Karate Safety Systems that Work

Years ago we looked at the statistics and found that training in karate is relatively safe when compared to other physical activities. It’s much safer than cheerleading, football or other sports. And when karate safety systems like ours are implemented, it becomes exponentially safer.

What do Our Karate Safety Systems Do?

We use karate safety systems that have been passed down, tried and proven for years, decades, even centuries. They keep us safe in class despite someone’s emotions or competitiveness. They counteract our dojo mates’ potential testosterone, raging hormones and unpredictability. Our systems account for our karate partners’ difference in size, power, strength, and even personality.

What Karate Safety Systems do we Use?

The most obvious system at our dojo is the Dojo Kun posted on our wall. We require our new students to memorize this. It is the oath of our school, and our most important rules. The Dojo Kun focuses on: good moral character, honesty, perseverance, respect and self-restraint. How is this a safety system? If you are expected to use all of these values as you train (and we all are) you become a safer partner.  

Class in a traditional dojo showing karate safety systems of the Dojo Kun on the front wall and black belt supervision of small groups training.

One of the systems at our traditional Okinawan karate dojo is that we care about our students and their well-being. We want them to go home whole and unbroken. Then come back and train again soon. We consistently promote mutual respect and an environment of dojo family. This trickles down from us head instructors, and we want students to grow without injury.

What Karate Safety Systems do we use in Sparring?

In sparring, one karate safety system is the requirement of wearing the proper gear. This is consistently reinforced with our rules and by all of our instructors. If you don’t have the proper gear, you do not spar. In traditional karate, they did not spar because they cared about their students and didn’t want them injured. But now we have better protective equipment, and we also practice light-contact sparring where you only hit with a small portion of your potential power.

Another rule for our sparring which is reinforced regularly is that if you are bigger you do not take advantage of your size. And if you are higher-rank than your partner then you do not take advantage of your rank. That means big people go as light on little people as the little people do on them. And higher ranks go slower and give those with less experience the chance to practice and improve their skills. This type of attitude trickles into our other activities and helps keep smaller students and beginner students safe. Come to think of it, it keeps everyone safer.

karate safety systems in sparring with partners wearing proper gear and black belt supervision

What Else Makes Training at our Dojo Safer?

We have and use a lot of equipment that makes our training safer than many other alternatives. In addition to the required sparring equipment, that includes punching bags and targets that are filled with foam, and the option to use gloves when punching them. We use blockers made out of foam as well as padded weapons. Our dodge-balls are made of soft materials. Not to mention the floor of our whole training area is covered in one big mat. Our karate forefathers would have been envious of the equipment we enjoy today.

There is another karate safety system that we use in sparring as well as our other partner drills. This element is used even when we are not working with partners. It’s probably the most important part of our safety protocol. It is the qualified, trained adult supervision we have in every class.  

As stated in my blog on karate for girls, “Not all martial arts require respect. Or restraint. Or good moral character. Not all schools dictate that in partner training you don’t take advantage of your size when you are the bigger person. But we do.” Our dojo has used these proven karate safety systems for over two decades. We use them; we trust them; we know that they work.

-Jenifer Tull-Gauger

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