Kihon is the basic foundation of Shotokan, consisting of dachi (stances), uke (blocks), zuki (punches), uchi (strikes), and geri (kicks).

It is critical for students to focus on perfecting proper kihon form, which will ultimately allow them to maximize both speed and power.

Stances should be strong, and allow the student to execute explosive techniques. Blocks should be performed with confidence, unwavering focus on one's opponent, and followed by powerful counter-attacks.

In general, attacking techniques can be classified as either thrusting or striking techniques, the difference being that a thrust is delivered in a direct line along the attacking limb, while a strike is delivered perpendicular to the attacking limb. Thus, a lunge punch is a thrusting technique, while backfists and roundhouse kicks are strikes.

A final point is that each attacking technique, whether it be a thrusting or a striking technique, can be delivered using either a snapback or a lockout motion. Snapback techniques are quicker, typically use reverse hip rotation, and impart a vibrating impact. Lockout techniques are a committment to full power, using forward hip rotation, and can be much more devastating, but they are also more difficult to control in the event of a miss.

With these considerations in mind, the sections below will catalog many of the kihon – the fundamental techniques of Shotokan.


Before getting to the techniques themselves, it is important to understand the concept of kiai.

The word is composed of two Japanese words, "ki" meaning "energy," and "ai" meaning "to meet with." "Ki" also means "breath." The kiai is a shout delivered by the karateka (karate practitioner) and is most usually heard when delivering a strike. The combined meaning of the words implies that kiai may be interpreted as a kind of energy that accompanies the strike.

There are two main reasons for using the kiai. One is to frighten, distract, or disconcert, the opponent. The other is to tighten the muscles and empty the breath from the body to prevent injury. This is why kiais are heard both when striking an opponent and when taking a fall. Expulsion of the air from the body prevents ruptures to the lungs and other organs which may be caused by violent expulsion of trapped air during the impact of a fall. A third reason for use is that the kiai focuses the ki, making the strike more powerful.

The kiai should originate from the hara, a spot located two inches below the navel, which Eastern cultures believe is the central storage place of the body's ki, or life energy. (This area is usually referred to as the diaphragm when talking about breath control and sound production.) The effective kiai must originate from the hara, tighten the muscles of the body (starting from the pelvic area), expel all the air from the lungs and chest cavity, and be loud and intimidating.

In kendo, classical Japanese sword training, only three syllables are permitted for kiai: "eh," "ya" and "toh." Each of these syllables is voiced with a strong start and strong stop, but they are subtly different in how they connect the body and how they link to both the technique initiation and impact.

In karate, each person must experiment individually, since each body is different, but in no case should the word "kiai" ever be used as a kiai. Not only is it equivalent to shouting the word "shout," but it also has two syllables with a weak transition.


Low Frontal Stances

Zenkutsu Dachi Front stance This is a long frontal stance where the weight is mostly on the front leg. It has the exact same height as shiko-dachi, but the rear leg is completely straight at the knee and extended back. The front foot is placed frontal (toes facing forward), the rear foot is turned out 30 degrees, just like Moto-dachi, but never 90 degrees as seems natural to new practitioners because this precludes any forward motion. The heel of the rear foot rests on the ground. Zenkutsu-dachi is one of the most common stances in kata. In a shortened form, it's called Han Zenkutsu or Sho Zenkutsu Dachi, meaning Half Front stance. If the head faces perpendicular to the line of the feet, this stance is called Sokutsu-dachi.
Kiba Dachi Horse riding stance Feet are parallel and wide, weight is central and low, with the back straight and the knees and feet pointing slightly inwards. This stance is not used in all styles of karate because of strong tension that it requires, instead it is often replaced by Shiko-dachi.
Shiko Dachi Square stance Same as Kiba-dachi but the toes face out at about 45 degrees.
Neko Ashi Dachi Cat stance All weight rests on the back leg, which is bent at the knee. The rear foot is turned at about 20-30 degrees out and the knee sits at the same angle. Only the toes of the front foot rest on the ground, positioned in front of the back heel at about the same distance as the front foot of moto-dachi. There is no weight on the front foot, and there is no bent in the ankle joint - front knee, front shin, and the rise of the foot (but not the toes) form a single line, vertical in Shito-ryu, tilted in Shotokan.
Low Sideways Stances

