Yoga is an ancient practice with its history going back thousands of years, to India. Those who practice its movements are known to achieve a more positive outlook on life, distress and create a sense of serenity and peace.
With all of these benefits there is no wonder that thousands flock to yoga centers, it is prescribed by some doctors, and spouses will often recommend it to their partners, to help with stress and anxiety.
However, yoga isn’t for everyone, but… there is an alternative.
There is another practice that also dates back into ancient history and whose movements are known to achieve much the same results of yoga. This might be more suited to certain personality types, and that practice is traditional karate.
With the rise in popularity of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and the UFC, there was a decline in traditional martial arts schools. Understandable from one point, as MMA became a proving ground for many fighters. But, where does that leave the people who were looking for something more than fighting? It’s no wonder most of these MMA schools are full of young testosterone-driven men.
However, what if you want the benefits of yoga practice, but more of the hardness of martial arts? The MMA gym might not be for you, but the traditional Karate dojo might just be the place! It’s no wonder why the dojo was so popular in the 1970s and early 80s. You could see dojos in any major North American city packed in the evening with everyone from blue-collar workers to senior executives. They were on to “something” back then. That “something” that needs a resurrection.
So, with that, here now are 7 Reasons You Can Choose Karate as an Alternative to Yoga:
1. It’s a great workout.
First of all and most obviously, traditional karate, like Kyokushin Karate, is a fantastic workout for your body. You can adapt the practice to your own speed and level of comfort. No matter which traditional karate style you choose, the practice will always give you a great workout. The movements have benefits that hit on so many levels. The physical movements will get you in shape, they will also teach you self-defence and train your mind to focus. Karate will help you gain strength in muscles that you never knew you had! Karate commands you to use the strength of your entire body, which in turn, helps you to develop and tone all of the muscles in the body as you engage them throughout the various elements of basics, forms, and sparring.
2. It can develop your mental strength.
Another benefit of traditional karate is that it will help you develop incredible mental strength and fortitude. Especially in a style like Kyokushin Karate, which is known for it’s toughness. You will physically be pushed to a point that will develop your resilience. Kyokushin is known for its “never give up” attitude. It is obvious how this can benefit you in every facet of your life. We all have times in our lives that can be a struggle. Whether it is financially, work or on a personal level, traditional karate develops your tools to weather whichever storm that hits you.
3. Karate Helps Remove Stress From Your World!
Though it can obviously be true of women as well, most men tend to hold their stress in, not necessarily dealing with it in a healthy way. They might find themselves lacking in focus at crucial times, racing thoughts, and losing sleep. Even worse, taking it out on those closest to them. In the midst of a busy schedule, committing to the regiment of karate might be the only way for some guys to slow down, breathe and focus their attention to a place that allows them to naturally distress. The structure and focus required for karate provides a sense of clarity and balance for the mind. You will train your mind to slow down, which in turn, allows you to master the art of letting go of all that came before your class, and all that comes after. This gives you the opportunity to focus on being more mindful and present. Karate restores and increases your energy level. You will leave class feeling alert and energized. Karate boosts your hormone system, releases energy, and increases happy endorphins.
4. It Reminds You To Breathe!
A big part of traditional karate is breathing, learning when to exhale and when to inhale, when and how to regain breath, how to breath to focus more power, or to calm the mind. The exercises encourage a more focused and centered way of breathing, and you will find yourself bringing the practice into your daily life as a method of effective stress-management, which generally make you feel much better. How many times have you been in a situation when you have lost your cool, or even on the verge of doing so? Imagine, instead taking a breath and remaining calm. The ability to react calmly to aggression or intense situation will benefit your relationship with others, including colleagues, family and kids.
5. Moving Meditation and Mindfulness
The benefits of meditation can be found everywhere. There are thousands of articles and medical studies proving the benefits. For many, sitting in meditative posture can be very difficult. I am not about to say karate can be a substitute for it, but, there is a very mindful portion to karate. You are so focused on technique, accuracy, instruction, etc., that you will find yourself becoming lost within your own mind. You will forgot about any pain or worries you might be experiencing. The ultimate goal being something called Mushin, or No Mind. It’s possible in the Karate tradition to feel spiritual, beyond having a calm and peaceful mind. One of the highest purpose of Karate is to make you consciousnessly aware of your being, the place that can be called spirit for some, and/or emptiness for others. This level is beyond mere physical and mental relaxation; rather, it is relaxing into your very essence. The goal in moving meditation is to find and recognize the place in your mind where everything comes together and becomes one, simultaneously within emptiness.
6. Great Alternative to the Gym
Yes, the gym can be great. Pushing weights will definitely put the muscle on. Granted, only if you are eating and resting properly. But, for many, myself included, the gym can become boring. What is nice about karate is that with each class there is variety. Like in yoga, you are challenging yourself on so many levels, constantly improving yourself. It is done both individually, but also in the competitive nature of a group setting. As in yoga, the classes can be very challenging and more intense than any workout you’ve done at the gym. It can be a very humbling experience. Karate teaches you to challenge yourself mentally and physically without being overly aggressive. Traditional Karate can be an excellent alternative to the gym, or an amazing addition!
7. Improved Self-Confidence
There’s no doubt about it! Practicing traditional karate, especially a hard style like Kyokushin, will boost your confidence. Every time you step on the dojo floor, every time you show up to class, every time you spar, whether you realize it or not, your confidence is increasing. By training in traditional Karate you are constantly exposing yourself to challenging situations . You are building or “conditioning” your confidence, making it stronger with every class. You are training yourself to focus and perform under pressure. As you improve and increase in your abilities, you will notice to carry yourself in a different manner. Your friends and family, and those around you will notice it too. It doesn’t mean you will become fearless; as I am reminded of this from this quote by Mark Twain: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear”.
In closing, here is a beautiful video that shows the marriage of Kyokushin Karate and Yoga, as performed by George Evangelidakis.
Namaste and OSU!