Everywhere I go I am always asked the same question once people find out that I teach Karate. In one manner or another it always comes in the form of “Why should I take Karate” to summarize the myriad of ways that this question gets asked. It is very hard to explain all the great benefits that traditional Karate training does for people of all ages and often it could easily take an hour to even touch on them so I decided to write a blog highlighting some of the things I have personally witnessed from teaching or gained from my own training for you all to read.
- Fitness. There are literally hundreds of ways to stay in shape. Everything is available from a gym membership to the YMCA all the way to Yoga or just going out on a run. While I support anything that will get people active and help them stay healthy there are some things that only Karate can, and will do. Karate is a complete training core. It works muscles in the body that other programs, such as lifting weights, will miss. It also builds usable strength and muscle tone. I am not a big guy, standing only 5’10” tall and weighing about 179 lbs, but everyone tells me I am very strong for my size. I attribute this to all the years of Karate training that I have had. Over the years that I have taught I have watched people build strong, sustainable muscle through their Karate training. Karate also works your cardiovascular, stamina, flexibility and more in just a single class so you get a very complete workout to help you attain your fitness goals. Many of us that do Karate also supplement our love of fitness with weights and other things but have seen first hand the health effects of regular Karate training each time we visit our doctor for our checkup.
- Focus, concentration and the ability to stay calm under pressure are all standard traits of people that train Karate on regular basis. The training in Karate enhanced our ability to be aware, to focus under pressure and to concentrate better. Karate is a structured training environment where students gain solid ability to concentrate and focus on the task at hand. The structured classes instill a strong memory ability that allows people who train Karate to stay the path, thus achieving beyond their peers in regular daily life when it comes to goal attainment.
- Then there is the obvious…self defense, or self protection as I like to call it. Traditional Karate is completely focused on self defense. It is not a sport like many see in the strip mall schools or via the media (TV, Youtube, etc.). Every class there are many aspects that pertain to one’s ability to defend included in the training. Students of all ages learn how to effectively strike, where to strike and what tools to use in a variety of self protection scenarios. Good Karate training also teaches the legal issues that come with defending one’s self along with the difference between “fighting” and what is self defense…and yes there is a huge difference. On of the aspects that most people misconstrue about Karate training is that it is not just a punching and kicking martial art. Traditional Karate covers all aspects of combat from the ground to stand up and more. There are joint locks, chokes, throws and more that are found in real Karate. Karate was even developed to be a body guarding art to protect the King of the Ryukyu kingdom (Okinawa) among other combative environments as well. Most people don’t realize the huge impact that a good Karate dojo will have on teaching, not only what to do in a violent encounter, but how to handle yourself in such situations.
- Adults that train Karate often find a home away from the distractions of their daily lives. Let’s face it jobs are very stressful these days. You need an outlet to center and calm yourself and that is exactly what is found in the dojo. Through the training you expel negative energies, get refocused and balanced so that life becomes more fulfilling and you are excited to get to the dojo for your daily workout. The dojo becomes sort of sanctuary for adults to escape the world and not have to focus on anything except working out and learning. We leave the outside world where it belongs…outside of the dojo. In the dojo we train, we workout, we socialize, we have a great time only focusing on Karate and improving our ability.
- Kids of all ages need exactly what is found in traditional Karate training. Society today has placed so much stress on our children and bombarded them with all sorts of information that they are overloaded. They struggle to focus, to concentrate…to learn who they are due to the society they live in today. Through the structured environment and discipline of the dojo they find a reprieve from all this outside influences. They learn how to refocus, how to shut out negative things in life and gain a strong ability for self esteem and confidence as their skill progresses. Kids learn about who they are as well, understanding their weaknesses and making them stronger so they don’t fall into the peer pressure of drugs or illegal activities. Through their training they begin to feel great about who they are, get stronger and learn how to be leaders and successful.
- Families can benefit from training in Karate together as well. Society has changed today and families are often struggling to have that common bond that makes the familial unit stronger. Through training in Karate together families share a common bond, they learn to help each other, to grow together and support each other. It doesn’t matter if you are a Mom, Dad and Kids unit or a single parent too. Karate becomes the common bonding unit that helps families share in an activity where they support each other and become closer and stronger.
- Young adults gain more benefits from Karate training than they do from attending the MMA gyms. The average time in training of an 18-25 year old in Karate is around 3 years versus a 6 month turnover rate in other types of combat sports. This means that young adults training in traditional Karate truly get REAL benefits out of the classes that help them stay the course in the life. They have a higher tendency to graduate college or excel at their chosen careers too…not to mention the obvious health and self protection benefits that will help them throughout their entire life.
- Senior citizens is a group people in which many of them don’t think can do Karate. Nothing could be further from the truth. Traditional Karate is easily modified to any body type, limitation and health related issue. Karate has many aspects to beyond the actual “sparring” aspect which scares away people in their 60’s to 80’s. In Okinawa is not uncommon to find beginners in their elder years because they know that traditional Karate will help them stay active, fit and keep their mind alert. I have taught many senior citizens and love doing so. I learn as much about Karate from teaching them as they do from me as their teacher. It is always amazing to watch as they get more active, see their memory improve and the smile return to their face as they gain new skills and abilities too.
- People with disabilities can do Karate too! Over the last 25 years that I have taught Karate I have had students who were deaf, blind, missing a limb (or two) and even wheelchair bound. It was an amazing learning experience for me to figure out how to teach them Karate but was even more fulfilling was watching them grow more confident as their abilities increased. There is no challenge that we cannot overcome together in the dojo. They say it takes a village to raise a child well it takes a dojo to raise a Karateka (someone good at Karate) regardless of their age or abilities.
- Karate is great for stress relief. I have had students from all walks of life. Factory workers to Lawyers. Doctors to housewives. Young kids to senior citizens. It is amazing to see the transformation they get from coming to classes.
- Karate is great for those looking for something in life. Over the years I have met many people searching for something…they come in, begin training and then they discover so much about themselves that life begins to take on more meaning. This has been a great adventure for me as I have watched recovering alcoholics build the strength to stay sober, overweight people gain the ability to stay healthy, trouble teens gain the ability to be strong enough to stay out trouble and finish school…and so much more.
Like I said I could go on for hours on end about all the great things you will get from training in a good traditional Karate dojo. The one thing that I know, and love, about teaching Karate is that we are a huge family in the dojo…and outside of it. I have watched life long friendships form from complete strangers in my dojo and that is very rewarding too. Loners are never alone in a good dojo either. We grow together, sweat together and become strong together…always supporting each other in our training. This bond carries on outside of the dojo no matter where we go in life too. I still am in contact with hundreds of students who have moved away, joined the military, gone off to college and more. It is awesome to see their lives as they grow knowing that, inside of the dojo, they got the true benefit of Karate training which is to live a great life. Perhaps that is why I am so dedicated to teaching. Well, my friends, it is time for class and I hope that you will seek out a good, traditional, qualified Karate dojo and come in and experience all these things for yourself. As one of my good friends likes to say “Everything works out when you are working out in the dojo”.
Steven Franz, Shihan
Rokudan Shorin Ryu Shorinkan
Franz Karate – Auburn, IN & Bryan, OH