There are three components to Shotokan karate training: kihon, kata, and kumite.
The kata are formal exercises which combine basic karate techniques — blocking, punching, striking, and kicking — into a series of predetermined movements. Kata combines offensive and defensive techniques, proper body movement, and changes in direction. The kata teach the karateka to dispose of numerous attackers from at least four directions. Although the kata do not involve visible opponents, the karateka, through serious study of the kata, learns the art of self-defense and the ability to calmly and efficiently deal with dangerous situations. For these reasons, the kata have been the core of karate training since ancient times.
Kihon is the practice of fundamental techniques: blocking, punching, striking, and kicking. These techniques are the beginning and end of karate — a karateka (practitioner of karate) may learn them in a matter of months, yet fail to master them after a life’s worth of training. Hence, basic techniques demand regular practice, applied with as much concentration and effort as possible.
Kata and kumite are complementary training methods. In kata, one learns basic techniques; in kumite, one applies them with a sparring partner. The principles of kihon still apply to kumite: the karateka must apply proper karate techniques, demonstrate
correct power and speed, and, above all, exercise good control. One must remember that, while kumite is a useful application of the fundamentals learned through kata, it is not a substitute for kata.