If you don’t have access to a karate school or ryu, you might be wondering if it’s still possible for you to even learn karate. Luckily, thanks to the Internet and the spread of information about karate across the world, there are plenty of resources to help you start learning karate at home on your own.
Below you’ll find the ultimate guide to teaching yourself karate at home. From online resources to necessary equipment, you’ll learn everything you need to know about getting started in martial arts even if you don’t have a teacher.
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Is It Possible to Learn Karate at Home?
If you ask many martial artists whether it’s possible to learn karate at home, it’s likely you’ll get a variety of answers. The short answer is no, at least not completely. If you want to rank up in karate and become a black belt, you’ll need to join a dojo where you can spar against other students and compete for your ranking under a sensei or instructor.
Learning in-person provides constructed feedback that is difficult to receive by yourself.
However, if you want to learn karate to improve your fitness and ability to defend yourself, it’s possible to learn the foundations of karate without joining a school. There are just some benefits and drawbacks associated with it versus learning karate under a traditional instructor.
Advantages of Learning Karate at Home
Even though learning karate at home on your own is generally considered an inferior way of learning karate compared to going to a school, there are actually some advantages to learning a martial art on your own (or at least getting started). Here are some benefits to getting a headstart at home:
- Physical conditioning: Much of the focus in beginner’s karate is placed on building up the students’ conditioning until they have the strength, flexibility, and endurance to attempt more advanced techniques. Taking on this physical conditioning before you ever hit a karate school means you’ll automatically be a stronger fighter when you begin.
- Control what you learn and when you learn: When you learn karate at home, you can learn as quickly or as slowly as you want. This ability is good for people who have a packed schedule and have to fit their karate training in during odd hours or in small irregular intervals.
- Incorporate other martial arts: If you learn karate at home, you can easily incorporate techniques from other martial arts into your education. This can make you a more well-rounded fighter even if you do eventually move to learn karate exclusively in a martial arts school.
- Learn from multiple instructors: While you might not get to learn from multiple instructors in person, teaching yourself karate through online resources and other learning materials can expose you to many different teachers. This exposure may give you a better idea of what you do and don’t want in any future instructor you learn under.
Despite the fact that you can’t learn everything on your own that you can learn in a school, there’s still a lot you can get out of educating yourself about karate at home. Whether you’re trying to prepare for karate school or you’re supplementing karate lessons on your own, there’s a lot you can learn.
Disadvantages of Learning Karate at Home
There are benefits to learning karate at home. However, the reason that teaching yourself karate is relatively controversial is that there are some serious disadvantages to learning karate outside of a school. Here are some of the drawbacks you can expect:
- Lack of sparring partners: Unless you have someone else at home that is willing to learn karate with you and practice techniques together, any karate student will seriously suffer from a lack of training partners. Sparring against other karate students is how you learn where your weaknesses are as a fighter and how to properly correct them.
- Engrained bad habits and improper techniques: One of the biggest disadvantages of learning karate at home is that you can accidentally teach yourself some serious bad habits that can be difficult to unlearn later under an instructor. This tendency can leave you with serious blind spots in your fighting technique that can hurt you later.
- Lack of space and equipment: Even if you invest in some training equipment for learning karate at home, chances are you won’t have access to the same kind of gym mats and large training spaces that you would have available to you at a dojo.
- Lack of motivation: One of the best reasons for joining a karate school is the camaraderie and encouragement you get from your instructor and other students. Teaching yourself karate alone can be lonely and uninspiring in comparison. It also makes it easier to slack off since no one is overseeing your progress.
So what can you do to reduce some of these weaknesses of teaching yourself at home? The best thing you can do is start slow and focus on teaching yourself the fundamentals of karate before you start learning techniques. This will help you avoid imprinting bad habits while still improving your fitness for fighting.
Physical Conditioning for Karate at Home
Even if you can’t join a karate school right away, there are many ways you can undergo physical conditioning to prepare for karate on your own without an instructor. These are simple training methods that can make you a better karate student without giving you the chance to learn things the wrong way.
Here are some techniques for physical training you can do at home to make you a better karate student:
- Running and hiking: Having stamina and endurance are a huge part of being successful in martial arts, and one of the best ways you can improve your cardiovascular stamina in the ring is to undertake regular high-intensity interval training to get your heart rate up. This will allow you to fight longer and harder without letting your guard down.
- Body weight exercises: While they might seem like simple exercises, body weight exercises like pull-ups and push-ups are vital parts of your daily karate physical conditioning. These exercises increase your core and upper body strength, allowing you to strike harder and faster.
