Form and Principles in Karate

Updated: Nov 29, 2019

By: Sensei Avi Rokah 8th Dan


Precise form is very important in Karate training, Good form provides us a structure that allows to maximize force production and delivery with least effort, while minimizing stress on body segments.


Yet optimal form is not an end, it is a mean, a vehicle, through which we should discover, understand and internalize the underlying mental and physical principles of karate techniques and applications.


In those underlying principles lies the beauty of karate, those principles are what makes karate an effective martial art, which enables the small to overcome the big. Those principles are what makes karate into an endless search for perfection that is not attainable.


Sensei Avi Rokah at the Missouri Karate Association Dojo

Form is a method to gaining those principles which are contracted and symbolized in the kata. Optimal form provide a structure is required in order to apply those underlying principles.


Yet, if the form becomes an end, the purpose, our karate is rigid, limited and lifeless.


And even having perfect form does not assure that the principles are applied.


The form is like a house, once foundations are strong and structure is built, now we can start decorating, according to our test and how we want our house to function.


Those principles that are coded within the kata, are for both mental and physical optimization of technique.


Those principles when understood enable us to make a technique and a form that fit each individual, and this form will change and evolve as we get older or if someone has injury.


What are some of those principles? Optimal posture for optimal control of body dynamics, and optimal length of muscles for full potential of contraction/relaxation, those are the 2 methods of producing force.


The inside and the outside of the body have to match, intention, breath, inside muscles action, and external body action and technique all have to harmonize to purpose of technique. Optimal posture also has mental implication, when we say “eyes back”, “look softly”, it helps us “by pass” the brain, not analyze and judge, keep stable emotions, and eventually see the information in the opponent posture and movement, ahead of the physical action.



Sensei Avi Rokah and Sensei Sean Huchzermeier


Feet make top technique, through kata and optimal form we learn to maximize the use of external force, use each stance according to how it is configured and designed to be used.

Even the smallest action that we do initiate from the ground up, and the whole body becomes a smooth chain of energy.


Feet, in addition to leading the technique, are also responsible for reaction, distance, timing.


Other principles such as external sequence of body segments in technique, as well as internal sequencing of muscles activation, the right amount in the right time.


Connection between body center to elbow or knee, and many others.


Those principles are subtle, and It requires deep, continuous study to understand and internalize those concepts, and the manifestations and potentials are limitless.


Related: What Feels Powerful is Not Necessarily Powerful

Sensei Avi Rokah 8th dan, is one of our Master Senseis who we invite to the Dojo every year to Grade our High ranking Karate Students and give Seminars. We are very grateful to be able to call him our Sensei.

Sensei Rokah is a World Champion in Kumite, the head of the World Budo Karate Association, and has a Dojo in Los Angeles, CA. You can also read more of his Karate Articles.

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