Elements of Karate

Kihon (Basic Moves)

The basic moves of Karate are called kihon and are usually learnt through the repetition of techniques by an entire group of karateka. Kihon involves the perfection of basic kicks, punches, strikes and blocks which are applied in kumite (sparring). By practicing the basic techniques over and over, karateka seek to improve balance, power, speed, concentration, strength, rhythm, timing and breathing.


Good balance is crucial to exercising Karate techniques with precision and timing. The sequence of techniques demanded by kata requires the karateka to adjust their centre of gravity and maintain balance through complex kicks, turns and strikes. As the central part of the body, the hips are crucial to maintaining good balance and should also be rotated to add power and balance to kicks, punches and blocks.

Power and Speed

Karate techniques rely on a combination of power and speed and karateka must learn to use their body strength effectively in order to maintain control and concentrate the greatest amount of force at the point of attack or defence. The ability to use muscular strength to the greatest effect through kicking, punching, striking and blocking is known as kime and requires the karateka to relax their body until the point of impact, at which point maximum power can be exercised.


Karate is an extremely focused art form which requires the karateka to learn to perform with complete concentration. Kicks and punches are not simply about building up strength in the arms and legs, but to have the most effect demand the entire body to be concentrated without distraction on the target.


Whilst muscle strength does not necessarily make a good karateka, strength is a necessary component of Karate. Karateka practice techniques repeatedly in order to build up strong elastic muscles and learn to use the appropriate muscles for different techniques.

Rhythm and timing

When moving through a sequence of techniques karateka must adopt a rhythm which allows them to time each move with precision. Sensing the rhythm of each movement and set of moves allows the karateka to understand the techniques and reveals the aesthetic qualities of Karate.


As well as building up balance, power, strength and rhythm, kihon involves the perfecting of breathing techniques. Correct breathing is fundamental to bringing maximum power to the point of attack or defence and karateka must learn to adapt their breathing to different situations.

As well as the general principles of balance, speed, power, strength, rhythm and breathing, there are numerous basic techniques, stances and forms of etiquette for the karateka to learn.