Karate’s Progression in Training
Karate training progresses from white belt to black belt in a very direct path. One learns the basic movements of Kata and drills in Kihon Waza to train the body and hard wire in basic movement dynamics and even gets to train in interaction skills with Kumite Keiko. Up to this point the training is what we call Kihon Keiko or basic training. The need for this is most self evident. We need to learn basic sounds and words when learning another language and if learning a performance dance routine we need to first be armed with the basic movements. When learning how to play sports like Basketball we need to learn the basic movements of free throws, dribbling and the basic rules, so much like sports and performance art Karate has its basic training, or Kihon Keiko.
Kihon Keiko should not be rushed and in most cases I have seen those that think they are done the basic training part of their progress, need a lot more training. It is also something that we need to come back to the most. It helps us physically do the actual movements and over time, when the sword is dull, it helps sharpen the movements again. But getting past this and moving into different “levels” of training is difficult for some. They have the body for it, but the brain is not catching up, or they have the brain for it but the body is lagging behind.
Kihon Keiko should last between four and six years. We need to learn the basic movements and move our body into the ability to perform these movement properly. We often see black belts that look somewhat robotic and having issues with being smooth in movements, its because they have not integrated the movements into their own tool box completely yet. Kihon Keiko should also include a hard mental component to ensure we all understand the basic level of Karate, what Karate is and what it is not. A person in the Kihon Keiko may not be able to use all of the tools they are given and still are learning how to apply the movements as a reaction to a situation but they are in the infancy of their training. The more attention one pays to basics and learning the techniques the more they will start to move out of Kihon Keiko.
One argument I have been reading about Karate is that we take to long, 2-3 years, to get a person to the point of being able to defend themselves. This is true we do take this long to prepare someone to move from Kihon Keiko to Goshin Jitsu, but the difference between us and other sport oriented arts like Muay thai is we don’t plateau and stop our skill progression.
When someone takes up a combat sport and they train and get thrown into sparring and learn the few techniques they have they learn them quick and can apply them quickly, but they don’t learn the depth of the techniques and also, they are doing great amounts of damage to themselves while they train. Something I will get into in a different blog.
So, once a student is ready and has worked on polishing the basic concepts, techniques and strategies of the system they move into one of two directions, shiai Keiko or Fukai rikai Keiko, this basically means you can move into sport training or Deeper training in basics…which is a great way to get to the point of becoming an instructor.
Karate Shiai Training is intense physically and you end up learning more about applying the techniques in a limited arena, you are one on one and you need to be faster, have better strategy and timing. This kind of training will make someone look very impressive and can be very fulfilling. It also helps you learn how to apply Karate in the next phase, Goshin Jitsu. Shiai Keiko training is also very hard on the body however and can not be maintained for very long. Because of the long time of training in basics however most Karate athletes do not make their prime until their late 30’s however and end their careers normally in their early 40’s . Combat sport fighters start their growth as athletes in their early to mid 20’s and outside of people like Randy Couture they end their careers in their 30’s due to injuries in training and in contact sports events.
Once you are done with shiai training a student would normally move into Fukai Rikai or Goshin Jitsu and work on understating the art from a different perspective. You delve deeper into the techniques and applications and even deeper into the art, its history and concepts are now more apparent to you and your understanding of the art you are training in begins to grow.
If you do not go into tournaments then and you do move past Kihon Keiko and into Fukai rikai or deeper understanding training, this route does not really mean you are missing a component of the art, but you will need more time in this level of understanding because you need to now physically apply components of your training with more intent and learn aspect of training that you are not working on regularly in Shiai training. But it can be done and many people that have not done tournaments still learn the deepest aspects of Karate.
Goshin Jitsu is the step after you move thru the process of deeply understanding techniques, it’s the level at which you begin to truly understand how to apply Karate and its deeper and more technical aspects. Distance, timing are all basic level things for this type of understanding and at this level you are so far beyond basic sport application that it is obvious to you that the combat sports are actually lacking in their approach.
At the level that your Karate is taking on Goshin Jitsu you can actually use the movements that you have a deeper level of understanding about to apply them for defense. Not to say that you cannot use basic Karate skills to defend yourself, but now you can use them naturally, you understand the nature of attack and defense and can apply the Kihon waza you have learned to these situations properly without force and without having to think. You are also avoiding these situations because you recognize the situations themselves before they escalate.
Goshin Jitsu is a level of competence and understanding in martial arts training that most combat sports people can only dream of getting to, the use of physical skills can be used at a level far beyond just kicking and punching. We also see more emphasis on common attacks, not just swinging punches and kicks. In Karates evolution the intent was always to get to this point and many of the older masters like Funakoshi and Itosu Senseis focused a lot on working basics to the point that they could be applied, they also had to use them more often as they were in situations where they had to fight for their lives or at least fight because they were attacked on the streets.
Once you pass Goshin Jitsu you move into a more spiritual form of training called Budo Keiko. Budo Keiko is a deep understating of Karate and its use as well as the ability to now use it to understand yourself better. It has a more whole approach to it and it becomes a life style. Not to be confused with some who obsess with Karate and have to wear the tee shirt so to speak, you simply are about Karate. Those that I see that are at that next level would include people that go beyond the politics, power plays and the issues that plage our Karate now, but those that simply live Karate and don’t care. It’s a personal thing and the act of training becomes habit. It is not about sport and it is not about winning, it is not even about self defense as an act, it is simply who you are.
Karate phases can go slowly for some and some will never understand how to make that next step. Others will think they have and find out that they garner wealth and power over true Karate spirit. These lost souls wont get to the next step. Budo Keiko is also a step that can be lost. So once you begin to realize your training is about false things, that is when you need to step back and see were you actually are on the path.