Training Regimen

The following (with some minor edits) is courtesy of JKA Boston, who suggest that each session should last 30-60 minutes:


There’s an old saying that you can train in the space of two tatami mats, roughly two meters square, or a little more than two stance-lengths in each direction. I push furniture to the side in my living room. Watch out for nails or splinters sticking up out of the floor. And Legos. Legos are the sworn enemy of bare feet.


It’s important to maintain flexibility, and if possible to work on extending your range of motion. Even if you don’t have time to train, try to devote ten to fifteen minutes to stretching each day.
The ten-minute routine we practice at the start of class is designed to provide a comprehensive, all-around stretch. It’s not a part of the karate curriculum, so at home feel free to add or subtract from it, but pay attention to the full range of motion.
It’s important to find the point where the muscle being stretched hurts, and stop before you get sharp, tearing pain. Hold that point of stress on the muscle for ten seconds. That will help you increase your flexibility. When bending toward your foot along a straightened leg, either standing or sitting, keep the knee straight. The point is not to bring your chest close to your thigh; the point is to find and hold the point where your hamstring or groin muscle is in pain, and thus being stretched.
If you have time, stretch after you exercise as well. Usually in class we try to maximize our practice time and so only stretch at the beginning, but if you have time at home, add more stretching after you’ve been training.


If you can, practice in front of a mirror or reflective surface. You won’t correct yourself as well as if you had an instructor present, but you can catch a lotespecially poor posture. You get a better sense of your speed and depth of your stance as well.
Training by yourself, you are limited to kihon (basics) and kata. In a small space at home, kata practice is necessarily hampered, but not impossible. As I always say, karate training has two poles: ideal form on one side, and speed and power on the other. When training yourself, do everything slowly first, repeatedly, to strive for correct form, then repeat with full speed and power. We work toward gradually bringing the two together to a peak of perfection.
As much as possible, follow the format of a standard class. Your body is used to it. It will help if you reproduce the familiar training format when you’re training alone. More experienced people, of course, can improvise much more.


Warm up:

  1. Choku zuki (basic straight punch) from shizen tai (standing position, feet apart)
    • Ten times slow, ten times fast. Brown belts add in hip vibration, but be careful not to become sloppy.
  2. Mae geri (front kick) from heisoku dachi (feet together, knees and ankles bent)
    • Ten times slowly, with two counts – pausing after recoil to practice your balance and use your stomach muscles to lift your hip and knee.
    • Ten times fast, single count.
  3. Gedan barai (downward block) in zenkutsu dachi (front stance)
  4. Kizami zuki jodan/gyaku zuki chudan (jab to face, opening hip; reverse punch to stomach, rotating hip square)
    • Twenty times slowly (ten for each punch)
    • Twenty times fast
    • Ten times double punching (speeding up the tempo to make quick two-punch combination)
  5. Stand, and repeat on the other side
Build your muscle strength by staying down in a full stance. Pay attention to your hikite, pulling fully back to help with hip rotation, and also down. Full motion forward and back with the rotating hip. Watch your posture. Keep your back and neck fully straight.
  1. Gedan barai (downward block) in zenkutsu dachi (front stance)
  2. Mae geri in place, returning to same stance, basic kamae (hands to side, like holding buckets of water)
    • Ten times slowly, double countpausing after recoil, before returning foot to the floor behind you
    • Ten times slowly, single countfluid coil, snap, and recoil, with proper control of the foot, presenting the ball of the foot as the weapon
    • Ten times fast
  3. Stand, and repeat on the other side

Single-step forward/back kihon:

Depending on your space, you can practice basic technique in place, or with a single step forward and back. You do not have to do all the basic blocks and attacks, but can work from kyu exam requirements. In essence, select from the following menu to build your personal training session. Perform a set number slowly, then repeat with full speed.

