Here goes with another set of answers in addition to the very good posts thus far.
Why do I train in bare feet?
Primarily I think because it was a tradition not to wear shoes in houses in Okinawa/ Japan and its' been carried over. On a practical level shoes hide feet positions, angles of toes and so on. It really is a help to see this even though in practise, if you have to fight for real you'll be wearing shoes.
Why do I train in a gi with a belt?
Up to you mate. I enjoy wearing a gi, it is comfortable and reasonably practical. Some clubs demand it others don't.
Why do I need to lock my stance?
You don't. I think of a "stance" merely as the position one assumes at the end of a technique. It may "lock" as you tense for a split second to deliver the power when hitting someone but only for an instant. No one in their right mind would assume Junzuki stance at the start of a fight in the street. However, if you move forward fast and hit someone you will end up weight forwards on one leg same leg and arm to the opponent. Likewise throw a cross (gyakuzuki) and the body position will end up something like the normal gyaku stance. You'll not stay there though will you? You will continue to move/attack/defend/evade and thus the way you stand will change all the time. Hope this makes sense!!! The training in these positions is only really to show what they are, it's not suggesting one move in a robotlike fashion, more that fluidly one changes from one to the other. Try to treat stances as transitional positions.
Why do I need to look like a swallow in Enpi?
Not a kata I'm familiar with but just as I don't look like a crane on a rock in Chinto (more like an ugly duck slipping off a slippery seaweed covered stone actually) It is just a descriptive.
Why do I move into and hold static stances?
To learn positions....see above
Do you ever feel that you are training control for the sake of it? (By that I mean the ability to put your body in an exact space and time. Not for improving your ability to strike more effectively, but just to exert more control over your body.)
Frequently but this is no bad thing. Interestingly onece you have that control you'll find applications taught for kata especially which will surprise you. All those years of "do this to improve balance" gets blown away when you get shown a throw/ takedown from what you once perceived as a very odd turn in Kushanku for example!
Why do I move differently in sparring to how I move in kata and line work?
Line work = basic positions and basic technique. Kata is a level above. Kumite is simply applying all this with someone trying to make it hard for you to do this!¬
Do any of you spar flat footed, or with your heels on the ground?
I'll fight flat footed or on my toes. You have to vary it.
Is karate bad for your joints?
Hmm am 39 and don't feel a day over 16/60 (take your pick). I think training is a little more sesible now so no it's not. The days of bunny hops round and round the dojo are not lamented by me.
Most of my big injuries have been from other sports. I actually think Karate has helped me be in better nick now than I would have been without it.
All IMHO of course.
[This message has been edited by ken harding (edited 08-06-2004).]