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7 Karate Advantages And Disadvantages

I used to do karate and currently do other martial arts. Over that time I’ve been learning about the pros and cons of the different martial arts. And I thought I’d put together to explain the advantages and disadvantages of karate.

So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of karate?

The advantages are:

  • You can defend yourself
  • You learn about Japanese culture
  • Self confidence
  • You can compete in competitions

The disadvantages:

  • Doesn’t cover grappling
  • Some training techniques aren’t efficient
  • Some schools don’t offer sparring

With all martial arts there’s some good and some bad. But, below I’ll explain in more detail so you can get a really good idea of what karate has to offer.

Karate expert hitting a punch bag

The advantages of Karate:

1. You can defend yourself

The main reason most people take up martial arts is to learn to defend themselves or a loved one. Karate is often overlooked nowadays since jiu jitsu, and mixed martial arts have become very popular.

But, many UFC fighters did karate and incorporated it into the fighting style they use in a cage fight. For example, Lyoto ‘the Dragon’ Machida, and Stephen ‘Wonder boy’ Thompson.

I recently wrote an article about the best karate fighters in the world, which you read by clicking here, and it gives a list of the best fighters who have a background in karate.

Their ability to win a fight with very rules that’s akin to a street fight or life and death situation has been shown to be effective. 

But, for an all-around game, they also train in many other martial arts such as boxing, kickboxing, and wrestling.

Some martial arts have questionable effectiveness, and not calling out any names but martial arts like sumo and kendo have limited applicability to a real-life fight.

Now, karate is typically thought of as a striking martial art because of the way that competition karate looks. Where two opponents stand on their feet and attempt to kick and punch each other.

It covers very little in the way of fighting on the ground, what to do when an opponent is in close trying to wrestle you to the ground.

Some karate styles do cover throws, and some basic ground techniques – but in my opinion, these are the minority. And is an aspect of karate that’s lacking – more on this later.

But overall, a karate school that has a focus on self-defense, is well suited to developing your skills in self-defense.

2. Learning about Japan and Japanese culture

Karate moves virtually all have Japanese names, so you’ll get to hear Japanese, and learn about the Japanese language even without trying.

Also, karate has a long and rich history that is very interesting and goes hand in hand with the stories of emperors, samurai, and ninjas.  

People that are already interested in Anime, Japanese food, or just Japanese culture, in general, will find the fact that karate is a Japanese martial art extra cool.

But, other martial arts styles were developed in unique countries as well. For example, wrestling is found in lots of cultures from Russia, to the USA, and even Africa. 

Kickboxing has a long history in Thailand and the Netherlands. And Brazilian jiu jitsu was developed in Brazil by way of Japan.

As you can see, of the martial arts, karate is one of a handful from Japan and gives you a cool opportunity to learn about Japan as part of the training.

3. Self confidence

Related to self-defense is the fact that learning karate will give you more self-confidence. There’s something very close to our animal nature about training martial arts, and it deals with fear and anxiety.

When you know you’ve got some skills when you need them, it gives you an aura about you, that makes you friendlier and more likable by other people. 

It’s an inner sense of confidence that can’t be faked and only comes from practicing and feeling competent to perform certain self-defense moves.

This is a big draw of karate and a big advantage that the sport offers.

4. You can compete in competitions

Competing in competitions is a fun way to practice your skills and to find out how good you are relative to other people with the same belt. 

For example, orange belts will have matches against orange belts, with the prize going to the best orange belt.

Some martial arts do have competitions but their competition circuit isn’t well attended and they don’t have many tournaments throughout the year. Because karate is so popular, in most towns there are regular tournaments with lots of participants.

There are also international competitions like the World Karate Championship that’s held every year by the World Karate Federation, and it’s an Olympic sport.

Competing isn’t for everybody, but the availability of so many tournaments makes it a big advantage for those that are interested in that side of martial arts.

That’s it for the advantages of karate, now onto the disadvantages.

Disadvantages of karate

1. It doesn’t cover grappling

Karate in general is thought of as a striking art and most karate schools don’t place much emphasis on techniques to subdue an opponent once the fight gets to the ground.

Karate has minor throws and trips. But, nothing like wrestling, judo, sambo, and Brazilian jiu jitsu.

Once a grappler gets in close and is able to get a hold of a karateka or boxer, they can hold them down easily and the person can’t get up. 

This is because there are many positions in grappling martial arts that are incredibly difficult to get out, for example, kesa gatame or ‘scarf hold’. 

Here’s a quick video which shows the position:

This is a common position in all the grappling arts, and each has a subtle variation. It involves holding the person down on the ground in a headlock, with all of your body weight pinning their shoulders.

Unless a person has trained how to get out of this position with a specific technique, there’s no way that they’ll get out using their instincts, and they end up having to give up because ultimately this move compresses the chest and you can’t breathe.

In wrestling, a wrestler can use a range of techniques to keep an opponent on the ground where they can’t escape.

Here’s a quick video that shows some ways that wrestlers can keep an opponent pinned, from Jordan Burroughs who is an Olympic gold medalist wrestler:

In real-life situations, fights go to the ground. For example, where two people are holding on to each other and one person trips. Or one person gets tackled to the ground. 

