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Physical benefits from karate

Published: 
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Chief instructor of SKOTT, Sensei Brian Chin Leung, unleashes a vicious mae-geri (front kick) at Christopher Murrell.

Karate is an ancient form of hand to hand combat that has its roots firmly embedded in Okinawa and Japan. It is interesting to note that many of the old karate masters enjoyed great longevity, and lived into their late 80s and early 90s. This is not surprising when you analyse the rigorous training that forged strong hearts and iron-like bodies, in addition to producing calm and serene minds, that had to pass on volumes of information to future generations. Today, karate is practiced both for self-defense and as a sport, but there are clear distinctions between the two options, depending on the choice of the individual. However, regardless of your choice, the common denominator is the many physical benefits that the discipline of karate has to offer.

Physical  benefits of Karate

When practiced under proper supervision, karate builds strength, speed, power, co-ordination, balance, timing, aerobic and anaerobic physical conditioning. A class is usually divided into the practice of kihon (basics), kata (forms) and kumite (sparring).

• Leg muscles

During the practice of kihon, the student is made to stay in deep-rooted stances that strengthen his leg muscles and provide a stable base from which he can execute powerful techniques.

• Core muscles

The act of rotating and thrusting your hips during punching and kicking requires activation of your core muscles to help stabilise multiple forces. As a result you develop a strong core.

• Upper body muscle

Punching, striking and blocking requires the use of many muscle groups including your deltoids, pectorals, triceps and latissimus dorsi. 

For example, the straight punch requires you to quickly move your fist from the hip position towards the target. This act of moving your hand in a straight line, away from your body, will require contraction of your pectorals and triceps, while your latissimus dorsi works to stop your shoulders from rising during the punch; the deltoids will also contract strongly on impact. When the student is taught kime (focus), he also learns to contract many muscle groups simultaneously, so that at the moment of impact, his relaxed, fluid, moving body then contracts and hits the target like a rock, with multiple forces being unified and channeled through the punching arm, as in the execution of an oi-tzuki (stepping punch.) This regular contraction/relaxation of all body muscles brings overall muscle tone to the body.

Aerobic and anaerobic conditioning

Karate by nature is extremely explosive, and a five-second assault on your opponent, involving a series of kicks and punches, can send you into anaerobic mode whereby you are functioning at about 90 per cent of your maximum heart rate. On the other hand, if you are concerned about your cardiovascular system and wish to build aerobic conditioning, whereby your heart rate stays at approximately 130 beats per minute (bpm), then you can continuously repeat any given kata without applying kime (focus) for about 40 minutes. If you apply full kime to any kata, the intensity may send you into your anaerobic zone and only allow you to repeat that kata once or twice before rest is needed. If you are a karateka, the condition of your body reflects how much you have been training. Keep Training.