FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
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About Ashihara Karate
What are the main differences between Ashihara Karate and other traditional karate styles and martial arts?
> Generally, Ashihara Karate can be regarded as a modern/ contemporary style of karate that when compared to traditional karate methods, bears significant differences:
Postures & Execution of Techniques
Most notably, Ashihara Karate adopts a stand-up fighting posture called the " baseball batting stance" that bear close resemblance to modern kickboxing. From here, techniques are executed with an emphasis on relaxation, natural movement and mobility.
Every kata in Ashihara Karate has only 10 steps. Each kata has directly-applicable applications to it, and performed in a stand-up fighting posture. Performing the kata whole more closely resembles ' shadow boxing' than a typical traditional karate/ martial art form.
Ashihara Karate is practiced with the mentality of jissen (実践) or 'real fight'.
As opposed to training for competition or a one on one duel, we recognize that a real fight has no rules and mentally accept the possibility of a handicap- the opponent might have a weapon, terrain might not be even, multiple-opponents etc.
Practice therefore builds onto these themes, focusing on techniques and concepts that addresses this reality, with safety at its core.
The Ashihara system emphasizes on the concept of sabaki or 'fight control'. Instead of focusing only on knocking-out the opponent- which often comes with head-on clashing with brute force- Ashihara Karate prefers taking control of the opponent through superior positioning, controlling his balance, redirecting his force, etc. We believe that this way, anyone, with the correct effort, can effectively defend himself, even if it means overcoming someone who is bigger and stronger.
Do you take part in tournaments?
> Yes, we have participated in tournaments as a club. In fact, there is an annual World Championships held under the NIKO banner each year! Despite this, training for tournament exists as a separate program outside of Ashihara Karate classes.
Is Ashihara Karate full-contact karate?
> The term 'full-contact' is more accurately associated to competition karate, distinguishing itself from the semi- / non-contact format.
Historically, our participants have mostly taken part in full-contact tournaments, although there have been players in the semi-contact competitions in the past.
In regular Ashihara Karate, we don't practice competitively, but physical contact is highly emphasized.
Can I practice Ashihara Karate without Grading?
> Yes. Participants are free to enjoy Ashihara Karate practice without the pressure of moving to the next grade.
Other clubs conduct grading every three months. I have been with the club for five months and have not yet been qualified for grading.
> Information pertaining to Gradining is provided in detail here.
Essentially, Grading is conducted every 4 months, without regard to when a participants started practice. Typically, a participant will not be ready for Grading if he starts practice too close to grading.
Furthermore, participants must fulfill several pre-requisites before being qualified to apply for grading. They include the minimum training period, administrative clearances, and recommendation by the Instructor.
Participants must understand also that not being ready for grading is not just a matter of pass or fail, but also safety.
Must I go through Sparring during Grading? / I am afraid of getting hurt during Sparring. / The Sparring practice is too intense for me. / I would like to request for specific sparring partners. / I would like to request for specific partners not to spar with.
> There are 2 ways to practice Ashihara Karate without ever doing sparring- continue practice in an Elementary class, or don't participate in grading for Yellow belt and above.
This is because, practice and grading at the Intermediate level onwards will definitely involve sparring, due to the focus of the practice.
In doing so, strict safety measures are in place that includes the wearing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and enforcing other associated guidelines for safe practic
We abide by the philosophy of "challenge by choice"; we don't impose onto participants expectations that they are not willing to undertake.
Yet ultimately, we must balance the the practice of Ashihara Karate as a means to enjoying Karate practice, while not being detached from it's purpose as a form of self-defence and personal empowerment.
How can I obtain a double promotion during Grading? / Other Karate clubs offer double promotion to motivate the beginner, does LHA exercise this policy?
> We are not able to speak for other Karate clubs. While LHA adheres to a single-promotion Grading path, double promotions to outstanding participants, is at the sole discretion of the Grading Panel. However, participants may not apply to be double-graded.
