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Shotokan Karate Tora Dojo

Chuck Billo — Head Instructor

Sparring is practical fighting that students practice with a partner, adapting and responding to changing distance, timing, and situations.


Shotokan emphasizes the concept of Ikken Hissatsu - One Hit Kills. Although this may rarely be the case in the real world, one key hit often does decide who the winner of the fight will be. 


Shotokan sparring is non-contact, which means that the full lethal power is arrested a short distance before the target, not inside the body.  Full contact is reserved for practice on the bag.  Like any competitive sport, injuries can and do happen, although they are few and far between, and relatively minor.


White belt beginners start with fundamental, very controlled Five-Step ‘Sparring’, since distance and timing is the cornerstone of victory at higher levels of fighting.  As white belts get better and faster at the exercise, they progress to no verbal count, and then to three-step sparring, which introduces rhythm.


Yellow belts learn One-Step Sparring, which adds a front kick with evasion and block.


Orange belts learn all the standard one-step attacks; face, stomach, front snap kick, roundhouse to stomach or head, side thrust kick, back kick, and backfist.


Green, Blue, and Purple belts learn Semi-Free Sparring, where the orange belt attacks are repeated, only with the element of moving around in a fighting stance, making the initial attack and defense locations variable. Students learn timing and distance to a more refined degree.


Blue and Purple belts also start learning Free Sparring, where the attack is not announced at all, and can be any technique.


Brown belts refine their Semi-Free sparring, which is required for their exams, and also their free-sparring, which may be on their exams.


In the dojo, complex and effective fighting techniques are covered.  But for competition or exam, more basic and simple techniques (especially reverse punch) have a greater opportunity to be recognized as a successful attack.  


Green belts and up must obtain a pair of hand or hand/forearm covers.  These protect your opponent’s face.  As a student in Beppu, Japan, Chuck Sensei directly observed far less injuries with hand covers used than without (back in Montreal).  All Japanese competitions used hand covers.  Forearm covers add protection against abrasions and scrapes.


At Shotokan Karate Tora Dojo, practical self-defense in attack situations are also practiced, as is groundwork and grappling.  Close in-fighting includes some basics in knife defense.  Some occasional weapons training helps round out the student’s fighting ability.

The student gradually learns that they have far more resources immediately available to them than they ever imagined - any broomstick can make a highly effective weapon, for example.


Correct falling is also learned.  Chuck Sensei feels it is a basic skill, just like swimming.  Black belts should not wholly rely on their karate to stay on their feet in an encounter on the street or in the dojo.