Kihon (基本, きほん?) is a Japanese term meaning “basics” or “fundamentals.” The term is used to refer to the basic techniques that are taught and practised as the foundation of most Japanese martial arts.
The practice and mastery of kihon is essential to all advanced training, and includes the practice of correct body form and breathing, while practising basics such as stances, punches, kicks, blocks, and thrusts, but it also includes basic representative kata.
Kihon is not only practising of techniques, it is also the karateka fostering the correct spirit and attitude at all times.
Kihon techniques tend to be practiced often, in many cases during each practice session. They are considered fundamental to mastery and improvement of all movements of greater complexity.
Styles of karate differ greatly in the emphasis placed on kihon. Kihon may be practiced as “floor exercises”, where the same technique or combination is repeated multiple times as the students move back and forth across the floor. Japanese kihon training is notorious for extended periods of kihon training. This style of practice is believed to ingrain the techniques into the muscle memory of the karateka.
Some styles employ “kihon kata” in teaching beginners. Additionally, kihon may take the form of prearranged partner drills whereby two students face each other and alternate execution of a technique. This approach combines repetition with training in distancing. Targets for punching and kicking, such as bags, shields, or dummies, are generally used at more advanced stages of kihon training to strengthen muscles, bones, and skin.
Some styles have a small set of basic techniques that are practiced consistently every single class. Others might have scores of techniques that are each only practiced every couple of months.