INSTRUCTORS

WLAK instructors are dedicated to teach traditional Japanese style Shotokan Karate-Do. They are all volunteers sharing teaching duties while continuing to train themselves. They all have  30 – almost 50 years of martial arts experience.

Alan Weil, 6th Dan

Sensei Alan Weil. Head instructor at West Los Angeles Karate

Alan is a 6th degree black belt in Shotokan Karate and a senior instructor at the West Los Angeles Karate School. He has been training in Karate since the mid-1970’s. In addition to his training and teaching in Los Angeles, he has trained all over the globe, including in Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, South Africa, England, Canada and Israel. Following in the footsteps of his Sensei George Takahashi, Alan taught the UCLA Extension Course in Karate for many years after Sensei Takahashi retired. Alan’s other passions include his family and his continuing professional life as a lawyer.  Alan is a volunteer instructor at the Westside YMCA.

Stephen K Young, 6th Dan

Sensei Steve Young. Head instructor at West Los Angeles Karate

A practitioner of Shotokan karate since 1975, Steve has been an instructor for more than 30 years at the West Los Angeles Karate School.   He began his karate training under Sensei George Takahashi at the UCLA Extension program while they both worked at UCLA.  Upon completion of the program, Steve joined the West Los Angeles Karate School at Pico and Sepulveda near the campus and he has been training ever since. 

Steve was a volunteer soccer coach with the Palisades YMCA and with the AYSO while his two children were growing up in the 1980’s.  A scientist by profession, Steve enjoys traveling with his wife, reading, and the opera as well as doing physics research.

Steve considers it a privilege that he and Alan have been training together for most of their adult lives.

Mak King, 4th Dan

Sensei Mak King. Instructor at West Los Angeles Karate

Mak is a 4th degree black belt in Shotokan Karate and an instructor at West Los Angeles Karate School.  He has been training at West LA since 1980 and teaching since the late 80s.  He has a background in wrestling and competed at both High School and University levels.  In addition to his Karate training, Mak has run about 30 marathons in about that many years, and enjoys downhill skiing and extended backpack trips in the High Sierra.  He is employed in a senior staff engineering position in the aerospace industry. 

David Heldman, 4th Dan

Sensei David Heldman. Instructor at West Los Angeles Karate

David is a 4th degree black belt in Shotokan Karate and an instructor at West Los Angeles Karate School. He has been training in Karate since 1990 and prior to Karate trained and competed in Judo both as a child and during college. When he can, he visits other Shotokan Karate schools in the Los Angeles area and around the world. David has been involved in YMCA programs with his children as Tribal Chief and Chief of the Nation for the Palisades – Malibu YMCA. He has been on the board of his community’s homeowner’s association for many years and does community service with his family. David works in Real Estate.  David is a volunteer instructor at the Westside YMCA.

George Takahashi

George Takahashi is the founder and chief instructor of the West Los Angeles Karate School. He was born in Idaho, USA and grew up both in the United States and in Japan. A graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, with a B.A. and an M.A. in Political Science, he taught Japanese language at UCLA full time for twenty years. He has written several articles on Japanese culture, language and the martial arts. He also authored a book entitled “An Adventure in English Language Space: A Key to the Mysteries of Prepositions”, published in 1998 by Vantage Press Inc., New York. A second book entitled “Japanese Learning and Teaching: A New Psycho-Logical Approach” was published in 2016 by Xlibris US.

Sensei Takahashi was privileged to train under both Sensei Tsutomu Ohshima and Sensei Hidetaka Nishiyama, both of whom were direct pupils of Master Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan. Sensei Takahashi was one of the first American students to be awarded the rank of Shodan in December 1959. He was instrumental in bringing Sensei Nishiyama to Los Angeles in 1961 and was one of his senior students for over a decade at the L.A. Central Dojo.

Georg Takahashi and Gene Takahashi pictureHe and fellow students, including Ray Dalke, Lester Ingber, Frank Smith, Gene Takahashi and James Yabe would all go on to become next generation leaders of Shotokan karate in the United States. In 1972, Sensei Takahashi opened the West Los Angeles Karate School with his brother Sensei Gene Takahashi on Pico and Sepulveda. West Los Angeles Karate is currently located in YMCA at 1466 S Westgate Avenue 
Los Angeles, CA 90025.