Kokutsu Dachi Back stance This is a mirror image of zenkutsu-dachi, where the rear leg is bent strongly at the knee, carries about 70% of the weight, and the front leg is either straight or slightly bent, depending on the style. The rear foot is turned 90 degrees to the side. The body is turned 90 degrees or more away, except for the head which looks to the front. Kokutsu-dachi is a great defensive stance because of the amount of energy stored in the rear leg, ready for a counter-attack. In a shortened form, it's called Han Kokutsu or Sho Kokutsu Dachi, meaning Half Back stance.
Fudo or Sochin Dachi Unshakable stance The body is positioned similar to shiko-dachi turned either 45 or 90 degrees to the side, except for the head which still looks forward. The front foot moves one foot-length forward, increasing stability and making it possible to perform a strong attack with the rear foot.
Middle Height Frontal Stances

Naihanchin Dachi Naihanchin stance The feet are wider than the shoulder width, with their outer edges parallel. Legs and buttocks should be tensed upwards, while keeping the weight low and the knees bent inwards. This stance has strong tension in the legs and is the basis of the kata Naihanchi.
Sanchin Dachi Three Battles stance The stance is fixed and tensed in the same way as Naihanchin-dachi. It can be described as Uchi-hachiji-dachi with one foot moved forward until the toes of the rear foot are on the same horizontal line as the heel of the front foot. This powerful stance is used in the multitude of katas attributed to Kanryo Higashionna, from Sanchin to Suparimpei. Many advanced breathing techniques are exercised in this stance.
Hangetsu Dachi Half Moon stance A version of sanchin used in some karate styles, particularly Shotokan. This stance is longer than sanchin-dachi, but retains the same tension and inward rotation of the knees. It is the basis of the kata Hangetsu.
Kosa Dachi Crossing stance From Moto-dachi, bring the back leg forward so that the back knee is tucked in to the back of the front knee, with only the toes and ball of the back foot on the floor. Depending on the style, the back foot may be directly behind the front foot, or out to the side of the front foot, so that the legs are crossed.
Moto Dachi Foundational stance The stance is shin length and around two fist widths wide, with both legs slightly bent, the front foot facing straight forward and the back foot pointed outward at about 20-30 degrees. The body should be squarely forward unless a half-turn han-mi is applied. The basic ready stance for kumite is Moto-dachi.
High Frontal Stances

Heisoku Dachi Feet-together stance Feet together. This is usually a transitional stance, although it is used as the ready stance in some kata.
Musubi Dachi Knot stance Heels together, toes open at about 45 degrees. This stance is used to perform the formal respectful bow, rei.
Hachiji Dachi Natural stance The feet are at the shoulder width, toes open at about 45 degrees. Sometimes this stance is called soto-hachiji-dachi. This is the basic ready stance in Karate
Uchi Hachiji Dachi Inverted stance The feet are at the shoulder width, toes facing inwards at 30-45 degrees, knees tense. This stance is used in some formal exercises, for example the tsundome. Also called Chun'be.
Heiko Dachi Parallel stance The feet are at the shoulder width, and their outer edges are parallel. This is a common transitional stance in many kata.
High Sideways Stances

Renoji Dachi L-stance Feet are at the shoulder width. The foot in the front is fully frontal (toes facing forward), the rear foot is turned 90 degrees out, and is positioned in such a way that if the front foot is brought back, its heel will touch the heel of the rear foot. Thus the foot print is shaped like the letter L. The weight is kept 70% on the rear foot.
Teiji Dachi T-stance Similar to renoji-dachi, but if the front foot is brought back, its heel will touch the middle of the rear foot, thus the foot print is shaped like the letter T.
Special High Stances

Sagi Ashi Dachi /
Tsuru Ashi Dachi
Crane stance This is the stance on one leg, where the other leg is raised and bent so that its foot touches the knee of the base leg. The exact form of contact between the foot and the knee depends on the style or even on the particular version of the kata where this stance is used. For example, different versions of the kata rohai use different sagiashi dachi.


Using the Arms

Age Uke Rising high-level block
Chudan Barai Sweeping mid-level block
Empi Uke Elbow block (e.g in the kata, Heian Sandan)
Gedan Barai Sweeping low block
Gedan Morote Barai Double sweeping low block (usually while going into kiba dachi)
Haiwan Uke Square side block (e.g. in the kata, Heian Nidan)
Juji Uke X block (jodan or gedan, closed or open fists)
Kaisho Age Uke Open-palm rising block
Kaisho Haiwan Uke Knife-hand square side block (e.g. in the kata, Heian Yondan)
Kaisho Juji Uke Open-palm x block (e.g. in the kata, Heian Godan)
Kakiwake Uke Floating x block (e.g. in the kata, Heian Yondan)
Morote Uke Double forearm block (e.g in the kata, Heian Sandan)
Nagashi Uke Rising palm sweep block (e.g. in the kata, Tekki Shodan)
Osae Uke Palm block
Otoshi Uke Dropping forearm block
Shuto Age Uke Rising knife-hand block
Shuto Gedan Barai Knife-hand sweeping low block
Shuto Uke Knife hand block
Shuto Mawashi Uke Roundhouse block with knife-hand
Soto Uke Outside forearm block
Sukui Uke Scooping block
Tate Shuto Uke Half knife-hand block
Te Osae Uke Dropping palm block
Uchi Ude Uke Inside forearm block
Uchi Uke Outside mid-level block
Uchi Uke Gyaku Hanmi Inside mid-level block with reverse hand (e.g. in the kata, Heian Nidan)
Ude Barai Reverse sweeping forearm block
Kami Tsukami Hair grab (e.g. in the kata, Enpi)
Ushiro Gedan Barai Reverse low sweeping block (e.g. in the kata, Enpi)
Using the Legs

