Cornish Karate . info

Frequently Asked Questions

We get asked the same questions about Karate all the time.

We don't mind. We are passionate about our art and enjoy talking about Karate to anyone who will listen!

To save a bit of time, some of the more common questions we get asked are below.

What is a "martial art"?

Early Boxing
Martial arts is a general term for systems of practices and traditions of training for combat. Literally the term "martial arts" means the "art of warfare" (from Mars, the Greek god of war). A practitioner of the martial arts is referred to as a martial artist.

Most people use the term martial arts in reference to combat systems that originated in Asia, but the term actually refers to any combat system regardless of geographical origin.

While they may be studied for various reasons martial arts share a single objective, to physically defeat other people and to defend yourself or others from physical threat. Many arts are also practised as combat sports.

While each style or system has unique aspects that make it different from other martial arts, a common characteristic is the formalising of fighting techniques.

Methods of training vary and may include sparring (simulated combat), weapons training and sets or routines of techniques known as forms or kata. Kata are especially common in the Asian and Asian-derived martial arts.

What is the meant by "traditional" Karate?

Traditional & Sport Karate
The word "Traditional" is used to denote a karate system which is [1] based on one of the major Japanese styles, [2] often includes "sport karate" but offers more than just competition training, and [3] promotes the concept of being a better person, mentally as well as physically.

There are many so called "kickboxing" and "freestyle" type clubs who claim to teach karate, but their focus is mainly fitness and a limited range of techniques. Techniques which don't score points in a competition or are "illegal" are eschewed in favour of roundhouse kicks and snap punches which do score in competition.

Some classes focus purely on the self defence aspect of karate and practice techniques aimed at street fighting.

Neither of these approaches is "wrong". If you want fitness, sport fighting and/or self defence then they will give you what you are after.

Sport karate is very popular because success can be quantified - in trophies, belts, prize money, etc. Traditional karate doesn't offer such obvious rewards.

Traditional karate will improve your fitness, give you an avenue for sport fighting, provide you with a wide range of self defence techniques, improve your self control and self discipline, help you become more self confident and self reliant, and give you a lifetime of study of a very different culture, philosophy and physical regime.

Modern Karate is very sport orientated to attract new members who may not initially understand the main benefit of Traditional Karate - becoming a better person. Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan Karate wrote "the karate we introduced to Japan is not the karate I was taught in Okinawa ". He referred to what we call modern or sport karate as "high school karate suitable for sport and geared to the safety of children".

Traditional Karate has at it's core the concept that if you get in a fight you win at all costs. You don't get a silver medal for Second Place in a street fight in a back alley.

The effective and sometimes deadly karate skills need to be tempered with a respect for yourself and others. The self control to walk away from trouble if you can, and the heart to fight for those you love with everything you have only if there is no other alternative.

As Spider-Man is oft heard to quote "with great power comes great responsibility."

Traditional Karate clubs are easily differentiated from other karate clubs as the training is equally shared between kihon (training drills), kata (forms) and kumite (fighting), and your training is considered to be a lifelong journey of perpetual growth.

What is the difference between Karate and other martial arts?

Just about every country in the world has it's own endemic martial arts system. China is famous as the home of Kung Fu, Korea the birthplace of Tae Kwon Do, and Thai Boxing (or Muay Thai) comes from Thailand. Less well known are Savate from France, Kalari from India, Kali from the Phillipines and Capoeira from Brazil (originally an art practised by slaves transported from Angola).

Britain has a variety of Boxing and Wrestling "sports", including Morris Dancing! Ignore the fancy outfits and bells and look at what Morris dancers are really doing - attacking and defending using staves. Yes, Morris Dancing was originally a way of teaching peasants how to fight with staffs and other stick based weapons. Cornish Wrestling is still actively practised in Cornwall and other Celtic countries.

