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Can Karate improve my health?


karate-health-dr-michel-barrierKarate is a martial art of self-defense, certainly, but can it also improve my health?

The practice of Karate allows the harmonization of body and mind. By this harmonization, it brings a lot to our physical and psychic state, so to our health in general.

We exchanged some emails on the subject with Dr. Michel Barrière, one of our subscribers Karate3g. Following our exchanges, I asked him to write us an article to explain how, in collaboration with Prof. Denis Oriot, they initiated our martial art in a therapeutic approach within their club.

This approach that could be called karate health is important, especially since it comes from people in the medical community. They bring us, through their activity within the Poitevin Karate Stadium, the benefits of karate.

Michel Barrière was a doctor in the UHC and is currently retired. Holding the rank of 5è dan, he is also a karate teacher (DEJEPS). Professor Denis Oriot is him, doctor at the University Hospital of Poitiers. He is first Dan and also karate teacher (DIF).

After reading their article, I invite you to enjoy the video they gave us about this approach to karate health, with exercises.


If we believe the legend: Boddhidarma, an Indian monk, invented at the dawn of the fifth century AD a method resulting from warlike practices called "cleaning muscles and tendons, purification of the marrow and sinuses" for to help hungry bonzes to control their breathing, to acquire a certain flexibility and to endure meditation times (1). Referring to this we realize that the vocation of well-being of the martial arts is already present very early.

Modern forms of karate incorporate a set of techniques and practices that mobilize all the physical parts of the human body, but also all other affective, mental and spiritual components of the human being. Not only do they mobilize them but they educate them, reinforce them and transcend them to the highest possible level. On the other hand a martial art developing combat techniques must also maintain and strengthen the state of health of the one who practices. Naturally it comes to the idea of ​​taking advantage of these virtues to put them at the service of patients suffering from physical and sometimes psychic pathologies.

These considerations have led us to the idea that is not new to use karate and martial arts for therapeutic purposes (2,3,4,5) for people who have transient or definitive conditions or deficits so that they recover the best and desirable physical functionality and integrity.

Presentation of our activities

The activities we have created have two components: a hospital karate therapeutic part called "use your body differently" in the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation of CHU Poitiers (department heads: Drs. Delaubier and Guillou) and a component karate wellness in our club the Poitevin Karate Stadium affiliated to the French Karate Federation (FFK) (President and technical director of the club: Mr. Michel Bezot - seventh dan - BE2).

The first application we initiated in 2009 at the CHU concerned low back pain. Low back pain is a symptom. It is thus defined by the French Society of Rheumatology: "lumbosacral pain at the height of the iliac crests or lower, median or lateralized with possibility of irradiation not exceeding the knee, but with lumbosacral predominance". Low back pain is such a widespread symptom that very few people escape "back pain" in their lifetime. The causes of low back pain are multiple: they range from simple lumbago to heavy vertebral pathologies. Low back pain that benefits from the care of the service are so-called common chronic low back pain without neoplastic, inflammatory or infectious pathology. It turns out that the attitudes and practices of karate favor a maintenance and a dynamic of this part of the body which can be beneficial to those who present this symptom, for a preemptive aim and avoid relapses.

In order to illustrate what we have implemented, we will briefly describe one or two exercises in the therapeutic and well-being components.

1 - The therapeutic karate component.

This activity is practiced for a session of an hour and a half per week, during the four weeks of the stay of patients, in a space dedicated to this activity. The text describing the exercises and the video showing them are available to them.

One of the first exercises that is proposed to patients is to find an attitude and vertical vertebral static the most correct possible. It is evident that the physiological curvatures of the vertebral column: lordosis and kyphosis are more or less accentuated from one individual to another. However one can already take advantage of an improvement of the verticality as one can have it in the practice of the karate.

The basic or reference posture:

  • Standing position: parallel feet apart from hip width
  • Knees slightly bent forward
  • Vertical vertebral column
  • Arms along the body
  • Low shoulders and open chest for easier breathing
  • Chin slightly tilted backwards without lifting or lowering it to position the head in the axis of the spine
  • Basin brought very slightly in retroversion without, however, reducing too much lumbar lordosis
  • Firmness of the pelvic floor muscles.

Thus the ligaments of the spine are stretched without tension and without associated movement while keeping a great relaxation of the intrinsic muscles.

The simple fact of this position can sometimes lead to a decrease in pain. In any person, it reduces the fatigue due to the pressure of gravity.

The economic march:

Often low back pain has pain in walking. Normal walking causes movements in the lower abdominal region. Indeed when the foot is placed forward on the heel, the pelvis is slightly retroverted and the lordosis diminished.