Ashikubi Kake Uke Hooking ankle block
Mika Zuki Geri Uke Crescent kick block (e.g. in the kata, Heian Godan)
Nami Ashi, a.k.a. Nami Gaeshi Leg snapping wave block (e.g. in the kata, Tekki Shodan)
Sokutei Osae Uke Pressing sole block
Sokuto Osae Uke Pressing foot-edge block
Sokutei Mawashi Uke Roundhouse leg block


Age EmpiRising elbow strike
Age ZukiRising Punch
Choku ZukiStraight jab punch
Empi UchiElbow strike
Gyaku ZukiReverse punch
Haishu UchiBack hand strike
Haito UchiRidge hand strike
Hasami ZukiScissor strike
Jun ZukiFront hand 'jab' punch, differing from Kizami Zuki in that shoulders are square
Kagi ZukiHook punch
Kizami ZukiStraight, front hand lunging punch (like a 'jab')
Mae Mawashi Empi UchiAugmented side elbow strike (e.g. in the kata, Heian Yondan)
Mawashi EmpiHook elbow strike
Morote ZukiDouble punch (e.g. in the kata, Tekki Shodan)
Nakadaka Ippon KenOne knuckle fist
NukiteSpear-hand strike
Oi ZukiLunge punch (shoulders square)
Sanbon ZukiTriple punch (age zuki, gyaku zuki, choku zuki)
Shuto UchiKnifehand strike
Shuto Yoko Ganmen UchiKnife-hand strike to head
Shuto Sakotsu UchikomiDriving knife-hand to sternum
Shuto Sakotsu UchiKnife-hand strike to clavicle
Shuto Hizo UchiKnife-hand strike to spleen
Shuto Jodan UchiInside knife-hand to neck
Sokumen Empi UchiAugmented elbow strike (e.g. in the kata, Tekki Shodan)
Tate ZukiHalf reverse punch, with a vertical fist
Teisho Furi UchiSideways palm-heel strike
Teisho UchiPalm-heel strike
Tettsui UchiHammer-fist strike
Tettsui Hasami UchiHammer-fist scissor strike
Tettsui Yoko UchiBottom fist strike to side
Uraken UchiBackfist strike
Uraken Mawashi UchiBackfist circular strike to the head
Uraken Sayu Ganmen UchiBackfist strike to side
Uraken Hizo UchiBackfist strike to spleen
Ushiro Empi AteBackwards elbow strike
Ura ZukiClose short punch, with inverted fist, similar in nature to an 'uppercut'
Ushiro Empi UchiBack elbow strike
Yama Zuki ("mountain punch")Wide double fisted strike (e.g. in the kata, Bassai Dai and Wankan)
Awase ZukiNarrow double fisted strike
Yoko Empi UchiSide elbow strike
Yoko TettsuiSideways hammer-fist strike (e.g. in the kata, Heian Nidan)
Gyaku Age ZukiRising reverse punch (e.g. in the kata, Enpi)


Ashi BaraiFoot sweep
FumikomiStomp kick (either front or side)
Hiza GeriKnee strike
Kin GeriKick in the cross (groin)
Mae Ashi Mae Geri, a.k.a Choku GeriFront kick with front leg
Mae Ashi Mawashi GeriFront round kick with front leg
Mae GeriFront kick
Mae Hiza GeriFront knee kick
Mae Ren GeriDouble front kick
Mae Tobi GeriFront flying kick
Mawashi GeriRoundhouse kick
Mawashi Hiza GeriCircular knee kick
Mikazuki GeriCrescent kick
Nidan Tobi GeriDouble jump kick
Tobi GeriJump kick
Tobi Hiza GeriJumping knee kick
Tobi Ushiro Mawashi GeriJumping back roundhouse kick
Ura Mawashi GeriReverse roundhouse kick
Ushiro GeriBack kick
Ushiro Geri KekomiBack side thrust kick
Yoko Geri KeageSide snap kick
Yoko Geri KekomiSide thrust kick
Yoko Tobi GeriJumping side kick

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