When two people are untrained the person who ends up on top has a big advantage and can strike the person on the bottom very easily.

And the person on the bottom has to struggle to get on top or get back to their feet. 

On the flip side though, grappling arts like judo don’t cover much to do with striking. And where the fight doesn’t go to the ground a karateka who has trained a lot of point sparring will have an advantage over an inexperienced opponent.

Therefore, the fact that karate doesn’t cover much in the way of how to control and escape from the ground is one of the main disadvantages of karate.

2. Some training techniques aren’t efficient

With all martial arts there is some good and some bad, and in karate some training techniques aren’t the best for developing real skills in fighting. For example, the use of kata.

As you may be aware, a kata is a set of moves that are combined into a sequence. And performed in an open space without opponents.

Here’s a short video showing a person performing a kata:

Each kata is around 2 minutes long and involves some kiai, which are short loud shouts, done during certain moves.

Training for a real-life situation using kata is not very effective because it doesn’t mimic a real-life situation. And doesn’t develop any reflexes you’ll need to use the moves against a resisting opponent.

In my opinion, this is a bit of a waste of time when it comes to being effective at fighting. As you’ll rarely find yourself in a situation when you’ll need or want to chain all the moves together in that particular order.

Kata does have some benefits in terms of having fun, looking cool, and developing the muscles to perform the moves. But, light sparring is far superior, and in my opinion, it’s more efficient to cut out kata altogether.

Therefore, you may find kata a bit of a waste of time. And most karate sensei’s will place a big emphasis on it, where it’s typically a compulsory part of every class, and being able to perform one well is a prerequisite for getting awarded the next belt.

Related to this point is the last disadvantage of karate…

3. Some karate schools don’t offer sparring

To be comfortable with the moves you’re learning, and to feel competent to perform them in a serious situation, it’s important to incorporate light sparring. 

This can be ‘touch’ sparring where the aim is to touch the opponent with your strikes rather than to hit them with force. 

In sparring you develop the reflexes, your body learns how to move, and what adjustments to make based on how your opponent moves. That doesn’t get developed from performing the strikes without a sparring partner, or as part of a kata.

Performing striking drills are helpful for developing the muscles and coordination, but aren’t effective at preparing you to use them against a moving opponent who is trying to strike you back.

Some karate schools don’t offer any sparring at all. Which can be a disadvantage. However, this isn’t necessarily the be-all and end-all of karate, and schools that don’t offer that can also be great for the social aspect, fitness, and relaxation.

Therefore, it’s important when you’re deciding which karate school is best for you, to know what their curriculum is and whether they do sparring.

There you have it, the top advantage and disadvantages of karate. Next, I’ll cover some related questions.

Related questions:

What is the best age to learn karate?

The best age to learn karate at any age. Kids can start from the age of 2 and up. According to, a child is able to run around and kick a ball at about age 2. And from that age and up they have the muscle development, and motor skills to learn the movements in karate.

As you get a bit older, past around the age of 35 to 40, your body doesn’t heal as fast as it used to when you were younger, and you’ll want to take it a bit easier in training so as not get injured.

I recently covered training karate at an older age in this article, titled: Can You Learn Karate at 40?

You can still learn karate all the way until you’re very old. And the more time you spend on it, the better you’ll get. But, above a certain skill level – around 2 to 3 years in, you’ll easily outmatch an untrained opponent. 

And training beyond that is more for fun and enjoyment.

How much does karate cost per month?

According to, karate on average costs $200 a month for 1 to 3 times a week. And individual karate classes cost around $25 to $40 each. Private classes where you train one on one with an instructor can cost considerably more depending on the credentials of the instructor.

The city you live in can also affect the price of karate. For example, the cost of living in some cities such as New York is higher, and as a result, people earn more money. This means the price for karate can be on the higher end.

Is karate effective in a street fight?

Karate is effective in a street fight, and many people with a background in karate have done very well in mixed martial arts (MMA) such as Lyota Machida, and Stephen Thomson. But, they also train in other martial arts, and karate on its own doesn’t cover every aspect of a real fight.

For example, if the fight ends up on the ground. 

In most karate styles very little focus is put on grappling and fighting on the ground. And in a real fight, this often happens.

Karate is what I would consider a striking art, similar to boxing, and kickboxing. And only covers one-half of a fight. On top of that, you’ll want to have skills in wrestling, judo, and Brazilian jiu jitsu.

But, training for karate point competitions will develop the reflexes needed to land strikes in a real street fight.


Here’s a summary of the key points of this article:

Karate has the following advantages:

  1. You can defend yourself
  2. Learn about Japan and Japanese culture
  3. Self defense and self confidence
  4. You can compete in competitions

And it has the following disadvantages:

  1. Doesn’t cover grappling
  2. Some training techniques aren’t efficient
  3. Some school don’t offer sparring

You can begin learning karate at the age of 2 years old and up and can train your whole life. 

Karate can be effective in a real fight provided it’s trained using life-like drills, and realistic situations, and on average it costs about $200 a week, depending on where you live.