Should I start karate?

If you've reached this page then it's likely that you're thinking about starting karate. I will outline several reasons why you should do karate and address some common concerns people often have.

Reasons to Start Karate

  1. Self defence. Learning karate will help you defend yourself. Whenever you go to the cinema and see a film where karate is used you will see what are known as flashy moves. Flashy moves look good, but are often long and unnecessary. You will learn that the best moves look simple, but are practical and effective. You will also learn how to defend yourself against weapons such as knives and guns.
  2. As a social event. You will meet all kinds of people from different walks of life with different life experiences. Many people prefer to train with a friend, but going by yourself is not a problem as you will make new friends. I've found that many new students to karate decided to start because a friend recommended it to them.
  3. Confidence. Karate builds confidence in quite a remarkable way. You will find that you're more comfortable in different situations. You'll feel more in control. You'll understand your body's boundaries and limitations. However, it is advisable to avoid becoming complacent.
  4. Fitness. Karate will improve your fitness. From cardiovascular health to increased muscle strength, you will notice improvement over time. Stretching at the beginning of each lesson and practising various techniques will improve your flexibility. Most people who start karate have trouble getting into the correct positions and balancing, but after a few lessons they find the moves much easier to transition into. Sparring and warm up activities that involve a lot of movement will build your stamina and help you increase your speed.

What will I need?

You will need a gi (i.e. a karate suit), but some schools let you wear loose clothing for the first few lessons. A gi is the strong loose jacket worn in karate that you often see. It is strong so that it won't tear like regular clothing and loose to allow movability.

What types of training do karate schools do?

Training varies between different styles of karate, although the principles are similar. It is expected that beginners train once per week and those looking to attain higher grades train multiple times per week. Training will include:

  1. Warm up. Every lesson should begin with a warm up of some kind. A warm up involves stretching arm and leg muscles as well as muscle building exercises such as doing press ups and sit ups. Not warming up can cause muscles to pull and hinder movement more generally.
  2. Line up. During line up everyone does basic punches and kicks across the dojo. Such moves are repeated often for practise and will help to build muscle memory. Indeed, the only way to master a particular move is to frequently practise it.
  3. Katas. These are preset sequences of moves. They are done without a partner, but the moves in them have multiple practical applications, even if their exact motivation is unclear at first. Different styles of karate have different numbers of katas. For example, there are 15 katas in Wado Ryu each of which have a different motivation and feel.
  4. Sparring. If you're to defend yourself successfully you will need to regularly spar. It is advisable to use sparring gloves to protect both your hands and your opponent. You should be suspicious of karate schools that don't often spar. Sparring is beneficial and is the closest you can get to a real fight without actually being in a real fight.
  5. Ground fighting (grappling). Grappling involves two people on their knees attempting to get each other into a lock or hold. Some karate school shy away from such an activity, but if a situation ever developed where you were on the floor then applying some grappling techniques may be essential.

Am I too old for karate?

You are never too old to do karate. Wado Ryu founder Hironori Otsuka trained until he died aged 89. As long as you're in relatively good health you will be good to go. If your physical health isn't 100% then you should inform the instructor beforehand. Remember that only you know if you're pushing yourself too hard and if you must choose between karate and your health then you must choose your health.

Am I too weak for karate?

Karate is not about strength, but about technique. Of course strength helps, but it isn't necessary to be able to train effectively. Karate will improve your strength to some extent, but it will improve your balance and coordination more.

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