Is Shotokan Karate Effective? About The Effectiveness Paranoia

The picture shows children fighting is sport karate gloves. Thus, we ask the question:Is Shotokan effective?

The effectiveness of Shotokan karate as self-defense has caused plenty of discussions in the last decade. But is effectiveness even important? Are we paranoid when it come to effectiveness? By Jonas Correia

A few weeks ago arriving from Brazil, I had to go through the USA immigration. The immigration agent asked me what I was doing in Brazil. I replied that I went to compete and see my family. Asking me what I practice, I promptly answered: Karate. He asked me if I taught my students how to defend themselves from grappling and submission techniques. I said no, since most of them are children and barely learn the basics of karate. I didn’t find it necessary to teach techniques like the ones he mentioned.

He Questioned My Effectiveness

The truth is that he seemed to be a jiu-jitsu sympathizer and even questioned the effectiveness of my teaching method. Believe me, this conversation happened during my reentry in the US! I looked at his gun at the waist and said, if we are going to think about effectiveness obsessively, I should teach them how to fire too. He smiled. I mentioned that most jiu-jitsu schools only focus on competitions these days. But they also do not prepare you to face two opponents at once.

What does Effectiveness mean?

The point of this text is not to discuss the effectiveness of Jiu-jitsu or Karate. Because we can be the strongest of fighters and a simple microscopic virus can knock you down. So what is your perspective on effectiveness? How many martial arts masters have ever been shot? And how many martial arts masters have died from drug or alcohol use? How can someone who can’t beat himself get into a discussion about effectiveness? Wouldn’t being effective mean everything that makes you survive longer?

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The Effectiveness Paranoia of Shotokan Karate

Whenever people ask me about the most effective martial art, I answer: the most effective is the one that makes you happy to be training. The rest is brainwashing and repetitive marketing.

Is Shotokan Karate effective?
Our authors, Jonas Correia, in Berlin. Jonas has an incredible fighting record. Fighting in shobu ippon, 8-point fights, and Karate Combat.

But the paranoia about the effectiveness of certain martial arts has grown so incalculably. As a result, even great masters get carried away with it. It is disappointing to come to a dojo and encounter the abundant collective narcissism that has become a kind of sect. We see this thinking within Karate organizations as well. Due to different founders’ perspectives, the arts constantly change and their style may be totally different in the future.

Train, Whatever Makes You Happy

The best thing to do is to humble down, and recognize the qualities and defects of the martial arts you practice. That makes it possible to turn yourself in an effective fighter. But if you do not care much about it, train whatever makes you happy.

I believe we should think less about issues like this. However, we should train to improve ourselves to become better practitioners. Nothing is perfect and totally effective. Better to learn it this way, to than become disappointed later.

The more we talk the less we train.

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Disclaimer: All opinions expressed by external authors in the commentary section are solely their current opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Shotokan Times and their respective editorial staff and management. The external authors opinions are based upon information they consider reliable, but neither The Shotokan Times nor its affiliates warrant its completeness or accuracy, and it should not be relied upon as such.


  1. regarding effectiveness of martial arts,I believe that we can determine their respective effectiveness in actual fight or even by simulation if the fighters will use their arts in their original purpose; and let them fight or spar without hand and body protection. Let us use jujitsu and Karate, let them fight without hand gloves, the Karate must be able to utilize his years of training hitting the Makiwara or punching bag developing hardness in his bare knuckles, extended knuckles, finger and spare hand strikes. In the same way that the Jujitsu will utilize whatever it can do to defeat an opponent. The gloves in MMA lessens the effectiveness of the strikes of Karate and other striking arts and favors the non-striking arts as they uses grab, throws and grappling. Try to be hit at the face or even at the breast with a bare knuckle fist, or with extended knuckles which is prohibited in MMA. In Sports combat it is the natural individual strength, agility, and technical ability of the opponents that determines a winner. In actual fight a karate guy will use everything for fighting to survive like eye gauge to counter a grab or grappling. The chinese has a saying that the strike is the counter of grappling; and grappling is the counter for strike. They compliment each other. As for the effectiveness of Shotokan Karate, it depends. If the students are trained for sports combat then they could not be effective in self defense fight on the street. But one who trained their striking tools to be come effective in a fight then they could effective. I believe that the capability of the striking tools of karate makes one effective in actual self defense. How many students train their extended knuckle, finger and spear hand strike to withstand high impact when it hit its target. How many can really kick strong or punch strong with speed. I think most students now a days train to split and kick high not to kick very strong at mid-level or at the bladder area; or that they can punch with high impact to break. Karate is effective by the result of its high impact strike; without it, karate is ineffective for fighting self defense.

