Karate is often depicted as a brutal martial art form. However, its violent reputation shouldn’t put you off getting involved in it. Karate may be a contact sport, but it requires great skill and agility. Competition karate is centred on balance, grace and self-discipline, rather than straightforward punching and kicking. Here’s some important moves you’ll want to know about.
Key karate techniques
Karate training demands great concentration and poise to progress beyond the very basic karate techniques. Though certain films may glorify its combative nature, competition karate is less about inflicting pain on opponents and more about focusing on outwitting them through a combination of fluid movements.
Here are some of the key techniques that you can expect to learn as you progress through your karate training. Although some moves may appear slightly rough-and-ready, it’s important you keep in mind that competition karate is played out in safe and (hopefully!) pain-free conditions.
- Front kicking (mae-geri)
The ‘front kick’ is a simple yet highly effective form of attack, usually targeted at an opponent’s knees, groin or stomach. Front kicks aimed towards the groin or knees are simply designed to surprise an opponent. Here, the competitor flicks a leg straight out, ensuring that their foot makes sharp contact with the opponent’s body. In contrast, front kicks aimed towards the torso are more powerful, with the karateka (karate participant) putting greater weight behind their kicking to land heavier blows. Whilst front kicking may sound rather painful, it’s important you try not to hurt your opponent too much when attempting one during a lesson or competition!
- Upper blocks (jodan uke)
The ‘upper block’ (or ‘rising block’) is a defensive move designed to fend off punches and kicks to the head and upper-body. This key block is also useful in setting up the karateka for a fast counter-attack. So how does the upper block work? It’s simple really - when preparing to block an attack, the competitor places his (or her) left arm at the side of their waist, with the arm bent so the fist is facing the opponent. At the same time, the competitor’s right arm is raised straight up, alongside their head. Once an attack is launched, the karateka quickly brings their right arm down, covering their face and therefore parrying the hit. At the same time, they bring their left arm forward, punching the opponent in the stomach whilst they’re caught off-guard. All in all, it’s the perfect counter-attacking move!
- Knee strikes (hiza-geri)
If you’re up against a male opponent, what could possibly trouble them more than a quick knee to the groin? Depending on your flexibility, ‘knee kicks’ could be used to attack the groin, stomach or even the head of an attacker. Performed at close-range, this move sees the karateka bend their leg and push the knee upwards into the attacker’s groin. A knee strike can prove even more destructive if the karateka pulls their opponent towards them at the same time as the knee makes contact.
- Elbow strikes (hiji ate)
The ‘elbow strike’ technique in karate is as unfriendly as it sounds. Essential for close-quarter styles of karate, it sees the karateka quickly thrust an elbow into the face of their opponent. It may sound more like a fight technique for drunken Saturday night brawling, but the elbow strike is actually a difficult move to master. Consisting of a quick upward jab, it’s a great technique for stunning an attacker but is easily blocked if delivered too slowly. In competition, it’s vital to keep the power of an elbow strike in moderation, as a careless blow could well break an opponent’s cheek bone.
- Palm-heel strikes (shotei uchi)
The ‘palm-heel strike’ describes a sudden, thrusting jab that is aimed at an opponent’s head. This offensive move sees the karateka launch an upward, straight-arm punch, hitting their attacker’s face with the base of the palm. Although easily blocked if delivered too slowly, palm-heel strikes can offer a surprise attack in the karateka’s arsenal. Potentially disorientating an opponent, the palm-heel strike is a stunning move in every sense of the word.
The principles behind these basic karate moves may alter slightly, depending on your karate instructor’s style of teaching. However, the likes of front kicks, palm-heel strikes and upper blocks should generally adhere to similar techniques. Above all else, it’s vital to stay safe during your karate training. Whilst some of these moves may appear alarming with their violent intent, it’s important to remember that a solid set of safety gear should protect you from anything that comes your way. However, if you do feel things are becoming too complicated, or don’t feel comfortable trying out a certain technique, it’s best to raise awareness about your concerns. So stay safe and enjoy the many health and fitness benefits that karate training will soon bring about!