How To Learn Karate (Complete Overview for Beginners)

Karate is one of the most popular, well-loved martial arts in the world. With so many physical and emotional benefits on offer, it’s no surprise that more of us than ever before are falling in love with the idea of developing our karate skills.

How To Learn Karate

If you’re a beginner, where should you start, and what do you need to know about mastering the art? Let’s dive in. 

Why Learn Karate? 

Karate, or ‘empty hand’ in Japanese, is a martial art that seeks to develop defensive and counterattack body movements.

This weaponless martial art requires all parts of the body to engage in numerous ways – power and fluidity, stillness and motion, and a range of punching and kicking techniques. 

Karate is a great way to build cardiovascular endurance, strength, and flexibility while practicing self-awareness and self-defense.

By learning karate, you can practice becoming aware of your surroundings, while building up important self-defense techniques, if you ever need them. 

It’s also a great way to improve your balance. Balance requires both physical and mental engagement, both of which are improved through karate training.

If that wasn’t enough, karate can also help you to improve your focus, confidence, and concentration, all whilst building your respect and humility. What’s not to love? 

Learning Karate At Home

If you’re thinking of starting a karate class, you may wish to try out a few moves before committing. There are plenty of resources you can use to learn some karate basics at home.

Not only will this give you a head start before you enter a class, but it’s also a great way to figure out whether or not karate is the right martial art for you. 

If you want to start with the basics, here are a few karate basics you can (and should) learn from the comfort of your own home. 

Start With Meditation 

Before you launch into learning basic stances, it’s a good idea to kick things off with a simple meditation. Meditation can help to improve your concentration and put you in the right mindset to start training for karate. 

Meditation, such as the mokuso meditation, is often practiced in Japanese martial arts such as karate to help clear the mind before and after a training session.

Karate demands close attention and focus on your surroundings. By meditating, you’ll clear your mind of any distractions before you start. 

Your meditation doesn’t have to be long or complex and try not to worry if your mind wanders – especially if you’re new to meditation.

It’s normal to lose focus during meditation; what’s important is that you can bring yourself back into a calm, focused state whenever it happens. We recommend starting off with a 5 minute guided meditation before your first at-home karate session. 


Even if your first karate session isn’t going to be intense, you’ll still need to warm up. You should be warming up before any form of exercise to help get your muscles loose and ready to start moving and stretching.

This will improve your ability to perform basic moves, and reduce your risk of injury. 

Your first warm-up doesn’t have to be complex. You could start by walking and jogging on the spot for 5 minutes, and if you feel up to it, try incorporating some push-ups or sit-ups into the mix to really get the blood pumping. 

We’d also recommend stretching out your body just after your warm-up. Your muscles will be more forgiving with stretching once they’re loose and warmed up, so don’t attempt any full-body stretches before you’ve warmed up.

Try focusing on stretching your legs as much as possible to keep yourself free from injury. 

Practice Basic Stances 

If you’re learning karate for the first time, it’s normal to want to jump into those kicks, strikes, and blocks straight away.

However, if you don’t get your basic stances down, your moves will end up being a flop. To become great at karate, you’ll need to go back to basics. Here are a few basic moves you should be focusing on first: 

Natural (Walking) Stance

This stance begins with your feet a shoulder-width apart, and your toes open at a 45-degree angle. The natural stance is the basis for performing most fairly natural positions in karate. You should have little to no tension in the legs or knees. 

Front Stance

This is the first fighting stance that most students learn. This is similar to the natural stance, except your feet should be further apart, and your weight should be predominantly directed to your front leg. 

Cat (Back) Stance

The cat stance is one of the most recognizable stances in karate – it’s also one of the hardest. It requires a great deal of balance and control, otherwise, it can feel shaky and awkward.

For the cat stance, your foot positioning should be similar to the natural stance but in this position, your weight should rest mostly on your back leg. 

Top Tips For Learning Karate

Now you’ve got the basics down, here are some top tips to take on board before you launch into a class: 

  • Focus on the basics first
  • Train with tools like kettlebells and punching bags to improve your karate 
  • Use your hips when punching, kicking, or blocking to harness more power
  • Learn how to control your mind and emotions through mindfulness and meditation – in karate, both the mind and body are connected
  • Train at home as much as possible to improve your skills
  • Learn to understand the history of karate. This will give you a greater appreciation for how this age-old martial art works 

The Bottom Line 

Karate has a long, vibrant history. It can be traced back to East Asia as far back as the 17th century, and since it was imported to Japan in the 1920s, it’s become one of the most popular martial arts in the world. 

Karate can help teach self-defense and leadership skills, build confidence, develop your character, encourage greater self-discipline, and much more.

If you’re new to karate, you’re about to start on an incredible journey of physical and emotional development. Once you’ve learned the basics, you’ll be ready to take your journey to the next level. So, what are you waiting for?

Christopher Anderson
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