Sensei Takahashi was awarded an 8th Dan in March 2004 by AFISK (American Federation of Independent Shotokan Karate-do). He was also awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Philosophy from the Ken Studies Institute in 1990 along with the congratulatory letters from George Deukmejian, then Governor of the State of California and Pete Wilson, then U.S. Senator.

We are privileged to benefit from Sensei Takahashi’s wisdom, experience, skill and wit, and are proud to call him Sensei.

Belt examination Requirements

KATA: Heian Shodan

KIHON: Assume natural stance; on command assume front stance. Then, on command:
1. Step forward, lunge punch to stomach (2 sets).

2. Step back, rising block (2 sets).

3. Step forward, outside-forearm block (2 sets).

4. Step back, back stance knifehand block (2 sets).

5. Step forward, rear leg front-snap kick to the stomach (2 sets).

6. Shift to kiba-dachi stance, facing the panel of examiners. Then on command: 1. Step to the left, side-snap kick (2 sets); then 2. Step to the right, side-snap kick (2 sets).

7. Remaining in kiba-dachi stance, on command: 1. Step to the left, side-thrust kick (2 sets); then 2. Step to the right, side-thrust kick (2 sets).

KUMITE:Three-point sparring (sanbon kumite):
1. Attack side: step in, attacking face with lunge punch, three times in succession (wait for separate command for each attack); Defense side: step back, execute rising block three times, executing a counter punch to the stomach after the third rising block.

2. Attack side: step in, attacking stomach with lunge punch, three times in succession (wait for separate command for each attack); Defense side: step back, execute down block three times, executing a counter punch to the stomach after the third down block.

KATA: Heian Nidan

KIHON: Assume natural stance; on command assume front stance. Then, on command:
1. Step forward, lunge punch to face level (2 sets).
2. Step back, rising block, reverse punch to stomach (2 sets).
3. Step forward, outside-forearm block, reverse punch to face (2 sets).
4. Step back, back stance knifehand block, front snap kick with front leg (2 sets).
5. Step forward, rear leg front-snap kick to the face level (2 sets).
6. Step forward, roundhouse kick to middle level, reverse punch (2 sets).
7. Shift to kiba-dachi stance, facing the panel of examiners. Then on command:
– 1. Step to the left , side-snap kick (2 sets); then
– 2. Step to the right, side-snap kick (2 sets).
8. Remaining in kiba-dachi stance, on command:
– 1. Step to the left, side-thrust kick (2 sets); then
– 2. Step to the right, side-thrust kick (2 sets).

KUMITE: Three-point sparring (sanbon kumite):
1. Attack side: step in, attacking face with lunge punch, three times in succession
(wait for separate command for each attack); Defense side: step back, execute rising block three times, executing a counter punch to the stomach after the third rising block.
2. Attack side: step in, attacking stomach with lunge punch, three times in succession (wait for separate command for each attack); Defense side: step back, execute down block three times, executing a counter punch to the stomach after the third down block.

KATA: Heian Sandan

KIHON: Assume natural stance; on command assume front stance. Then, on command:
1. Step forward, face punch, double punch to stomach (2 sets).
2. Step back, rising block, reverse punch to stomach (2 sets).
3. Step forward, outside-forearm block, shift to kiba-dachi stance, elbow strike, backfist strike (2 sets).
4. Step back, back stance knifehand block, front snap kick with front leg, shift to front stance, spearhand attack to stomach (2 sets).
5. Step forward, double front-snap kick starting with rear leg: first kick to stomach level, then, moving forward, to face level (2 sets, changing legs in between).
6. Step forward, double roundhouse kick starting with rear leg: first kick to stomach level, then, moving forward to face level; follow with counterpunch (2 sets, changing legs in between).
7. Shift to kiba-dachi stance, facing the panel of examiners. Then on command:
– 1. Step to the left, side-snap kick (2 sets); then
– 2. Step to the right, side-snap kick (2 sets).
8. Remaining in kiba-dachi stance, on command:
– 1. Step to the left, side-thrust kick (2 sets); then
– 2. Step to the right, side-thrust kick (2 sets).
9. Stepping forward, rear leg front-snap kick stomach level, then lunge-punch face.