Japanese Fan
Karate originated from Okinawa/Japan. What differentiates karate from other arts is that it teaches martial skills within a philosophy which promotes respect and honour. Not merely a system of fighting, karate is a belief system for living your life. Influenced by oriental belief systems such as Zen, Buddhism, Shinto and Taoism karate promotes tenets which are to be found in every major religion in the world - treat others with respect, violence is wrong, be the best person you can - but karate itself is not allied to nor promotes/decries any religious belief.

Another thing that makes Karate different from many other arts is that Karate does not have any illegal or forbidden techniques.

Even the most violent of Mixed Martial Arts competitions are ultimately sporting events with rules. There will be a list of forbidden techniques, such as grabbing the genitals, which will not be practised as they are "forbidden". Defences against such attacks will also not be practised as they won't happen in the ring ... but they certainly may happen in a street fight. With it's core emphasis being "no holds" barred self defence, there are no techniques in karate which are illegal, forbidden or not practised. Obviously, some techniques are not suitable for younger students and are only taught to responsible adults.

However, sometimes it is more interesting to look at what different martial arts have in common than what is different, and many karate exponents cross train in other arts to make themselves a more rounded martial artist.

How effective is Karate for self-defence?

Self defence
The original form of Karate was a brutal and efficient system of self defence.

It was not designed to be used against other martial artists, rather it was designed to be used against "thugs and ruffians", usually armed with a weapon such as a knife or club.

Obviously techniques such as eye-gouging and joint destruction are not suitable for children to learn, so about 120 years ago the Japanese masters removed the majority of "unarmed combat" techniques from the syllabus. However, all those techniques still exist and are hidden within the kata - the part of Karate that many people dismiss as "dance".

Children and beginner adults get a basic level of self defence - the standard "block and counter" of karate training. More advanced students will move on to more advanced techniques - joint manipulation, pressure point strikes, strangles and chokes to name but a few. It is no exaggeration to say that karate skills can be used to injure, maim or kill people. For this reason we are very careful who we teach the full range of skills.

The United Nations has stated that one in three women will be assaulted during their lifetime. Every one of those women will be someone's wife, girlfriend, mother or daughter. Children and men also find themselves in physical conflict.

Self defence is an important life skill in these troubled times.

How fit do I need to be?

To get straight to the point, you don't have to be fit at all.

Nearly everyone who takes up karate isn't "fit" - not by our standards, anyway!

A good instructor will be aware of this and ease you into the training regime. You will not be forced to do things that are beyond your physical capabilities, but you will find that eventually you will be able to do things you never thought you were physically capable of.

If you have an injury, physical disability or illness then the club instructor should know about this. If you are in any doubt about your ability to practise karate visit your Doctor and ask for a report on your current state, and whether (in his/her opinion) you are fit to learn karate.

Is Karate any good for women?

The popular view of Karate practitioners is of bald headed men with no teeth, but this is far from true.

Many women of all ages practise karate and there are many highly skilled and highly regarded female martial artists such as Emma Elmes (Left) and Cynthia Rothrock (Below).

This is not a recent phenomenon, Shaolin nuns were practicing the martial arts over a thousand years ago!

The perceived disadvantage that women have is that, in general, a woman will be smaller in stature and not as physically strong as a man. Biologically this is an undeniable fact, but it is not a disadvantage in Karate.

In fact, women have certain advantages over their male counterparts.

Karate was designed to provide an effective way to defend yourself from an aggressor who is larger and more powerful than you and/or armed. Though not designed specifically with women in mind, Karate is a martial art that relies very heavily on skill to overcome brute force. Most men will rely on their physical presence to overpower their victim(s), but a well placed blow at the correct time will stop anyone.

Any idiot can make a fist and lash out wildly using weight and impetus. Karate teaches precision, timing and accuracy to land a single blow which "stops" your attacker. Ask Shihan Whale of Sandokai to tell you about the time when 11 year old Debbie broke two of his ribs with a perfectly timed reverse punch!

A woman's muscles are shorter than a man's, so they contract and expand quicker. This means that a woman has a natural speed advantage.

