Karate and Martial Arts FAQ

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New Karate and Martial Arts FAQ for new students.

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(The opinions in this FAQ are those of the webmaster, and do not necssarily reflect any official position of West Los Angeles Karate School. They are intended only as an aid to folks interested in the martial arts, not as a set of definitive answers. The tone is meant to be slightly tongue in cheek, and to be entertaining while trying to be frank.)

Do you have children's classes?

No (as of the time of this writing - we have in the past and could in the future).

We do not have separate classes for children (or for women), so everybody (men and women of all ages) train together. We will take younger students when they are 15 years old (with parent or guardian approval), as by then they have developed the self discipline, physical size, and their bones and bodies have matured enough to train.

We would be happy to provide a recommendation for schools that do have classes for children. Just contact us via e-mail or telephone, and let us know.

Jean Philippe Jodan Mawashi Geri Against John S

How is karate different from other martial arts?

Karate involves defending oneself via blocking, and counterattacking using punching, kicking and striking techniques. Power and speed are optimized by employing correct body mechanics and alignment.

Particularly the employment of kicking techniques characterizes karate. Typically, a student of karate fights at kicking distance (as opposed to say punching distance or grappling distances which are much closer).

What is karate training like?

Karate training is divided into three aspects: basics (kihon), sparring (kumite) and forms (kata). Kihon entails the practice of the basics of stance, blocking, punching, kicking, striking, moving and stance. Kumite involves prearranged attacks and defenses at a lower level progressing to free sparring (free exchange of techniques with a partner) at higher levels. Kata are the prearranged sequences of defensive and offensive techniques that preserve and encode our style.

Jean Philippe Jodan Gyaku Tsuki against Don

Classes range in length from a half an hour, an hour, and 1.5 hours. Classes are held three times per week. We recommend attending two to three classes per week (especially in the beginning) if possible, as much of the learning is by rote and repetition in the beginning. But we also recognize the importance of work and family, so set up your schedule as you can.

There is a philosophical aspect of karate-do (the way of karate) training that is not spoken about much in our dojo (school, literally the place the way is taught or pursued), but rather evinces itself in the way the instructors and students interact with eachother. This is a subtle thing, and highly individual. E.g., karate training can be utilized and viewed as a way to "polish one's soul". In many dojos, this is actually given more formal recognition through the regular recitation of dojo kun (precepts) and through a more elaborate meditation ceremony at the beginning and end of class.

First two classes Saturday 2/24/2007

Is karate for me?


The founder of our style (Shotokan) of karate might say karate is for everyone, as he designed our style to be accessible to everyone: men, women, children and seniors.

Personally, based on my experience and observations, I would say that karate is not for everybody. It tends to appeal to those who have (or are trying to develop) a fair amount of self discipline. While it can appeal to both goal oriented and process oriented personality types, probably the process oriented folks tend to stay around longer (i.e. achieve advanced rank). If you are seeking instant gratification or easy answers, the answer is definitely no. Karate takes a lot of diligence and sweat (and a decent sense of humor helps!), and the difference between success and failure is usually found in how regularly one attends and how diligently they practice, as well as in cultivating an attitude that sees success in terms of progress relative to oneself rather than as something measured against the accomplishments of others.

If you've ever wanted to try karate or the martial arts, this is a great opportunity to do so as it costs nothing but your time to try it.

Nick Gyaku Tsuki Against Ken

Is this style of karate a good one for me?


Our style of karate, Shotokan, is known for having strong basic techniques and methodical training to that end with standardization and consistency across the broad spectrum of schools and organizations that practice our style (i.e. you should be able to find a Shotokan school or club in almost any good sized city). It is a "power" style (also said to be a "linear" style by outsiders), with an emphasis on developing the power to quickly and effectively finish off an opponent. It is also a "traditional" style, with standardized and traditional "forms" (aka kata) that preserve and transmit the style.

That being said, if you are just starting out in the martial arts, the style of karate (or even martial art) is probably not as important as the quality of the school and instructor(s). Since you will be spending a lot of time over potentially years there, you want to make sure that both the instructor(s) and students are the type of people you want to spend time with, and that they treat eachother with respect. Also, that you get to go home with a full set of teeth every training session!

A beginner will probably not be able to discern that much about a particular style of karate (or even martial art). It takes a while (I would say roughly a year) to develop an eye for observing and beginning to understand what you are seeing when you watch martial arts. If you decide later on that some other style (or school) of karate or martial art would be more suited to your goals you can change then. But make sure that first and foremost you pick a quality school (and instructor(s))!

How do I pick a good school?

These are some offhand considerations and thoughts:

Don Mawashi Geri Against Ken

Is there danger of injury?

Ouch - yes.

If you train long enough, odds are you will be hurt at some point as in any other athletic endeavor. The types of injuries we see most often include blisters on the feet (from moving on the floor), sprains, muscle pulls, bruises, tweaked backs and knees, et al.

