The four cornestones
The four building blocks of karate.
As with anything of substance Shotokan karate is based on a strong foundation. Like a forty-two-story office building standing tall and proud, Shotokan karate is supported by four cornerstones without which it could not have stood the test of time. These four building blocks are: a proper stance, proper posture, proper balance, and proper technique. Without these four fundamentals working in harmony with each other, equally weighted, and equally given their due, you will never be able to develop your karate to your full potential.
Your stance is the platform upon which everything else is built. Shotokan, more than any other style of karate is noted for its long low stances. When practiced correctly a proper stance is effective at creating a low centre of gravity, promoting good stability, and fostering strong muscular development. Early on in your karate training you will quickly be made aware of the effect of landing in a poor stance. For any level of instability will effect everything else.
Our posture says it all. From early childhood we have been told to sit up straight, stand up properly, keep our head up, and watch where we were going. Today how we walk down the street, sit in a business meeting, or sit when driving in our car, says a lot about us. It is no different in the dojo, good posture is always vital. So, it is important to always center your torso correctly over your hips whenever you move. If you can remain conscious of this fact then by combining good hip movement, with proper posture, and proper balance, you will create a strong vertical enter, thus making smooth rapid movements possible, and effective. Your hips are the steering wheel of your body. Used incorrectly you will quickly come to learn that poor posture equates to poor karate.
Good balance like anything in life is the result of proper thought. In karate, the moment you start to move from one stance to another, you are risking all that you have in the hope of achieving something better. This period of transition often lasts for less than a split second of time. Balance, however, can never be achieved unless the scales are even. While your other skills will weigh heavily on one side of the scale, they must in turn be equally balanced by the mental side of your being. Balance is the sum of all other things properly added together.
Technique is the concentrated focus off all of your actions both physical and mental, combined at a specific place in time. No amount of strength, no amount of speed, and no amount of kiai can ever make up for ineffective technique. All other things will not matter if the selected technique is not what is needed for the task at hand, or more importantly, if it is not of greater quality than the attack, thus creating an opportunity to reply as needed.
So, there you have it, the four basic fundamentals that you will need if your karate will is to develop properly. So, train hard, train often, and make these fundamentals the basic building block for everything you do in the dojo.
Remember: "A foundation is only as strong as the person who built it".