- Weight-lifting: Weight-lifting with barbells or machine weights can help you build up the muscle you need for explosive punches and kicks. A major goal of martial arts is to end the fight as quickly as possible, and putting as much force behind your fist as possible is one way to increase your striking power.
- Jump roping: Jump roping or rope skipping can give you improved footwork. Agility is a big part of being an effective fighter in karate or any martial art. Being able to move quickly on your feet gives you the speed to duck and dodge incoming attacks, jumping just beyond your enemy’s reach. Jump roping improves your footwork and agility while it also increases your cardiovascular conditioning.
- Balance beam: Walking a balance beam and learning how to turn and jump on it can improve your balance in motion, making it more difficult for an opponent to throw you in the middle of a fight. You can even learn to do yoga poses or other exercises on top of the balance beam to make the exercises even harder. (Source: Fighting Arts)
If you make an effort to train your physical conditioning for several weeks or months before you ever set foot inside a karate school, you’ll be head of the class in fitness before you ever learn a stance.
This allows you to focus on techniques to progress in your rank while other beginning students are still trying to focus on improving their physical conditioning.
Mental Conditioning for Karate at Home
There are many things you can do to teach yourself the fundamentals of physical conditioning for karate at home, but physical fitness isn’t the only part of the puzzle when it comes to preparing yourself for a karate education. You’ll also need to look at your mental and emotional conditioning, too.
Here are some mental conditioning exercises you can undertake in preparation to teach yourself karate at home:
- Meditation: Meditation is a large part of many martial arts because of the benefits it provides fights in improved focus and relaxation during physical stress. Meditation also teaches karate students to have more control over their minds so that they don’t panic during a fight, especially if they’re struck or injured. (Source: Ascendant Martial Arts)
- Honor and respect: Even though you aren’t held to a code of honor and respect when you teach yourself karate versus when you learn in a karate school, it still benefits you to actively try and cultivate these traits in your daily life if you’re serious about studying karate. Be conscious of how respectful you are towards others.
- Self-discipline: There will be days when you don’t want to practice drills, and if you teach yourself karate there’s no one to hold you accountable when you get lazy. Make a point to be diligent with your daily drills and physical conditioning even on days when you don’t feel like it to progress.
- Concentration: Developing a sharp focus is crucial to becoming a serious karate student. Do drills that are designed to increase your sense of concentration, such as to-do lists or crossword puzzles. Concentration can also be honed through visualization exercises. This teaches karate students to focus on one move at a time in the ring. (Source: Competitive Advantage)
Whether you’re in the sparring ring or just learning on your own, focusing on mental conditioning as well as physical conditioning can make you a more effective and balanced karate student.
Learning the History of Karate at Home
Along with learning physical conditioning, mental conditioning, and karate techniques at home, another important part of your karate education that you’ll miss out on if you’re not learning karate through a school is the background and history of karate.
There are dozens of different styles of karate in the world, and each of these styles has different philosophies and techniques.
Learning the background of each of these karate styles can help you learn which styles you’re most interested in if you ever reach the point where you want to join a karate school. They also help teach you the reasons behind learning karate in the first place.
Learning Karate Online
If you don’t have access to a karate school locally where you can study, where do you learn karate from home?
Thanks to the advent of the Internet, there are tons of online resources available to help students pursue their karate education even without an instructor.
While these techniques are somewhat limited without a sparring partner, students can still learn a great deal about the art of karate by studying them.
Besides following instructors online, you can see if your favorite instructor offers virtual lessons.
Best Resources for Learning Karate at Home
Even if you’re forced to teach yourself karate at home due to a lack of access to training facilities or an inability to afford them, you can still get plenty of resources online and elsewhere to help teach you the fundamentals of karate.
While some of these resources are free, such as YouTube videos, others may require that you invest some money just like any other class.
Here are some of the most popular resources available for teaching yourself karate at home:
- YouTube: YouTube has thousands of karate videos available that you can watch to help learn karate by studying others perform it during fights and training exercises. The downside of using YouTube is that you have to wade through quite a number of inferior karate videos to find clips that are useful unless you know where to look.
- Udemy: Udemy is an online university that offers paid training courses in a wide variety of different topics, including karate. Udemy has several dozen karate courses available to take through their website. However, most of these courses involve learning the rules and regulations of karate competition, so they aren’t as useful for fundamentals.
- Online karate academics: There are several strictly-online karate academies available to take downloadable lessons. These include academics such as Online Karate Academy and My Online Karate. Paid online classes like these often allow you to download videos to watch offline later.
Researching karate online can lead you to dozens of different resources for teaching yourself karate on your own. It’s a good idea to focus on just a few of these resources to start with before branching out to avoid becoming overwhelmed with material.