If you train long enough to earn a black belt, there is a good chance you will experience nearly all of these joys, and possibly even more serious injuries such as a broken bone or problems with the knee or back.

Although we practice a non-contact ("point" sparring) style of karate, there is still accidental and inadvertant contact. This is pretty much unavoidable and in the nature of the martial arts although outside the scope of the curriculum. I would say the injury potential is quantitatively and qualitatively about comparable to high impact aerobics or dance.

Do you have tournaments?

No, although we have considered (and continue to consider) such events.

Students are free to participate in any tournaments they would like, but we do not require or pressure any students to do so. We do not want to develop a situation where "more gifted" students (with respect to competition) are given elevated status or attention.

Personally I believe that competition can be fun, and serve as both motivation and as a way to meet others who enjoy the martial arts. However, it is important that students do not become obsessed with winning and losing.

How long does it take to get a black belt?

Black belt class

Most students never earn a black belt.

We do not guarantee that students will make black belt (or any other) rank. Earning a black belt is a relatively rare occurence, although the primary trait to be able to achieve black belt rank is simply the ability to show up for class regularly, avoid serious injury and to train diligently.

Typically, it takes 5 to 7 years for most folks to earn black belt rank. Theoretically this can be done in just 2.5 years given our testing schedule, but I can recall only one person who was able to do this. We used to have a rule of thumb of roughly one in a thousand (I sure better now) for the odds of achieving black belt to give you an idea of how rare this is.

Consider how rare it is to train diligently and regularly at anything for 5 to 7 years. Conceptually that's not hard, but the reality is that it is not often done. However, if you have the self discipline to do that, accomplishing this (or anything else in life) is pretty straight forward!

How much do lessons cost?

The costs associated with taking karate are:

So theoretically if you passed every exam (which virtually noone does) it would cost $50 in total examination fees over 2.5 years to get to black belt, $1680 in dues (18 months * $50 per month + $65 per month for 12 months) and say about $35 in uniform costs for a grand total of $1715 from beginner to black belt over 2.5 years. Cheaper than say windsurfing (not close if you count the van and vacations at destination windsurfing resorts) but more expensive than surfing (assuming no destination resort vacations and not counting the cost of gasoline in any of these!)...

How do I get started?

Come to the first class of any given day about 10 to 15 minutes prior to class start time. Wear loose fitting exercise clothing like gym shorts or sweats. We'll have you read and sign a standard athletic waiver form and fill out an information sheet. An assistant instructor will work with you one on one for the first couple of lessons until you can follow along with the regular class.

The class schedule, directions to the school and parking are elsewhere on this website.

If you can, let us know when you are coming down, and we'll make sure that the instructor knows to watch for you. Otherwise, just show up.

The toughest step in karate training is stepping across the dojo (school) threshhold the first time. After that, it's just showing up regularly. If you've actually read this far, you might as well give it a try - you're certainly interested!

We hope you'll take that first step!

Steve scores on Stan

What are your qualifications to pontificate about all of this?

I'm the webmaster of this site and as such (and like any other webmaster) can say pretty much anything I like!

I've been a member of West Los Angeles Karate School for some number of decades now. I am currently a student, instructor and administrator there. I have never been a champion of any kind (that's me being scored upon in the photo to the right), and do not consider myself particularly talented at the martial arts. I do enjoy helping folks find their way on (and sometimes off of) the martial arts path, as I recall how exciting, beneficial and fun it has been for me. Seeing folks progress and succeed at something they have always wanted to do is quite rewarding.

Other than that and perhaps a tendency to be a bit too opinionated, no particular qualifications. The value of all of this might be exactly what you paid for it...     ;>)

Other articles meant to help martial arts newcomers

Please note that there are a number of FAQs and articles on the Internet designed to help newcomers figure out which way is up - don't hesitate to use your browser to find and use these! E.g.:

A lot of time and thought has been put into these with the intent of helping YOU! If you come across any other good ones, please let us know so we can add them to this FAQ.

If you have any comments, questions, corrections, or additional topics that should be covered in this FAQ, please let us know via e-mail or telephone!

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20040915 Youth House Group Photo You can contact us at any time with any questions at:

E-mail: help@WLAkarate.com
Telephone: (310) 737-7890
Mailing address: PO Box 641691, Los Angeles, CA 90064
Please feel free to drop by and visit us during class hours. Classes are held at the:
Brentwood Youth House *
731 South Bundy Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90049
* "The West Los Angeles Karate School is neither sponsored by nor is it in any way connected with the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles or the Los Angeles Unified School District."

For further information, comments and questions you may also send e-mail to help@WLAkarate.com.

Copyright Stan Uno.

"The ultimate aim of Karate-do lies not in the concern for victory or defeat,
but in the perfection of the human character of its participants."
Gichin Funakoshi