When the foot is back and rises on the toes, the opposite occurs: slight anteversion and accentuation of the lordosis. Also during this walk the center of gravity (hara) rises and falls from where an energy expenditure to lift and lower the body. Traveling in karate avoids these disadvantages. It is then possible to propose a suitable walk as follows:

The principle of economic walking is based on movements in Fudo Dachi posture.

  • karate-health-dr-michel-barrier-walking-economicWhoever initiates this walk must begin by taking small steps with the knees slightly bent, which will remain so throughout the walk.
  • From the basic posture, the center of gravity (hara) keeping it at constant height is brought to the support of a single foot.
  • The other foot is raised in one piece only a few centimeters keeping the plant parallel to the ground.
  • This foot is advanced to the front of the body, always keeping the plant parallel to the ground.
  • He is then placed in one piece from the heel to the toes at the same time.
  • Then the center of gravity (hara) keeping it at constant height is brought to the front support without exceeding the base of levitation keeping its height constant.
  • The next step is similar: it involves lifting the hind foot in one piece only a few centimeters keeping the plant parallel to the ground.
  • This foot is advanced to the front of the body, always keeping the plant parallel to the ground.
  • He is then placed in one piece from the heel to the toes at the same time.
  • The center of gravity kept constant height is brought on the front support without exceeding the base of levitation and so on.

The vertebral verticality is maintained without deviation or torsion. Thus parasitic movements are avoided and an unnecessary energy expenditure removed. Especially there is no parasitic movement or deviation at the lumbar level and the patient is not obliged to lift his body with every step.

To make a change of direction both feet are brought to the same height and the center of gravity (hara) vertically interpodal space. A rotation pulse is given from the hara. This impulse is transmitted to the hips, trunk, head, and feet by looking at the pelvic girdle, spine, scapular girdle, and all bone and musculotendinous axes. The rotation is done on the heels. The feet move towards the new direction and the body turns on its axis as a unit.

In this movement the energy and the motive force initially apply to the center of gravity (hara) and spread throughout the body. The lumbar-abdominal area is maintained as in the basic posture. Thus practiced this movement allows only a rotation of ninety degrees and little more.

To make a greater change of direction, it is necessary to stop walking in the position one foot in front of the other, to bring the center of gravity to the vertical of the interpodal medium and to proceed exactly as before.

This simple change in walking is not only likely to help low back pain but its practice without exaggeration of attitude provides a benefit of maintenance and energy saving to anyone who moves according to these principles.

2 - The shutter karate well-being

Karate wellness is a practice of karate adapted for the reinvestment of body and mind after a physical and / or psychological test or simply to maintain its health capital at any age. It includes an explanatory part on anatomy, physiology and biomechanics and a large part of adapted classical karate practice.

Two classes a week are offered to practitioners in our club on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12 pm to 1.15 pm during the somewhat enlarged school periods in a dojo.

Strengthening ankle ligaments:

There is a continuity between therapeutic karate and wellness karate which is illustrated with the economic walk that can be practiced in the following way to strengthen the ligaments of the ankle:

The support of the foot on the ground solicits three arches:

  • an internal arch that goes from the heel to the head of the first metatarsal
  • an external arch that runs from the heel to the head of the fifth metatarsal
  • an anterior arch that runs from the head of the first metatarsal to the head of the fifth metatarsal.


The strengthening of the ligaments of the ankle and the strength of this joint benefit from a walking following the principles of economic walking on only one of these arches at once:

  1. first on the outer arch single foot inversion,
  2. then on the internal arch only one foot in eversion
  3. and finally on the anterior arch only foot bearing on the point.

We have a great adaptation of the form practiced according to the characteristics inherent to each practitioner. A course can adapt with levels ranging from the white yellow belt to the fourth dan black belt and special situations.

For example, a lady with osteogenesis imperfecta described as "glass bone disease" has been training regularly with us for several years without any incident or accident.


A question arises: Is there a medical skill to implement a health karate practice?

We will answer in the affirmative for the therapeutic karate which is addressed to patients in care (low back pain, stroke ...) of which it is necessary to know to a certain extent the file and the compatibility of activity with the pathology.

For karate wellness a good knowledge of the anatomy, physiology, biomechanics and the most common pathologies will be very useful. It seems obvious that karate, martial art par excellence, has virtues inherent to its nature. and its practice to maintain or restore the state of health. At the moment when the sport opens to the medical prescription, karate can and must find a place of choice in this therapeutic opening.