The mechanical make up of a woman's body gives them more fluid and flexible hips, and most of the power in Karate techniques comes from the hips. Women are much better at using their hips to generate power in their punches and kicks (just look at the average guy trying to dance at a night club and you'll know how hard it is for men to use their hips efficiently!)

Women also tend to excel in Kata - take a look at what a few French gals can do!

Any type of physical training can be rough on women but in Karate you are taught how to train properly. How to move, hit, punch, kick, fall and avoid an opponent. The heart of Karate is learning how not to get hurt. Jogging and tennis may be considered more “feminine” but how many joggers or tennis players learn how to fall properly in case of a misstep?

Currently one in three women world-wide will be assaulted at least once in their lives. Karate won't stop you from being assaulted but it can certainly help change the expected outcome of the assault.

When a woman learns Karate, she also learns self-defense, self-confidence and self-esteem which allows her to be able to go out in life with less fear and with a warmer and more open attitude.

Any woman who takes up Karate will learn a means of self-preservation by doing something which is often fun, while also bettering their health and general level of fitness.

Is Karate any good for children?

As a parent you have a massive obligation to your children.

It is more than just a duty of care, you want your children to be the best that they can be. You want them to achieve and be a success in life.

Traditional Karate has certain "rules of conduct" that are not just expected but are obligatory. Courtesy, respect, self control and discipline are all part of everyday training. Primarily this is for safety reasons, but these are all useful traits to develop for children and adults alike.

Karate Kids
For many children passing their first grading examination is the first time they have achieved something significant entirely due to their own efforts. And once they have learned that they can succeed in Karate if they follow the rules and work hard, it is a small step to transfer those skills to other areas.

It is not uncommon for children's school work to improve after they have been training for a while. Psychologists knew in the 1960s that Karate practice can inspire an interest in learning generally, and they found that a higher percentage of Karate players went to University than in other sports.

Bullying is a major problem in (and out of) schools. "Karate kids" don't use their skills to bully others. They are more likely to stand up to bullies and to help others. Bullying is not acceptable in Karate classes, and it is made clear that students who misuse their Karate will be banned from training.

Karate can be an aid to parenting by helping reinforce the lessons that you are trying to instil in your child, but the Karate club is not a replacement for parenting. We will help direct your child on the right path, but you have to do your bit as well!

Apart from trying to help your child become the best person that they can be the child who takes up Karate today could be an International Karate Competitor and/or Club Instructor in years to come, so we have a vested interest in each and every young person who joins our classes.

All of our instructors have been checked by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and have an Enhanced CRB Clearance as a Registered Karate Instructor. Child Protection and your child's welfare are taken very seriously.

Is Karate just about fighting?

Though fighting is the most obvious aspect of the martial arts to most people it is just a part of Karate.

Karate comes in three parts, the three "K's" - Kihon, Kata and Kumite.

Kihon is the training drills of Karate. A form of functional exercise in which techniques are practised in lines, similar in fashion to soldiers marching in formation. Practising in lines enables the trainee to focus on the mechanics of a movement, co-ordination, timing, balance and technical excellence. It also helps to instil a range of movements as "second nature".

Kata is the least understood aspect of Karate. Sometimes called "moving meditation", most people see it as purely some form of martial arts "dancing" which looks pretty but will never replace a good sparring session. On the contrary, performed correctly Kata is probably the most demanding aspect of Karate both physically and mentally. Also, when you look into the original concepts that underlie the various Kata you will find some of the most effective and devastating unarmed combat techniques in the martial arts. Kata isn't about "sport", Kata is about personal development and stopping an opponent dead with the minimum of effort but the maximum of effect.

Kumite is the fighting side of Karate. Ranging from set attacks and blocks, through competition and self defence techniques to full blown "anything goes" fighting (not usually practised until you have a high level of proficiency in Karate). Kumite will help you develop the required responses to a variety of attacks to successfully ward off (and counter) most attacks. As an exercise Kumite uses nearly every muscle group in your body, and just a couple of minutes of sparring can work up quite a sweat. Apart from the obvious self defence aspects, Kumite can be a lot of fun.

