Is Karate A Team Sport?

April 2018


A common reason why students don’t start/continue their training is the allure of team sports. Soccer, basketball, baseball, etc.; they all have a perception of building social skills, teamwork, and more. Martial arts is seen as an individual activity, which is a way of saying, “we don’t believe it gives you those things”.

Turns out, martial arts, especially our system of MuDoKai, is more “team sport” than you might think.


Take soccer, for example. Say you’re the goalie. Does the skill of your right wing (Fun fact: That’s the position I played) have any bearing on you blocking or missing the opponent’s shot? No. In that moment, soccer is an individual sport, a competition between you and one or more others. It falls upon you to solve the problem of the opponents. Sure, you have teammates doing their best to accomplish the same goal, but what you do is your responsibility alone.


In a typical class, we have students of many ages, skill levels, and ranks, all in one dojo. Every one aims to make their techniques the best they can. The individual part. And if they are working pairs techniques? They are aiming to make their moves the best they can so their partner performs at their best. That’s teamwork. Even sparring, when you are trying to solve the mystery that is your opponent, it is not a fight. It is a strategic engagement where both parties seek to make the other better. I’m happy when I score a point. I’m also happy when my opponent does the same to me, because it means they figured me out for that moment.


Watch a class or two and you’ll see focused social interactions, competition, discipline, coupled with a desire to help the other students improve. If that’s not teamwork, I don’t know what is. And we haven’t even mentioned tournament teams!


I believe everyone should train in the martial arts. Of course, if you enjoy kicking/hitting/throwing a ball around, that’s fine, too. However, only one of these will also help build self-defense skills. Teamwork comes included here, too.


Sensei Joseph Winn © 2018