This installment of Karate 101 covers two basic karate moves: kicks and punches. Kicks and punches are the basics of karate, and when combined with blocks and deflections, make up a complete self-defense unit. To learn more about blocking an attack, read the first installment of Karate 101.
What are some of the basic karate kicks and punches?
If someone throws a punch or kick at you, and you’ve evaded or deflected it, then you throw your own kick or punch with the intention of stopping the attack. The goal is to use the minimum amount of force necessary to end the confrontation.
When learning how to kick and punch, the newcomer to karate learns these moves from a horse stance: legs apart, knees bent, almost in a squat, but with legs farther apart. This is a person’s weakest stance for a frontal attack, and is used for practice and training. If the student can strike from his weakest stance and maintain his balance, when she is in her strongest stance, her strikes will be that much stronger.
There are quite a few different kicks in karate, each used optimally in a different situation. The differences between karate kicks come from the direction they’re thrown, and the part of the foot that is making contact.
For instance, a strike can be moving away from you or toward you, at your side, across your front, up or down. Each attacking strike requires a different evasion tactic and a different return strike.
Among the many types of karate kicks are the roundhouse kick, which is a strike across the body, and the self-explanatory front kick, back kick, and side thrust kick. A front instep kick lifts, a front ball kick pushes, and some kicks, like an ax kick or front stomp kick, crush downward.
As with kicks, there are many different punches, and each is used in a specific situation. Probably the most common punch is the front punch. In a front punch, you make a fist and punch out in front of yourself, making contact with the first two knuckles of your hand. The most important thing to remember when using a front punch is to keep your wrist straight.
Other punches include the palm strike, hammer fist, and chicken wrist, each of which uses a different part of the hand and strikes in a different way. Although you may learn the various strikes rather quickly, to be able to use any of them effectively can take years of practice.
Karate kicks and punches are not about strength, at least on the outside, but rather about inner strength. It’s important to remember that if your purpose in learning karate is self-defense, you don’t need superhuman strength, and your hands don’t have to be scarred, calloused, and rough. You can successfully do the moves with hands that are flexible and healthy.
In learning and practicing these karate kicks and punches, you are working individually in form, or kata. You are fighting an imaginary attacker, moving through a series of blocks and kicks designed to fight off multiple imaginary attackers.
Forms range from the very basic, with easy to learn blocks and punches, to the more elaborate movements, such as jumping and spinning kicks. Which form is used is determined by the student’s proficiency.
Once you’ve learned basic blocking, deflecting, kicking, and punching, then you’re ready to move on to interacting with other students.
(NOTE: Because there are so many disciplines in the martial arts, what one system calls a specific kick may have a different name in another system. As a reference, the information presented here applies to modified kempo style.)
David Carrier, personal interview
David Carrier, who holds several black belts, was a former martial arts instructor, and has extensively studied behavior management and crisis communication.