Frequently asked questions for new joiners

We have listed below a series of questions that we are frequently asked together with replies. This list will no doubt grow over time and we shall most likely add new categories also.

How do I join the club?

The first class for every student is free. As a senior student (over the age of 16) all you need to do is turn up at one of our training sessions. One of the senior grade students will make sure that you are introduced to the Sensei and will ask you a few questions about any martial arts history you may have (most students don't have any!) as well as your general fitness levels. You can then take part in the class.

For junior grade students (ages 6 to 16), it is important that a parent or guardian is with them before the class begins in order that Sensei can explain things fully. But apart from that, it is no different from a senior student.

At the end of the class the Sensei or Richard (the club chairman) will get your feedback on how the class went and discuss how our classes work in more detail together with membership and class fees. The appropriate membership forms will be dealt with when you next attend. You do not need to order a Karate suit (gi) for a good few weeks either, so that is not an immediate issue.

For more information, see our page about your first free lesson.

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What Karate/martial arts experience do I need to join?

In short... none at all. Most of our students did not have any history in Karate or martial arts when they joined us.

Of course, every new student feels slightly self conscious the first few times that they train, being unfamiliar with terminology, the movement and the physicality of the techniques themselves. This is completely natural and every one of our students will identify with how tricky things can feel in the beginning.

The Senseis are very appreciative of the efforts from every novice training with us and offer huge encouragement during the class. New students will often have a senior grade training alongside them during the first few classes also, to help keep things at a sensible and realistic pace.

Naturally, we do have new students who have come from other clubs and other martial arts backgrounds. This poses no problem at all and it is often very interesting to get feedback on our approach and style differences.

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Do I need a Karate suit (gi) for my first class?

No you don't. We would generally expect a student to have been training with us for a good four to six weeks before purchasing a gi.

Students/parents are welcome to purchase one from any sports or martial arts store, but we also handle stock orders at each training session and Richard (the club chairman) can sort that out for you. We also have a club badge which can be sewn onto a Gi. That needs to be ordered from Richard directly.

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What about the etiquette and discipline in the classes?

There are many Karate clubs that maintain a very stiff level of etiquette and discipline and there are plenty of clubs that simply have none at all!

BKA's etiquette policy draws a line down the middle and is focused far more on implicit respect as opposed to traditional very strict procedures.

There are some etiquette procedures that are fixed and must be adhered to.

Each session begins and ends with a formal bow, which must be treated with the utmost respect with no disruption. During the class, the Senseis will issue training instructions which should be acknowledged by the students with the phrase "osu". Osu is pronounced "ooosss".

If during a class a student wishes to ask a question, the student should raise their hand and simply attract Sensei's attention (when he is not speaking to the class or any other student) with the phrase "osu Sensei". When Sensei acknowledges the questioner, the student should bow to Sensei and then ask the question. Once an answer has been given, the student should bow once more and return to the training in hand.

If a student arrives at a class late, he or she should make themselves ready to join and then wait to be bowed into the class by Sensei. In general, the Senseis will not keep a latecomer waiting and will always endeavour to have the student join the class as soon as possible.

As with most martial arts, the training hall (referred to as a "Dojo") is viewed as spiritual ground and must also be treated with respect. When a student enters the Dojo, he or she must perform a bow accompanied with the phrase "osu" once more (facing inwards). On leaving the Dojo (for any reason) the student must turn and face inwards and perform the bow once more.

There is of course a correct way of bowing. The Senseis will expect senior students to reflect this "correct way" at all times. Newer students will be educated on the correct bowing procedures during the early weeks of their training. Occasionally, the Senseis will perform a short class-refresher to ensure the procedures are tight and proper.

The Senseis and senior grade students expect to train and discuss Karate with the utmost respect to each others' abilities and position within the club. Any behaviour from a senior grade student that is deemed disrespectful will be dealt with directly in class.

With lower grade students, the Senseis will naturally take a more balanced and tolerant approach, correcting where necessary and gently building each student's implicit understanding of class form.

