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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 practiced 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 practicing basics such as stances, punches, kicks, blocks, and thrusts, but it also includes basic representative kata.

Kihon is not only practicing 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. Kihon in martial arts can be seen as analogous to basic skills in, for example, basketball. Professional NBA players continue to practice dribbling, passing, free throws, jump shots, etc. in an effort to maintain and perfect the more complex skills used during a basketball game.

In Karate[edit]

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 karate styles are 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. Examples of traditional striking targets include makiwara, among many others.

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.

In Kendo[edit]

In kendo there are various kihon systems. Two of such systems are the "Dai Ichi Kihon" (first major kihon) and the "Dai Ni Kihon" (second major kihon) developed by Japanese police forces.

In 2005 the All Japan Kendo Federation presented the new methodology "Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-waza Keiko-ho". The aim of the methodology was to develop a form of training that could be included into standard kendo practice for the following purposes:

  1. Help beginners learn the concept that the shinai is the representation of the katana.
  2. Develop solid basics and techniques that are directly translatable into bōgu practice.
  3. Develop the student's abilities and understanding for later practice of the kendo kata.
  4. Develop reihō (manners).

In Aikido[edit]

In aikido kihon waza are test requirements for kyu ranks. The goal of Aikido is Takemusu Aiki, wherein a person would spontaneously express new Aikido techniques, through their natural movement and inclination. Kihon Waza are demonstrations of archetypical movements designed to pedantically lead a practitioner to more complicated or nuanced variations. Kihon Waza, therefore, represent pedagogies of Aikido which have developed as Morihei Ueshiba evolved it during his lifetime, and under his progeny as Aikido has spread. Aikikai style represents the curation of the art of Aikido by the Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba and Hombu Dojo. Iwama style kihon tends to be from a static powerful grab, whereas Shodokan kihon starts with two people separated by a defined distance. Yoshinkan kihon waza are practiced with very distinct steps, and mechanical precision, which is well suited to teaching large classes probably like those Gozo Shioda taught to Police. Each Aikido organization has its own formal testing requirements and pedagogy.