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Starting Tips for Karate Newcomers

If you are a newcomer to karate, it will take a lot of dedication and effort to work your way up to earning that precious blackbelt. With the right mindset and training, you can become a great karate practitioner just like you see in martial arts movies and competitions. All the professional black belts started at the beginning. 

Karate is built on a set of foundational moves that more advanced moves are made on top of. If you are a newcomer to karate, mastering these basic moves is your first step. You will also want to familiarize yourself with the original names of the karate moves in Japanese. Karate is a discipline that strengthens both your body and mind.

The Fist

The karate fist is the most basic move beginners learn when starting out in karate. It may seem simple, but you can seriously injure yourself if you do not properly make your fist. The right way to make a fist is to first curl your fingers down to the palm of your hand. Make it tight and tuck your thumb neatly over your index and middle fingers. You do not want to have any gaps or slack within the fingers. Always strike with your large knuckles of the index and middle fingers with a straight wrist on impact to best protect yourself from injury.

With the basic fist grasped, you are ready to start learning the basic karate punches.

Choku Zuki – A Straight Punch

The Choku Zuki is the most commonly used punch in martial arts and is not exclusive to karate. However, the straight punch is important to karate’s linear and choppy style. A proper straight punch holds a lot of power.

Holding a neutral stance, hold your hand in a cocked position at your side, palm facing upwards. Twist your hand as you begin your punch so your palm faces the ground. Stop your punch before fully extending and locking your elbow to prevent injury. Counterbalancing by stepping forward with the same side leg while pulling back your opposite hand will add more power to your punch if timed correctly.

Your aim should be in the centre of your opponent’s chest. Yell kiai upon impact.

While this is a very simple and straightforward punch, when you master it, you will be able to chop boards for competition or expertly defend yourself if ever called upon.

Oi Zuki – The Front Lunch Punch

The Oi Zuki is a stronger move compared to the straight punch, built up through momentum gained in your body movement. You begin with the same arm movement as the straight punch but step forward into a deeper stance for more power and balance. This is basically a lunge forward into the front stance, the zenkutsu dachi.

Mae Geri – Front Kick

After working on your punch, next, you can move to the karate kick.  Kicks are a bit more challenging to master as it is all about balance. You also become more vulnerable. Although, a karate kick is very powerful with the added muscle mass your legs have compared to your arms.

The front kick is a quick, easy-to-do move, and a great starting point. With a proper fighting stance, draw your knee up until it is parallel to the floor and strike with your toes arced back so your ball of the foot makes the impact. Avoid striking with your toes to prevent the risk of breaking them. Shout kiai on impact. Aim for your opponent’s chin for maximum effect.

Once done with your kick, you will need to regain your balance. Bring your foot and knee back until it’s parallel to the floor and drop back into your fighting stance.

Putting your hip into the kick as well will add further power to your move.

Yoko Geri – A Side Kick

The side kick is great for offense and defence. As you line up your body for the kick, you draw tremendous power from your momentum. It can be a difficult kick to defend against if executed perfectly. 

From a sideways stance, get into your fighting/ready stance. Lift your knee as high as you can, and turn so that your supporting foot points behind you. Lean back on your support leg slightly. As you draw back you are pulling momentum as if a spring. When you strike, turn your ankle to make contact with the outer side of your foot. As always, shout kiai afterwards. 

Mawashi Geri – The Roundhouse Kick

The roundhouse is one of the more iconic karate moves. A proper roundhouse kick is speedy and strong. 

As always, you begin in your fighting stance. Lift your back leg so that your hip and knee are parallel to the floor. Keep your knee bent and toes pointed so that your shin is tight and there is a straight line from your knee to your toes.

Strike your foot forward as you rise onto the ball of your standing foot. Maintain hip movement through the kick for full force. This kick works great aimed at your opponent’s ears or ribs. Make contact with the top of your foot and shout kiai. Return to your fighting position once complete.

Age Uke – Rising Block

Now that you have the offensive basics, let’s turn to defence. Working on your block is key to mastering karate, which is dominantly a defensive martial art. 

The upper-rising block is perfect for blocking hammer punches, axe kicks, or other attacks from above, as well as safely pushing high punches away from your face.

Start with your blocking hand over your stomach, palm facing up. In a front stance, use the same side leg as your blocking hand to step forward. Raise your arm above your head until it is parallel to the ground, twisting until the palm faces outward. Holding a fist strengthens your position and then use your forearm to take the impact. 

Soto/Uchi Uke – Middle Block

The middle block is more for defending against strikes to your body. There are two types, the outside-in and inside-out blocks.

The Outside-In Block is the soto uke, and is ideal for quick counters. Have your blocking arm above your hip with the forearm perpendicular to the floor. Face your palm towards you and make contact with the outer edge of your forearm. Once blocked, you are in the perfect position to use your other hand, or even foot, to power a counter.

The Inside-Out block leaves you open but can open up your opponent’s front for a strong counter. Sweep your blocking arm across your body to the outside, palm facing towards you, to catch the attack on your inner edge of your forearm.

Gedan BaraiDownward Block

To protect against any low attacks, use the downward block. Any hooks to the abdomen or uppercuts can be difficult to stop, but the gedan barai can help deflect them.

The blocking arm should begin by the ear of the opposite side. Bring your arm down hard, just above your hip, making sure not to extend too far away from your body to keep strength. Your hips and shoulders can help balance your block.

Face your palm towards your body to strike with the outer edge of your forearm. A properly timed downward block will deflect the attack away from your body.

Once blocked, return to a back stance to protect your lower body from subsequent attacks. 

Mastering these eight basic karate moves will start you on the path toward your black belt. If you are looking to enroll in a karate class near you, the Powerhouse Academy has classes for all ages and skill levels to help you on your karate journey.

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