KUMITE: Ippon Kumite:
Attack side: attack face punch, stomach punch, front snap kick. For each point of attack, first attack starting with left leg forward, then with right leg forward.
Defense side: stand in natural stance, allowing the attacker to set the distance. Block and counter with appropriate techniques.

KATA: Heian Yondan

KIHON: Assume natural stance; on command assume front stance. Then, on command:
1. Step forward, face punch, double punch to stomach; rear leg front snap kick in place (2 sets).
2. Step back, rising block, reverse punch to stomach, rear leg front snap kick in place (2 sets).
3. Step forward, outside-forearm block, shift to kiba-dachi stance, elbow strike, backfist strike, then shift to front stance, counter punch (2 sets).
4. Step back, back stance knifehand block, front snap kick with front leg, shift to front stance, spearhand attack to stomach, short punch face, then counter punch stomach (2 sets).
5. Step forward, double front-snap kick starting with rear leg: first kick to stomach level, then, moving forward, to face level, then counterpunch stomach (2 sets, changing legs in between).
6. Step forward, double roundhouse kick starting with rear leg: first kick to stomachlevel, then, moving forward to face level; then counterpunch stomach (2 sets, changing legs in between).
7. Shift to kiba-dachi stance, facing the panel of examiners. Then on command:
– 1. Step to the left, side-snap kick (2 sets); then
– 2. Step to the right, side-snap kick (2 sets).
8. Remaining in kiba-dachi stance, on command:
– 1. Step to the left, side-thrust kick (2 sets); then
– 2. Step to the right, side-thrust kick (2 sets).
9. With rear leg, moving forward, front-snap kick, moving forward again, side thrust kick; then counter-punch stomach.

KUMITE: Ippon Kumite:
Attack side: attack face punch, stomach punch, front snap kick, side thrust
kick. For each point of attack, first attack starting with left leg forward, then with
right leg forward. Defense side: stand in natural stance, allowing the attacker to set the
distance. Block and counter with appropriate techniques.

KATA: Heian Godan

KIHON: Assume natural stance; on command assume front stance. Then, on command:
1. Step forward, face punch, double punch to stomach; rear leg front snap kick in place (2 sets).
2. Step back, rising block, reverse punch to stomach, rear leg front snap kick in place (2 sets).
3. Step forward, outside-forearm block, shift to kiba-dachi stance, elbow strike, backfist strike, then shift to front stance, counter punch (2 sets).
4. Step back, back stance knifehand block, front snap kick with front leg, shift to front stance, spearhand attack to stomach, short punch face, then counter punch stomach (2 sets).
5. Step forward, double front-snap kick starting with rear leg: first kick to stomach level, then, moving forward, to face level, then counterpunch stomach (2 sets, changing legs in between).
6. Step forward, double roundhouse kick starting with rear leg: first kick to stomach level, then, moving forward to face level; then counterpunch stomach (2 sets, changing legs in between).
7. Shift to kiba-dachi stance, facing the panel of examiners. Then on command:
– 1. Step to the left, side-snap kick (2 sets); then
– 2. Step to the right, side-snap kick (2 sets).
8. Remaining in kiba-dachi stance, on command:
– 1. Step to the left, side-thrust kick (2 sets); then
– 2. Step to the right, side-thrust kick (2 sets).
9. With rear leg, moving forward, front-snap kick, moving forward again, side thrust kick; then counter-punch stomach.

KUMITE: Ippon Kumite:
Attack side: attack face punch, stomach punch, front snap kick, sidethrust kick. For each point of attack, first attack starting with left leg forward, then with right leg forward. Defense side: stand in natural stance, allowing the attacker to set the distance. Block and counter with appropriate techniques.

