-corner karate school.

What's the advantage of an ISKF karate school?

The International Shotokan Karate Federation is one of the largest and most prestigious martial arts organizations in the world. Exacting standards of technique and rank are the same in our club as they are in Japan. ISKF schools will not compromise their ranking standards just to keep students happy. Instructors are nationally and internationally certified and regularly participate in instructor training courses and seminars to better their teaching skills throughout their lives. Regular training camps provide ISKF students exposure to a great number of world-class karate instructors. Your ISKF rank is recognized throughout the world. Independent schools and smaller organizations do not have this depth of opportunity to offer.