Is karate effective in a real fight | Is it good for self-defense?

Nothing is more harmful to the world than a martial art that is not effective in actual self-defense.

– Choki Motobu (Founder of Motobu-Ryu Kempo and notorious or celebrated Okinawan Karate street-fighter)

Karate, a word that came from the combination of two Kanji or Chinese characters, signifies ‘Kara’ expressing ‘empty’, and ‘te’ expressing ‘hand’. Jointly, Karate means ‘empty hand’. It is usually added to a suffix ‘do’ which is pronounced as ‘daw’. ‘Do’ means ‘the way/path’. Hence, the ‘karate-do’ elucidates karate as a complete way of life or discipline that goes beyond self-defense techniques and applications.

Is karate effective in a real fight?

First thing first, you must know that nowadays, people are more concerned about learning karate than earlier in the ’70s and ’80s. Karate can give you endless benefits mentally, physically, and spiritually. The techniques you can learn from Karate will enable you to develop maximum fitness. It is useful for all ages and anyone can learn karate irrespective of age, gender, and physical capability. 

Type of KarateOriginCreation of Each StylePurpose
OkinawanRyukyu Kingdom (Okinawa)14 centurySelf-defense
JapaneseMainland Japan20th centuryPhysical education and social education
SportsJapan, America, and Europe20th centurySports competition

Source: Inspired from

Can you use karate in real life situation and save yourself?

Of course, you can. Karate is very effective in a real fight. We are not talking about the sports karate where tons of rules have been erected and full contact fighting is not allowed. Rather, it is the orthodox karate or full contact karate that prepares a learner for sustaining and saving himself or herself in a real-life situation where real fighting takes place. It doesn’t mean that you have to kill the attackers. Instead, you can strike or block or perform the right self-defense moves and get out of that dangerous situation without hurting yourself. 

Pressure points:

Origin of Karate:

Karate arrives from China. Mainly, it was emerged in three Okinawan villages namely Naha, Shuri and Tomari. In each village, a distinct style of Karate is developed. For example- From Naha village, Naha-te has come up; from Shuri village, Shurite is developed; and from Tomari village, Tomari-te is evolved. The early form of karate is highly influenced by Kung Fu, ancient Chinese martial arts.

Latest dominant styles of karate:

Currently, four styles of Karate are pre dominant and those are:

  • Goju-Ryu
  • Shito-Ryu
  • Shotokan
  • Wado-Ryu

Apart from these four main styles, there are multiple styles of Karate, each deals with distinct positions, weapons, groundwork, locks, techniques, throws, and internal energy.

If you train regularly, you will learn all the exclusive techniques that can efficiently save your life in adverse situations where real goons are present. Karate makes you prepared for defending yourself and your loved ones from aggressors by bestowing you the right senses to reach promptly and effectively in life-threatening situations. 

The lessons in class can be easily applied in real life. Along with learning the ways to defend against a sudden attack anywhere, you will learn specific strategies and attitudes to avoid worst scenarios. 

Karate provides you with the practical knowledge of punching, kicking, blocking, throwing, and evading techniques that are enough to transform your body into a deadly weapon. 

Can Karate be considered a civilian martial art?

Yes, Karate is considered a civilian art directed towards self-defense. An Okinawan Karate master named Anko Itosu explained the goal of traditional Karate. He said, “Karate is not intended to be used against a trained opponent but as a way to protecting yourself by using the hands and feet if assaulted by a villain or ruffian.”

See the common injuries that can happen in martial art. Proper strikes can cause injuries to the attackers.     

Karate is basically not meant to be used in a ring. It is about protecting yourself through the proper use of your hands and feet when attacked by a rogue. The primary objective of Karate is to survive a fight or a face-off. Your main aim is to remove yourself from the oppressive encounter. There is no need to eliminate the attacker or aggressor. But, in a few cases, attackers got severely injured and even killed by trained karatekas in typical situations. Karate is extremely effective for self-defense. 

Hence, the prompt answer of the question, “Is karate good for self defense?” is “Yes.”

You can punch or kick the opponent and run away from the spot to save yourself. 

