Therapeutic Benefits of karate

Prepared by Jerry Young, Physical Therapist
and 5th. Degree Black Belt in Okinawan Karate-do.

Speaking as a Physical
Therapist, our goals for
individuals with
intellectual and
differences often focus
on improving postural
control, improving
balance, improving
motor control, improving
attention, decreasing
impulsivity, and
increasing processing
and organizational skills.  
Often individuals with
intellectual and
differences are seen
only once a week by a
Physical Therapist, and I
strongly believe that the
addition of a karate class
can greatly assist with
reaching goals in the
above areas.

A karate class is often a
place where individuals
with intellectual and
differences can excel
due to its consistency.
The general practice
and especially practice
of kata creates familiarity
due to its repetition.  If
done correctly, the
students also have fun.

This creates an
atmosphere where they
can feel comfortable with
reduced anxiety and do


Another issue for individuals with intellectual and
developmental differences is hypotonia.  Simply put, it is muscle weakness affecting how they use their muscles for joint stability, posture, coordination, and balance.

Balance and coordination is a large topic that karate works well on with its many stances and movements, and its work on trunk or core strength is a huge benefit we may not initially think of.

Strengthening these muscles is of key importance and is  done directly through punching, kicking, stances, standing on one leg, and katas but also through exercises done in class.  Exercises to work these important muscles are abdominal exercises, planks, and if you have an exercise ball you can do Superman stretches.  

Karate will also help with improving the ability for multi-step tasks.  Often a child may have difficulty with keeping focus and attention and being able to do more than two or three steps in an activity.

Karate provides a good
environment and
wonderful tool with kata
training to improve this.  
As mentioned earlier it is a
good environment and with
the series of movements
found in  kata they can
progress to 20+ steps.

Kata and general practice  
in Karate is also helpful in
improving gross motor
control (big general
movements) leading to fine
motor control (more
coordination).  This is how
we all generally learn in
Karate.  Initially our
movements and our katas
have the basic movements
but with time and repetition
we continue to fine tune
and work on the smaller

The big picture I would like
to emphasize is all the
issues mentioned above
sets these kids up for
improved function as they
grow and as adults.  
Improving these deficits will
help them perform and
engage in school and the
community at large.  
Always remember it is not
just punching and kicking
but having an environment
that allows achievement
and improving self