  1. Karate
  2. Goodman G, Satterfield MJ, Yasamura K, Combining traditional physical therapy and karate in the treatment of a patient with quadriplegia. Int J Rehabil Res 1980, 3, 2, p.236-239.
  3. Pandavela J, Gordon S, Gordon G, C Jones, Martial arts for quadriplegic. Am J Phys Med 1986, 65, 1, p.17-29.
  4. Seitz FC, Olson GD, Locke B, Quam R, The martial arts and mental health: the challenge af managing energy. Percept Mot Skills 1990,70,2, p. 459-464.
  5. Massey PB, Kisling GM, A Single Case of Healing Through Specific Martial Art Therapy: A case report. J Altern Complement Med 1999,5,1, p.75-79.

To illustrate the practice of Karate Health, Dr. Michel Barrière has prepared a short video:

I thank our eminent doctors and karateka, Dr. Michel Barrière and Pr. Denis Oriot for this article and this video on health karate. It is not intended to convince us but it gives us objective medical advice on the practice of Karate and the adaptation that can be made to cure certain pathologies. It also reminds us of the benefits of practicing a sport in general, and karate in particular because it encompasses and mobilizes all parts of our body, to the mind that is the source of many diseases and malaise.

If, previously, when certain diseases appeared, doctors advocated rest, it seems that karate is likely to heal, if not improve the state of patients suffering from these diseases.

But beware, depending on your state of health, this therapeutic mode of health karate requires close medical follow-up. Always ask for a medical certificate before practicing karate.

We have the article, we have the video, I await your opinion in a comment below!

All I have to do is wish you good health.

See you soon

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  1. Hello
    In my opinion, karate in its sporting forms, corresponds to an age group, but it remains none the less the old karate that practiced the Okinawans until old age.
    I presented some photos of Me Funakoshi extracted from a manual published in 1925:
    We are no longer in the postures at ground level of the 70 years promoted by young senseis who had adapted the practice to the finalities of the competitions.
    If you look at the photos you see that the use of the body remains reasonable and what to do kata, for example, is quite possible for a long time.
    Now, if the structures (FD) that frame the sport remains "youth oriented", it is quite normal that they do not manage other evolutions of the martial arts that come out of the missions of the ministry of supervision.
    It is difficult to know how a non-sporty physical practice could develop in our society, except to think of a return to the sources of the oriental disciplines which envisaged things differently.
    I think that medicine, anatomy, dietetics, etc ... also have a lot to teach us to compose this "new elder".

  2. Very interesting karate health.I learned a lot with the video.I would like to know if you organize courses on it? I run a dojo and it can really help us.Thank you

  3. I have a small question. Is KAraté beneficial or is someone who suffers from high blood pressure can practice karate without risk? I need to clarify the issue concerns me personally, being a former karate practitioner, from my young age (19 - 20 years) until the age of 42 years, of which I got the rank of black belt 2 Dan . So I stopped practicing for almost 17 years because of work and family occupations. However, I have to say that from time to time I walk and sometimes exercise in the forest ...
    Nowadays, if I do intense exercises in the forest or if I make an intense effort (manual work with sometimes lifting heavy objects the next day I suffer from migraine because of a very intense fatigue.

    • Hello,
      Having had high blood pressure it was quite difficult to resume because if resume the sport is one of the elements that can lower the tension should the cardiologist or doctor consent?
      The problem is that doctors do not have and can not have a clear idea of ​​the effort:
      - The stress test is completely delusional compared to a normal activity (point of view shared even by Sunday cyclists) for two reasons; karate allows you to have short periods of sustained activity, and most importantly: you manage.
      - If you go to a club doing 1h30 classes, adult / teen, with a highly competitive practice, it will not be the same as a more traditional one-hour practice class.
      The last point is that it seems to me that the drugs against hypertension are not neutral when the muscle activity, which adds a layer. Each to his advantage and inconvenience. Of course there are methods to lower the tension by diet like the DASH diet that can help.

      On this topic :
      What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About (TM): Dr. Mark Houston's Hypertension

      I found some good advice on Dr. Michel Brack's "Hypertension":

      I realized that I had high blood pressure the day after a show-party a little watered (rum) with Brazilian dancers: the head like a counter. The cardiologist gave me tests and prescribed products. Then I stopped the little I smoked, a diet richer in raw products, stop adding salt, etc ... Now I take nothing but monitor my tension period ...

      For the efforts, I practice sessions of about 1hours (kihon, pumps, abdo, etc. ..) several times a week when I go not in class. More or less fast depending on the form.

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