  • moving forward:
    • oizuki jodan or chudan: step-in punch to face or stomach
    • sanban zuki: triple punch, first one to face, second to in rapid succession to stomach
  • moving backward:
    • age uke or age uke/gyaku zuki: rising block with reverse punch, rotating the hip open/closed
  • moving forward
    • soto uke/gyaku zuki: outside block in front stance with reverse punch
    • soto uke/kiba dachi yoko empi uchi: outside block in front stance, change to side stance and deliver sideways elbow strike
    • soto uke/kiba dachi yoko empi uchi/tate uraken uchi/zenkutsu dachi gyaku zuki: same as above, but deliver a vertical backfist strike to jodan (as in Heian Sandan), move front foot over to make a front stance and deliver a reverse punch
  • moving backward
    • uchi uke/gyaku zuki: inside block with reverse punch
    • uchi uke/kizami zuki/gyaku zuki: inside block with jab to face (using blocking hand) and reverse punch stomach
  • moving forward and backward
    • kokutsu dachi shuto uke: back stance sword-hand block (or “knife-hand”)
    • kokutsu dachi shuto uke/zenkutsu dachi nukite chudan: after block, move front foot over to make front stance and delivery a spear-hand reverse punch to stomach
    • kokutsu dachi shuto uke/mae ashi mae geri/zenkutsu dachi nukite chudan: after block, front kick with front leg, then change to front stance as you put the foot down and deliver a spear-hand reverse punch
  • moving forward
    • mae geri: front kick
    • mae geri/gyuku zuki: front kick reverse punch
    • mawashi geri: roundhouse kick
    • mawashi geri/gyaku zuki: roundhouse kick reverse punch
    • mawashi geri/uraken uchi jodan: roundhouse kick backfist strike
    • mawachi geri/uraken uchi jodan/gyaku zuki chudan: roundhouse kick backfirst strike reverse punch
You can either pivot to go again in the other direction with these kicking techniques, or move back with gedan barai/gyakyu zuki or gedan barai/mae geri/gyaku zuki.
  • greater challenge: mawashi geri and return to zenkutsu dachi – don’t step forward afterward
  • moving forward and backward
    • kiba dachi yoko keage: horseback-riding stance side-snap kick
    • kiba dachi yoko kekomi: horseback-riding stance side-thrust kick
You can make your own combinations as well, and work on such techniques as ashi barai (foot sweep), yoko kekomi from zenkutsu dachi, even ushiro geri, etc.


With the exception of the Tekki kata, all the Shotokan kata have embusen (performance line) that exceed the space most of you will have for practicing at home. There are two ways around this:
  1. Isolate individual techniques, and practice them repeatedly
    • For example, Heian Yondan has a combination that is very common in advanced kata as well: yoko keage uraken uchi/zenkutsu dachi mawashi empi uchi: side-snap kick with backfist strike to a rotating elbow strike to chudan in a front stance
    • This is a great set of techniques to practice, since you have to work on the rhythm of combined hand and foot techniques, hip rotation, and changing stance
    • You can drill the more difficult individual techniques or combinations from your kata
    • Even Heian Shodan presents a difficult moment in the full-speed 180-degree stepping turn
    • If you have room, work on it
  2. Execute the full kata, but withdraw the base foot before advancing
    • In Heian Shodan, for example, you can perform the first downward block into a front stance to your left, then pull your left (front) foot back as far as your right (rear) foot before stepping forward with your right foot for the second technique, a step-in punch
    • You can either fully step toward the rear for the third technique, or pull your left (rear) foot forward before stepping with your right foot toward your rear
The more space you have, of course, the better, and the less you have to make this double-step. It is not as satisfactory as having room to make full steps on each technique. But it is a way to rehearse your kata even at home, and is helpful when combined with method (1) above. Be sure you do not rise up when withdrawing a foot. Keep your hip forward and bend your knees and ankles deeply.



Don’t forget that plain old calisthenics help, too. Push-ups and sit-ups are good exercise.