Kihon (基本) means “basics” or “fundamentals. It describes a mod of practice which focuses on the teaching of the foundational principles and techniques of Shotokan. At the center of kihon stands the right execution of waza (技, techniques). Precision, accuracy, smoothness, and the efficient utilization of the body are part of it.

It consists of uke waza (受け技, blocks), uchi waza (内技, punches), keri waza (蹴り技, kicks), tachi waza (立ち技, stances), and movements. Usually, students train kihon without a partner. Partner training belongs to kumite (see below). Therefore, it shares many aspects with shadow-boxing. However, while shadow-boxing focuses on a free execution of techniques and combinations kihon follows preset sequences.

The repertoire of techniques, which become trained in kihon, is very rich. Shotokan consists of round about 25 keri-waza (kicks) and more than 60 ude-waza (arm techniques). Therefore, Shotokan offers a very versatile set of self-defense options. It is up to the instructor to combine and use this techniques in order to achieve maximum learning effects for their students.

How does a kihon session takes place?

It usually begins in shizentai (自然体): a natural upright position. A sensei (master) or senpai (higher student), who conducts a regular kihon session, gives the command to prepare for the next part of training. First, they show and explain techniques in front of the class. For this purpose the use technical Japanese Shotokan terminology. Beginners will learn it very fast. Then, the students are supposed to execute the techniques. The instructor gives commands, sets the pace, corrects the students, and controls the right execution of the techniques. He also decides how many times and which technique will be trained.

While beginners usually train one technique at a time and progress slowly towards simple combinations of techniques, advanced students focus on complex combinations. In kihon students, therefore, train already situation and sequences that become later relevant in fighting.

Shihan Masao Kawasoe (8th dan) shows kihon practices begining in shizentai and then starting from gedan barai kamae.

What Are the Important Physical Aspects of Kihon?

What Are the Important Mental Aspects of Kihon?

The Role of the Instructor

The instructor has several tasks during kihon practice, which require a deep and profound education in Shotokan karate.

  • Setting learning goals for Shotokan students
  • Translating these goals into a practical curriculum
  • Turning the curriculum into sub-sets of kihon tasks for students
  • Delivering the full range of technical versatility of Shotokan karate
  • Presenting (and explaining) the techniques and combinations to the students
  • Knowing the right execution and the purpose of techniques
  • Motivating the students to reach and lead them to their performance limits
  • Considering physical and mental health during every step in training
  • Enforcing the rules (dojo kun) and etiquette of Shotokan karate
  • Being a role model

List of Authors:

Dr. Christian Tribowski