Training ranges from very simple to very complex. It should be noted that the simpler and more basic type of training is considered to be the most beneficial, and beginners and advanced students alike spend most of their time on that.
Training is divided into three parts:
Kihon (basic techniques);
Kata (formal exercises);
Kumite (sparring with a partner).
Kihon is the foundation for everything else. One cannot be proficient at kata or kumite without having mastered, at least to some extent, the basic techniques.
Kata are considered the core of karate. They are sequences of techniques performed in a specified order, as defense against several hypothetical opponents. Mastery of certain kata is one of the prerequisites for rank advancement. For example, one must know at least seven kata in order to attain the rank of shodan (first degree black belt). Advanced kata are optional, and are practiced according to personal preference.
Kumite also ranges from basic to complex. It should be noted that sparring must not be viewed as competition against an opponent. Both students are encouraged to do their best while cooperating with each other. A desire to beat the other person runs counter to the spirit of karate and will actually slow down or even prevent technical progress.
A crucial part of karate training is practice with the makiwara (striking post). It is used for punching and, to a lesser extent, kicking. We have a makiwara at our dojo (training hall), and will be glad to instruct beginners how to use it correctly. Also, most of our senior member have built these devices in their homes, and are more than willing to explain how to construct one.
Almost any kind of physical activity or exercise can be a beneficial complement to karate practice. Calisthenics, running, weights, or swimming are excellent, as are milder activities like hiking or yoga.