Self-Discipline through Traditional Karate

Traditional Karate builds self-discipline in many ways. Parents appreciate the discipline in kids karate. Over time, that  leads to self-discipline. But I started training as an adult and my self-discipline skills are from martial arts. It could be because I was a young adult and my brain had not quite finished developing. But I believe that with an open mind, hard work, and repetition an old dog of any age can learn new tricks. Here are my top five ways that karate builds self-discipline:


At some martial arts schools, you pay your dues and after the allotted time, you are expected to test. This is not the case at our dojo. Here, you are only invited to test if you have attended classes and learned your materials.

I do not understand students who sign up, pay their dues, and then do not attend a minimum number of classes. I guess these people lack the basic self-discipline skill of showing up. Yes, schedules can be hectic and life can get in the way. But you must be there and participate in order to advance. That is true of anything in life. It gives me hope when a student goes from non-attending to showing up regularly. That does happen and shows they have gained a basic self-discipline skill. showing up shows self-discipline


In karate, if you are lucky, at some point you will be given push-ups as a disciplinary measure. Because you have done something wrong or different from what your instructor wants. You are lucky because you have the chance to learn responsibility. No crying or blaming others. You do your push-ups and then move on to the next thing. Admitting your mistakes shows maturity. Being able to get over that, let go of your misstep and forgive yourself shows even more maturity. When you accept the responsibility and power over the mistakes you make in life, you are on the road to self-discipline.


In karate, our instructors hold us liable for our mistakes and they also believe in the very best in us. Each of us has the potential to be awesome and achieve so much in life. The lucky karate student also has the positive expectations and mentoring of their teachers. Skilled students over time learn that they have the power in their life to become the person they want to be. They realize that it is up to them and no one else. They may need to ask for help from others. But it is the individual who must ask, be receptive, and put the knowledge or opportunity to its best use.


Dojo Kun number five is a more obvious rule that helps the traditional karate student use self-discipline. It is translated as, “Restrain my physical abilities through spiritual attainment.” In extreme cases, it means, if you are have trouble with self-control, seek guidance from your true source. We like to say it means just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Either way, this Dojo Kun promotes thinking about your actions and acting wisely. Self-discipline requires thought and reflection. Self-Discipline through Kids Karate


Another Dojo Kun has the magic of self-discipline hidden in its Japanese character (kanji). Dojo Kun number three upholds perseverance. It goes, “Cultivate perseverance or a will for striving.” The kanji doryoku or perseverance, starts this Dojo Kun. Doryoku contains the kanji for female and power. This “compound word” reveals the magic in self-discipline. The connotations for these kanji pinpoint taking regular, consistent, thoughtful steps, over time, in order to persevere. Not just one big strong effort. Small decisions create our habits and our habits shape our lives.

There are many other ways that karate teaches discipline. These ways include: expecting timeliness, encouraging respect and bowing, sitting in seiza, and standing at attention. I also like keeping talking to a minimum in class, and accepting more responsibility with each rank. Initially, discipline is expected from the outside influence of your instructors. Eventually, through dojo involvement, it becomes ingrained. Then you can use your self-discipline to improve any part of your life. For karate adults and non-martial artists alike, Tim Han’s video has three proven methods for gaining self-discipline.

Jenifer Tull-Gauger

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