Karate was the first highly popular full contact martial art that included punching and kicking. The release of the original Karate Kid in 1984 helped to increase its popularity. Since the 1980’s many other styles of martial arts grew in popularity and karate lost some students to kung-fu, Aikido, Jujitsu, Thai boxing, mainstream kickboxing and MMA clubs.
The release of the latest Karate Kid film is helping to raise awareness about karate once again, which is a little ironic as it is based in China and features Jackie Chan’s interpretation of kung-fu, not Karate.
In case you do not know, Karate is unarmed combat from Japan, whereas Kung-fu covers all Chinese martial arts. Unlike karate, kung-fu covers a much wider range of combat styles, in fact, Chinese martial arts include kung-fu, Tai Chi and sword fighting.
However, the purpose of this article is to introduce to you some of the basic concepts and methods of karate training. The exercises listed here can be learned and practised at home, although it is always best to receive instruction direct from a qualified instructor.
A vast majority of people learn karate today for fitness, self discipline and self defence purposes. And of these, very few will ever need to use it in self defence. Competitive fighting is a minority hobby. So here we shall focus on the fitness aspect of karate.
The core of karate fitness training is really the same as bodyweight circuit training. Whether you do a circuit training class, join a military boot camp or do martial arts, you will cover these exercises. As with all martial arts training the emphasis is on developing muscular endurance and explosive power, so many repetitions are done for each exercise and the exercises are often performed as quickly as possible.
Adding plyometric moves (jumps, hops, clap ups etc.) helps to improve the explosive power in the muscles. The times and numbers below are an indication of how many exercises you should do. Always aim to improve without over exerting yourself too much early on.
Karate Circuit Training Workout
- Skipping – 3 minutes to warm up
- Jogging – often an alternative to skipping, especially when the weather is nice and you can go outside
- Push ups – perform 50 on the palms of your hands
- Knuckle push ups – attempt to perform as many as possible on your fists. Thumbs should face each other.
- Sit ups – often done in pairs with legs interlocked at the ankle, aim for 50
- Squats – bodyweight squats, aim for 100
- Leg raises – lie on floor and hold onto a support behind your head, then lift feet upwards to a vertical position
- Squat thrusts – From a push up position jump both feet forward, so that you end up in a crouching position with palms still on the floor. Return feet back again. Aim for 50
- Mountain climbers – these are a bit like squat thrusts, but instead of both feet jumping forward, you perform a running motion with your feet, bringing each knee forward one at a time. Aim for 50.
Karate like all kicking martial art styles involves a lot of stretching also. Take a look at Bruce Lee’s stretching routines for ideas on how to stretch.
To develop further core strength for karate you need to do some weight training workouts. Here is a typical range of exercises that are performed to increase karate strengths:
- Bench press
- Pull ups
- Chin ups
- Hanging leg raises
These all build functional strength and help to strengthen the ligaments, joints and tendons as well as the muscle. You should be training in the rep range of 5-8 reps per set for maximum strength.
Jaden Smith gets his workout on in THE KARATE KID
And now for Jaden Smith’s kung-fu training: