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Practising Karate as a martial art can provide health benefits in a complete workout, with some intrinsic benefits not likely found in trending regiments like HIIT or other fitness workouts.
Whether you’re still in school or working, time is a commodity that is harder to come by. As everyone gets more time-strapped, you are probably looking for the most efficient form of exercise that can “do it all” – whether it’s to burn fat, gain muscle, or just improve health to reduce your chances of falling sick.
You’re on a karate blog, so the question here is obvious – how can karate, as a form of martial art, boost your health?
1. Karate Practice is A Great Workout for the Whole Body
Karate practice done correctly is a great workout that puts your entire body to work.
Popular recreational exercises like jogging, cycling, or even ball games and racket games tend to emphasise certain skillsets, which may result in a person developing muscles and strength in certain parts of their body more than in others. Unless you have a fitness trainer to monitor your progress and develop your body in a holistic manner, you may be over-training certain parts of your body and under-training others.
If you compare sports to a balanced diet, martial arts – and karate in particular – is like a complete, balanced meal. Not only does a full session work out your upper and lower body, but it also trains your flexibility and balance, and ability to coordinate your body.
When practicing in Ashihara Karate classes, regular exercises like basic movements (kihon), movement drills (idokeiko), and sabaki rounds, put your body under “eustress”, which means healthy stress that spurs your body to adapt and become stronger.
At the most basic level, research has found that daily practice of martial arts and combat sports like karate provide a healthy level of physical activity. Regular practice is great cardio exercise – which translates to less panting and wheezing the next time the lifts break down and you have to hit the stairs!
The benefits accumulate when you look beyond the basic health benefits.
2. Karate Boosts Flexibility and Coordination, and Reduces Injury
Wait, practising karate – where you kick and punch each other - can reduce injury?
Just to be clear, in this case, we’re talking about non-competitive karate practitioners. And yes, your chances of injury actually get lower if you practise karate regularly. Why?
To do karate well, you have to first condition your joints and ligaments to be able to execute a round kick (Mawashi geri) or react quickly to sudden movements, like a sparring opponent’s punch to your face. These exercises train your flexibility and coordination.
Many common everyday injuries like falls and sprains happen precisely because of poor flexibility and coordination. For older adults who face higher fall risks, exercises that develop reflexes, balance, and mobility reduced their incidences of falling – and injury.
Balance training and improved flexibility protect your joints and their supporting muscles from over-stretching to the point of injury. Karate training, with its emphasis on maintaining balance during dynamic movements, hone your joints so that the next time you find yourself in a slippery situation, your body is well conditioned to support your body weight.
The next important thing to note is your coordination improves when you’re fending yourself from attacks. For example, during the light sparring sessions in Ashihara Karate, also known as sabaki rounds, many students learn the basics of protecting themselves.
With repeated practice, these basics become ingrained and can become called upon during an emergency outside of the dojo. For example, a safe way to break fall during sabaki rounds (since Ashihara Karate practises throws) becomes the safest way to roll and protect your head and vital parts of the body, if you slip and fall on a wet floor.
3. Your Brain Gets a Workout during Karate, Too
It takes both brawn and brain to be well-versed in karate. A study found that practising karate boosts the ability of children to focus on tasks (called attention state training). In fact, the brain boost is not age specific, but benefits adults too. In fact, for older participants, long-term karate has been found to improve the brain function of practitioners that they enjoyed reduced deterioration of their brain function from old age.
One possible reason is this: Karate not only requires practitioners to remember basic physical movements, but also perform kata – which is a series of movements (kicks, punches, blocks) while facing specific directions. In Ashihara Karate, kata also includes showing the correct application of these movements to attacks from a partner. This boosts the ability of students to not just memorise the movements, but also understand why and how they can be applied in any given sparring scenario.
An great all-in-one packaged workout?
Look no further!