Kihon ("basics" or "fundamentals") is the term used to describe the practice through repetition of the fundamental techniques of karate. It is performed from an initial stance (appropriate to the relevant technique) either in place or incorporated with forward or backward steps.

Kihon can be considered as the alphabet of karate, with Kumite being the result of learning how to apply kihon techniques to another person and Kata being the result of combining sequences of kihon techniques into pre-arranged sequences. Since kihon is vital to the development of proper karate technique, a great deal of time is normally spent trying to perfect it, since improvement of kihon skills leads to all other aspects of karate improving automatically.

Kihon can be divided into five categories:

Dachi (Stances)

Stances are a very important element of kihon since they act as the foundation on which further techniques are built. Stances are designed to lower one's center of gravity and thus improve stability. Without a solid stance, techniques cannot be delivered with maximum power and it is easier to be taken off balance. Shotokan stances usually tend to be longer and deeper than other styles of karate.

  • Yoi Dachi – Basic Stance
  • Zenkutsu Dachi – Front/Forward Stance
  • Kokutsu Dachi – Back Stance
  • Kiba Dachi – Horse/Straddle Stance
  • Hachiji Dachi – Open Leg Stance

Uke (Blocks)

Blocks are traditionally used to defend against attack and avoid being hit and are most commonly performed with the arms or hands. Many consider blocks to be of greater importance than attacks simply because karate is a defensive martial art. It should be noted that many of the strikes used in karate can also be used as blocks and vice versa.

  • Soto Uke – Outside Block
  • Uchi Uke – Inside Block
  • Age Uke – Rising Block
  • Gedan Barai – Downward Sweep
  • Shuto Uke – Knifehand Block
  • Juji Uke – Crosshand Block

Zuki (Punches)

Punches (or more accurately "thrusts", which is the literal translation) are traditionally delivered with the front two knuckles of the fist, called seiken (fore fist). Punching techniques are often used because they are quick, powerful and versatile. More importantly, punches keep the hands in a very solid and stable position that is capable of withstanding impact.

  • Choku Zuki – Straight Punch
  • Gyaku Zuki – Reverse Punch
  • Oi Zuki – Forward (Stepping) Punch
  • Mawashi Zuki – Roundhouse Punch
  • Kizami Zuki – Snap (Jabbing) Punch
  • Morote Zuki – Double Punch
  • Yama Zuki – U Punch
  • Tate Zuki – Vertical Fist Punch

Uchi (Strikes)

Strikes can be quite diverse and are performed with different parts of the hand or arm. Each striking technique can impact a target from a multitude of directions and angles, making strikes a very versatile style of technique.

  • Empi Uchi – Elbow Strike
  • Uraken Uchi – Backfist Strike
  • Haito Uchi – Ridge Hand Strike
  • Shuto Uchi – Knife Hand Strike
  • Haishu Uchi – Backhand Strike
  • Age empi – Rising elbow strike
  • Yoko empi – Side elbow strike
  • Mawashi empi – Hook elbow strike
  • Tettsui uchi – Hammer-fist strike
  • Teisho uchi – Palm-heel strike
  • Nukite – Spear-hand strike

Geri (Kicks)

Kicks include all attacks performed with the legs or feet. Since the muscles of the leg are much larger and stronger than the muscles of the arm, kicking techniques are generally more powerful than hand techniques and have a greater attack range. However, kicking does have its drawbacks in that, since the leg is bulkier than the arm, kicks tend to be a little slower.

  • Mae Geri – Front Kick
  • Yoko Geri– Side Kick
  • Mawashi Geri – Roundhouse Kick
  • Ura Mawashi Geri – Hook Kick
  • Hiza Geri – Knee Kick
  • Mawashi Hiza Geri – Roundhouse Knee Kick
  • Ushiro Geri – Back Kick
  • Mikazuki Geri – Crescent Kick

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