Q: How is AKDS different/similar to other martial arts?
A: Like many other styles, Karate-Do Shotokai uses kicks, punches, blocks, and other self defense techniques. There are, however, differences in the way these techniques are employed. In particular, we emphasize more relaxed and fluid movements while special exercises help us maintain the necessary speed and penetration to be effective. Training courses and practice sessions are held regularly—come join us and experience the difference for yourself!
Q: What is your focus?
A: Self defense. In the process one can also gain discipline, integrity, respect, flexibility, strength, relaxation, control, skill, awareness, and just have a good time!
Q: What is a typical practice session like?
A: Average sessions last about an hour and a half, and have three main parts:
- Kata: Practicing set patterns of techniques called "kata" to gain focus, a relaxed body, and proper musculoskeletal control;
- Kihon: Executing exercises with different partners to develop fluidity, relationship, timing, distance, focus, power, speed, placement, etc.
- Kumite: Applied exercises in a more free and realistic setting for testing ones ability.
Q: What karate etiquette do you follow?
A: Some basic precepts and traditions of respect and safety are followed by all AKDS clubs, including:
- Bowing as you enter/leave the practice hall (dojo)
- Bowing to your partner between exercises
- Getting water only during explanations or demonstrations
- Quietly focusing during training exercises—it is not appropriate to stop and talk or rest in the middle of a practice exercise (if you need to speak to an instructor, simply raise your hand anytime)
- Always feeling free to ask questions, but do so during explanations or demonstrations
- Not talking during explanations/demos—not only is it rude, but it can be dangerous as it interferes with comprehending and executing the practice exercises safely and competently
- Showing respect to any instructor as they teach
- Being kind to everyone regardless of their situation—recognize that everyone will struggle with some aspect of practice
- Working hard, doing your best, and then giving a bit more!
Q: Do you train with weapons?
A: Yes, some. To aid in training and the development of proper body condition we use the bo (staff) and the bokuto (wooden practice sword) sometimes also referred to in America as a bokken. On occasion we also use wooden/rubber knives and guns to replicate real-life self-defense situations.
Q: What about tournaments and competition?
A: We do not participate in tournaments or competitions because the goals of such activities differ from pure self-defense. Instead of training against opponents to earn points, we train with partners to learn to understand the workings of the human body and use that knowledge to protect ourselves and others. We believe that one aspect of hte martial arts is to learn to focus less on how we look to others on the outside, and more on what our character is becoming on the whole.
Q: Do you wear any special protective gear?
A: No. We practice barefoot, on smooth, hard surfaces, and do not wear protective gear to avoid the unrealistic distances and timings doing so often creates.
Q: Is practice safe?
A: Yes. Of course any physical activity comes with some inherent risk, but because experience and abilities are developed over time in a controlled and focused environment, participants progress in a safe, relaxed atmosphere. That said, one may expect to experience the occasional muscle aches and/or minor bumps and bruises inherent to punching, blocking and kicking, but safety is always a primary focus in our practice sessions. All participants must have proof of their own private medical insurance in order to practice. Participants should also notify their instructor of any pre-existing conditions, and if they are worried about their ability to participate in any exercise due to medical or other limitations.
Q: Do you shout when you attack?
A: No. We develop methods of releasing explosive energy without the muscular tension created by the kiai, or traditional karate yell/shout.
Q: What should I wear to practice?
A: We wear the traditional white uniform called a gi (gee with a "g" as in go) and colored ranking belts similar to other martial arts. Until you have a gi, loose pants and a t-shirt are fine. For the safety of all practitioners, we ask you not to wear jeans, shorts, watches, rings, bracelets, necklaces, earrings/piercings, etc., and to please keep finger and toe nails trimmed.
Q: How can I buy a gi or other training equipment?
A: Becuase AKDS is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, you can order quality equipment at discounted prices through our website. Orders are placed for AKDS members on a regular basis. Your instructor can assist with sizes and other questions.
Q: What does it cost?
A: Again, because of AKDS's non-profit status, we are not in business to make money. Our organization exists for the sole purposes of furthering knowledge of and participation in karate-do, as well as improving the qualify of life in our local communities. No AKDS instructors or administrators are paid, but freely donate their time and expertise. Annual AKDS membership dues, and sometimes some local club fees, are collected to cover operating costs, travel expenses for instructors to teach, insurance coverage, certificates, equipment, etc.
Q: What about age, gender and experience?
A: AKDS does not discriminate in any way, and adult club membership is open to anyone age 16+, with a few AKDS classes for youth ages 10-16 in some areas. Because all exercises are based on repeated, simple, true principles of body mechanics, one can start training with any club at any time regardless of prior ability or experience.
Q: Where can I learn more about this style?
A: The following websites and books (which can be purchased through our website store when copies are available) are good sources of information on Harada Sensei’s methods and philosophy:
- Karate Master: The Life and Times of Mitsusuke Harada, by Dr. Clive Layton;
- Reminiscences, by Dr. Clive Layton;
- The Voice of the Mountain Dragon: Practising with Harada Sensei, by Bernard Mathieu.
Q: Will American KDS join our martial arts cooperative group and share/adopt practice methods?
A: One will often catch glimpses of some aspects of Aikido and Kendo in AKDS practice--this is because Harada Sensei searched for martial truths where ever they could be found. Because AKDS's unique philosophy and training methods are based on true principles of body mechanics and the laws of physics, exercises are being developed constantly in an effort to reach greater heights, earlier, while still maintaining quality practice. Such lofty ideals must keep the object of pure self-defense always in view. Attempting to meld with other styles that have differing goals is not a focus of AKDS practice.
Q: Is there a club in my area?
A: Click on "CLUBS" above to find out!