KATA: Tekki Shodan

KIHON: Assume natural stance; on command assume front stance. Then, on command:
1. Step forward, face punch, double punch to stomach; rear leg front snap kick, then front leg front snap kick in place (2 sets).
2. Step back, rising block, reverse punch to stomach, front snap kick in place using first rear leg, then front leg (2 sets).
3. Step forward, outside-forearm block, shift to kiba-dachi stance, elbow strike, backfist strike, then shift to front stance, down block, counterpunch face (2 sets).
4. Step back, back stance knifehand block, front snap kick with front leg, shift to front stance, spearhand attack to stomach, then, in place, rear leg roundhouse kick to stomach, counterpunch (2 sets).
5. Step forward, double front-snap kick starting with front leg: first kick to stomach level, then, moving forward, to face level; then, backfist strike to temple, counter punch stomach (2 sets).
6. Step forward, double roundhouse kick starting with front leg: first kick to stomach level, then, moving forward, to face level; then, backfist strike to temple, counter punch stomach (2 sets).
7. Shift to kiba-dachi stance, facing the panel of examiners. Then on command:
– 1. Step to the left, side-snap kick (2 sets); then
– 2. Step to the right, side-snap kick (2 sets).
8. Remaining in kiba-dachi stance, on command:
– 1. Step to the left, side-thrust kick (2 sets); then
– 2. Step to the right, side-thrust kick (2 sets).
9. Starting with front leg, moving forward: side thrust kick, roundhouse kick, back kick, reverse punch stomach (2 sets, changing legs in between).
10.Kicking in place: first, front-snap kick, side-snap kick (2 sets); then front-snap kick, side-thrust kick (2 sets). Then change legs and repeat on the other side.
11.With an examiner holding a pencil, counter punch one inch away from the tip of the pencil without hitting it, as it is held stationary.

KUMITE: Ippon Kumite:
Attack side: attack face punch, stomach punch, front snap kick, side-
thrust kick, roundhouse kick, and back kick. For each point of attack, first attack
starting with left leg forward, then with right leg forward. Defense side: stand in natural
stance, allowing the attacker to set the distance. Block and counter with appropriate
techniques.

KATA: Choice kata from: Tekki Nidan, Tekki Sandan, Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai,
Jitte, Jion, Hangetsu, Empi, Gankaku, Chintei

KIHON: Assume natural stance; on command assume front stance. Then, on command:
1. Step forward, face punch, double punch to stomach; front leg front snap kick, then rear leg front snap kick in place (2 sets).
2. Step back, rising block, reverse punch to stomach, front snap kick in place using first front leg, then rear leg (2 sets).
3. Step forward, outside-forearm block, shift to kiba-dachi stance, elbow strike, backfist strike, then with rear leg roundhouse kick stomach level moving forward and counter punch stomach as the leg comes down (2 sets).
4. Step back, back stance knifehand block, front snap kick with front leg, shift to front stance, spearhand attack to stomach, then, in rear leg roundhouse kick to stomach (in place), backfist strike temple level, counterpunch stomach (2 sets).
5. Step forward, double front-snap kick starting with front leg: first kick to stomach level, then, moving forward, to face level; then, backfist strike to temple, outside forearm block (2 sets).
6. Step forward, double roundhouse kick starting with front leg: first kick to stomach level, then, moving forward, to face level; then, backfist strike to temple, outside forearm block (2 sets).
7. Shift to kiba-dachi stance, facing the panel of examiners. Then on command:
– 1. Step to the left, side-snap kick (2 sets); then
– 2. Step to the right, side-snap kick (2 sets).
8. Remaining in kiba-dachi stance, on command:
– 1. Step to the left, side-thrust kick (2 sets); then
– 2. Step to the right, side-thrust kick (2 sets).
9. Starting with front leg, moving forward: side thrust kick, roundhouse kick, back kick, reverse punch stomach (2 sets, changing legs in between).
10.Kicking in place: first, front-snap kick, side-snap kick, roundhouse kick; then front-snap kick, side-thrust kick, roundhouse kick (2 sets) Then change legs and repeat on the other side.
11.With an examiner holding a pencil, counter punch one inch away from the tip of the pencil without hitting it, as it is moved sequentially. Your choice of punching hand.

