What Are The 5 Basic Rules Of Karate?

Karate is an ancient martial art that originated in Japan. Today Karate has diversified and there are many different federations, each with a unique style based on the origins of Karate.

What Are The 5 Basic Rules Of Karate

Karate federations can be found in many countries around the world and this ancient sport continues to prove popular for many. 

Although there are now different federations under the umbrella of Karate, the basic rules of Karate (see also ‘Are Knees Allowed In Karate: Rules & Regulations‘) are strictly followed in every federation.

In this piece, we look at the five basic rules of Karate that apply regardless of your federation, dojo, or belt level. 

5 Basic Rules Of Karate 

Below are the five basic rules that are at the center of Karate. Abiding by these rules will enable you to be a great student, and help you to master this martial art, while also bettering yourself as a Karate student and a person.


Respect is a core value held at the epicenter of Karate and other martial arts. It is one of the first things you will hear in a Karate lesson, “Karate begins and ends with respect” and therefore it is the first basic rule.

Respect is expected to be extended to not only the Sensei but also to a student’s peers, juniors, and anyone else involved in the dojo space.

Respect should also be given to the martial art itself. Karate is deeply instilled in Japanese culture and deserves to be respected. 

Many traditions within this martial art are also a part of life in Japan and should not be mocked or ignored.

To truly connect with this ancient art you must truly respect both it and your fellow students.

When beginning to learn Karate you will first be taught about respect before learning any movement.

This will put a student in the best position to learn and truly understand what Karate is all about.


In Karate there are many different focuses. Those practicing this martial art will be expected to zone in and focus on their movements, the strength behind those movements, have an awareness of the space around them, and also focus on their breathing.

Karate is much more than simply striking an opponent while sparring. Focusing will also help to prevent any mistakes from occurring during a lesson or sparring which could put others at risk. 

Safety is vital within Karate and this goes hand in hand with focus. At the beginning and end of lessons, there is often a moment of silence when students take time to focus their minds, relax their bodies and take control of their breathing, this stems from Kibadachi.

When performing a move in Karate students will focus on every part of their body as power is channeled through each move.

When performing a kick, focus is required on the movement of the leg, balance, hands are placed in a certain position, eye-line follows the foot and more.

There is so much in each move which is why focus is the second basic rule of Karate.

No First Attack 

Another hugely important basic rule for Karate is that knowledge gained should only ever be used in self-defense, there is no first attack in Karate.

It is hugely important that those who are learning Karate maintain self-control and never use what they learn in the dojo outside to intentionally harm someone else. 

Students are taught that they should remain calm in confrontational situations and to always uphold the principles and rules of karate, particularly those of self-control and respect.

Using Karate skills as a way of attacking someone can often result in suspension or expulsion from certain dojos as it shows a lack of respect for the martial art itself as well as lessons students have learned.

Keep Learning 

Keep Learning 

There are six colored belts associated with Karate, and some of these belts have two different stages. The belts are:

  • White
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Purple and Purple White
  • Brown and Brown White
  • Black

Each belt is associated with a different level with white being the belt worn by beginners and black being the highest-ranking color.

To progress from each belt Karate students take part in gradings where their skills are taken into account as students perform skill exercises, a Kata, and engage in Kumite, or sparring. 

Students that join a Karate club are expected to continue to learn so that they progress through the belts, anyone who does not want to progress would not be welcome as students must always show a willingness to learn, that is why continuous learning is the fourth rule in Karate. 

Be Faithful

The final basic rule in Karate is that anyone who is studying Karate must remain faithful.

This does not mean that students cannot partake in other hobbies, what it does mean is that students uphold the reputation associated with Karate. 

A faithful student will strive to become a better individual both inside the dojo and outside.

This means that they apply lessons learned in the dojo to their daily lives helping them to lead a lie that is faithful to the beliefs of the martial art.

Students should also remain faithful to their skills and practice to ensure growth as a student.

Students are seen as an extension of the martial art and so they must uphold the high standards set by Karate as a whole.

Students show their faith to Karate by bowing during specific points, such as entering or leaving a dojo, bowing to the Sensei and other high-ranking students, and at the end of the lesson, some dojo will have students bow to pictures of the federation founder.  

Final Thoughts 

Karate is a martial art that commands a lot of respect and is a great way of learning how to have control over your emotions and having control over your body. 

Different federations will have slightly different styles and they will also follow their separate federation rules but in every dojo, you will find those partaking in a Karate lesson to be abiding by the five basic rules.

Christopher Anderson
Latest posts by Christopher Anderson (see all)