September 4, 2022

Karate: Is it Effective in a Real Street Fight?

There are just so many questions, myths and confusions when it comes to formal martial arts training. Let us be the bearer of clarity and the sole myth-buster for you. The age-old debate about Karate’s effectiveness in the streets. 

Karate is highly effective in a street fight. Karate uses full contact attack form, focusing more on attacking than strength. It employs a stand-up fighting technique which depends heavily on strong punches and kicks. 

And, yes, it is excellent when you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in the middle of a not-so-good scenario.

When it comes to martial arts, every form has its pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages. That being said, let’s talk about the world-renowned martial art form, Karate.

Tracing the History – Birth

There is a lot of mystery and debate around the exact origins of Karate. It is believed that the history of Karate can be traced 1400 years back to Western India. Daruma, the founder of Zen Buddhism, is said to have introduced an advanced and rigorous training system, the records of which was found in a book called ‘Ekkin-Kyo.’

The book is often referred to as the first book of Karate.

Around that time, it heavily depended on Shaolin Kung-fu and Shokei school techniques which were later combined in the districts of Okinawa in Japan in the late 1800s. This is considered to be the birth of Karate that developed into the modern-day form that we learn today.


Karate, like most martial arts, talks about a peaceful way of life. A Karate practitioner is trained in developing the body, mind and soul other than the fighting techniques. The philosophy of Karate talks about fostering strength and practising self-control.


Karate invests a lot in footwork, focusing more on finishing a fight quickly. The aim is to avoid as much damage as the practitioner can. It is more about stunning the opposite party rather than making them come face to face with the harm’s way.

Let’s look at some of the critical pointers which a Karate practitioner is trained in:

Arms Placement 

It is important to note that Karate is further divided into a massive range of style. Each field employs a different stance in their fighting techniques. At some instances, it is not allowed for a Karate fighter to hit the face of the opponent.


The students who are trained sufficient enough and have reached a higher level, are taught the use of some weapons. These include a bo (long staff), nunchucks, a combination of spear and shield, sai ( three-pronged weapon), kama (small scythe), tekko, tambo( very short staff), among others.


Karate utilizes a lot of blocking techniques predominantly upper rising block, also known as “Age Uke” and middle block, commonly known as ‘Yoko Uke.” To execute a proper block and deterrent, it is imperative to do it at lightning-fast speed with the correct posture and hand placement.


Karate has the most use of direct punches, also known as Choko Zuki when the fighter hits the opponent directly at the point of impact. The punch is deployed with a twist of the wrist but with a straightforward and direct approach. Trust me; it’s enough to leave your attacker flushed!

Kata and Kumite 

Kata is basically a combination of kicks, punches, strikes and blocks, frequently used in solo training. On the other hand, Kumite basically is all about the sparring techniques employed by a Karate practitioner.


When caught up in an awkward and unpleasant situation, kicks are one of the most prominent forms of defence. As mentioned earlier, Karate focusses a lot on footwork and uses a variety of kicking styles to striking the opponent from different angles.

  • Front kick (Mae Geri) – A high and impulsive strike using the balls of the foot.
  • Sidekick (Yoko Geri) – Attacking the lower body of the opponent using the side or tha blade of the foot.
  • Roundhouse kick (Mawashi Geri) – Similar to Mae Giri, it uses the ball of the foot, but the movement is sideways, and the toes are curled.
  • Hook kick (Ura Mawashi Geri) – Reverse of the roundhouse kick, attacking the right side of the opponent while leaning back with the right foot.
  • Back kick (Ushiro Geri) – The principal is similar to the Hook Kick, but the movement of the leg is backwards, and the fighter uses his heels to kick the opponent.

Grappling and joint locking (Tuite

Different techniques of Karate does involve some grappling and joint locking technique, but it is not very widely followed and randomly used.

The Weakness of Karate in a Street Fight

The major weakness of Karate is the positioning of the practitioner in a way that it leaves some vital parts open. Due to the lack of proper defensive techniques, they are exposed to counter attacks from the opponent.

Let’s take the position of arms which is generally around the belt. Although it helps in executing a quick and damaging strike the front body, including the chest, is prone to an attack.

Karate vs Muay Thai 

When it comes to a real-life situation involving a street brawl, Muay Thai has a clear advantage over Karate. 

A street fight is a lethal combination of nerves and sheer anger. There are no rules to it. In such a situation, basic sparring or kicks don’t come in handy which Karate employs. In contrast, Muay Thai just uses a single form of sparring, which is very self-sufficient when it comes to street fighting.

Muay Thai fighters are significantly adept in kicks, boxing styles and movements. It is not just called the art of eight limbs for the sake of it. True to its name, Muay Thai fighters encompass every possible move to defend themselves while totally destroying the opponent.

Karate does not fare well in a street fight when compared to Muay Thai. The strict regimen and somewhat lack of defensive techniques really hits home.

Karate vs Brazilian Jiu Jitsu 

Between Karate and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, in terms of street fighting, the latter meaning Brazilian Jiju Jitsu undoubtedly is the winner.

Karate is in itself a perfectly legitimate and self-sufficient martial art form. But when we are talking about the two under the same heading, BJJ has an edge.

Joe Rogan, the commentator of UFC who has a black belt in both Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Taekwondo, believes BJJ as the winner in a street fight situation. The advantage with BJJ is that it is for people from all heights and weights.

With a considerable involvement of ground tackling and submissions, grappling and takedowns, the opponent is left incapacitated and senile. It is impossible for the opponent to stay afoot when the fighter is employing unsuspecting moves like fast attacks and leg sweeps.

Karate is not all bad, but it lacks some techniques which can be the deciding factor in a real-life altercation.

Karate vs Taekwondo

When it comes to an unexpected attacker, both Karate and Taekwondo are at par and equally efficient. 

Taekwondo puts a massive emphasis on kicks attacking the head, chest and collarbone of the opponent from all angles. Kicks are the biggest yay when it comes to defense in street fights.

Eventually, it is all about training. If a martial art form is practised carefully with emphasis on the strong points, you can always escape an unpleasant situation. 

Kicks are deadly, devastating and dangerous, and both Taekwondo and Karate actively use kicks as a prevalent technique in their training.

Taekwondo uses arms as a backup. At the same time, Karate has a flurry of arm movements and punches, which is highly efficient, is a street fight.

So which is better?

The pendulum is hanging at the middle hence concluding that both Taekwondo and Karate are equally efficient when it comes to self-defense.

How much time does it take to learn Karate?

In order to become highly efficient and proficient as well as mastering the powerful techniques while reaching the black belt at the same time, the time stamp we are looking at is somewhere between three to five years; However, within six months, a Karate practitioner can become comfortable and adapt to the training regimen.


It is safe to say that when compared to a few martial arts, Karate might not be the right choice for a street fight. But then again, only in comparison to particular martial arts form.

The knowledge of Karate will definitely come in handy if you find yourself in the middle of a not-so-pleasant situation. The impulse itself is enough to keep you safe. And when it is paired with the high-intensity kicks and punches, your opponent will most definitely be left running for his breath. 

Yes, Karate is very effective and helpful in street fights if you are trained properly and you know your way around the moves. Just a side note, this does not give you the license to not be careful, safe and avoid all altercations until it becomes unavoidable.

It might seem scary or a bit daunting at first, but Karate will be your saviour in times of dire need!

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