Karate: a sport for self-discovery and healing

For Elizabeth Aguilar, her life had a very pronounced change in March 2018, when her mother passed away after 4 years of fighting cancer. During that time he felt that he had a very sedentary and predictable routine, so he looked for a sport that he could practice but that also gave him an apprenticeship to cope with the situation, this is how karate came into his life.

She used karate to drain the pain and suffering that she had had in those years. “My mom would have liked someone – my friends – to worry about my physical and emotional health, so I started going to practice every day. As the traditional practice of karate emphasizes how important it is for human beings to achieve balance in their daily life, it helped me to reconnect with myself and to see that I have a life and I should make the most of it, doing what I can. I like it ”, he emphasizes.

Although she was reluctant to practice it at first, a friend invited her to an introductory session just to find out what it is about. “It is a discipline that requires concentration, so first I did yoga sessions on my part, then I already received the first class that was about what karate is and its basic terms. Then we did some exercises. With these, although they were a beginner, I felt that I connected with myself and that was what I liked, ”says the 27-year-old.

Due to the decision, the teacher and psychologist enrolled in a karate academy that was close to her home. Because I was not used to doing any type of exercise, the first few months were quite difficult, so I was uneven. However, the motivation was found in the group of friends he made in class.

“Some days I was in the hospital with my mother and they already knew my departure time, so they called me to remind me of the class times. We even made bets to see who attended every day and managed to change the “obi” first, a belt whose color symbolizes the student’s level of learning, ”says Aguilar.

Learning karate during childhood will help to learn the values ​​and techniques more easily. (Free Press Photo: Ashima Pargal on Unsplash).

The origin

According to Eduardo Aguirre, a karate coach, this is a martial art that has its origins in Okinawa. Unlike other disciplines, whose purpose is to defeat the greatest number of opponents, what this martial art seeks is the mastery of self-defense techniques. “All kinds of violence are rejected. Knowledge is used to defend oneself, not to attack. That is why it is said that his philosophy comes from Zen Buddhism ”, explains the expert.

Karate is based on Bushido, a code of ethics whose principles are based on loyalty and honor. Also, this sport consists of self defense using the human body as a tool. Etymologically, “karate” means “empty hands”, since it is about fighting without using weapons of any kind, said Francisco Lou, coach of the National Karate Federation in Guatemala, in an interview with Prensa Libre in 2020.

In Guatemala, karate was formed as a federation in 1985 and belongs to international organizations such as the World Karate Federation (WKF), the Central American and Caribbean Confederation of Karate (CCCK) and the Central American Karate Confederation (CCONDEKA).


To practice karate you need a special outfit called “karategi”, which carries an “obi” or belt whose color symbolizes the student’s level of learning. This is the hierarchy that is acquired within this discipline through continuous training and overcoming difficulties.

It begins with positions, strokes, and basic katas. As you learn and know the techniques, you level up. Professionals examine the student every six months and determine if they are ready to move to the next level, based on the learning acquired. You go through the color white until you reach black, but the learning does not end there.

Obi mark student learning and are identified by the colors white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, and black. (Free Press Photo: Shutterstock).

“I make an analogy with pregnancy, which begins with the white belt and, to be born in karate, you have to reach the black belt. From there, you start walking and you acquire the ‘dan’. A person who reaches that level is someone who has a life practicing this discipline, ”says Lou.

Currently there are seven karate belts: white is the hallmark of beginners. And continue the yellow, orange, green, blue, brown and black.

Sport has three vital elements: speed, technique, and strength. Constant training favors stiffening the limbs, which is why some athletes with several years of practice break wooden boards or stones in one fell swoop. In addition, the technique focuses on targeting vulnerable areas of the body, such as the face, neck, spine, kidneys, and groin. However, only shots above the waist are accepted in official tournaments.


In this discipline, beyond achieving physical benefits, emotional and mental stability is also developed. These are some utilities of karate:

Increase self-esteem. This applies to most martial arts. Those who practice karate are more self-confident, in addition, they develop a healthy self-esteem that is reinforced with self-knowledge, discipline, ethics, honor and loyalty. In total, the growth offered by this practice is comprehensive, says Juan José Jiménez, karate coach.

Energy and concentration. Sports activities such as karate are mainly recommended for children with anger and attention problems. This practice will allow the child to learn to control his emotions, release his energy and concentrate as much as possible on the activity he is doing.

Greater coordination. Many of the exercises and movements that are practiced in karate are beneficial for the posture and balance of the person. In this way, constant practice is able to stimulate coordination and balance.

Reaction speed increases. The concepts of reaction speed defined as the time it takes for the brain to send signals to a stimulus are worked on daily in karate.

Improves spatial perception. They work a lot on distances, laps, as well as combined actions such as laps with techniques, kicks, among others. All of this will improve your spatial perception and ability to manage distances over time.

Self-control. The discipline and concentration taught in class will be of great help to you to face various situations throughout your life. He will develop patience to the fullest and will always try to avoid conflict situations. Self-control is key in the practice of this martial art. It also makes it easier to avoid situations that could turn violent. That is, you will learn to defend yourself if you need to, but you will also know how to avoid the search for conflict.

Self Defense. The goal of practicing karate for self defense is to learn to stop aggression as quickly as possible. When it comes to self-defense only, bumps under the belt, fingers in the eyes and bites are allowed, if these can help to survive in a complex aggression situation.

To resort to karate techniques in self-defense requires that the individual be in a threatening situation. In this case, it is necessary to assess the situation before resolving a conflict through violence.

Principles for all karate fighters

Experts say that one of the reasons why karate has been popular since ancient times is because its practice exercises body, mind and spirit to learn to live together in peace and control emotions. When someone wants to start this discipline, they must take into account that certain characteristics are needed:

  • Honor moral values
  • Show humility
  • Have self-worth
  • Encourage the ability to push yourself
  • Give importance to honesty
  • Have a desire to excel and a fighting spirit

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