Are you ready to discover what it takes to achieve a black belt? Let’s learn more about this impressive martial art with these facts about karate!
Developed in the 19th century from Chinese and Japanese fighting techniques, karate has become the dominant self-defense and martial arts technique for over 100 million people worldwide.
Not only does karate teach its practitioners valuable skills in self defense, it also focuses on self-discipline, body-spirit alignment and respect. This makes karate great for not only fitness, but mental strength as well.
In fact, karate is known to help children with ADHD and other hyperactivity disorders. It’s also a lot of fun to learn new sparring techniques – especially the roundhouse kicks!
We’ll take you on a karate fact-finding mission from the dojos of Okinawa to the World Karate Championships to the first karate competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
We’ll also sprinkle in some other surprising facts about karate along the way. Including what legendary singer was a 7th-degree black belt, and the incredible girl who achieved black belt status at the age of 4!
Let’s get this karate journey started with a short history lesson on the origins of karate, Japan’s most revered martial art.
21 Fun Facts About Karate
1. Is karate Japanese or Chinese?
While karate was developed during the Ryukyu Kingdom in the Okinawa region of Japan, it has its roots in Chinese martial arts.
Karate is often seen as a form of self-defense, but it’s also focused on discipline of the mind, body and spirit. It will keep you super-fit as well!
2. What was karate originally called?
Karate was originally known as tode which translates to China hand. The Japanese renamed the discipline after adding their own fighting techniques to the practice.
Instead of China hand, the name was changed to karate which translates to empty hand. This name signifies the practice of a martial art without weapons.
3. How many people practice karate?
Karate is one of the most popular forms of martial arts worldwide. In fact, there are over 100 million people who practice karate globally.
While karate was the dominant self-defense discipline in the past, it has been surpassed in recent years by MMA as the most popular martial art.
4. What do you wear when practicing karate?
A traditional karate outfit is made up of a white jacket and pants known collectively as a karate gi. A belt is then placed around the waist to hold the jacket together. Karate is always practiced with bare hands and feet.
5. What are the colored belts all about?
There are 9 belt colors in karate. When you begin your karate journey you are supplied with a white belt. From there the advancing stages are as follows: yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, red, brown, and black.
It was actually the founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano, who first introduced the colored belt ranking system to martial arts.
6. How long does it take to become a black belt in karate?
It takes years of dedication, practice, blood, sweat and tears to achieve a black belt in karate. The average time to achieve black belt status is between 4-5 years.
However, in karate the real journey starts after acquiring the black belt. A black belt signifies your lifelong commitment to not only karate, but the values it teaches you.
7. Who is the father of karate?
Gichin Funakoshi has the title of ‘Father of modern karate’ bestowed upon him as the founder of Shotokan karate, the most practiced branch of karate in the world.
8. When was karate introduced to the US?
The first dojo in the United States was opened in 1945 post-World War II by Robert Trias in Phoenix, Arizona. Americans had learned karate in Japan during the war and brought it back to America as a new form of self-defense.
9. What are the four main styles of modern karate?
While Shotokan karate (founded in 1938) is the most popular style of modern karate, there are three other predominant styles that are practiced today.
The earliest modern karate style is Goju-ryu, which was founded in 1930. The two other main styles are Shito-ryu (1934) and Wado-ryu (1939).
10. Karate as an Olympic sport
In 2021 during the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Karate was introduced as an Olympic sport for the first time. Not surprisingly, Japan won the most karate medals with 3.
Close behind was Spain, Egypt and Italy who each won two medals. Sadly, karate won’t be included in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
11. Bringing martial arts to Hollywood
Enter the Dragon was a 1972 martial arts film that is considered one of the most influential action films of all-time. It was also the last film of Bruce Lee’s career, before his death in 1973.
While the film focused on a variety of martial arts, karate is featured predominantly throughout. One of the film’s stars, John Saxon was a black belt in Shotokan karate.
12. The king of karate?
Here’s one of the karate facts that really surprised us – Did you know that Elvis Presley was a karate black belt? The Hound Dog singer was a black belt of the seventh-degree no less! Presley trained at Grand Master Kang Ree’s in Memphis, Tennessee.
13. Other celebrity black belts
Celebrities that have achieved black belt status in karate include survivalist Bear Grylls, Wesley Snipes, Forest Whitaker, Sean Connery, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, and Guy Richie. We’d definitely watch a karate movie starring all of these black belts!
14. Don’t forget to bow
Since karate is a martial art built on self-discipline and respect it’s important to bow to your teacher when entering the dojo.
A customary bow is always followed by the word onegaishimasu, which roughly translates to ‘please teach me’.
15. Let’s talk about the Karate World Championships
Held every two years, the Karate World Championships are the highest level of competition for karate. The first edition was held in 1970 in Tokyo, Japan. The 2023 edition will be held in Budapest, Hungary.
Japan has won the most medals at the championships with 212, followed by France (175) and Spain (127).
16. A few more quick facts about karate
Karate is practiced by more males than females. 70% of karate participants in the US are male. The average age of a karate black belt is 28 years old.
The youngest person to achieve a black belt in karate was 4-year old Manushree Saxena who began training at 2-years old! That’s one of the karate facts we can barely believe!
17. Karate is not about achieving a black belt
There’s a term in the karate community called Black Belt Syndrome. This refers to someone so focused on achieving a black belt that once they get it they stop training.
This goes against the values of karate being a tool for developing human potential and often masters will award black belts just to get rid of someone with obvious Black Belt Syndrome.
18. Films about karate
How can we talk about karate without mentioning The Karate Kid? The film franchise of the 1980s captured the imagination of children worldwide and sparked a boom in karate participation.
The film spawned many sequels and reboots, including the hit Netflix show, Cobra Kai.
19. What are the three types of training in karate?
There are three main types of karate training. The first is kata or kihon which refers to solo practice and training. Next, is bunkai or partner practice. The third is kumite or sparring.
While sparring may be the most fun, the most important training is done solo.
20. Sing a song about karate
Believe it or not there are a few songs out there that reference karate. These karate songs also cross genres from country to comedy to alt-rock.
Here’s a few of the best karate jams: Karate by Brad Paisley, Do You Karate? by Fight Like Apes, Karate by Tenacious D and Overweight Karate Kid by Soulwax.
21. What day should I celebrate karate?
June 17th is officially World Karate Day. The day was declared by the World Karate Federation in 2017 as a way to celebrate the inclusion of the sport in the 2020 Summer Olympics. June may be the best time to join your first karate class!
We really hope you enjoyed all our fun facts about karate! Did you learn something new?
If there’s any karate facts we missed, you can let us know in the comments below and we’ll add them to this article!