Kyokushin is a style of karate that focuses on sparring – but don’t worry, you’ll ease into it as your skills develop. Training is tough but rewarding – not only do you get a great cardiovascular workout, but you’ll also develop self-esteem, strength of character and, of course, the confidence of knowing you can look after yourself when needed. Kyokushin classes are broken into five aspects.
Kyokushin is a traditional martial art, and some aspects might seem overly ritualistic at first, such as bowing upon entering the training room or reciting the dojo kun, a short oath that practitioners must learn and repeat together at each training session. However, these traditions help keep the atmosphere respectful and welcoming. Unlike modern martial art styles, traditional styles tend to decrease aggression in those who train in them, and part of the reason for this is the formality of the training.
At the beginning of the class, you’ll be taken through some basic stretching and joint-loosening movements, and then some aerobic exercise such as light jogging. This is to get you warmed up and reduce your risk of injury when the actual karate training begins. As a beginner, you’ll have leeway to take it easy in the warmup, so don’t be intimidated by the senior students running around like crazy – go at your own pace.
Kihon (Basic Training)
Kihon means basic training, and in this part of the class you’ll learn how to punch, kick, block and move in the karate style. Typically, you’ll work on a few techniques per session, with the class lined up in order of seniority. You might also practice drills with a partner, such as taking turns to block a single punch or a kick. These exercises build your reactions and teach you to put your whole body into a movement. If you’ve never done martial arts before, you’ll be exercising muscles you didn’t know you had.
A kata is a pattern of karate movements organized into a set sequence, almost like a dance routine. To start with, you’ll be taught a basic kata called taikyoku sono ichi, which contains two of the moves you learned in your kihon. As you’ll see, at various points in the kata you must kiai. Roughly translated as “spirit,” a kiai is a shout you make when you attack. Just pick a vowel and yell it out: “Eee!” “Aaaii!” “Hyah!”
Many women are apprehensive about sparring but you needn’t worry – beginners are well looked-after, and some clubs won’t even let you spar for a few weeks while you work on your kihon. After realizing their worries were unfounded, many people find this their favorite aspect of training. For safety reasons, attacks to the head are not permitted, and punches cannot be aimed at women’s chests or the groin of either gender. Initially, you’ll take part in slow-motion, light-contact sparring, and the intensity will increase along with your skill.
Warren Davies has been writing since 2007, focusing on bespoke projects for online clients such as PsyT and The Institute of Coaching. This has been alongside work in research, web design and blogging. A Linux user and gamer, warren trains in martial arts as a hobby. He has a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in psychology, and further qualifications in statistics and business studies.