Is Karate Effective for Self Defence?

Let’s talk self defence. Many people have many different opinions as to which martial art is best for self defence. To be honest, it’s not necessarily a matter of which martial art is best, but more about how effective the individual is. However, let’s analyse Shotokan Karate and it’s effectiveness regarding self preservation.

If we refer to the history of Shotokan, we know that Shotokan was created due to the no-weapons policy imposed by the government, so out of necessity, civilians felt the need to develop skills in self defence in order to protect themselves with their bare hands. It is important to note that in modern Karate training, self defence is generally taught through Kata and Kumite. So, if we look at it from a historical perspective, Shotokan Karate IS self defence. The thing about self defence, is that it is heavily grounded in fundamental technique that students learn through the aforementioned training modalities, however, according to sixth-degree black belt, Robin Rielly, too many instructors teach ‘self-defence’ through unstructured freestyle sparring and neglect to teach the underlying fundamental techniques. So, when it comes to applying self-defence in a real-time situation, the students feel the need to offend and fight. As opposed to using the fundamental and minimal techniques that Shotokan Karate self defence is built upon.

Self defence is more than just knowing the techniques that will get you out of harm’s way, but more about understanding how to prevent these incidents from occurring and having the confidence in yourself to navigate, observe and make a judgement call. Shotokan Karate will teach you defensive techniques however the ultimate form of self defence is not putting yourself in a situation where you need to use those techniques in the first place. This comes from behavioural changes and soft skill development. Not every person who has avoided an attack, or managed to defend themselves knows Karate or any martial art for that matter. By having a solid understanding of awareness and how to think quickly has saved many from ever having to use self defence. Shotokan Karate teaches the mindset through Kata and Kumite whilst adding those bonus hand skills to react if the situation calls for physical defence. This is how traditional Karate has been taught and still is taught in many Dojos.

Having said all that, we think that, yes, Shotokan Karate is effective for self defence as it incorporates teaching more than just the physical aspect of defending oneself, but also develops the psychological attributes that govern an individual’s ability to react and prevent this situations.

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