What Is Karate? – Explained for Beginners

Karate is a Japanese unarmed discipline that usually employs strikes, kicks and punches. The main aim of karate is to seek the development of defensive and counter attacking body movements by using all parts of the body.

Karate is one of the most popular martial arts and often promotes a lot of life skills and values. 

Karate is great for people who want to become better at self-defense, but if you’re still unsure about it we’ll be discussing what karate is in this article and a little bit more about it so that you can see if it’s for you.

What Actually Is Karate?

Karate originated from Japan and was heavily influenced by Chinese martial arts. It’s regarded as an unarmed self-defense martial art that employs striking movements and also defensive blocking using your arms and legs. 

Karate practice is usually divided into three components: Kihon (basics or fundamentals), kata (forms) and kumite (sparring), we’ll go into all of these in a little more detail.


This refers to the basic techniques that are taught and practiced within karate. It’s essential to initially learn these to move onto more advanced training.

It includes the practice of the correct way of body form and breathing and also provides the basics of various strikes, stances, kicks, movements and blocks. 

It allows students to develop a better understanding of their body and how to effectively harness their body as a powerful weapon and how to generate the most power with minimal effort. 


Kata is slightly more nuanced than kihon, kata means form and this element of karate is usually concerned with having the correct posture and movements and each kata is a traditional predetermined string of movements.

These are regarded as important as they can help fine tune a students body mechanics and promote a number of self-defense principles. 

It also allows a student to master their body form and breathing and helps keep the mind focused on a single objective. 


Kumite is sparring, this is where principles and techniques learnt in kihon and kata are applied against another person.

Not every kata has to be used in kumite, you are free to use any move you have learnt in kata and experiment new moves but this will depend on the student’s experience.

Beginners will take part in pre-arranged kumite, this is where both of the students in the sparring session know which techniques will be used in order to gain a better understanding of them and how to defend them, this is done in a slow and controlled setting. 

The belt system is often used in most forms of karate, each karate style will adopt their own ranking system but usually there are colored belts consisting of white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown and black that will measure a student’s experience and measure their progress and abilities.

As the student advances, each component becomes harder and gives them a new challenge or skill to take on and once they complete it they receive their new belt.

You probably already know that the black belt is the hardest belt to acquire and is regarded as one of the more advanced grades, students with a black belt will have almost perfected their techniques, skills and stamina as a result of strong training and practicing, the black belt is where the true journey of karate begins. 

What Is Karate

Is Karate Effective For Self-Defense?

Everyone is different and will have a different opinion of karate, but karate was ultimately developed as a means for self-defense, and it is very effective as long as it is taught and trained properly.

Karate teaches principles that can be applied to many different scenarios which makes it quite different from most combat sports. 

Karate promotes itself as a way of life and rather than promote aggression it encourages awareness to avoid conflict.

Unlike most martial arts, students are taught in karate that the size of an opponent is unimportant, they are taught to use their whole body when delivering blows and are taught to target pressure sensitive areas of their opponent’s bodies. 

Karate As A Way Of Life

Karate is taught as a number of values to live your life by including integrity, respect, compassion and loyalty, you are training your body which ultimately ends up training your mind which allows you to become more in tune with yourself. 

Karate’s ultimate goal is not to fight, but rather to compete against yourself. It is an individual sport and the goal should always be to improve your self-esteem and confidence and most importantly, yourself as a whole.

It is there to teach you to endure hardships and to never give up where your goals are concerned. 

Does Karate Have Any Health Benefits?

Karate is an amazing form of exercise, it helps to raise your cardiovascular fitness by getting your blood pumping and your heart rate up. This means it can help you lose weight and also tone your muscles in your body. 

Aside from weight loss and toning your muscles, karate can also improve your blood circulation. Stretching is an important factor in any karate training, this can improve your blood circulation and lowers your blood pressure which ultimately keeps your cardiovascular system healthy. 

Karate also helps with overall stamina, doing high intensity muscle workouts paired with stretching and fighting is a great way to increase your aerobic stamina and overall endurance, the beauty of karate is that students can learn and train at their own pace, so if you haven’t exercised in a while you can start more slowly and gradually boost your stamina without throwing yourself into the deep end. 

Final Thoughts

Karate is an excellent martial art to learn, it promotes great life values and is a good way to learn self-defense moves.

It also has a wide range of health benefits that can not only help you lose weight and tone your muscles, but also can improve your cardiovascular health, stamina and overall endurance. 

Christopher Anderson
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