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tubbydrawers's picture
Practical kihon or not in gradings


I just thought I would as a question:

Does anybody perform or teach practical kihon / basics in the Dojo but when it comes to a graidng, the students are tested on kihon that steps up and and down the hall or just basics on the spot.

I have a similar problem going on right now, where I teach a WCA Syallaus with padwork, bunkia etc. all the usual stuff. And when I grade my students - at the moment they have been grading with me, they get tested on said stuff.

The problem I have is that soon, some of my students will have to grade with the Association I am with and they do not perform padwork, bunkai or practical kihon in the gradings. They say you can teach whatever you want in the dojo, but when it comes to grading, they need to grade this way. 

The reason I am asking is that I saw Andy Allen's blog about kihon looking good or being practical and it has got me thinking about this. I have spoken with Iain at great length about this, but wanted other people's opinion on the teaching.

It feels weird teaching things in my Dojo, but when they come to an association grading, its different. Especially now that the 'higher' grades changed the syllabus and didnt consult the other Dojo instructors. So they have removed some of the Shotokan Kata and changed the way kihon is performed at a grading. The kihon now is step forward one punch, one block. I will know more in 2 weeks because we are having a zoom meeting about it. This only occured becuase I asked about it. Or else it was going to be sprung upon the other Instructors :(

Anyway, please let me know what others think.

Philios's picture

Yes.  I teach practical bunkai and kihon, but these elements are not apart of the organization's syllabus.  In my dojo, there are a number of instructors and I am definitely the most knowledgeable on it.  However, I am slowly trying to integrate it more into our curriculum.

If you feel it is necessary to grade your students based on practical elements, you could choose to hold a pre- or post-grading at your dojo that only tests the more practical aspects that your association does not.  They have to pass both the association grading and the practical grading in order to advance in the ranks.

Leigh Simms
Leigh Simms's picture

Hi there!

So, I actually just finished recording a series of our grading kihon for our club. I have made one of the lessons public - so feel free to check out the video here - 


Its a breakdown of the basic "straight punch" from our first grade syllabus. To pass their first grade they need to understand how this move is also applied to a partner (which I cover in the video as best as I can since I have no training partners around right now!).

To give you an idea, we have two sets of kihon. Those which are isolated motions from kata (ie the traditional karate techniques) and those which are more of a sporting/consensual combat feel (think boxing, kickboxing, mma-style techniques). The "Kata Kihon" is primairly the isolation of takens for non-consensual violence whilst the "Sport-Style" Kihon is based on the consensual-combat - although there is crossover at times.

All techniques (and as the grades progress combinations) have direct application to their given environment and are also drilled against partners (at different resistance levels) and where relevant against impact equipment (thai pads, focus mitss, kickshields etc..).

I hope this helps!


shotokanman70's picture

It took the better part of a year writing my curriculum proposal for the WCA. Initially, I planned on staying with my Shotokan organization and running two syllabi. I eventually accepted the fact that the "traditional" Shotokan syllabi had to go so once my curriculum was approved I left my old organization. My former sensei gave me a lot of freedom to teach what I wanted. When it came time to test I made damn sure my students looked good. This got old after a while. I had to stop teaching practical karate to get students ready for a 3K test. It made no sense and I just couldn't sell the robotic kihon and step sparring anymore. I eventually accepted the fact that the "traditional" Shotokan syllabi had to go so once my curriculum was approved I left my old organization. I do very little "traditional" kihon anymore.

Leaving the ISKF was a tough decision but it was something I needed to do. I had long outgrown the outdated training methodologies. Even as a 7th dan, I was far too junior to have any influence to change so I left. Karate needs to be practical even with kihon training. 

If anybody wants to know more about what I'm doing, here are some links...

Functional Kihon (and paired pad work) for beginners.


6th kyu kihon


Blog announcement: Kihon is a TOOL, not a GOAL


Blog https://appliedshotokan.com/kihon-is-a-tool-not-a-goal/

My entire 8th kyu curriculum

Bob Davis
Bob Davis's picture

I have been independant for around 6 years now so my grading syllabus is what I decide it should be. I initially hung on to a certain amount of standardised kihon (and kihon ippon) because I was still teaching "shotokan", just with my own emphasis, so I wanted my students to be at an acceptable level for grade should they decide to move on. They are not moving one so... I've dropped kihon ippon in favour of my own versions of single response drills, all 3 step and 5 step drills are gone. I do however keep some very basic standard kihon in my grading syllabus as, for me, I still think there are important things I can see in it at grading time for mechanics and movement.

tubbydrawers's picture

Hi, Thansk for the replies. The association I am with is suppose to have meeting this Sunday regarding the new syllabus, but to be honest I dont hold much hope for anything pratical being added. 

Thanks for showing me the way can be different :)