Top 5 martial arts in the world at present:

Most popular martial arts in the world graph

Karate improves confidence to a great extent:

If you know the right techniques of kicking, punching, throwing, locking, etc., it will give you immense confidence to you because you know that you possess the abilities to defend yourself and your family or friends. Confidence makes you a stronger and better person. Moreover, the discipline you learn from karate, the attitude, the mental stability, calmness, patience, taking decisions at the exact time, staying away from anxiety, focusing, etc. can be used in daily life at the home, office, school, college, and every activity. 

You must remember that Karate is neither a combat sport nor a gymnastic. Karate is purely a martial art that focuses on personal protection.  The crux of Okinawan Karate is effective in real-life. In fact, this martial art is very near to modern military close combat fights which are simple, practical, and deadly.

Karate promotes a lifestyle:

Apart from being a self-defense based martial art, Karate nurtures holistic and spiritual aspects of both Japanese and Chinese martial arts. Traditional karate has a purpose and that is to develop a well-balanced body and mind. Students who join Karate dojo (martial art training place) practice Hojo undo (breathing and conditioning exercises), kata (a form that refers to detailed choreographed movements that can be practiced alone or in a group), Kiko (energy circulation exercises), mokuso (meditation), along with fighting movements like a punch, block, kick, grab, throw, etc. 

List of self-defense techniques that you can use anywhere if needed:

Ready Stance
Defensive walking
Defensive stance
Defensive turn
Stalking stance
Carotid sleeper hold
Weapon retrieval
Upper Extremity Strikes:
Elbow strike to face
Thumb strike to eyes
Fingers to eyes
Palm or heel strike to face, groin and xiphoid process
Lower extremity strikes:
Knee to groin
Knee to thigh
Instep kick


To understand: ‘Is karate good for fighting?,’ you have to know the actuality of self-defense.

First, you must know that combat and self-defense are different. The effectiveness of karate is directly related to the way of training. For example, if you keep on punching and kicking with screaming, it is surely not going to teach you the needed applicability. Again, the wrong posture can cause harm to your body. 

You have to learn so many things together from your Sensei (Karate master). Like, you need to practice the proper way of striking, exercise your attacks, and counters’ timing. If you practice with a partner, you can learn the timing, and the way to make a distance from the opponent, and get close to the opponent. For applying karate in real life, you have to spar during practice.

Any style of martial art can be effective on street and on the ring provided that you practice the style religiously giving importance to the ring or street scenarios. 

It doesn’t matter whether you prefer sports karate or recreational karate. You have to learn the real-life application of the moves and stances you learn. You have to ask questions to your sensei about the choreography of the katas, the proper way of striking your opponent, timing, speed, which move to apply and when, etc. 

You must learn to defend yourself against weapons:

Today’s villains may not come empty-handed to attack you. Most of them remain armed with a knife, rope, gun, etc. Many people have to get admitted to hospitals with deep knife injury or gun attack or rope choke, etc. In your dojo, a knowledgeable sensei will teach you how to use nunchuck, knife, stick, sword, etc. along with the defense methods against those weapons. You must be ready to face a life-threatening attack with a knife, or a bat, or anything lethal in real life. You must know how to tackle those situations and save yourself from the deadly weapons. 

Which weapons are commonly used for attacking:

  • Knives
  • Broken bottles
  • Pens (Yes, a pen can be used as a deadly weapon)
  • Bat
  • Scissors
  • Hammers
  • Wrenches
  • Crowbars
  • Sticks
  • Guns (in some cases)

Using Kata in self-defense:

Instead of considering ‘kata’ as a whole, you must look upon it as a series of self-defense. One single Kata is comprised of many techniques that are extremely effective in real fighting if applied in the right manner. 

Also, you must learn bunkai (applications of kata). Follow this process:

  • Study a movement
  • Do analysis
  • Disassemble it
  • Learn

Once a kata has been learned, it must be practiced repeatedly until it can be applied in an emergency, for knowledge of just the sequence of a form in Karate is useless.

Gichin Funakoshi

By exploring the various facets of kata, you will learn that Karate is a complete, practical, and the most effective self-defense system.


Karate is concentrated mainly on solid stances, strength, and power. Karate provides equal time to both hand and foot techniques. The philosophy of karate is “My hands are closer to all targets and are faster.” You can learn systematic redirecting as well as dodging punches and kicks. The focus is on street self-defense and things that work best in close fighting. Hence, in simple terms, if you are seeking practical fights that you may need in real life on the streets or anywhere else, choose Karate as your martial art. 

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