WSKF Karate Philosophy

This article was contributed by our Chief Instructor, Sensei Hitoshi Kasuya

The Theory of Karate


In general, the word MA means the space between two contestants or it can sometimes mean the time between two actions. In Japan where we have traditional cultural activities such as the Tea Ceremony and Flower Arranging, as well as Japanese Noh plays, Ma is considered very important. For example, in the performance of Kata, there is the Ma between techniques. In Kumite, the distance between the opponents, their strategy, the strength they have, etc. is all referred to as Ma. You can easily control your opponent by the good use of Ma. Unfortunately, there is no textbook for the study of Ma; it must be learned from experience.


When you concentrate your effort to make an attack, you should pay careful attention to your breathing and also extra attention to the breathing of your opponent. It is a very good time to attack when your opponent is breathing out. You could also look for the very moment when he is about to begin breathing in. It is at these vital moments that your opponent will have his power and concentration diverted. Be careful not to hold your breath during the contest. During the performance of Kata - other than at the appropriate Kiai point - there is no need to make loud breathing noises. The important point is to breath in a natural relaxed manner.


During a fight if you find yourself concentrating too much on your strategy or thinking what technique your opponent will use, you are in danger of a stalemate. Mushin is the vitally important technique of mental detachment, that is, to see the fight from an objective point of view. This can only come from hard, long and consistent training. The mental aspect of Mushin can sometimes be thought of as unscientific but we must consider every aspect in the effort to win in combat. Most important things are learned through experience;  if not experienced, it is only a dream.

Taisabaki (Body Shift)

This is the technique of turning or evading your opponent’s attack. In this technique distancing is an important element. If done correctly, Taisabaki not only avoids your opponent's attack, but also in turn opens your opponent up for your own attack.

Defense in Kumite

The elbow should act as the axis. Do not move your elbow too high. The motion of the elbow should be as small as possible. If the elbow is too far from the body or out of alignment, your motion will be slower and weaker; consequently, your attack will be slower, too. In defense your stance is important as well.


If you find yourself stalemated by your opponent, then you must use a feint. A feint is used to create a chance to attack and must employ good technique to cause your opponent to break his concentration. If you fail to fully commit yourself to a good feint and strong follow up, you will leave yourself open to a counter attack.


In a feint you make a motion to your opponent preceding your attack. Drawing is the opposite: you open yourself up to your opponent's attack by dropping your guard, waiting for the attack, and then countering. Feints and Drawing are opposites like the head and the tail of a coin. Even if you are facing a strong opponent - with the two techniques of feinting and drawing - you will create the chance to attack. Most first-class contestants have these skills.

Reading your opponent's mind

This technique is called YOMI in Japanese, that is the cultivation of the skill of sensing the intentions, the movements and techniques of your opponent. This can only be gained by experience. When you have YOMI, your technique is very elegant and you do not waste time on irrelevant techniques.


If you try too hard to judge your opponent's actions, you will fall prey to the state of indecision: "Shall I do this or shall I do that?" You must read the situation and act - almost at the same time.


You must make an extreme effort to develop good and clear concentration. Human beings can do almost anything if they concentrate and focus their attention. Without the ability to concentrate, you will become weak and be in a dangerous position. Most first class Karateka can be in control anytime and in any situation.

Opportunity for Attack

You must choose your time to attack. Attacking without rhythm or reason is useless even if you have sufficient power and speed. This is a typical beginner's mistake: constantly attacking. You must watch and wait until the chance either presents itself, or you create the opportunity.

Good chances to attack are:

  • When your opponent loses concentration through changing his mind or by having too much confidence.
  • When your opponent changes to a unnatural position of on-guard.
  • When your opponent's movement is not smooth and coordinated.
  • When your opponent just begins his attack. This is called Deai. Your opponent cannot adequately guard himself and attack at the same time.
  • The moment when your opponent stops or completes his attack.
  • The split-second between your opponent's attacking techniques. Even first-class contestants are vulnerable to your attack at this time.
  • The time when your opponent has become ill at ease due to your strong fighting spirit; he will be sluggish and un-coordinated at this time.
  • When you have made the chance. If you are evenly matched in skill, speed and power, you must rely on a feint to create an attacking chance.

The most important thing during a fight is that you should be relaxed yet on your guard. Do not have doubt or be scared and do not show hesitation. Do not waste your action but rather act speedily