KUMITE:Ippon Kumite:
Attack side: attack face punch, stomach punch, front snap kick, sidethrust kick, roundhouse kick, and back kick. For each point of attack, first attack starting with left leg forward, then with right leg forward. Defense side: stand in natural stance, allowing the attacker to set the distance. Block and counter with appropriate techniques.

KATA: Choice kata from: Tekki Nidan, Tekki Sanda, Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai,
Jitte, Jion, Hangetsu, Empi, Gankaku, Chintei

KIHON: Assume natural stance; on command assume front stance. Then, on command:
1. Step forward, face punch, double punch to stomach; front leg front snap kick, then rear leg front snap kick in place, counter-punch stomach (2 sets).
2. Step back, rising block, reverse punch to stomach, front snap kick in place using first front leg, then rear leg, then counter-punch stomach (2 sets).
3. Step forward, outside-forearm block, shift to kiba-dachi stance, elbow strike, backfist strike, then pulling front leg back a half step, back kick, counter punch stomach (2 sets, switch legs in between).
4. Step back, back stance knifehand block, front snap kick with front leg, shift to front stance, spearhand attack to stomach, then in rear leg roundhouse kick to stomach (in place), backfist strike temple level, outside-forearm block (2 sets).
5. Step forward, double front-snap kick starting with front leg: first kick to stomach level, then, moving forward, to face level; then, backfist strike to temple, outside forearm block, then counter punch stomach (2 sets).
6. Step forward, double roundhouse kick starting with front leg: first kick to stomach level, then, moving forward, to face level; then, backfist strike to temple, outside forearm block, then counter punch stomach (2 sets).
7. Shift to kiba-dachi stance, facing the panel of examiners. Then on command:
– 1. Step to the left, side-snap kick (2 sets); then
– 2. Step to the right, side-snap kick (2 sets).
8. Remaining in kiba-dachi stance, on command:
– 1. Step to the left, side-thrust kick (2 sets); then
– 2. Step to the right, side-thrust kick (2 sets).
9. Alternating sides while stepping forward, front snap kick, side thrust kick, roundhouse kick, back kick, counter-punch face level (2 sets, changing legs in between).
10.Kicking in place: first, front-snap kick, side-snap kick, roundhouse kick, back kick; then front-snap kick, side-thrust kick, roundhouse kick, reverse punch (2
sets). Then change legs and repeat on the other side.
11.With an examiner holding a pencil, counter punch one inch away from the tip of the pencil without hitting it, as it is moved sequentially. Your choice of punching hand.

KUMITE: Ippon Kumite:
Attack side: attack face punch, stomach punch, front snap kick, sidethrust
kick, roundhouse kick, and back kick. For each point of attack, first attack
starting with left leg forward, then with right leg forward. Defense side: stand in natural
stance, allowing the attacker to set the distance. Block and counter with appropriate
techniques.

KATA:
1. Your choice from the group Tekki Nidan, Tekki Sandan, Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Jion, Jitte, Hangetsu, Empi, Gankaku, Chintei.
2. One of the Heian kata, chosen at random by the examiners.
3. (At the option of the examiners) one of the Tekki kata.

