Coming To Karate and training

When you arrive and have changed into whatever clothing you feel comfortable with, removed shoes, socks and loose jewellery you’ll be ready to start. Make sure you bring water or a sports drink and towel (if necessary). The lesson begins with a moment of meditation and contemplation for the training ahead. The class kneel then perform a bow towards our teacher and a few words in Japanese. The words are just a formal welcome and request to train. In time you will learn them.

We quickly start a series of warm-up exercises; stretching, moving and basic Karate moves designed to raise the pulse, get limbs and joints warm and relaxed and ready to train. If you have not done Karate or martial arts before some of the moves will feel strange and a bit tricky but each move is clearly explained and as a beginner you’ll have one of the more experienced students next to you or nearby to follow or show you what to do. Each move, stretch, twist and turn that is performed has a function to train and condition one’s body to perform Karate. 

Once warmed up we will practise more Karate moves, with footwork and arm movements, often repeated to a count in Japanese. Everyone is encouraged to follow along at their own pace and if a move is unfamiliar you’ll find us all helping and repeating until we get it. Each evening class is different but we will have more familiar exercises in each lesson such as push-ups, squats and crunches. Again everyone is encouraged to do the best they can but it is not a fierce competition.

At the end of the evening we may practise a series of karate moves called a “Kata” which is a formal set of steps, blocks and strikes with foot and hand in a set order. You’ll certainly be lost the first few times you try this but just watch, copy other students and don’t worry, those nearest you will help out if you are lost or confused. Believe it or not we all started out lost and confused!  

At the very end some breathing exercises and a formal “goodbye” and thanks to our teacher and each other.

Do I need to know any Japanese?

Although all the moves and instructions are in Japanese, they are also repeated and fully explained in English. As a Japanese martial art, wherever you go in the world all Karate has Japanese instructions. Of course the longer you train you will eventually learn many or all of the instructions and commands in Japanese.

How fit do I have to be?

A common misconception it that you need to get fit doing other exercise before starting Karate. You can start training straight away but work within your own level of ability and fitness. As with any physical exertion, if Karate is the first exercise you have done for a while then you will need to take it easy. If you have any known medical condition e.g. Asthma, Diabetes or Heart condition you must consult your family doctor before participating.

Essentially, Karate is for all fitness levels. When you start you just do what you can, but you should find you will be able to push yourself harder as you get fitter. You will also be encouraged to train harder by watching and listening to your Sensei (Teacher) and the other members of the club.

Do I have to wear any special clothes?

Karate can be practiced in any sensible exercise or Gym clothing. You will not need footwear as we train in bare feet. We do expect people to remove watches and loose jewellery for health and safety reasons. Eventually you may wish to wear a “Dogi”, the formal white Karate uniform, but they are inexpensive and not necessary to start with.

Do you hit each other?

There has to be some contact between students in order to understand how techniques work but there should never be any intention to hurt each other. There are blocking moves and some work with pads but it is all tailored to match individual comfort levels. When we spar with each other (Kumite) to practice techniques and form there should be only light or semi-contact. In tournaments students must wear protective instep / shin guards, sparring mitts or gloves, gum shields and groin guards. Contrary to what you may have heard or read, our style of Karate is not about hitting people and causing injury. Goju Ryu is about self-control, self-discipline and respecting each other.

How long does it take to become a black belt?

This is a common question especially amongst beginners but there is no definite answer to the question. Everyone has different level of ability but with regular practise you will make progress. Like any skill and art Karate is not technically easy to master but if you train regularly you will improve and develop. Training 2-3 times a week means you will more quickly start to understand the techniques, good form and Katas required to move on through the grades. Training once a week is okay but your progress will be slower.


It is good to both measure and acknowledge student progress and development, so the club holds gradings three times a year in March, June and November. These are an opportunity to show Sensei how much you have learned and developed. If you meet the standard for the next grade up or Kyu (Pronounced ‘Q’), you will attain a new coloured belt. There are 10 Kyu grades, most junior being white (10th), followed by yellow (9th), orange (8th), green (7th), blue (6th), purple (5th), purple with white stripe (4th) then three brown belts (3rd, 2nd, 1st). 

You can grade at G.I.F.T. dojo assessed by Sensei Kevin, up to 4th Kyu (2nd Purple belt). Thereafter, the senior brown belt (3rd, 2nd and 1st Kyu) and black belt gradings are examined externally at regional events in Bournemouth in June (Summer Gasshuku and grading) and Liverpool / The Wirral in November or December (Winter Gasshuku and grading). Once students have reached 1st Kyu (top brown belt) they prepare for their black belt or 1st Dan (Shodan). There are 10 Dan grades. 

An introductory guide to Goju Ryu:


To understand what you are expected to know for each Kyu grade click on the link below:

Download the IOGKF Kyu Grade Syllabus