The Characteristics of Karate

Karate may be defined as a weaponless means of self-defense. It consists of dynamic offensive and defensive techniques using all parts of the body.
Karate practice is divided into three categories:

Kihon: – Kihon translates to basic techniques of blocking, punching, striking and kicking.

Kata: – Kata is a series of prearranged defensive and offensive movements. Each of these movements is based on idealized combat applications.

Kumite: – Kumite stands for sparring in karate and literally translates as “meeting of hands”. It is a combination of attack and defense techniques in which a person trains against an adversary, using the techniques learned from the kihon and kata.

In order to perform these three categories, we should have a good understanding of the following primary points:-

Form (katachi)

Balance and stability are necessary to basic techniques. Karate movements involve shifting the body’s center of gravity, which demands good balance and control of the body. In addition, the karate practitioner requires stable joints, stances, high degree of stability and posture to deliver maximum impact in a blow.

Breathing and Breath Control

Correct breathing is a critical element in energy management to bringing maximum power to the point of attack or defense. Breath control enhances in student mental and physical endurance as well as his concentration focus and develop the warrior spirit necessary to be a good martial artist. Breathing exercises undertaken in karate practice strengthens our internal organs against possible injuries suffered from potentially fatal blows in any combat situation.

Correct breathing and breath control prevent us from becoming exhausted very quickly and overcome obstacles such as fear, anxiety, stress and feeling low emotionally.

KIAI (Energy-Shout)

KIAI is the loud shout compound of character KI and AI. KI is the spirit and energy along with the breath meeting AI at the moment of impact. It also has the added effect of surprising an opponent and may momentarily paralyze their response.

The purpose of a KIAI is to maximize the power, tension, and focus of a specific technique at the exact moment of impact bringing together the mind, body and spirit at one. It also teaches proper breathing while executing an attack so as to maximize the impact.

Kime (Focus Impact)

Focus Impact in karate refers to the concentration of all the energy of the body in an instance on a specific target.

Kime is the focusing of mental energy, breathing and physical force combing in a single striking point in the shortest possible time. Kime is the essence of the karate techniques and without it karate is lifeless.

Power and Speed (Power = Speed x Strength)

Karate techniques rely on a combination of power and speed and students should learn to use their body strength effectively in order to maintain control and concentrate the maximum amount of force at the point of attack or defense.

Speed is an important element in the application of power, but speed cannot achieve its maximum affect without good control. Perfect balance and coordination in conjunction with speed and strength is the key to achieve maximum power.

Concentration and Relaxation of Power

Power comes from concentrating all of one’s strength, from every part of the body, on the target not just the strength of the arms and legs. When punching or kicking, power moves from the center of the body, the major muscles, to the extremities, ending in the hand or foot.

Basically, power should start at zero, climax to maximum on impact, and immediately return to zero. Relaxing unnecessary power does not mean relaxing alertness. One should always be alert and prepared for the next movement. This can only be achieved when mind and body are in perfect harmony with each other.

Strengthening of Muscular Power

Without a strong body there is only so much a strong mind and spirit could achieve. Karate requires strong muscles working synchronously to their optimum utilization. Karate practitioner should practice techniques repeatedly in order to build up strong, powerful, well trained elastic muscles to execute the techniques sharply and learn to use the appropriate muscles for different techniques.

Rhythm and Timing

An essential element in the performance of techniques in the karate and other sports is rhythm. The proper execution of a series of movement in any sports is impossible without rhythm.

Correct timing is of utmost importance in applying techniques. If timing is faulty, the technique will fail. A kick or punch which is directed at the target either too early or too late is often useless. Correct timing involves good coordination between mind and body, correct distancing and a very high level of awareness which can only be achieved with dedicated hard practice.


Hips movement plays a crucial role in the execution of various types of karate techniques. The lower abdomen, particularly the rotation of the hips, which adds power to the upper body, generates power and speed for maximum impact.

The hips are located at approximately at the center of the human body provide the foundation of strong, stable movements, good balance, and correct form. In karate, Instructor always advice to students “punch with your hips”, “kick with your hips”, and “strike with your hips”.