The education system often talks about the ‘Three Rs’ of Reading Writing and Arithmetic. To a casual observer, one might say that the education system was flawed from the very beginning by the fact that it can’t spell! In Karate, however, we can spell and the three Ks really are three Ks – Kihon, Kata and Kumite. Let’s look at each one and explain what it is.
Kihon means Basics. Basics are the fundamentals of our art or style. In Karate, basics are our punches, our kicks, our blocks, our strikes and our stances. In order to build a strong foundation for our karate we must drill and practice basics constantly. The honing of our basic technique is the very essence of our training and must be taken seriously in order to progress to a high level of skill. If we compare karate to learning a language, our karate basics are our vocabulary.
Kata means Form. Forms are sequences of movements that are put together in an overall pattern that we must memorize. Kata training includes the elements of direction, technique, speed, power and rhythm. On a deeper level the analysis of kata can lead to many useful discoveries for practical self-defense, as hidden within the different forms are many useful sequences of movements that can be directly applied to different scenarios. Going back to our language analogy, kata can be likened to the grammar of our karate.
Kumite means Partner Work or Sparring. Basic partner work introduces pre-arranged training drills that help us get used to using different punches, kicks, blocks and strikes. Through these set training drills we are able to directly apply our defensive movements and counters against actual attacks. As we progress in our skill level the drills become harder with a bigger element of surprise that is gradually introduced until we are able to deal with random attacks from multiple opponents. For our language analogy our kumite training is therefore how we express ourselves by using our vocabulary and our grammar appropriately based on any given situation.
By breaking down our karate training into the ‘Three Ks’, we are able to focus on each core training element individually and consequently improve our overall ability with a very systematic approach. Our ultimate goal is to combine these three elements seamlessly so that the ‘Three Ks’ become one K. And that K of course is Karate.
When this seamlessness takes place, you begin operating from a level of what is sometimes referred to as unconscious competence. You don't have to think of the individual pieces and parts. Everything fits together and works in harmony, almost totally without any direction from the conscious mind. This is the level from which the masters operate and that is why observing them is like watching poetry in motion.
Keep training hard on the three Ks and they will gradually begin to merge into one over time.