(White Belt going to Yellow Belt)
Te De Gijutsu
(Techniques with hands)
Making a Proper Fist
When closing the fist, start with the first two fingers; they must be tight. Allow the 3rd and 4th fingers to close as well, but do not clench them as this wastes energy. Close the thumb over the first joint of the first two fingers. It is important to keep the thumb closed this way when using any Seiken technique, allowing the thumb to poke out creates great risk of breaking it.
Make the wrist straight on the thumb side (1). This will align the radius (the large bone of the lower arm), the joint of the wrist, and the supporting bones of the thumb so that greater force of impact can be withstood.
Also make the "top" of the fist straight (2). This aligns the bones of the hand, wrist and lower arm and makes use of the tendons along the top of the hand and wrist to create greater support and power.
Making a proper fist strengthens not only the wrist, it also puts the seiken into the proper position so that the middle of the first two knuckles makes contact with the target. Striking with the lower knuckles or with a flat fist is incorrect and weakens striking.
Any technique that is done with a closed fist (with very few exceptions that will be specifically instructed) should be done with the fist in this position. Doing so will make each technique more powerful - as will be demonstrated by your instructors.
The most common mistake when making the fist is to allow the thumb to come loose from the first two fingers. It is not necessary to squeeze the thumb over the fingers to the point of pain, but it must remain tight so as to make the fist strong.
Another common mistake is to let the wrist be loose (1) and not line up with the radius properly. Making the fist this way leads to improper impact area, usually placing more force on the two lower knuckles. This often causes "boxer's fractures", which are breaks of the bones behind those two knuckles.
Overreaching with the fist (2), makes the wrist weak and leads to sprains. Bending the wrist backwards (3) is less common. This occurs most frequently when transitioning from uraken (backfist) to tsuki waza (punching techniques). It is important to make a habit of turning the seiken into the proper position. This is the most fundamental technique of karate.
Make the seiken (fist) in the fashion described above. When striking with uraken, the arm will make a "whipping" motion, not a thrusting motion. The area to strike with will still be the first two knuckles, but instead of using the front "face" portion, it will be with the back of the knuckles. It is acceptable to slightly bend the wrist (as shown), but maintaining traditional seiken position also is proper. When hitting with uraken, snap through the target to create force instead of locking the elbow as when punching. Power is created by speed and impact instead of weight.
Ashi no Gijutsu
(Techniques with legs)
Hiza is probably the most powerful of all strikes; it is also the most underused one. Advanced karate-ka come to depend on other techniques more than Hiza even when the knee would be more effective. Like most karate techniques, Hiza can be used in a multitude of ways, but the most common is in an upward motion into the midsection (groin, abdomen or ribcage) of the opponent. The knee can also be used to strike the face or head by either jumping upward or by pulling the opponent down. Hiza can also be applied to the arms or legs. In fact, it can be used to strike any part of the body.
The most common mistake when striking with Hiza is to hit with the thigh instead of the patella. To hit properly, bend the knee as tightly as possible (as shown) so that the patella is foremost of the striking area. Make sure that you strike through the target. Many people hold back when hitting with Hiza due to a natural reluctance of seriously hurting someone. This should not be a concern because it is practically impossible to do so with a single strike.
Hiza can be used by striking at an angle as well as straightforward. This would be applied to the outside of the ribcage, the outer part of the thigh, or even into the armpit. Advanced gakusei (students) even learn to hit with Hiza to the side of the head by bringing the knee up and around blocks in an arching motion.
This is pronounced "my gary". Mae Geri is performed by hitting with the toshi (ball of the foot) just underneath the lowest joint of the big toe where the muscle is the thickest. Make the ankle flat by pushing the ball of the foot as far forward as possible (as shown). It is very important to pull the toes back tightly so as to avoid breaking them. Many karate-ka are nervous about doing Mae Geri to begin with because it is a relatively unnatural postion for the foot unless standing on one's toes (which is the proper position). It takes a fair amount of practice for this position to feel natural; however, once the gakusei becomes familiar with it, this kick can generate a great deal of power and be used in a wide variety of ways.
