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What is Funakoshi Karate?
Funakoshi Karate teaches relatively fewer techniques than many other styles. Instructors
adhere to the concept of teaching a thorough knowledge of a few techniques, rather than a
superficial understanding of numerous techniques. There is a very strong emphasis on
Students first learn to assume strong stances and to snap punches without lifting their
shoulders. After months of practise, a student is ready to integrate various stances with
punching and kicking techniques while moving forwards and backwards.
In each technique, the student combines breathing, timing, muscle control and momentum
to produce the greatest speed and power possible. Funakoshi fighters are recognised by
their excellent posture, low stances and high power; a trademark of Japanese Karate in
Foot sweeps and reverse punches are important weapons in a Funakoshi fighter's arsenal,
as are lunge punches, front kicks, side kicks and roundhouse kicks. A Funakoshi student
will use the rotating power of the hips in every technique executed. Funakoshi training is
based on the Japanese phrase "iken hiatsu" (to kill with one blow). This is not to say that
students train to hurt people, but to develop each technique to its maximum potential.
Funakoshi karate employs a unique forms-based grading syllabus. At each Kyu grade
level, a new grading form is introduced. These forms are very different to kata and
emphasise basics, introducing only one or two new techniques (e.g. stance, striking
technique, punch or kick) at a time. These forms are an interesting variation to practising
and testing basics (rather than doing basics over and over in a repetitive fashion). Also at
each level, a new kata is introduced. Some of these kata are based on the traditional
Shotokan kata. Apart from minor variations to individual moves, there is one major
change (introduction) to Shotokan kata. This is the use of a kamae (sparring posture)
between combinations to help enhance and understand timing (or rhythm) in kata.
Gradings also comprise free sparring, and a stamina test. At the Black Belt level, each
student also writes a mini-thesis on an aspect of karate, to demonstrate his or her level of
In Funakoshi Karate, the awarding of rank implies, amongst other things, additional
responsibility. Because a mature mental attitude is viewed strongly within the style, it is
unusual for a junior (under 18 years) to hold a senior (Dan) Black Belt. Instead, juniors
are awarded junior Black Belts (differentiated from the Dan grade total black belt by
having a white stripe through the belt), and are graded to different levels (called degrees)
within this system until they are old enough to be tested for a senior Black Belt.