In LHA, we have the responsibility of imparting proper self-defence skills and positive values. Thus, it is our duty to ensure that grade progression goes alongside good performance. Good performance takes time and dedication out of the passion for Karate. This is this spirit that we celebrate and condone.
How long does it take to obtain a black belt in Ashihara Karate?
> 10 years, maybe?
It is difficult to say, because grade advancement in Ashihara Karate is performance-based that transcends beyond physical skills and into other personal characteristics like attitude and traits.
Very much like a professional appointment, an Ashihara Karate practitioner is an ambassador to the Art and organization. At LHA, we have the responsibility to ensure that those we promote are the best ambassadors for us.
There's a saying, "A black belt is a white belt that didn't quit."
Enjoy karate first, then everything will fall in place.
Do I need to purchase any equipment immediately?
> No. You can start your karate practice with us with regular exercise attire (without footwear) and purchase uniforms and equipment at a later time. However, students are required to have a full set of uniform and protective equipment (for those who are sparring) should they choose to participate in Grading.
What equipment will I need?
> A dogi (traditional karate uniform) is a standard attire during classes. As students progress to full-contact sparring (typically at Blue belt), they will eventually require safety equipment such as protectors for the head, shin-instep, groin, chest (for female) on top of gloves. Purchase of the equipment can be made with the coordinating instructors.
Why wear protective equipment?
> The impact-buffering effect of protective equipment allows students to fully and properly execute strikes onto each other, without causing excessive damage. Not having to over-control striking techniques means cultivating proper striking ability and minimizing physical damage means that training can go without being debilitated by injury.
Can I use my own brand of equipment?
> Yes, but only if they have been approved by LHA. Due to safety reasons and brand exclusivity, we strictly enforce this requirement and will not allow non-approved equipment, whether uniforms nor protectors to be worn for classes or Grading. Hence, we strongly encourage you to consult the Instructor prior to making a purchase.
Public, Private Classes, Workshop, Seminars, Demonstrations
Do you conduct demonstrations for events?
> Yes, we do. But this is a chargeable service. In order for us to better match your event / theme, we do suggest informing us early. Do email us to find out more.
About New International Karate Organization (NIKO) and Lionheart Academy (LHA)
What is NIKO and LHA?
> Find out here.
Is it important to practice Ashihara Karate with a NIKO-accredited centre?
> In our opinion, yes.
Authenticity of Syllabus and Practice
Ashihara Karate is a living art that is ever-evolving with the times. As such, it is important to retain the founding principles and values of the martial art, while developing it further in relevance to today's realities.
As the founding governing body for Ashihara Karate internationally, NIKO continues to regulate and ensure the integrity of the Art's instruction among its affiliates. This is done through our instructors' active engagement with the NIKO HQ that includes an annual training visit to Japan.
This means that instruction from us is consistent to what is taught in NIKO HQ and its affiliates.
Access to NIKO-accredited Clubs and Events
The Ashihara Karate community is a large one spanning 160 clubs in Japan and 170 locations and growing elsewhere across the globe. Being a NIKO affiliate gives members exclusive access to these learning opportunities that fill up the yearly calendar.
How qualified are your instructors?
> The appointment of Instructors in LHA are strictly regulated. All instructor applicants undergo a period of understudy, where they learn effective coaching skills and pedogogy essentual to teach the martial art well. This is also a period where they are evaluated in terms of their competency in leadership and as a role model, on top of having good grasp in Ashihara karate techniques. Following a successful evaluation period, participants undertake professional qualifications in coaching and first-aid, after which they are officially appointed as an Instructor.
For a more informed and fair judgement, we strongly encourage you to visit a class, watch them in action and freely speak with them directly!
I hold multiple black belts / have previously trained under another Karate / martial arts organization. Can I continue from my previous grade?
> No, unless you hold a grade / level certificate endorsed by New International Karate Organization (NIKO).
Martial art qualifications are not always transferable between schools and styles. We are not in the business of selling black belts and certificates to the highest bidder.
I would like to help spread Ashihara Karate in my home country. Can I get recognition from NIKO in this case?
