“There is no first attack in Karate.”
– Gichin Funakoshi
With Japanese and Chinese origins, the word karate literally means “empty hand”. The martial art gained popularity for its striking-oriented form of combat and self-defense. When karate and self defense techniques stormed the film industry, they found a global audience that came back for more, and fans of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan chased their inspiration for the artistic neatness of martial arts tricks. Not all self-defense forms require karate skills, but there are several ways karate overlaps with powerful self-defense responses.
A true karateka never attacks or kicks or punches first; the core principle behind karate is that you never instigate terror or provoke a fight. This idea walks hand in hand with the belief that martial artists should not use their ability to bully others. As Jackie Chan said: when you are learning about a martial art, it is about respect.
Key comparison between karate and self-defense
Many people think that karate and self defense are two separate things, considering the individual elements of both techniques. However, like all martial arts practices, karate originated as a primary form of self-defense. Here are some key reasons why karate and self defense can both be naturally synonymous, despite differences in execution.
Basic self-defense techniques involve quick, spontaneous movements to attacks. This includes using anything you already have at hand, like your purse, grocery bags, apartment keys, etc. Self-defense in itself is not a form of exercise or training regimen that makes you athletic. It is more about reacting instinctively to save your life and find a quick escape.
Karate, on the other hand, follows proper routines in which you train and learn to become a skilled practitioner. While there are no black and white rules in basic self-defense, there are black and white belts in karate – with other colors in between! Since karate techniques teach you effective strikes and maneuvers, you get a split-second advantage over the attacker. This is what makes karate coincide with reliable self defense. Even though there is a bigger picture to the martial art, it can always be improvised in the face of an attack.
Self-defense in its trivial form should help protect people in real-world contexts that go beyond the controlled environment of a karate dojo. So, anything that defuses external attacks that appear as harassment, assault, robbery, intrusion, etc. will be counted as self-defense. And in such circumstances, not everyone can think of non-violence as their first instinct to save themselves.
Karate and self defense has developed over the years into a globally-accepted non-violent combat style. Like all martial arts disciplines, it trains you to remain calm and collected to turn the dynamics in your favor. The focus here is more towards prevention and strong conflict resolution that demands self-control and easy confidence. Does it help protect your life? Yes. Does it count as self defense? Absolutely!
Anyone can learn basic karate and self defense tricks online or with their local gyms. These are everyday skills that can be acquired quickly, and they make you more alert and careful. There are no specific stages to progress and work towards, as being able to defend yourself is really a matter of quick counterattacks made just in time.
Karate and self defense practitioners have a long learning curve that often lasts a lifetime for passionate martial artists. The years of practice and training on the mat allow karatekas to progress and claim martial arts belts for further qualifications. Armed with proficient strikes, kicks, punches, and aims to targeted pressure points, you can easily gain the upper hand with quick reflexes. Time-saving? Check. Self-defensive? Double check!
Social and gender-based issues like feminism and racism often form the basis of Self-Defense 101 classes, as these are very real problems that demand very real solutions. The freestyle and makeshift nature of quick self-defenses makes you find your way out and save your life. There is obviously no time to waste in trying to assess your surroundings.
This is where karate and self defense and other martial arts disciplines step in to save the day. They add greater spatial awareness in your life by letting you calculate your escape route using things that exist around you. The trees, buildings, walls, benches, furniture, boulders, fountains, etc. become your combat aids because you can easily adapt your karate prowess to camouflage your environment. While not everyone can Jackie-Chan their way out of a fight by flying across rooftops and climbing walls, karate allows people to have a new perspective to anchor the situation without needing any tools or weapons. This reflects the “empty hand” style of the martial art for productive self-defense.
Major disciplines of karate
Gichin Funakoshi is known as the father of modern-day karate martial arts. With kicks, punches, defensive blocks, and blows practiced for non-violent outcomes, karate has different styles that practitioners can follow. These were all passed down by Master Funakoshi as karate heirlooms for the new generations of martial artists. They have mostly evolved into modern adaptations over the years, but each karate style resonates with the original foundations laid by this iconic karate Sensei. There are four major karate disciplines, namely Goju-Ryu, Shotokan-Ryu, Wado-Ryu, and Shito-Ryu.
The Goju-Ryu karate and self defense style focuses on offensive counterstrike skills as well as defensive blocks. It was the brainchild of Chojun Miyagi who introduced the style in 1930. Goju-Ryu makes use of breathing power, various stances, and circular blocking techniques that are often seen in jujitsu practices as well.
Shotokan-Ryu was designed and implemented by Gichin Funakoshi himself in the late 1930s. This karate and self defense discipline has a global recognition for its impactful strikes that use a combination of hand, elbow, knee, and feet stunts. Shotokan-Ryu focuses on power strikes through linear combat techniques and wide stances that achieve perfect executions of the karate style.
