25 June 2019
| THE HEARTBEAT OF WOMEN'S SPORT

Eight reasons for women to try Karate

August 4, 2016
Karate

An all-round work-out, self defence skills and gender equality are just some of the reasons to give Karate a go. Roisin Campbell explains all.

Karate

1 – Fitness

Karate is excellent for fitness because it uses every major muscle and bone in the body. Unlike running, cycling and conventional isolated gym exercises, the range of movement needed to practise karate means that you are unwittingly giving your body a complete, all-over workout every time you enter the Dōjō (karate training area). So for those of you who swear by leg and ab days, doing karate will focus on your entire body everyday – not to mention that is fun, fulfilling and challenging.

2 – Self-defence

Having the ability to stop an attacker, even for just enough time to allow you to escape will give you peace of mind and confidence. Karate uses the continuous practice of blocking and striking techniques so that your body, mind and eyes become adapted to seeing, blocking and remaining calm when attacked. Gichin Funakoshi, the founding father of karate in Okinawa, Japan, said that: ‘There is no first attack in karate’. So for those who might imagine karate to be a violent sport, you can feel assured that it is based on the belief that we must avoid conflict unless absolutely necessary for safety. Practicing karate regularly means that blocking and protecting yourself becomes a natural bodily reaction, and so do the counter attacks that will disarm your attacker.

3 – Reaction speed

Have you ever walked into a door? Hit your head on an open cabinet? The answer is probably yes because it’s these are things we all do from time to time when our reaction speeds aren’t up to scratch. However, practicing blocking kicks and punches in karate trains your eyes to become more aware of slight indicators of movements (twitches, ticks and give-away signals). You must make quick decisions, whilst at the same time developing mobility, endurance and strength which means that not only are you training your body but also your mind.

4 – Sporting prowess

Karate is proven to be one of the most effective activities for children in terms of developing their ability in sports all round. Traditional sports like swimming, running and football are all great forms of exercise, but they lack certain abilities. For instance, being a competent swimmer won’t mean that you will necessarily be a competent runner. Nor will being a great sprinter equate to being a good baseball player. However, because Karate works all of the major muscles and bones in the body along with balance, hand-eye coordination, precision, timing, and training reaction speeds this means that good karate-ka (practitioners) often tend to be good at other sports too. Karate can be the perfect complimentary training regime to increase your athletic performance!

5 – Confidence

There was never a truer word spoken than when Theodore Roosevelt said: ‘Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage and confidence in the doing’. And this is true for karate in a number of ways. Firstly, each and every time you bow and step into the Dōjō, it takes courage. Every time you learn and execute new techniques, it takes strength. And every time you push yourself out of your comfort zone, it takes confidence. Stepping out in front of your instructor to perform kata (performance) or kumite (sparring) can be just as nerve wracking as doing a presentation at work. Each time we take a deep breath and step onto the mat, means we become stronger and more confident in the process. As a result you begin to notice yourself becoming faster, better and stronger week in, week out, and this in turn creates a positive cycle of increased self-esteem and confidence building.

6 – Discipline

Karate is a Japanese Budo sport, meaning ‘way of the samurai’, and comes from an era in Japan when Samurai lived by a strict moral code. Most of these rules and traditions have passed on through generations, meaning that once you enter the Dōjō, you leave behind all personal baggage; work stress, family problems, relationship woes (hence the symbolism of the white Gi!).This might sound intimidating, but senior students will help you get used to the etiquette of the Dōjō which mirrors the practice of Japanese Karate Dōjō, including starting and ending every session with a bow, a short mediation, reciting the Dōjō code, cleaning, no excessive talking or playing around and a good level of concentration. Most karate-ka agree that it has provided them with greater self-discipline both at work and in their personal lives because they know what it means to follow rules before self-gratification. This can add a greater level of peace and contentment to the average woman’s hectic lifestyle.

7 – Friendship

Just because karate isn’t quite as flamboyant as your friend’s Zumba class doesn’t mean it’s not as much fun. As with joining any sports club or group, there’s a strong chance you will make life-long friends as a result. You push each other in the Dōjō to be the best you can be, and form sporting and social bonds into the bargain. Karate can put you in touch with people from all over the world too, with training camps for beginners to black belts held in countries on every continent. Some Karate-ka make the most of its origins, organising holidays in Japan with friends to train hard, eat well and enjoy everything Japan has to offer.

8 – Gender equality

From the beginnings of karate, men and women have trained together in the Dōjō, learning from one another and pushing each other. In 1935, the founder of karate, Gichin Funakoshi stated: ‘Karate can be practised by the young and old, men and women alike, there is no need for a special training place, equipment, or an opponent’. Thus the beginnings of karate were ahead of many modern sports in terms of its attitude to female participation and the same can be said in today’s Dōjōs. The strict rules of the Dōjō have resulted in what can be referred to as a ‘gender-neutralising environment’. This means simply that the lesson plan, number of repetitions, training partners and attention of the Sensei (teacher) are decided by belt level and level of experience, and not by gender.

By entering the Dōjō as a karate-ka (instead of as male or female) means you become ready to learn, master your techniques, push your limits and most importantly, respect those around you. So why not give karate a try and see if you enjoy the gender dynamics of the Dōjō?

Roisin Campbell, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

Photo credit: www.britishkaratefederation.co.uk

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