Basics, Kata, and Kumite are the three basic aspects of Karate training and should be begun in that order. They were outlined by Gichin Funakoshi when he brought Karate to the mainland of Japan from Okinawa in the early 1920's.

Kihon (basics) consists of the techniques by themselves. Blocks, strikes, and kicks are all done repeatedly, sometimes standing still, sometimes moving forwards or backwards in a certain stance. These are the building blocks of karate.

Kata consists of a combination of techniques in a predetermined sequence, moving in different directions, and at higher levels using many different stances. Not only does this allow the karateka to gain a fluidity between techniques and directions, it also hones the mental acuity necessary for karate. Properly performed, a kata appears similiar to a graceful dance.

Kumite is sparring and it should be done only after a passing skill is gained in both kata and basics, as repeatedly using a technique in combat without an adequate amount of skill will cause one to learn the technique improperly and develop bad habits. There is set sparring, in which two karateka practice in a line, usually one move at a time and with a predetermined pattern outlined by the sensei, and free sparring. In which the participants attempt to score on each other by either "tagging" (hitting lightly) the other person] or by coming within a few inches from hitting them and stopping. Usually only higher level karateka will be allowed to tag each other since it takes a greater degree of skill to hit someone when they don't want you to without breaking their bones.

If you take a karate class, you will spend most of your time there doing these three things, and, if your sensei is good, at least almost as much time listening to him lecture.