Developed by Hienori Otsuka in the 1930s, Wado-Ryu is a spiritual karate discipline that trains students to move out of harm’s way. With shorter stances and defensive escapes, this karate style is more fluid in nature, as it allows practitioners to defend their bodies instead of counterattacking. Taking the cue from its name, Wado-Ryu is actually a “way of harmony” that defuses an attack without fighting fire with fire.
Kenwa Mabuni organized the Shito-Ryu karate and self defense style in the 1930s. The term “kata” is the Japanese word for “exercise” or “form”, and it refers to the orchestrated moves that are practiced as karate sequences. Students rehearse these choreographed stunts in unison, and they are required to demonstrate fifty katas or moves in Shito-Ryu. Therefore, technique and execution are crucial elements in this style, as each karateka needs to perform accurate strikes for self-defense.
The US national governing body for karate
The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) was established in 1894 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It is the umbrella organization that covers Team USA athletes in all competitive sports contexts. The USOPC governs various Olympic and Paralympic games around the world, chasing excellence and inclusion to celebrate athletic freedoms. It has rounded up a multitude of sports practices in its athletic orbit to include martial arts, archery, swimming, equestrian games, wheelchair rugby, skiing, snowboarding, and so much more!
Operating under the USOPC, the USA National Karate-do Federation (USANKF) is the leading organization for karate-specific pursuits. It inspires competence, international certifications, and collective growth for the karate community, providing incredible support systems to empower martial artists. The USANKF karatekas have won World Championships and several other sports accolades, forming a star-studded Team USA full of aspiring medalists in the field.
The US Olympic Committee members came together for an initiative to organize a national governing body for karate in the United States. As a result of this collaboration, the USANKF was launched in 1996 to supervise junior and adult karate events, competitions, tournaments, and championships for representing the US around the world. The company helps karate practitioners find local clubs and is sponsored by various partners, including United Airlines, Amazon Smile, Century, and Prisma Health.
Benefits of practicing karate
No weapons needed
Through different contact-sparring techniques in the dojo, karate practitioners learn to use their bodies as weapons to evade their attackers. During street fights and other life-threatening situations, it helps to act spontaneously as well as effectively to defend yourself. Karate builds the required caliber for such split-second decision-making, and you learn to defend yourself without needing any tools.
Aerobic and cardio elements
Regular practice sessions on the mat introduce healthy exercises into your lifestyle, and they subconsciously prepare your body to remain alert. So, there is a lot of mental and physical workout that keeps you fit, and you develop more accurate hand-eye coordination. Warm-up activities and drills in the dojo contribute to your overall stamina and endurance exercises, allowing you to set new milestones and stay healthy without going to the gym. With quick reflexes and better spatial awareness, your body muscles “remember” to wake up and react in the face of danger instead of shutting down out of fear or intimidation.
Karate and self defense forms and strategies take away the linear problem-solving method by giving you a new point of view. By using circular stunts, defenses, diagonal kicks, and airborne skills, you get to achieve a 3D combat style that offers maximum protection – and simply looks cool! With such three-dimensional agility and mobility, karate practitioners learn to expand their skillset by thinking outside the box and turning the world around them into powerful resources.
Self-growth and improvement
The traits and habits that begin on the mat become a part of everyday life as the journey of karate is a long, progressive one. This makes the values of discipline, empathy, humility, self-respect, and patience a very achievable and welcoming goal for kids and adults alike. In theory, it feels good to read about these attributes. In reality, most people would just give up!
Karate and self defense builds bridges over these gaps and encourages practitioners to persevere (for example, to claim higher belts). Self-improvement and self-control are the defining hallmarks of our favorite martial arts icons, who all seem to appear unfazed and nonchalant when confronted by an opponent. This can also be observed in movies. When martial artistry meets the cinematic canvas, the on-screen results are simply admirable – and the behind-the-scenes mistakes are downright hilarious!
Karate classes to enroll in
Karate Memphis USA Karate – Tennessee
At Karate Memphis, there are martial arts classes for children and adults. These campuses are scattered around Tennessee in Bartlett, Arlington, Collierville, Cordova, and Germantown. Martial arts expert and owner, Robby Beard, combined his martial arts background and former police experience into USA Karate in the year 1996. With resourceful Stranger Danger workshops and anti-bully programs, the company branched out to make karate an accessible martial arts option for potential athletes.
