How to Do Karate
Do you want to learn how to do karate, but you’re not sure where to start? You’ve come to the right place. In this guide, you’ll learn how to do the most common karate moves and techniques with free video lessons taught by professional instructors. Let’s get started!
Can Anyone Do Karate?
Yes! One of karate’s most commendable qualities is its flexibility and relevance across people and lifestyles. Children can begin learning how to do karate at a very young age, continuing to improve and refine their techniques into old age. That said, karate isn’t limited to those who begin at a young age. If you’re a young adult looking for an outlet or an older person trying to get more exercise, karate is for you too.
Because karate is not confined to one type of movement or one type of person, a trainee can utilize this martial art to benefit their specific needs. Listen to karate instructor Richard Amos talk more about this in Howcast’s video at the beginning of this section.
How to Earn a Black Belt in Karate
When people take up karate, they often go into it expecting to come out with a black belt at some point. In general, it takes a person anywhere from three to five years to attain their black belt, and this is really just the beginning of their karate training.
In Japanese, the word for the first black belt a person receives is shogun, which means “beginning level.” Attaining your black belt means that you’re ready to start perfecting your karate techniques and that you have a basic understanding of how to do the various aspects of karate well.
Before your first black belt, you’ll go through a number of colors as you continue training and testing through what we call kyu grades. You can typically expect to be tested on your skills twice a year, every six months.
So, what do you need to get your black belt in karate?
This means consistent training in and out of the dojo as well as the desire to constantly improve. Watch Howcast’s video at the beginning of this section to hear Richard Amos talk more about this, and what to expect in his own dojo.
How to Do a Basic Karate Punch
The most basic karate punch is called choku-zuki in Japanese, which translates to “direct punch.”
Here are some things to keep in mind when practicing this punch:
- Your arms will contrast one another during the punch (a theme you’ll find in many karate moves). One arm will be all the way back against your body, protecting your hip and side. The other arm is the one you’re punching with, which should make full contact with your opponent.
- To avoid injuring your elbow, make sure to twist your punch at the end. Also twist your punch while you retract it; this unlocks your elbow and brings that fist back against your body.
- Don’t allow your opponent to get too close, because this will take a lot of power away from your punch. This is because the thrusting motion required for this punch utilizes your upper arm power, which is diminished in close-contact situations.
- Use your hip while punching. This gives it more power and stability, and helps you avoid overusing your shoulders.
- Practice! Even though this is a basic karate move, it’s something you’ll need to continue practicing for years to come.
To see how this karate punch should look, watch Howcast’s video tutorial at the beginning of this section. Richard Amos performs the move and talks about the do’s and don’ts in more detail.
How to Do a Front Kick in Karate
This karate front kick is also called the “snapping kick” or “front snap kick.” Note that a “snap” kick differs from a “thrust” kick in that the former is much lighter and faster, which provides you with more cushion time to recover and prepare for a counterattack.
Similar to the basic karate punch we discussed earlier, the front kick in karate has contrast. This means that your support leg (in front of you) will be heavy, and your kicking leg (behind you) will be light.
Here’s how to do a front kick in karate:
- First, practice your stance. Your knee should be pointing toward the target, and the ball of your foot should be up near your mid-core section prior to the actual kick. Practice this stance until you have it down.
- Now practice the motion. You should NOT be swinging or thrusting your foot outward. This will cause it to be too heavy and slow, and it may even knock you off balance. Instead, your kick should be a swift “snapping” motion from the stance we mentioned in the last bullet point.
- Bring your foot back in quickly. Following the kick, you should either bring your foot back to its starting position or on the ground in front of you (if you’re trying to advance toward your opponent). The important thing is that you get out of your kick quickly.
- Remember that your core provides most of the kick’s strength. Don’t depend too much on leg power. Your whole body should be behind the kick.
To see exactly how the front kick should look, watch Howcast’s video at the beginning of this section!
How to Do a Reverse Punch in Karate
A reverse punch, or gyaku zuki in Japanese, is similar to the basic punch we discussed earlier, but your stance will be different. It’s called a “reverse” punch because your right arm is out and your left leg is forward.
Here are a few basic tips you should keep in mind while practicing:
- Much of your punch’s power comes from your hip. By rotating your hip during the punch (as opposed to shifting your body), you’re providing your punch with both stability and strength.
- Your back leg should be compressed, while you twist your hip. This allows the hip to act as a sort of “hinge.”
- Make sure that your punch is straight! Many new karate students tend to punch across their body, or to swing their punch around, which is improper technique.
