Karate can be broadly separated into three main aspects, Kihon, Kumite, and Kata, all of which are important, but many say that Kata is the 'heart' of Karate. Kata is used to 'program' the body with technique. The more a kata is practised, the less conscious thought is used, so that eventually the body seems to perform the kata on it's own, leaving the mind to concentrate on the intention behind the moves.
Shoto-Ryu practises around 30 Karate Kata, of varying origins, although many of them are very similar to those practised by Shoto-Kai and Shoto-Kan.
Most Shoto Ryu Karate practices are performed with the muscles in a natural state of relaxation/readiness. Those that require rigid tension only serve as a method of finding relaxation. Relaxation brings quickness of movement and aids flow of ki. Tension slows movement and inhibits ki.
The centre point or tan dien is located a little below the navel. Many martial arts concentrate on this point during practice, Shoto Ryu is no exception. It is believed by many that ones 'centre' stores ki (internal energy). Centralisation consolidates balance and body positioning.
Practised correctly, Karate increases strength of mind and focus. Self discipline is essential to increase concentration. Concentration is essential to produce ki.
Knowing oneself is essential in order to defeat an opponent, but harmonising with that opponent is also essential. Without relaxation, centralisation and concentration, harmonising with your opponent is impossible.
To aid concentration the breath should coincide with ones movements. To centralise, one must concentrate on the breath. Breathing, relaxation and concentration, are essential to produce ki.
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