The Japan Karate Association (JKA) is one of the oldest and most respected karate training associations. The JKA teach their students the shotokan form of karate which is thought to be the oldest traditional form of Karate, developed by Gichin Funakoshi in the early 1900s. It is an organization that teaches adults and children alike how to not only strike with punches and kicks properly and block an attack correctly, but it also promotes self-discipline, respect for others and a positive attitude towards patience and perseverance. Shotokan training is usually divided into three parts: kihon (basics), kata (forms or patterns of moves), and kumite (sparring). Techniques in kihon and kata are characterized by deep, long stances that provide stability and enable powerful movements. Shotokan is often regarded as a 'hard' and 'external' martial art because it is taught that way to beginners and coloured belts to develop strong basic techniques and stances. Initially strength and power are demonstrated instead of slower, more flowing motions. Those who progress to brown and black belt level develop a much more fluid style that incorporates grappling and some aikido-like techniques, which can be found in the black belt katas. Kumite techniques mirror these stances and movements at a basic level, but are less structured, with a focus instead on speed and efficiency.
I have trained with the JKA on and off over an 8 year period and progressed to brown belt. Sensei’s with JKA are always passionate, supportive and motivate their students to achieve their full potential. I would always encourage people to try out karate, especially with the JKA. Karate is something I had wanted to do from a young age, and now at the age of 20 I love it as much as I did when I started.
- Lauren McKay
The day kicked off by having the kata event first. Each group was broken down into juniors and seniors and from there they were divided into high and low belts. The higher belts were able to choose which kata they performed and the lower belts were told which one to perform. The lower belts performed together and were judged by 4 different officials who would choose which one they believed had performed better. If there was a tie it would go down to the fifth official, who instructed the juniors on which kata to perform, to decide on the winner. Two juniors would go up together to perform the kata and only one would get through to the next stage, this process carried on until the final round when the juniors would perform individually and decide which kata to perform on their own. They would then get rated out of 10 by the 5 officials and the highest rated would win.
The higher belts would perform the kata in front of 5 officials like the lower belts did except from the first round onwards they would perform individually and be scored out of 10 by each official. Two competitors were matched up against each other and the one who got the highest score from the officials would move on to the next round. The kata is judged on a variety of aspects, each kata is made up from a combination of footwork and handwork and the officials would look for the movements from the competitors making sure all the correct movements were done in the correct combination. Aside from that to get a high score the competitor needs to time their movements correctly, holding a position and balancing it for the correct amount of time before moving onto the next move. It is all about precision and timing.The final part of the kata for the juniors was the team kata. This is where a team of 3 perform the kata together being judged individually on how they perform the kata as well as the synchronisation of the whole team together. From the first round onwards each team would perform alone being judged on the point system out of 10 between the 5 officials. The seniors were split into male and female competitors and begun with the Kata like the juniors. The seniors chose their own kata to perform and were scored out of 10 by each official from the first round onwards.
Once the kata was over the event moved onto kumite which was free style fighting. Opponents try and score points off each other by making contact with the body or head without the kick or punch being deflected in anyway. There was an age limit on this so the younger juniors would spar and call which type of kick or punch they were going to do and the opponent would deflect it. This was to show their reaction times and the sharpness of the attack. They were judged on the speed, precision and how well they held the stance. The other juniors old enough to enter the kumite started off the event, they had a certain time limit to try and outscore their opponent by using a variety of moves they have been taught. Once the seniors started you could see an improvement from obvious experience in this event by putting together combinations to get their opponent on the back foot before they scored a point. You also saw an increased speed of the offensive attacks and reactions to deflect the shots.
Attending the karate competition as someone with little to no experience in the area I wasn’t sure what to expect. At the beginning of the day I was already impressed at how well trained the juniors were and how well they managed to execute the kata. Though when the seniors performed it I was amazed to see the speed and precision they had. The control and tempo they had over almost made it look easy but you could tell hours of practice and training went into getting to that high a level.
When the kumite started the juniors were fun to watch and interesting to see how they managed to control themselves within the fight. Although when the seniors begun it was at a slower pace and you could see them waiting patiently for the right time to go in and attack and this made it a fair bit more brutal. They were getting fast clean hits to the face and body and some you could even feel from the crowd. Two in particular hits I remember clearly, one being in the women’s fight and the other in the males. In the female fight one much bigger competitor got a clean punch to the face and the other just crumpled to the ground and you could hear the contact clear and crisp from the seats. The other was when one competitor was on his back foot being swarmed by punches trying to get back into the fight and just out of nowhere he flicks his foot right up into his opponents face and his competitor hits the ground hard and remains there for a while until he gets checked over by the medical staff.
I found the day very interesting and was great fun to watch. The Kumite was probably the highlight of my day but I can understand how others would be entertained more by the Kata as well.
- Fraser Morrison