Facility and instructors
All USA Karate and self defense campuses are equipped with climate-controlled dojos, safety training mats, and event-friendly services. The instructors are all black-belt practitioners who train students in self-defense pursuits as well as personal developments that come with martial arts training. These certified and licensed coaches organize competitive karate curricula in each facility, encouraging people of all ages to embark on this rewarding journey. USA Karate focuses on growth through competitions and tournaments to allow students to test their skills. This is achieved via sparring techniques, team demos, and karate forms where practitioners can learn and grow in a thriving and uplifting environment that promotes comradeship.
Karate class options
The Kid’s Virtual Training Program has been designed for kids between the ages of 4-12 years. The karate curriculum of the school is available online to keep kids healthy and active at home. By taking the studio to the screen, the instructors teach a variety of self-defense tactics as well as life skills such as positive mental attitudes, goal-setting, and self-confidence.
The Children’s Programs address the self-defense aspects of karate and also train students for peaceful conflict resolution, so things do not get a chance to escalate out of control. The Little Ninjas module is for the age group of 4-6 years, and it exploits visual cues to aid the training sessions. The Kid’s Martial Arts module takes students who are 7-12 years old and helps them with karate and academic goals through positive reinforcement and life skills. Furthermore, there is a Just 4 Kids program that offers engaging, fun-filled activities to stimulate the kids’ martial arts streaks through customized birthday parties and summer camps.
As for the Adults’ Program, USA Karate provides training to 18+ audiences for karate, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Kickboxing, and Krav Maga. Modern fitness environments and life-changing opportunities at the dojo motivate people to come back for more and advance in their black belt pursuits.
Dojo USA – San Bruno, California
On-campus and virtual
At Dojo USA, there are flexible options for children and adults to practice martial arts on the mat and online. With karate and self defense lessons for all audiences and virtual training portals, students can bridge their athletic gaps from the comfort of their homes. The first trial classes are free of cost. These virtual lessons adhere to the needs of all skill levels and ensure that the learning outcomes remain streamlined even if the campus is closed. This also adds scope for family-based participation, especially during COVID lockdowns.
Karate for kids and adults
The Kids’ Karate program is a series of action-packed training classes that coax children out of their shells to feel confident, disciplined, and respected in their skin. With a whole spectrum of essential life skills, these karate kids grow to be resilient and unaffected by peer pressures. On this journey to karate self-defense, the young martial artists pick up fitness values and strong leadership skills along the way. They work on their focus, patience, and attention span so that these karate-inspired attributes move from their backstage presence to the front seat. In academic life, this translates into better performance and success stories for children who warm up to the importance of hard work.
The Adult Martial Arts Program covers premium adult karate lessons. Following the footsteps of traditional karate and self defense, Dojo USA strives to help you meet your goals through the mental, physical, and spiritual elements of the martial art. Apart from self-defense strategies, the program focuses on weight loss regimens, muscle toning, and anxiety management. So, the overall approach at the karate and self defense school has a very holistic outlook that trains students not just to be better martial artists, but also to grow as healthy and independent people.
USA Karate & Fitness Official Training Center – New Jersey
With its campuses in Clark, Avenel, Mercerville, Springfield, Lebanon, and Jackson, USA Karate & Fitness has programs for youth and adult martial arts practices. The classes span across kids’ martial arts, mixed martial arts, kickboxing fitness, teen martial arts, and birthday parties as well. These birthday celebrations allow everyone to join in and have fun with exciting, martial arts parties for positive recreation.
Karate training programs
The dojo hosts Kids’ Martial Arts classes for on-campus and virtual programs. These incorporate fitness elements, self-defense strategies, and goal-setting habits to help children attain a sense of discipline. The school’s belt program is divided into age-appropriate milestones for a comprehensive curriculum that kids enjoy pursuing. Better physical fitness enhances cognitive performance too, and this principle helps kids build self-defense along with self-esteem.
Working with like-minded peers and expert coaches is a great way to let teamwork and comradeship diffuse into the training sessions. By meeting the standard fitness thresholds and participating in proactive karate lessons, kids begin to overcome their aversion to exercises and movements, as they finally get the sports outlet that makes them look forward to their time on the mat. Similarly, the Mixed Martial Arts and Teen Martial Arts programs are carefully curated to bring out the best potential of each martial artist. The Teen program specifically addresses the crucial self-defense, mental preparedness, and health aspects for students who are about to embark on their college journeys. There are dynamic routines and opportunities for workout regimens to adopt a healthy lifestyle while discovering personal affinities for karate, kickboxing, taekwondo, etc.
Dojo etiquettes teach students a lot about real life, sometimes even more so than we learn at school. Martial arts gyms are known for the second-home comforts they have given their students. In many cases, these studios become the safe haven, the happy retreat, and a place to call home for several people. Not only do they teach martial artists constructive self-defense, but they also place an invincible power right in their hands: the ability to cause harm, followed by the immediate choice to avoid it.
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
– Albus Dumbledore