Top 10 Health Benefits of Karate for Adults

Benefits of Karate

The health benefits of karate may at first seem obvious—it’s a great excuse to exercise while building vital self-defense skills. And yet, that description hardly scratches the surface.

There’s a reason why “modern” karate is over 200 years old, with roots cutting many thousands before that. Studying karate has proven deep-seeded benefits to almost every aspect of the human experience: body, mind, and spirit.

There are many health benefits of practicing karate and here are the top 10.

10 Health Benefits of Karate

1. Teaches Self Defense

One of the more obvious benefits of karate is that it will give you the tools to defend yourself in dangerous situations and perhaps that is your primary interest in karate. In training, you’ll work through many techniques with real-world applications.

Karate tends to make someone an expert at reading body language, whether that’s the person who wants to be left alone or the person who is primed to initiate combat. Just as much as karate can train someone to get out of a sticky situation, it can train someone to deescalate or avoid one altogether.  

Having the ability to defend yourself goes a lot deeper than any street altercation, too. True of most physical activities, confidence in karate implies a mastery of your physical body and the space you hold. This bleeds into a general physical confidence, and then a better all-around self-esteem.

2. Improves Your Fitness

Karate is a full body workout. Like with any activity utilizing every muscle, regular practice will improve oxygen circulation, overall cardiovascular health, strength, and endurance.  

By practicing karate, you will be stretching regularly. You will be doing lots of pushups and holding positions which increase muscle mass and improve muscle tone, such as the zenkutsu dachi (front stance) and kiba dachi (horse stance). Katas (forms), individual training exercises, as well as kicking drills, are great sources of cardio.

No matter your fitness goals, karate is a fun way to become more agile, stronger, and healthier.

3. Acts as Stress Relief

Aerobic exercises, because of increased blood circulation to the brain, have been proven to reduce mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

This increased blood flow, helping organic communication, affects all kinds of changes in the body and mind. This includes the limbic system, involving motivation and mood, the amygdala, involving stress-related fear, and the hippocampus, involving memory formation.

Karate can also reduce stress in less physical ways. Regular discipline in a positive activity can do wonders for motivation and purpose. Distraction from problems, general self-efficacy, and socialization can all eliminate stress as well and help a person operate with a more positive outlook.

4. Gives You Focus and Discipline

One great thing about karate, as opposed to other forms of physical activity, is its emphasis on mental being and how mental being affects performance.

“Attitude, not aptitude, determines altitude.” My first sensei said these words often.

Another sensei, down the line, taught her students to “empty our cups” before setting foot on the dojo. She could tell when I was distracted, from school, from work, from home, from whatever. She advised me to empty all those thoughts onto the entryway before bowing onto the mats. On the mats, we focused on karate alone.

You can then use this heightened focus and discipline to make positive changes to the rest of your life whether that is taking yourself out of stressful situations, improving your diet or going an extra mile on that run.

5. Allows You To Practice Mindfulness

Anyone who has trained in karate long enough will tell you that you’re more likely to learn how not to fight than you are to learn how to fight.

This, of course, has grown from karate’s historical ties in Zen Buddhism, which strongly influenced the martial arts that grew out of Japan and China. Karate teaches a student to concentrate on their own movements and be fully cognizant of self and surroundings in this moment. A not-so-subtle form of walking meditation.

Meditation can help people have a stronger grasp and awareness of their emotions, and thus how they act because of them. These are the teachings of karate as well. As well as immense physical benefits, karate will also improve your mental health.

6. Increases Your Flexibility

As we get older, we get increasingly less flexible. This can cause many issues as we continually struggle with mobility. The disciplines that you learn in karate will increase your mobility which will lead to plenty of health benefits.

Not only will you enjoy an increased freedom of movement but it will also reduce muscle soreness and fatigue. You’ll notice once you’ve practiced karate for a few months that you are able to recover much quicker.

That’s not all of the benefits for increased mobility. It also reduces your risk of injury not only in karate but with any other sport too as your muscles will be more supple and resistant to tears.

7. Improves Your Muscle Tone

You don’t need to lift weights in order to improve your muscle tone. In fact, being too muscular can often be a disadvantage in martial arts as it will reduce your speed and increase fatigue among other issues.

Karate will give you muscle definition all over your body as punching and kicking both require plenty of strength. While you won’t get big muscles with karate, they will become well-toned and incredibly efficient.

This will help to improve your balance and increase your metabolism.

8. Promotes Weight Loss

There are many advantages to losing weight when it comes to your health. Being overweight can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and can also lead to an increased risk of certain types of cancer.

With karate, you’re going to be expending a lot of energy. It’s a brilliant cardiovascular workout and if you’re overweight, then you’re going to see the weight drop off.

Not only will the sport itself have a positive effect, it will also be a huge motivation. To perform at your best, you’ll be inspired to focus on your diet and cut out the junk from your life.

9. Sharpens Your Reflexes

Having quick reflexes can help us in many areas of our life. With any type of martial art, you need lightning quick reflexes to dodge attacks and counter-attack your opponent with accuracy.

When practicing karate, you’ll see a marked improvement in your reflexes. This will allow you to become more adept at mastering see aspects of the art form.

This can help outside of karate too, such as being quicker to react when you’re driving to being more alert in emergency situations. Karate can give you a much better grasp of your surroundings.

10. Lower Your Blood Pressure

As humans, we always want our blood pressure to be under control. Called hypertension, high blood pressure can lead to a wider variety of health issues such as heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, dementia and kidney problems.

Ways to lower your blood pressure include a healthier diet and limiting your alcohol intake and, of course, getting regular physical activity.

That’s where karate comes in. Getting that regular exercise will lower your blood pressure and allow your heart to function as it should.

Why Practice Karate?

Karate is a centuries old practice meant to improve your mind, body, and spirit. It’s a simple practice a couple times a week. Yet, in many ways, it can change every aspect of your life.

You may learn how to physically defend yourself in a sticky situation but as we’ve seen, karate offers much more than that. It will also improve your body and mind health in a vast number of ways.

You’ll soon learn that karate is so much more than fighting. It’ll allow you to be stronger and braver than ever before but allow you to lead a more peaceful and happier life.

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Span Chen
Span Chen
I have been practicing karate for more than 6 years, and now at the sixth level (green belt) of the Okinawa Goju-Ryu Karatedo Kugekai. Though I haven’t earned my Black Belt yet, I am deeply passionate about my training.