> Not automatically. First, one needs to go through Ashihara Karate training as a student, before moving on to attain proficiency as an instructor. It is only then that considerations to set-up a centre teaching Ashihara Karate can be considered, whereby a branch certificate will be issued by NIKO.
You can find out more about this process by getting in touch with the NIKO representative in your country / region. Where there isn't any, please email NIKO directly for guidance.
Why isn't there a 10th dan in Ashihara Karate? What's the difference between the various dan / black belt grades? What's the difference between 'senpai', 'sensei' and 'shihan'? What is your highest grade?
> The over-inflation of black belt degrees is avoided in NIKO.
A 1st to 2nd dan holder is termed as a Sempai (Senior) in NIKO. 3rd to 5th dan are considered very high grades.
An appointed Branch Chief is a Sensei (teacher) in NIKO.
The term Shihan (Master teacher) is not tied in to rank and refers to a NIKO leader. The title can only be appointed by Kancho himself. It should be stressed that the title is not automatically conferred upon someone upon promotion to 3rd or 4th dan and so forth.
In Ashihara Karate, all grades, regardless of kyu and dan, are obtained only through hard work and commitment to training.
Do you have an uchi-deshi / live-in student programme? Are you able to host me / visitors if I / we visit?
> No, we do not conduct any uchi-deshi / live-in student program.
However, we will be happy to meet guests should they visit our class locations. Should you decide to do this, do let us know in advance.
I am young / old, skinny / fat and my body is flexible / inflexible. Can I still learn Ashihara Karate? Do you take in older beginners e.g. aged 50 and above?
> As long as you are medically fit for physical activity and have the interest to learn, age and physical ability is not a matter (we have had students who are enjoying their golden years!). We train in a progressive and non-imposing manner, so that you can take your time to improve and meet your personal goals.
However, we do recommend consulting a medical professional to ensure of your physical fitness for exercise before joining.
Is Ashihara Karate an all-male affair?
> Definitely not. There are many female students across our training locations that vary in ages and lifestyles. In fact, Ashihara Karate is especially applicable to ladies since it advocates practical techniques that is applicable even against someone who is more physically dominant.
Finesse is an important aspect in Ashihara Karate since grappling and throwing techniques are involved. This is in case you have the impression that Ashihara Karate is all about an aggressive, macho-man culture.
I am uncomfortable training with students of a certain gender / race, etc.
> Singapore is a multi-racial and also a multi-religious country. General classes are not gender nor race specific. That being said, Singapore has an official policy against discrimination of women and races. Racial harmony is carefully promoted in Singapore. Racial slurs, such as those you might hear in football chants could actually wind you up in jail, or getting fined.
We recommend that you maintain an open mind to help your learning as well as that of others around you.
Alternatively, you may like to request for private sessions.
I heard that Karate is a violent activity. Will I get hurt?
> Like any other activities, accidents are prone to happen without us expecting it. Hence, while we cannot realistically guarantee that you will not get hurt, we can give the assurance that a safe training culture is always emphasized in our classes, thus putting unnecessary injuries at bay.
Do I need a martial art background before starting?
> While it might be easier to understand certain concepts if you have prior martial arts experience, it is not a requirement. What is most important to us is your open-mindedness, desire to learn and curiosity to explore.
About the Class
> What is a typical class session like?
Find out more here.
How long does it take to learn Ashihara Karate?
> The practice of Ashihara Karate is a lifelong learning experience. For as long as you seek to improve, that is how long you can continue learning.
When does a class commence?
> You can check with the centre that you are looking to sign-up at here.
Is training once a week sufficient for me to become proficient in self-defence?
> Different students have different rates of progress. Hence, the sufficiency of one session a week is subjective.
Students are welcome to sign up for extra sessions at more than one training venues to increase their frequency of training. Apart from this, workshops and activities are available to complement students' learning in Ashihara Karate.
Do you accept children younger than 7 years of age?
> No. Presently, our Ashihara Karate instruction is only catered for participants aged 7 and above.