Karate FAQs for Beginners

Q1: How do I start? Will I need any special equipment?

A: Just turn up at any of the club’s training sessions. You don’t need any special clothes or equipment to start with. Just make sure to wear loose fitting clothes – a t-shirt and track bottoms will do fine. Eventually though, you will be expected to wear a proper karate suit. If it is your first time training with us, make yourself known to the instructor or one of the committee members and they will sign you up and fill you in.

Q2: Where can I buy a suit?

A: In Dublin, cheap karate suits (or “karate-gi” as they’re known) from about €30 can be bought from Mullen’s Sports, Mary St., Dublin 1. For a more extensive range of suits visit www.kamikazeweb.com

Q3: What do the different colour belts mean?

A: The different colour belts that karate practitioners (or “karate-ka”) wear, are an indication of grade. Each grade up to black belt is called a “kyu”. Each black belt grade is called a “dan”. The sequence and colour of belts varies from club to club and association to association. In the DCU Karate Club the sequence is white, orange, red, yellow, green, purple (x2), brown (x3), black. For more information about grades, click here.

Q4: What’s the difference between karate and other martial arts?

A judo throw from the 2016 Olympics

A: The main focus of shotokan karate is to deal with an attack through evasive body movements and/or blocking, and counter attack using kicks, punches and strikes. Joint locks, restraints and takedowns are also used, but to a lesser extent. This compares with arts such as judo and aikido which depend mainly on throws and restraints, or taekwondo which places more emphasis on kicking than karate. It’s not a case of any one art being better than any other – each one just takes a different approach. Because of this, different arts suit different people.

Q5: What’s the difference between Shotokan and other styles of karate?

Practising the kata Sanchin in the Goju-ryu style of karate

A: There are many different styles of karate, each with its own emphasis and characteristics. For example, styles such as Wado-ryu and Shito-ryu are characterised by light, fast movements while styles such as Goju-ryu and Kyokushinkai are typified by heavy, strong techniques. Shotokan lies somewhere in the middle with elements of both light and heavy styles. The main focus of Shotokan is learning, through correct technique, how to move your body to generate as much power as possible as efficiently as possible, and then using this power to apply defensive and offensive techniques (particularly those from the various kata) against an attacker.

Q6: How long does it take to get a black belt?

A: It really depends on how much you train. With JKA-Shotokan Ireland, it is possible to grade for a black belt under the Japan Karate Association after about 4 years of consistent, regular training. Note however that many people take much longer to pass their black belt grading.

Q7: Are there karate competitions?

A score from the 2016 JKA Nationals (shobu-ippon)

A: There are different kinds of karate competitions with different rules. The DCU Karate Club usually enters traditional “shobu-ippon” competitions. These operate under semi-contact rules with the first competitor to score one point (or 2 half points) the winner. In kata competitions, competitors are (unsurprisingly) assessed on their kata performance.

The largest sport karate organisation is the World Karate Federation (WKF) which has its own specific set of rules and regulations. Note karate will be an official sport at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics under the auspices of the WKF.

Q8: When do we start singing?

A: ???? Karaoke!!!! Sorry, you’ve joined the wrong club!

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