What Are The Injury Risks for Karate?

At face value, when someone says they are going to start martial arts, the first thought is ‘you want to fight people?’ which then leads to a domino fear effect where all these images of your kid, sister, brother, best friend or significant other comes home the 3 Bs: battered, bloody and bruised.

I can feel martial artists rolling their eyes at that visual because significant studies have shown that Karate specifically has the lowest incidence of injury than many other style of martial arts due to it’s non-contact nature.
In order to assess the injury risks associated with Shotokan Karate, it needs to be compartmentalised into it’s training modalities.
More specifically, Kihon (fundamentals and technique training), Kata, which are the forms by which fundamentals are trained and Kumite, which is the sparring component of Karate. Generally speaking, students tend to spend one third of their time training in each modality depending on the type of Dojo or club they attend.

Out of the three modalities, the one that inspires the 3Bs visual, is Kumite. The idea of Kumite is not to blindly throw punches and hope for the best, but it has very strict rules that apply to limit the amount of random mistakes that can come about that may result in injury. There are almost set pieces of choreography to follow in attacking, anticipating or defending. So, no matter what move is used, the opponent can (extremely quickly!) select from a recipe list and apply the counter-move. This itself limits the capacity for acute injury.

The studies that have stated that Karate induces higher injuries are generally assessed from tournament or competition data, which is not the true reality inside a classroom.

According to the American Sports Journal, Karate sits at a 23% mean of injury, compared to other collegiate sports such as football that sits at 35.9%.

It can be argued, however, that the most important element that will influence whether a student injures themselves or not, is in fact, the Instructor. Practicing under the supervision of a qualified instructor, with experience in general exercise and physical preparation, who understands the importance of effective warm ups and cool downs tend to better manage injury in the classroom and prevent them altogether. An instructor with a background in injury prevention or strength and conditioning is an even bigger asset, as they have been trained specifically in this area.

Like any physical activity, injuries can come from Karate, but not so much the battered and bruised types, but more of the overuse injuries from muscular imbalance or RSI. As long as each person is aware of their physical limitations, and keeps their instructor informed of any issues then it is safe to say that the risks of getting severely injured form training Karate is not a likely occurrence unless you go outside the rules.

The Sport Journal. (2017). Comparison of Shotokan Karate Injuries against Injuries in other Martial Arts and Select NCAA Contact Sports. [online] Available at: http://thesportjournal.org/article/comparison-of-shotokan-karate-injuries-against-injuries-in-other-martial-arts-and-select-ncaa-contact-sports/

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I, the undersigned Student, freely and willingly agree to participate in martial art training with Fight Physio Pty Ltd trading as Twins Martial Arts (TMA). I hereby assume full responsibility and liability for all damages, injuries and losses that I may sustain or incur while participating in training at TMA. 

I realise that serious injury is commonplace in martial arts such as the martial arts that I am participating in and that death is a possibility, as remote as it may be. I also realise that if I am injured, I might be disfigured, disabled and/or rendered unable to work again. By participating in martial arts training, I fully accept and assume liability for any and all injuries that I may incur and I expressly waive and agree to hold TMA harmless in relation to any and all claims that I, other students, spectators, or any other person might have for any injury regardless of its nature, or effect as a result of my participation at TMA classes or events held or participated in by TMA. 

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1. I release from liability, agree never to sue, and hold harmless, to the maximum extent permitted by law TMA, as well as its employees and associates, for any bodily injury or death and for any damage, loss or theft of any personal property which I may incur while on TMA’s premises or which arises from my participation in any TMA activities, regardless of cause, including the alleged negligence, gross negligence, or strict liability of TMA. This includes a release of my rights to sue in relation to the provision of recreational services (as that term is defined in the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) and the Australian Consumer Law and Fair Trading Act 2012 (Vic)) where the services or recreational activities are not provided in accordance with certain statutory guarantees; and 

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