Forms of Etiquette

  • Seiza – Kneel to the sensei (instructor)
  • Kiritsu – Stand
  • Rei – Bow
  • Sensei Ni Rei – Bow to the sensei
  • Otagi Ni Rei – Bow to the sensei and karateka


Kata is the name given to the sequences of kicks, blocks and punches practiced in kihon which combine to create modes of defence or attack. They naturally become more complex as the karateka advance up the grading system.

Kata combines moves that change direction in order to train karateka to defend themselves against attackers from four different directions. They are made up of a series of between 20 and 70 moves which use variations of stepping and turning as a way of visualizing and responding to an enemy attack.

Each Kata focuses on the transition between moves and techniques, placing emphasis on the dance-like nature of the sequence. Kata build up the attack through several light techniques which climax in a final blow known as the kiai point, which is accompanied by a shout aiming to combine the mind and body in the ultimate demonstration of power.

Most kata are long and complex, so good discipline is needed to build up the strength and memory necessary for development. There are about one hundred different kata forms which may vary between Karate styles and schools, and theymay be applied in several different ways. Advanced karateka are expected to demonstrate an insight into the application of a kata and act out the appropriate tempo and rhythm of the sequence accordingly. Some kata involve using weapons to create patterns of techniques known as kobudo kata. Whilst each kata uses a different combination of moves and techniques, all kata are marked by five characteristics:

Movements and Order

All kata have a set number of moves: 20 to 27 moves for heian (basic) kata and up to 70 moves in ‘tekki (advanced) kata, which must be performed in a specific order.

Beginning and End

Each kata follows a particular linear path along the floor but must always end and begin at the same point.

Compulsory and Optional Kata

Of the hundred kata forms that exist in Karate, some kata are compulsory and must be tested in grading exams while some kata are optional and may be chosen by karateka for these exams. Modern Karate includes five compulsory heian kata and three compulsory tekki kata.

Dynamic Kata

When performed correctly kata acquire the rhythm, beauty and power that distinguish Karate from other martial art forms. These dynamic aspects of kata depend upon the correct use of power, speed and appropriate expansion or contraction of the body.


Regardless of the kata, the karetaka must bow at the beginning and end of every sequence as an act of courtesy and respect.


Literally meaning ‘the meeting of hands’, kumite is the term used for sparring, either as a sport or a form of training for self-defence. Kumite draws on the sequences of techniques used in kata and the principles acquired through kihon, applying those techniques and principles with a sparring partner. Sparring puts emphasis upon power and speed but most importantly on good control, requiring the karateka to learn techniques of attack and defence without actually making contact with their sparring partner. There are various types of sparring:

  • Basic Kumite: This uses prearranged techniques consisting of three of five steps, allowing the karateka to learn the basic techniques of attacking and blocking.
  • Ippon Kumite: One step sparring. Like basic kumite this uses prearranged techniques but places more emphasis upon correct movement and positioning of the body.
  • Nihon Kumite: Two step sparring
  • Sanbon Kumite: Three step sparring. This is usually incorporated into basic kumite.
  • Jiyu: Free fighting. Unlike the above, jiyu does not use prearranged techniques but instead karateka are free to make their own choices of moves. Jiyu is a strictly no-contact form of sparring and requires karateka to have the ability to execute a move that stops just short of the target. For this reason only students who have been training for a long time may engage in jiyu.
  • Jiyu Ippon Kumite: This is a combination of ippon kumite (one step sparring) and jiyu (free sparring) which uses prearranged moves whilst leaving the student free to determine the rhythm and timing of the techniques.
  • Shiai: A full sparring contest.

Kumite: Can involve contact or non-contact techniques and encompasses kicks, punches, strikes and blocks (see Kihon).

Hand techniques used when sparring

  • Seiken – Forefist
  • Uraken – Backfist
  • Kentsui – Hammerfirst
  • Ippon Ken – One knuckle fist
  • Nakadaka Ken – Middle knuckle fist
  • Hiraken – Fore knuckle fist
  • Shuto – Knife hand
  • Haito – Ridge hand
  • Haishu – Back hand
  • Nukite – Spear hand
  • Teisho – Palm heel
  • Seiryuto – Ox jaw hand
  • Kumade – Bbear hand
  • Washide – Eagle hand
  • Keito – Chicken head wrist
  • Kakuto – Bent wrist