    • I like Jona’s closing argument:”The more we talk the less we train”

      How much training could have been done instead of writing long essay in the comment section 🙂

      Btw, I hope the officer let you in the US after that conversation 🙂

      • I wrote that long essay- that is not long. Do you agree with what I said or not. Simple as that. I am not a true karateka but i am not ignorant either. I practice “karate” focus on close fist, extended knuckles, nukite, ball of the feet and shin for front and round kick. To me that is what I needed in case of defensive actions; and yes upper cut punch shortened to upper elbow strike;hook punch shortened to round elbow strike.for kicks, front kick shortened to upper knee strike; and roundhouse shortened to round knee strike. some side kicks and no more. it takes me 1 hour to have my sweat. For gun i know about firearm, the best effective martial art. not even combines karate and jujitsu can defeat it on the hand oa knowledgeable.

  2. Back when i was into (shotokan)Karate (although i practice Chinese martial arts nowadays, i actually don’t see it as I have ‘left’ karate) and for the first time traveled to Japan.
    Going through the passport check at the airport the officer asked about my business in Japan, I answered I’m here to study karate, he asked to have a look at my hands, he smiled and pointed out that they where quite callous less and wished me good luck.
    This was in 1988 and heavy calloused knuckles might had been seen as an mark of a knowledgeable(can use karate “effectively”) karateka…..Anyway, in many cases that kind of was(is) an correct assumption.

    And then on Okinawa i met an touristing guy from Osaka who after knowing I studied karate went on about Oyama’s bull “fights” as kind of an measuring of karates effectiveness…. T.Rick

  3. 1. The only thing that determines effectiveness in practice is our preparation ie training.
    2. Training is not what defines your martial art, it is only how you prepare to use it. A wooden dummy doesn’t make your art wing chun, nor a heavy bag make boxing.
    3. No art or combat sport has a monopoly on good training methods.

    4. Invalidating a concern rather than addressing the challenge that concern presents is less than ideal. It suggests an unwillingness to grow out of fear of leaving that which is comfortable. This is something we all do. A Gracie famously dismissed self defense concerns saying “use a gun”. Yes we could be training instead of talking, but we could also be evolving and developing our training methods to keep our art relevant rather than finding reasons not to.

    5. Effectiveness in self defense is not the same as effectiveness in an mma ring. Train for your goal and don’t expect one to translate to the other. If you want both do both.

    6. Hobby martial artists training 2-3 times a week will never beat professional fighters nor those who train towards such things.

    7. Lastly the author is right. Train because it makes you happy and healthy and it will have a far greater and more positive impact on your life than the tough guy moment that never was.

  4. I come from a boxing/kicboxing/freestyle wrestling background. And I can tell you very simply what people like me who ask about effectiveness understand by “effective”. Something that works in MMA or on the street. Can it work successfully in MMA or can it save your life in a street situation? That is what we understand by “effective”. And yes, effectiveness is a VERY important part of any martial art. If it doesn’t work in a real physical confrontation, there’s really no point of training in it. Asking if ‘effectiveness” is even important was quite shocking for me to read. This view is so out of touch with reality it’s quite shocking really. Yes, developing a good character is a very important part in a martial artist’s development. But it’s not at all ALL he must develop. If he can’t fight, if the only thing he got from his martial arts training was a good, nice character, then that person is not a martial artist, he/she is just a nice person, nothing more. A martial artist must be able to fight. And not in that show type of point combat competition. I mean in a REAL fight, with as less rules as possible or with no rules at all, on the street. If you can’t do this, it doesn’t matter how nice of a person you are, you’re not a martial artist.

  5. I did Shotokan for a long time in my young years. There was no MMA back then, today I look at it and just wish we competed in kickboxing as well that is all that is needed.


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