Here are a few additional tips for using online resources to teach yourself karate at home:
- Schedule regular study times. Since you’re not learning karate through regularly scheduled classes, you’ll need to impose your own system of self-discipline on your studies in order to progress over time.
- Pair online study with physical conditioning. Just sitting around watching karate videos will not help you learn karate. You’ll also need to participate in strenuous physical training and drills in order to prepare your body for karate as well as your mind.
- Take notes. Keeping notes on everything you’ve learned about karate in a single binder or notebook can help you see how you’ve progressed in your studies over time. It can also act as a handy reference if you need to refresh yourself on common karate terms, stances, or techniques.
Teaching yourself karate through online resources requires a little more self-motivation than going through a traditional karate school, but it’s still possible to get an idea of how the martial art works by observing other fighters spar and trying out the drills for yourself.
Equipment for Learning Karate at Home
A lot of the physical conditioning you need to do for karate at home can be done without expensive equipment or a lot of space. These include exercises like daily running and doing body drills like push-ups.
However, it can benefit your home karate routine to invest in some training equipment. This will make it easier to drill in karate without a partner.
Here are a few pieces of equipment that you may find useful in teaching yourself karate at home:
- Pull-up bar: Upper body strength is a huge part of being an effective martial artist, and there are few daily exercises that can contribute better to your upper body strength than pull-ups. Install a pull-up bar above your doorway and try to gradually increase the number of pull-ups you can do.
- Grappling dummy: If you have a hard time finding someone to practice karate with you, investing in a practice dummy can at least give you a target to aim for when you’re doing your drills.
- Punching bag: A punching bag is a good piece of equipment to invest in no matter which martial art you’re interested in since it can act as a great standing target to aim your punches and kicks at.
- Mirror: When you’re teaching yourself karate at home, a challenge you’ll face is that you have a harder time correcting your stance during forms and drills. A gym mirror allows you to watch yourself as you perform a karate technique to make sure that you’re holding your limbs in the correct position as you do it.
- Video recording equipment: Recording yourself performing exercises and karate drills is another way that you can study your own form and try to correct any mistakes in your stance or drills. It can be difficult to see your mistakes from your own perspective. A camera can help if you don’t have an instructor to check you.
An advantage of teaching yourself karate at home is that you can acquire the necessary equipment gradually as you get more involved in your studies. There’s no need to go out and spend hundreds of dollars on gym equipment right away. Instead, focus on buying just one or two pieces of equipment and work your way up from there.
Is it a Good Idea to Teach Yourself Karate at Home?
There are plenty of resources available to teach yourself karate at home, but there are also plenty of people who would try and discourage you from doing it. So if there are so many resources available for self-taught martial artists, why is it discouraged?
There are real disadvantages to home study as outlined in the guide earlier. However, it is also important to understand that most of these instructors make a living by teaching students face to face, so self-taught martial artists are a threat to their businesses. They have a vested interest in making it seem like karate can’t be learned outside of a paid karate school.
Yes, that is a pessimistic point, but one you should keep in mind when trying to decide your future in karate.
Tips for Succeeding at Karate Home Study
If you’re teaching yourself karate at home, there are ways you can make the process a little easier and more effective. Here are a few of them:
- Find a training partner. Having at least one real person to spar with and watch your moves can help make you a better martial artist, even if it’s someone else who isn’t trained in karate. Having a regular training partner can help keep you motivated to progress in your home studies, too.
- Keep track of your progress. If you’re doing conditioning, keep track of how much weight you can lift, how many push-ups you can do, and how long you can sit in meditation. Also, keep track of which techniques you have practiced and how often. This is the only way to get a clear idea of how you’re doing when you don’t have an instructor.
- Look into karate schools. You can teach yourself a lot of the basics of karate at home, but if you want to master a specific style of karate, you’re better off training under an instructor who specializes in it. Even semi-regular private lessons to check your form can help you progress.
Keep in mind that if you teach yourself karate, you’ll need to create any structure and discipline in your studies yourself. Without structure, you’re likely to get discouraged or lazy. This can cause you to fall off on your training without an instructor to back you up and hold you accountable.
Teach Yourself the Fundamentals of Karate at Home
While it isn’t usually recommended that you pursue karate entirely alone, teaching yourself karate at home can be a great way to get off on the right foot before you have a chance to attend an actual karate studio.
These tips would also aid someone who does go to school to learn and wants to practice at home as well.
You probably won’t be able to reach a level of black belt mastery through online resources and home training, but you can still make yourself a much better karate student. Don’t let anything stop you. If you want to start, start.