The main method of doing Mae Geri is to use the back leg (from a fighting position - either fudodachi or zenkutsudachi). Bring the knee up (which you should do for ALL kicks), with it facing the intended target; the higher the kick is intended to land, the higher the knee should come or else it will lose power. As the knee comes up begin to extend the leg with a hinging action. This kick is most powerful when the leg is thrust forward from the hips and locking it at the knee at the finale of the motion. The primary target would be the center of the body, but, as with the knee, the whole body is a realistic target.
Mae Geri can be utilized as a quick, snapping technique as well, a form of jab with the foot. This form of the kick can be used to keep an opponent at a distance but can also be developed to have serious "whipping" power that can cause damage.
Many karate-ka consider Mawashi Geri to be the easiest of kicks (other than Hiza), thus it is the kick most often used. Begin by locking the ankle down flat (similar to Mae Geri) but instead of pulling the toes back, press them forward as much as possible, making the sokuto (instep) tight. Mawashi Geri is performed with sokuto as the part of the foot making contact with the target.This is daunting for use in some attacks because of the fear that the bones of the foot might break or the foot become bruised. Regardless, this can be developed into a very powerful strike and can be used against many targets.
Most often Mawashi Geri is directed at softer areas of the body, but it can be used against harder targets such as the head and arms. Proper execution of Mawashi Geri is to bring the knee to the outside of the body (remember to ALWAYS start by picking the knee up) and then turning the leg toward the target by rotating the hips in a snapping fashion and extending the knee. At the completion of the kick the hips should be rotated so that the buttock is facing the target. The plant (standing) foot will also have to rotate in order to get proper position.
Yoko Geri is the kick most often used for power techniques because karate-ka are comfortable using great force with this kick. It is similar in fashion to stomping, which most people are familiar with. Ironically, the proper motion for Yoko Geri is the most complicated of the basic kicks and new gakusei often have to put in many hours of practice before they become proficient at this technique. To properly form the foot, pull the foot back tightly and turn the ankle so that the foot is made into an "edge".The Koh (heel) will be used as the striking area (actually the outside edge of the heel) so attempt to push it forward for most effectiveness.
The kicking motion begins (as always) by picking the knee up. Bring the knee across the body so that the heel is between the hip of the same side and the target then thrust the heel toward the target. If done properly, which takes much practice, this often becomes a preferred, "go-to" technique. Yoko Geri can be performed from the back leg for power or from the front leg as a snapping kick. Most students prefer this technique for breaking purposes as it is powerful.
Of all the basic kicks, Sune Geri is the most diverse. Because the kicking surface is large, it is easy to land properly. The kick can also be modified to be used in a variety of angles and purposes. It can be directed to almost any target and is incredibly effective. Advanced karate-ka often train their shins to what seems to be superhuman strengths and demonstrate awesome power by breaking objects such as baseball bats and dowels. The most advanced practitioners may challenge themselves by bending aluminum bats or steel bars. This is strictly for senior students only. Attempting such feats requires many years of training so that the shin becomes hard. Anyone attempting such a feat without serious training risks breaking their shin.
Make the foot just as you would a Mawashi Geri, with the ankle pressed down tightly and the toes pushed forward. Sune Geri can be performed with the toes pulled back, but it is best with the toes pointed. The motion is similar to Mawashi Geri as well. The kick is done by bringing the knee up to the side, twisting the hips and then extending the leg so that it becomes straight. The primary difference, other than the striking area (shin versus instep) is in the basic form of the kick. As the basic Sune Geri is completed, the foot, leg and hips angle down at a 45' angle so that the shin strikes across the upper thigh (quadriceps) and the femur. The intent of this kick is to cause trauma to the muscles of the thigh so that standing, moving and kicking are difficult. Most martial arts systems do not use this technique, thus it is often unexpected and highly effective. Only traditional Okinawan/Japanese systems and some schools of Muay Thai use this kick.
Terminology for 9th Kyu
Proper Punching Techniques
Side Kicks (Part 1)
Making a Proper Fist
Side Kicks Part 2