The function of karate is to better oneself and through continued training it can show many improvements such as strength, flexibility and discipline of the mind. However there is much more about you that’s improving you may not have realized, but here’s just five.
Awareness: During class it’s imperative that the students know where and what the instructor is doing. They have a lesson to teach and by keeping your ears focused on their voice you not only keep attention to the lesson but you learn to judge where they are in the room. Being out of sight you’ll improve your judgment as to what direction they’re in. Or perhaps they’re in sight but you need to focus on your training partner or direction you need to face. In that case you’ll utilize the use of your peripheral vision to keep them in the corner of your eye exercising your field of view. All of this develops a keen observational awareness of your surroundings and it’s necessary to have for self-defense.
Control: Karate trains your body as well as the mind.
When someone joins a karate class the first lesson that’s almost always taught is the punch. Through trail and error you’ll learn how much power one can put into or take out of a punch. At Kaze-Kai Sensei Goral has a saying about the power output of any technique “You’ll learn to take out the back molar, or just loosen the front tooth.” That is the control of strength. As far as self-defense is concerned, you may have to defend your life against a stranger or you may just have a friend or family member who’s acting out. Taking out that molar isn’t the best way to maintain that relationship. Karate isn’t just about destroying your target but understanding, knowing when and if to act. The control of the mind and situation.
Balance: In any good Karate school there’s a lot of kicking and punching air during training. It’s important not to lean or lunge excessively, depending on what you’re doing. Karate utilizes our gravitational pull to generate power with its strikes and the more you control your weight through momentum the more output of power you’ll generate. However the moment you lose that control, the power that was an ally is now against you. Karate has a lot of quick movements that come to a stop involving big rotations too. This develops an improved control of your center of gravity and that’s what balance is.
Mobility: Karate is a physical activity. It’s well known that it increases muscle strength, flexibility and endurance but what we forget about is our bones, joints and ligaments. The essence of karate is to be able to move the body in any direction at any time. Stretching targets specific parts of the body where mobility training targets muscle groups and joints. Through continued training the membranes that surrounds the cartilage and the Synovial fluid of these joints improves and increases their range of motion. In our daily life we may use all of these body parts but not to their full potential. To maintain your mobility you must stay active. Like splits for example, if you don’t use it you lose it.
Critical Thinking: When it comes down to it the mind is our most powerful weapon. Karate has a lifetime of techniques to teach us and beyond that there are endless combinations and ways to arrange them (that’s seen in kata) and more so each technique may have multiple functions. So our brains are forced to think in all kinds of ways exercising our mental faculties. Beyond this is a philosophy. The why behind what we do. If a Karate practitioner trained their whole life and never found themselves in a fight then they have attained the highest achievement of Karate -Sun Tzu-. As ShihanSensei Goral says to his students “We are scholar warriors, warriors with a brain”. We not only learn how to fight but we learn to know when not to fight.
There are many more things that Karate can improve for an individual. These are just a few outside the obvious. If you're a Karate practitioner practice your critical thinking and reflect on your training to see what else is there.