- Don’t forget to twist. Like with the basic karate punch, you will need to twist your punch at the very end, and untwist it as you bring your fist back.
To see how this should look, watch Richard Amos perform this karate move the video above.
How to Do Block & Counter Techniques in Karate
Ippon kumite is a style of one-step sparring practice with two people. One person defends while the other attacks. Then, they swap roles. In karate, this is how many students train themselves in a variety of blocking and countering techniques.
Keep in mind before we continue, this is a little bit more advanced and is typically taught after a student has learned how to perform simple katas.
Essentially, when you block, you’re deflecting your opponent’s attack. When you counter, you’re attacking while your opponent is still vulnerable.
Below are some tips for your blocks and counters in karate:
Generally, there are three distances upon which your karate techniques depend: mid-range, close-range, and far-range.
- Punches are generally used at mid-range.
- Strikes tend to be most effective in close-range encounters.
- Kicks are most effective for longer distance attacks.
- If your opponent throws a punch toward your face, you can do an upper block and then counter with a punch to the gut.
- If your opponent punches you at mid-level, do an inward or outward block and then counter with a punch to the gut.
- Common strike counters include the around elbow strike, knife hand strike, and back fist strike.
- These are used when your opponent steps toward you in their attack.
- If your opponent directs a hit or kick toward your lower section, you can do a lower block and then counter with a punch to their mid-section.
Of course, there’s more to it than this, and a lot of it will come to you as you practice and advance your karate skills. To see how these matches would look, watch the video at the beginning of this section. You’ll be able to view these counters and blocks at half-speed and full-speed!
Top Self-Defense Moves in Karate
Many people learn how to do karate for self-defense purposes. So, what are the best self-defense moves in karate, and how are they done? Take a look:
Simple Takedown & Submission
This is a great move for defending yourself against an opponent of similar height and weight. It’s designed to take your opponent down when they have a hold on you, particularly near the chest.
- With your lead hand, hold your opponent’s wrist. Loosely prepare your other hand for the takedown.
- Bend at the waist. With your non-leading hand, use it to help maneuver your opponent to the ground.
- Once your opponent is on the ground (face down) you can put your knee into their shoulder to pin them there.
- Make sure that during the takedown, you use the power from your entire body.
It’s important that during the takedown, you come over the top. Don’t bend so that your backside is in the air. Coming over the top will keep you in control and ensure that your opponent won’t end up taking you down instead.
Strikes are one of the most effective karate techniques when your opponent is being forceful. In particular, you may find this technique useful when your opponent is grabbing you with both hands.
- Kick one of your opponent’s shins or their groin (called “hitting low”).
- Using your elbow, strike your opponent “high” this time, near the head.
What if you’re smaller than your opponent?
- Again, hit your opponent “low.”
- If you’re smaller, you may find it more beneficial to turn from your opponent after the initial strike to get them off balance.
To see what these scenarios may look like and how to get out of them, watch the video at the beginning of this section. Richard Amos will explain these karate techniques in more detail and show you how they’re done.
How to Improve Your Karate Sparring
Sparring is a crucial element of karate training. When you spar, you gaining experience for conflicts in the real world and adapting your mind and body to using karate. This adaption is what we call a “reflexive reaction,” and it’s what makes certain actions second-nature to us over time. When you’ve gotten enough experience, your body will actually be working over your intellect as you spar.
Here are some tips and tricks for how to become better at sparring:
- Remember that a sparring match should be more like a conversation than a fight or argument.
- While you’re moving around, you should be feeling the ground, and pushing off of it with each of your moves.
- Always keep your limbs open and available for blocking and counterattacks. Don’t let yourself be caught off guard or undefended.
The most important thing to remember is that, over time, the moves and techniques you use will become reflexive. Just have fun, and think of the sparring match as a type of information or energy exchange. To hear more about how you can improve your sparring performance, watch the video at the beginning of this section. Pay attention to the way Richard Amos and his sparring partner move and interact with each other.
Learn More Karate Moves
We went over a lot of karate techniques in this article, both simple and more advanced. We hope that this short lesson has helped you get your foot in the door, and that you’re feeling inspired to begin (or continue) your karate training. To learn even more karate moves, explore the rest of the videos in this series below!
ABOUT THE EXPERT
Richard Amos Sensei (6th dan) is the chief instructor of the World Traditional Karate Organization, heading its instructor program. He teaches every day at the headquarters dojo on East 61st Street in Manhattan. Amos has been practicing karate since he was 10 years old. He has competed in numerous championships in England and Europe and has been awarded many Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. Amos has also trained at the headquarters of the Japan Karate Association and is only the second Westerner to have completed their instructors program.