It is almost impossible to learn Karate from a book, even one with many illustrations.
The basic techniques you are taught are the building blocks which you will learn to combine for more complicated formal exercises and later for practical application for self defense. No one can ever learn all there is to know about Karate, even though they may have trained for 50 or so years. It is also important for beginners to understand that no instructor can actually “teach” Karate to you. YOU are the person who will slowly teach your body to respond on command in the correct way, your instructors will demonstrate and correct — but knowledge can only be translated into action by hard work and regular attendance.
Karate literally means “empty hand” fighting and this emphasizes the fact that we must use the weapons that nature gave us for our own defense or that of others. The main advantages that a karate-ka possesses over an untrained assailant lie in the speed and power of their techniques and also in their capacity to react correctly and without thought, so as to instantly counter an unexpected attack. In order to achieve this readiness we must first improve the physical condition of the body. If you carry on with your training, you will find that, at the same time, you will be improving your mind, your emotions and your relations with others. On the physical side, you will learn concentration, to clear the mind and relax and to accept the discipline of Karate which come from within.
The exercises that you learn are designed to firstly stretch and strengthen muscles, secondly to increase the suppleness and range of movement of body joints an thirdly, to improve and maintain a high standard of stamina, general health and well being. Once learnt, these exercises can be gone through in about 20 minutes. To achieve a steady improvement, it is desirable that you do these exercises once every day. Before going to bed is probably the best time and a short jog before breakfast will speedily build up stamina.
Why exercise at all? The human body is a very finely balanced machine and exercise is its oil can, valve grinder and energy source. Heart disease is increasing every year and so are back troubles, weight problems, ulcers and asthma. All of these can be avoided by regular exercise and Karate. It would be wise however, for any persons who has suffered an illness or accident to obtain a clearance from their doctor before starting training. It is also essential that you inform the person in charge of the training session if you have suffered any injury or sprain etc, which would render in inadvisable to do an exercise or portion of the training session.
As most beginners are unfit, it will be necessary for you to hasten slowly until the initial stiffness is past. Once you have mastered the exercise it is essential to “force” a little in order to make progress. By this I mean that if you can only manage 5 press ups comfortably, then you MUST try to do 6 or 7 — but not 12 or 15. In general, muscle stiffness and soreness result from stretching and minor tearing of muscle fibers and also from the large volume of blood brought to the muscles during exercise. This initial stiffness is best relieved by a hot bath straight after training sessions and a small amount of linoment. Vigorous massage is not necessary.
However once you have entered into this state of soreness, TRY TO KEEP IT, otherwise you will be undoing the progress you have made. Once you reach a reasonable state of fitness, an average training session will not trouble you greatly, although if you have no muscle soreness the next day, it means you have not worked hard enough and you were just marking time.
We welcome you then to your Karate training. Try to remember and understand the use and correct execution of the techniques you are shown. If you don’t — ASK. The correct time to ask a Senpai about such matters is before or after a training session.
Good luck and good training.