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Karate: The Ultimate in Cross-Training

Karate: The Ultimate in Cross-Training

In most sports and physical activities, emphasis is placed on a particular type of movement, and the practitioner tends to repeat similar movements specific to the sport. Think about a golf swing, a basketball dribble or lay-up, cross-overs in hockey, and so on. Repetition is necessary for developing specific skills, “muscle memory”, and response time. But cross-training is also important to athletes and or hobbyists in any sport. Cross-training ensures more well-rounded fitness and performance than any single type of movement can provide.

Cross-training is the use of a combination of exercises to work various parts of the body. It is used to:

  • Benefit from the strengths of other sports
  • Minimize the limitations of one’s own sport
  • Develop different skill sets that can be useful in the performance of one’s primary sport

The achievements of our Sensei and members at DOUVRIS are proof that Karate is the ultimate cross-training sport. It provides practitioners with a broad range of physical and mental skills and habits that contribute to higher performance in other sports, as well as in the workplace and personal relationships.

One of our Karate members and moms at DOUVRIS has noted: “I have coached kids’ team sports for many years and one thing I have noticed is that the kids who are also in Karate or dance classes seem to perform better in any sport than kids without that kind of foundational training.”

What is it about Karate makes it such a powerful cross-training sport? As Jesse Enkamp notes: “Karate itself is actually an eclectic mix of several fighting traditions and cultural arts cooked together in the pot of Okinawa.” Karate IS cross-training!

Karate’s Benefit to Other Sports

We polled our Sensei and members to find out how Karate has enhanced their performance in other sports. Here’s what we found:


Basketball requires a player to hold one’s ground, run, jump, defend, and finesse a ball. Through the leg strength, core strength, and balance that Karate provides, basketball players can run faster, jump higher, be tougher around the net, and harder to knock off the ball. Karate also trains hand-eye coordination and precision, which are invaluable skills in ball handling.


Karate can be practiced in many ways: as a sport, a combat sport, as self-defence training, and as an art, called budō. Dancers benefit from the practice of Karate, particularly the rhythm, body control, and coordination that it provides. Many sports benefit from a player’s ability to set and maintain and internal rhythm, but in dance this element is perhaps most pronounced. Karate and particularly the kata develop that ability to manage an internal rhythm.

Downhill Skiing

Skiing requires lower-body and core strength, balance, and endurance – all qualities that the practice of Karate develops. In particular, Karate’s core stances develop the strength and balance necessary to maintain stability in a variety of different positions.

Figure Skating

Similar to dance, figure skaters can benefit from the rhythm, body control, and coordination that Karate provides. Figure skating also requires lower-body strength for explosive power in jumping, another of Karate’s benefits.

Figure skating also provides us with an excellent example of how cross-training can enhance any sport. Elvis Stojko revolutionized men’s figure skating on a global level by applying the maxims of what he had learned in martial arts to achieve new heights (literally) in this sport.

Football & Rugby

These “power” sports require explosive movements that engage fast-twitch muscle fibres. Karate teaches its practitioners how to generate explosive energy through the power of repetition and the techniques of focusing one’s energy and power.


It’s been said that golf is 90% a mental game that requires focus, concentration, and precision. Karate’s striking training provides all three skills. Good aim also requires internal rhythm, core strength, and balance – three other skills that Karate is uniquely effective at providing.


Similar to basketball, hockey requires speed, explosiveness, and hand-eye coordination. Karate trains all of these skills so that hockey players can out-skate and out-finesse competitors. In hockey, the self-defence element of Karate doesn’t hurt, either.

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

Karate is the foundation of all MMA because it combines striking, self-defence, and grappling. And, while some martial arts are very specific, Karate provides both offense and defense skills – it is a broad and powerful foundation for all MMA fighters.


Soccer, similar to basketball and hockey, is a finesse sport that relies on quick bursts of speed and power. Karate teaches how to maximize bursts of speed and helps practitioners understand how to keep the body in a low-energy but “ready” state until explosive energy is required. Karate also requires the coordination of multiple body parts and muscle groups, as well as hand-eye coordination, and the kata figures in Karate enhance physical finesse and precision.

Strength, Flexibility, & Overall Conditioning

In addition to the specific benefits to a variety of sports described above, Karate also enhances these important general skills:

Through the very nature of the sport, Karate develops strength and flexibility. It also encourages practitioners to further develop these skills, and overall fitness, as a means of achieving goals in Karate. For example, a karateka may wish to improve punching and kicking power, or may want to be able to kick higher. To improve in such areas, they will seek out other types of training.

While Karate is in itself a cross-training activity, karatekas are encouraged to further cross-train to develop overall athletic conditioning. This may include stretching, weight lifting, cardiovascular workouts, and targeted drills to train the body for specific performance improvements.

Another important skill that Karate teaches is breath control, which improves overall performance and increases recovery time. We breathe without thinking about it – unfortunately, we also sometimes fail to breathe without realizing it. Whereas an untrained person will waste a significant amount of energy forgetting to breath or by breathing inefficiently, learning when and how to breathe is an integral part of Karate training, building strong breathing habits.

The Mental Game                       

Perhaps the greatest benefit that martial arts provides to all other sports is a strong mental game. As with most sports or physical activities, the release of endorphins through exercise balances one’s mood, provides stress relief, and increases one’s perception of being happy.

Karate also builds mental fortitude in these ways:

  • Improves concentration through achieving difficult tasks with accuracy and power.
  • Improves discipline as students learn to follow instructions and work with/ be patient of others.
  • Improves self-confidence through mastering new skills and self-defence knowledge.
  • Relieves stress and increases happiness through a regular state of “flow” – i.e. focusing on training and clearing the mind of other thoughts.
  • Reduces fear and anxiety as experience and confidence are gained through managing physically stressful situations.

Through the long-term practice of Karate, one learns what is required to achieve personal goals and provides the skills and tenacity to go after those goals.

As our Sensei Earl Horvath explains: “Most martial artists have a mental toughness, a desire to meet challenges head on, and the confidence to believe they can win.”