KIHON: Assume natural stance; on command, assume front stance. Then, oncommand:
1. Step forward, face punch, double punch to stomach; front leg front-snap kick, rear leg front-snap kick in place, counter-punch stomach (2 sets).
2. Step back, rising block, reverse punch to stomach, front-snap kick in place using first front leg, then rear leg, then counter-punch stomach.
3. Step forward, outside-forarm block, shift to kiba-dachi stance, elbow strike, backfist strike, then shifting the front leg rearward one-half step, spinning back kick, reverse punch to stomach (2 sets, switch legs in between).
4. Step back, backstance knifehand block, front snap kick with front leg, shift to front stance, spearhand attack to stomach, rear leg roundhouse kick forward: as the leg returns, backfist strike with front arm to temple level, outside forearm block, counterpunch to stomach (2 sets).
5. Step forward, double front-snap kick starting with front leg: first kick to stomach level, then moving forward, to face level; then, backfist-strike to temple, outside forearm block, then counter punch to stomach (2 sets).
6. -Turn
7. Step forward, double roundhouse kick starting with front leg: first kick to stomach level, then, moving forward, to face level; then backfist-strike to temple, outside forearm block, counter punch to stomach (2 sets).
8. Shift to kiba-dachi stance, facing the panel of examiners. Then, on command:
– 1. Step to the left, side-snap kick (2 sets); then
– 2. Step to the right, side-snap kick (2 sets).
9. Remaining in kiba-dachi stance, on command:
– 1. Step to the left, side-thrust kick (2 sets); then
– 2. Step to the right, side-thrust kick (2 sets).
10.Starting with front leg, in place: side thrust kick forward, moving forward with roundhouse kick, back kick, step in, lunge punch to stomach.
11.Kicking in place: first, front-snap kick, side-snap kick, roundhouse kick, back kick, reverse punch; then front-snap kick, side-thrust kick, roundhouse kick, back kick, reverse punch (2 sets). Then change legs and repeat on the other side.
12.With an examiner holding a pencil, counter punch one inch away from the tip of the pencil without hitting it, as it is moved sequentially. Your choice of punching hand.
13.Step in lunge-punch face, three times continuously (2 sets).
14.Stepping back, outside forearm block, short punch with blocking arm, and simultaneously front-snap kick with front leg.
15.With front leg, roundhouse kick in place, then side-thrust kick in place without putting the leg down; then step in face punch.

KUMITE:
1. Jiyu-Ippon Kumite (semi-free): Attack side: attack face punch, stomach punch, front snap kick, side-thrust kick, roundhouse kick, and back kick. For each point of attack, first attack starting with left leg forward, then with right leg forward. Defense side: stand in fighting stance, allowing the attacked to set the distance. Block and counter attack with appropriate techniques.
2. (At the option of the examiners) sparring with higher-ranked member

KATA:
1. Your choice from the group Sochin, Nijushiho, Kanku Sho, Bassai Sho
2. Your choice from the group Tekki Nidan, Tekki Sandan, Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Jion, Jitte, Hangetsu, Empi, Gankaku, Chintei.
3. (At the option of the examiners) one of the Tekki kata.

KIHON: Assume natural stance; on command, assume front stance. Then, on command:
1. In place short punch, then moving forward, three continuous step in lungepunches to face (2 sets).
2. Stepping forward, outside-forearm block, short punch, front snap kick with front leg, reverse punch (3 sets with speed).
3. Stepping back, outside forearm block, front leg front snap kick, short punch, counter punch (3 sets).
4. In place, front leg knee-level side thrust kick, same leg roundhouse kick; stepping forward rear leg sweep, spinning back kick, step in face punch (2 sets).
5. Step in face punch, backfist strike with same arm, roundhouse kick stomach, stepping forward steep, backfist strike, counter punch stomach level.
6. Front leg front-snap kick, step back, counter punch; front leg side-thrust kick, step back, counter punch; front leg roundhouse kick, step back, counter punch, front leg back kick, step back, counter punch.
7. Starting with front leg, in place: front-snap kick, side-snap kick, roundhouse kick, back kick, counter punch; then front-snap kick, side-thrust kick, roundhouse kick, back kick, counter punch. Change legs and repeat the sequence.
8. Any combinations requested by members of the examining board.

KUMITE:
1. Free attack and defense with member of same rank or higher.
2. Either
– 1. Free sparring with member of same rank or higher. OR
– 2. Defense application techniques demonstration.

The Belt System

When passing an examination one advances to the next level.  You start out taking the 8th kyu exam and then continue through the kyu ranks, numbers getting lower as one advances.  3-4 months of training are required for the lower ranks and one has to train a full year after 1 kyu before attempting taking the 1st Dan – Black belt exam. Dan examination numbers start at 1st Dan (Shodan) and go up from there.

