Benefits of time-tested training for a modern world
Most martial arts, such as karate, have been around for thousands of years. The main reason for the development of martial arts was to protect yourself, your family, and your community. To effectively learn and apply the teachings of karate thousands and even hundreds of years ago, students needed to have discipline, confidence, focus, and respect, just to name a few.
In modern times, we don’t need to learn karate to defend our communities against invading marauders or barbarians. However, we still need karate to defend ourselves and our families from physical and non-physical confrontations.
Learning self-discipline, stress reduction, respect for yourself and others, self-defense, and increased self-esteem are more important now more than ever. Living a healthy, mindful, respectful, and confident life is something that alludes most people in today’s day and age.
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In this guide, I will go over some of the key benefits of karate training that have been around since its inception and how they are applied to the modern world. This list is by no means complete but the 10 benefits I discuss are applicable to anyone, regardless of age, ability, experience, health, gender, etc.
Do you feel like your life is all over the place? Are you having a hard time sticking to routines, finding the time for much needed self-care, or losing healthy habits such as reading, eating right, or exercising? The answer is a lack of self-discipline.
One of the benefits of training in karate is the structure and discipline required. Discipline is a skill that must be built and does not come right away. Karate training builds self-discipline through firm but fair requirements, routines, and structure.
How many physical activities out there today provide overall health improvements of the mind, body, and spirit? Running on a treadmill will improve cardio, lifting weights will get you stronger, and yoga will improve flexibility and core strength. Karate training improves all of these and more.
In addition to physical health benefits, karate training improves mental and spiritual health, through breathing practice, focus and concentration training, and the building of self-esteem.
Do you feel stuck in life? Maybe you’re overweight and want to look and feel better. Maybe you feel like your job is going nowhere and you don’t have the skills to change them. Maybe you’re shy and reserved but want more meaningful relationships. Sounds like a lack in confidence might be the problem.
Through setting and achieving difficult goals, karate training boosts self-confidence and self-esteem in those who practice it. Karate students continually see gains in confidence when receiving recognition for reaching milestones and goals such as belt ranks. Knowing that you possess the skills necessary to defend yourself and your family against physical threats makes karate one of the best ways to be confident in any situation.
We continue to lead more and more stressful lives these days. Work, family, and life in general are difficult to manage. Stress leads to unhealthy habits like overeating, over consumption of alcohol, poor sleep, depression and anxiety, and poor cardiovascular health. People that can reduce and manage their stress levels lead much happier lives.
Training in martial arts is a great way to unleash some of that built up stress. Meditation and mindfulness training allows students to learn how to manage their worries and thoughts while focusing on training alone.
Exercise is a proven way to reduce stress. Karate combines physical exercise with hitting pads and yelling (kiai or kihap) for the ultimate in stress relief.
Knowing when and how to react to a situation is something we learn (or don’t learn) as children. As we grow older, this skill can diminish as life adds new challenges. The inability to control your emotions and actions can lead to poor decisions that have the potential to endanger yourself and the people around you. A lack in self-control can also lead to financial ruin, strained relationships, and even incarceration.
Through karate training, students learn to control not only their physical actions but also how to regulate their emotional reactions. Learning how to respect one another and living with a sense of calm and patience is the path to self-control.
Learning how to be focused is something we harp on our kids about constantly. But when you think about it, how many of us are truly focused when doing something? Multi-tasking seems to be encouraged with productivity being paramount. Television, internet, cell phones, digital music, and media, are all vying for our attention. When was the last time you spent the entire day with your family without looking at your phone to check texts or emails?
Karate students learn the important skill of focus through rigorous training that requires extreme concentration. If a karate student is not focused, there is a potential for injuring themselves or their fellow classmates.
Connecting with other people and being a part of something is a fundamental human need. The last several years have certainly shown us the need for it. Whether it is over the phone, on a computer screen, or in person, we need to connect with other people to lead happy and healthy lives.
Being a member or a karate studio is like being in a family. Although there may be differences of opinions, politics, religious beliefs, or anything else, we all come together to train and share or knowledge in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Balance and Coordination
Every once and awhile I get a new adult student who is a natural athlete. They played competitive sports in high school and college and continue to be very active throughout their adult lives. These students typically start training and think it will be easy since every other activity they have done came naturally.
It makes me smile a little when they are humbled within five minutes of training and realize the balance and coordination required are much different than anything else they have done. Sometimes that feeling forces them to quit but for those who don’t, they are building physical traits that will improve their everyday lives.
Improved balance and coordination through karate training will help students in other physical activities they do but it will also make everyday tasks safer. For instance, climbing a ladder to paint the ceiling requires balance, avoiding a last-minute collision while driving requires reaction time, and not throwing out your back when moving boxes requires coordination.
If you asked 100 random people if they would like to be a better person, I would venture a guess that nearly all 100 would say yes. I think most people live their lives each day trying to be better than the day before. What else would explain the popularity of self-help books?
Karate training will improve you as a person through learning how to set goals and developing the drive and determination to never give up until achieving those goals. Students gain humility through being a beginner again and realizing this is something that will take hard work and dedication. Learning how to show respect to each other, the ones who came before us, and the ones who will come after us is another important step towards becoming a better person.
Being a martial art, karate is a combat activity with underlying self-defense principles. Many people think that karate is useless for self-defense due to the rise of MMA. This caused many to ask, what martial art is most effective?
The fact is every martial art is fantastic for self-defense if taught properly and correctly. If you were required to defend yourself against an attacker, there is a 99.9% chance that the person is not a trained martial artist. So, discussing whether this style is better than that style is irrelevant.
In addition, there are non-physical aspects of self-defense that are more important and often overlooked by the MMA world. Being aware, under control, confident, respectful, and focused will help prevent 99.9% of physical confrontations.
Perhaps one of these benefits resonated with you. Perhaps all of them did. Being in karate for over 33 years, since I was a kid, I know first-hand that all of these are true. I have lived them and experienced them. As I previously mentioned, this list is not complete. There are many, many, many more benefits to training.
I encourage you to take the next step and try karate for yourself. After one class you won’t magically feel all these benefits, but I guarantee that you will see how continued training will get you there eventually.