With the junior class, the approach is again slightly different, as the Senseis are primarily teaching children. If anything, instruction is more direct and a fair amount of repetition is required, as anyone who works with children would appreciate!

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What belts are there and how long does it take to move up to the next one?

There are nine grades that every student must pass through before attaining the rank of 1st Dan (black belt). These are...

  • 9th kyu - Red belt
  • 8th kyu - White belt
  • 7th kyu - Yellow belt
  • 6th kyu - Orange belt
  • 5th kyu - Green belt
  • 4th kyu - Purple belt
  • 3rd kyu - Brown belt
  • 2nd kyu - Brown belt + two stripes
  • 1st kyu - Brown belt + one stripe

Asking how long it takes to reach any grade is too difficult a question to answer as it depends on too many factors. Generally, progression through the earlier grades is far quicker than progression through the senior grades though.

Once a student is in 3rd to 1st kyu territory, gradings become a lot tougher and a good deal further apart. This is because a certain standard of excellence is required with each element being tested.

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What are the age groups in your junior and senior classes?

In general, to attend a senior class, you must be aged 16 or over. There are certain exceptions to this rule in that students from the junior class who have reached a senior grade level (4th kyu for example) are permitted to train with the seniors also.

The junior class has an age range of 6 to 15 years old.

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What are the contact rules for fighting in the class?

In the senior class we would describe our fighting as "semi-contact". For those not familiar with the term, this would imply that during sparring or a competition, the opponents would be expected to make a firm contact with a strike, punch or kick, but it would not be delivered with the intention of causing physical distress.

All fighting in the senior group is also bound by common sense. We do not encourage strikes and punches to the face or throat for instance. Also, senior class students are expected to talk with their opponents during sparring. If one member wishes to slow the fighting down or keep things "nice and light" the other member should respond in kind.

For notes on how we expect children to fight, see the next question.

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Do children fight in the classes?

Yes, we have sparring in the junior classes and also hold an annual Kumite (fighting) tournament for the children. But we do not expect or encourage the juniors to spar as strongly as the senior students.

During classes, the Senseis and senior class members keep a careful watch over the children during sparring sessions. It is rare that two children get carried away, but it does happen and sometimes a kick can be too low or a punch too strong. 9 times out of 10, this will be down to clumsiness more than any aggressive intention.

Generally, the junior students keep a good distance between themselves and avoid too much contact instinctively.

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Don't I need to be super-fit to do Karate?

No student needs to be super-fit to join BKA and train with us. In fact, if we asked our senior students as to the reasons for joining, well over 70% would cite improving fitness or simply getting fit as the primary reason. Without a doubt Karate training itself is a great way to increase fitness levels and stamina.

As with any fitness regime, things take time and a lot of effort. A regular training schedule and 100% effort in each class will provide noticeable rewards a few months down the line.

Every class has a fairly intensive warm up during which the Senseis will encourage the students to work hard, but not push thing too far. No one expects a new joiner to equal the black belts for press ups or to have the flexibility of a ballerina!

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How often should I train?

This decision is down to you and you alone. We have some students who train 3 times each week and others who train once or twice per month due to other commitments.

Being brutally honest, your Karate and fitness will improve quicker the more regularly you train, but under no circumstances would we recommend that you train at every session if you are running the risk of injury. Training too much, too soon can be just as damaging as pulling a hamstring.

As a simple rule of thumb, we would expect a senior student of average fitness/build to be able to train twice each week and to progress at a good steady rate.

With the junior students, it is important that the classes and the training are seen as enjoyable and interactive. For this reason, unless the student is absolutely keen, 3 training sessions each week may begin to remove the fun element for them. Naturally, this is a decision for the parents, but we can advise that most junior students train either once or twice each week.

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I won't understand the Japanese terminology. Won't that be a problem?

Not at all! Although the senior grades will be expected to fully understand what is being said in Japanese (it is pre-requisite of the higher level grading procedure), everything will be translated into English for new or lower grade students.

Actually, it will take a surprisingly short time for you to pick up what each of the terms mean, and it is quite a nice feeling when the Sensei rattles of a combination of moves in Japanese and you know exactly what to do!

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