9th kyu – 7th kyu is White belt

6th kyu – 4th kyu is Green belt

3th kyu – 1st kyu is Brown belt

1st Dan (Shodan) is Black belt

Our Location and contact information

We always welcome new students.  Whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced student you can train and learn Karate with us.  Feel free to contact us or show up before any of our classes for information and training or just to watch a class.  We encourage you to participate in a class to get more feel for what Karate is. Wear light gym clothing or Karate gi, no shoes.

The cost of classes is only a membership to the YMCA
New students can train the first week for free. 

Wednesdays from 6:30-8:00 pm – All Levels

Saturdays from 10:30-11:15 pm – All Levels

Saturdays from 11:20-12:15 – Advanced

DOJO
Collins and Katz Family YMCA – Room# 221
1466 S Westgate Avenue 
Los Angeles, CA 90025

PARKING
The building has its own parking structure with entrance from S. Westgate Ave.  Scan your YMCA membership card to access the parking structure, scan it again for leaving and pay, $2 for 3 hours for YMCA members.
There is also ample street parking.

What is Karate?

Karate is a martial art involving a variety of fighting techniques, including blocks, kicks, punches, strikes, evasions, sweeps, throws, and joint manipulations. Karate practice is divided into three aspects: kihon (basics), kata (forms), and kumite (sparring).

Karate originated hundreds of years ago in Okinawa, but was greatly influenced by an even older tradition from China. Literally, Karate-do means the way of the empty hand, referring to the fact that its practitioners use no weapons to attack and defend, but only the hands, feet, and body. Yet karate-do – is a way or path that is much more than merely physical action. It is founded on a grand philosophical and spiritual tradition based on Bushido and Zen Buddhist principles. Through hard training and practice, karate develops not only the body, but also the mind and spirit, with its ultimate aim being the perfection of one’s character. There is no true karate without integrity, commitment to strong moral principles and respect for others.

Karate training involves practicing the basics of blocking, punching, and kicking, utilizing correct body dynamics in accordance with physics principles. “Katas” or forms provide another level of training. They are sets of choreographed movements which link basic karate techniques against imagined opponents attacking from all directions in combat. Basic techniques and katas are performed “solo.” However, applications or “bunkai” from the katas are often practiced with the aid of one or more partners. Finally, sparring or “kumite” drills with a partner or with multiple partners allow the practice of the art in realistic (yet controlled) combat and self-defense situations.

Karate drills emphasize core body strength and movement, hip rotation, rapid limb expansion and sharp physical focus, all of which when correctly utilized through serious training result in extraordinary concussive power. Sustained training provides physical exercise, builds endurance, enhances flexibility and fosters mental discipline and courage in the face of adversity.  West LA Karate differs from many other karate studios in its adherence to karate as a martial art rather than predominantly as a competitive sport. The real competition is only within each student. Each student works towards self-improvement in accordance with his or her abilities.

Shotokan Karate

Dojo KunThe Shotokan style of Karate was developed by Master Gichin Funakoshi. Gichin Funakoshi was born in Shuri, Okinawa in 1868. As a boy, he was trained by two famous masters of that time. Each trained him in a different Okinawan martial art. From Ankō Azato he learned Shuri-te. From Ankō Itosu, he learned Naha-te. It would be the melding of these two styles that became Shotokan karate.

Master Funakoshi wrote with the pen name “Shoto.”  Therefore, it became common to call his karate school Shotokan (“kan” meaning “house.”)  However, Master Funakoshi did not call his art Shotokan; rather he simply referred to it as karate.

Master Funakoshi introduced karate to Japan. In 1917 he was asked to perform his martial art at a physical education exhibition sponsored by the Ministry of Education. He was asked back again in 1922 for another exhibition. He was asked back a third time, but this was a special performance for the emperor and the royal family! After this, Master Funakoshi decided to remain in Japan and teach and promote his art.

The ultimate aim of karate is “in the perfection of human character” through dedicated training. While trained to “kill with one blow” (“ikken hisatsu”) in the protection of one’s precious life, a karate practitioner favors awareness and avoidance over physical confrontation and conflict.