Yin Yang
Karate can help with stress reduction, self control, and self esteem. It offers a whole raft of other psychological benefits way beyond mere fighting. There are also many peripherals to Karate such as the history and philosophy of the martial arts which will keep the inquiring mind active for decades.

Physically Karate is good for improving stamina, suppleness, speed, and balance. It is a great way to keep in shape and improve your overall health.

On top of regular training in your local club there are specialist seminars with guest instructors/experts from all over the UK (and from abroad).

Social, fun and family events are commonplace, and many lifelong friendships are made within the Karate fraternity.

So Karate isn't just about fighting. In fact, many people who have been involved in the martial arts for many years (decades) will happily admit that the fighting side is one of the least important aspects of Karate.

What equipment do I need?

Initially, just something loose and comfortable such as track suit bottoms and a t-shirt and/or sweat shirt. Karate students train in bare feet, and you will be required to remove (or make safe) any jewellery or watches.

Piggy Bank
After a while you will want to get a karate suit. Your club instructor can usually get these for you - often cheaper than buying a suit from a Sports Shop. Prices of suits vary from around £10 for a child's suit to well over £100 for an imported Japanese "brand name". Karate suits are relatively inexpensive. Ask your instructor for prices - I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Other equipment includes a variety of safety equipment. Hand mitts are a must for sparring/kumite practice. Shin and foot guards, groin protectors, breast protectors, and gum shields are also used. You may not need them all, but, again, you will find the cost of these items well within budget.

No need to break open the piggy bank, then!

How much does it cost?

Training fees and costs vary from club to club.

This is because each individual venue has a different rental cost. The instructors also have to find money to cover expenses such as training equipment, insurance and national registration.

The cost of an individual class is not expensive, and many clubs offer discounts for monthly (or other) payment schemes.

On top of your training fees there is also the cost of a National Karate License which includes a personal insurance policy, which is important in case you accidently stick your thumb in someone's eye! You cannot take belt examinations, join seminars or enter competitions without a current licence (because of the insurance aspect).

Karate suits are relatively inexpensive (a lot cheaper than a Football strip), as are the various hand mitts and foot pads you may need at a later date.

Grading examinations for different belts are not compulsory and, again, won't break the bank when you decide that you are ready and want to go for your next belt.

The first session is free so you have no initial outlay, and you can inquire about the other costs before you commit yourself to further lessons.

Ask your local instructor for more information.

How do I join my local club?

Hi There
The hardest thing to do in any Karate club (or any physical discipline) is to prise yourself off the sofa and go to the club. Once you are there the rest is easy!

Check out the Venues page for your the club of your choice (phone the contact person if you wish) and then drop in just before the start of the session.

You will be made to feel most welcome. Karate clubs can be very friendly places, and a lot of fun!

Have a quick word with the instructor (and some of the students) and then you can either...

  • join in with the class,
  • watch a session, or
  • watch a session and then join in half way through when you get bored with just watching!

There is no charge for your first session so what do you have to lose?

The longest journey starts with but a single step.

Will I get hurt?

Karate does involve physical contact, and you have to be very lucky or extremely good to avoid the occasional bruise in your Martial Arts career.

The instructors are very aware of the potential for injury and constantly strive to promote technical excellence and self control to reduce the risks.

Because of this Karate has one of the lowest injury rates of all "sports", much less than Rugby or Football.

If you work hard you will probably ache after your first few lessons as you utilise muscles you didn't know you had. Actually, if you work really hard you will ache after most karate sessions!

Also, sometimes you need to feel the pain of a technique (such as a pressure point strike or joint lock) to appreciate how it works and how effective it can be. These techniques are usually reserved for higher grades and are applied very carefully and with full consent.