3 Reasons Karate is the World’s Best Martial Art

“Which martial art is the best?”

It’s an age-old debate.

Desktop warriors, fighters, scholars and martial geeks have debated the topic for centuries – never coming to a real conclusion on what martial art is the “best”.


Because the question is fundamentally flawed.

See, it depends on how you define ‘best’.

Best for *what*?

Competition? Self-defense? Physical training? Warfare? Weight loss? The answer will vary according to several factors; including your goals, physical potential, availability and mindset.

In my opinion, the best martial art is the one you love to do.

No matter what it’s called.

In my case, it’s called Karate.

Here’s why:

1. Unparallelled Diversity

The inherent variety found in Karate is amazing.

No matter what “style” you train, there’s always something new to learn or do – whether it’s kumite, kihon, bunkai, kata, kobudo or something else.

The cool thing is, although it’s rooted in traditional Japanese/Okinawan values and traditions, you can easily incorporate modern training methods and scientific concepts to amplify Karate’s effectiveness in all areas – even if you just do Karate for fun, health or simply as an “exotic hobby”.

Focus pads? Use ’em. Conditioning/agility drills? Do ’em. Sports psychology? Apply it.

There’s no limit to the ways you can use Karate to shape your own journey.

The timelessness of traditional Karate makes it perfect for progressive coaches/sensei who wish to mold their students in any way.

In fact, classical Karate is so adaptable that you can even use it to become UFC champion, like Lyoto Machida.


No matter how you approach Karate, never forget:

Theory and practice go hand in hand.

“Karate is the martial art of intelligent people.”

– Funakoshi Gichin  (1868-1957)

2. Surprisingly Safe, Easy & Effective


Karate is super easy.

(But becoming good at Karate is super hard!)

And, unlike many modern martial sports, Karate is also surprisingly safe. You will rarely get more than a bruise (or bruised ego) during training, and certainly not a broken jaw or neck – unless you train at a McDojo™ where profits are more important than safety. For this reason, Karate has become very popular with kids and older people in recent years.

That being said, don’t fool yourself – if you enter a real dojo you should always be prepared to work hard and experience some pain.

After all, Karate is a martial art.

Nonetheless, Karate is one of the most popular and well-known martial arts for a simple reason:

It’s safe, easy to learn, requires little space and is very effective if done right.

Just make sure you do it right.

Because “martial” always comes first.

“Nothing is more harmful to the world than a martial art that is not effective in actual self-defense.”
– Choki Motobu (1870-1944)

3. Rich Heritage/Culture

Lastly, here’s one of my favorite aspects of Karate.

The culture. The language. The history. The philosophy. The people.

Sure, I love physical training. But if that’s all there is, I would probably have quit a long time ago.

You see, I’m a Karate Nerd™ – I want need more than just “punching and kicking” in a pajama.

I need a deeper connection.

That’s why Karate is so beautiful.

It’s literally the brain surgery of martial arts.

You will never fully learn everything there is to learn about Karate. The minute you open a proverbial door of knowledge, ten more doors appear. Although this can seem scary or daunting to some people, it’s the opposite for me: It makes me even thirstier for more knowledge about various old masters, concepts, Japanese words, philosophies and historical gems out there.

Karate comes from a vastly different social setting and cultural context than you and me.

That’s the last reason to why I think Karate is the “best” martial art in the world.

Because it’s the best

For me.

And – at the end of the day – that’s all that matters.

“Karate-do is a lifetime study.”

– Mabuni Kenwa (1889-1952)

I hope you agree.


  • Karate is really great martial art no matter how you look at it .It's good for self defense if you take the traditional way its good for sport if you take the modern way also if karate is combined with the principles of other martial arts and ground fighting it will become more complete than hapkido also I'd like to combine traditional and modern karate .Karate will become really effective if all styles of karate are combined to with the formation of 1 single very effective form of hybrid karate .
  • Steven Croft
    Once Tatsuo Shimabuku (Founder of Isshinryu Karate) was sitting drinking awamori with some students. He asked them while pointing toward some bottles "which bottle is best"? Some picked the larger bottles, some the smaller. Tatsuo said that the shape of the bottle was not important. He indicated all bottles were good, that there was no "best bottle" and that all bottles served a purpose. Get it?
  • Matt Jones
    It's a funny thing you post this now. I was just in a discussion with other Karateka about Karate Triumphalism and why I think it's good. These were my main points though I think it was lost on my colleagues. Or maybe I wasn't clear enough, it's my karate, it's for me, no one else. I'm not saying it's the best. But it certainly is for me.
  • Sandy B Herman
    Greetings Jesse San A very well presented viewpoint ,with sentiments I totally share Karate is 60% mind 30 % physical , and the other 50% is spiritual(1+2= 5) More important, karate is an art, and it is also the unconquerable mountain Everyday, I put on my sacred Gi, enter my dojo , and my day begins.....my cup is empty , and today I will grow , even if only in minute increments Your insights are gratefully received Warmest
  • Ian
    1. I'm in karate. . . . 2. You're in karate. . . . 3. Dude, we friggin' ROCK!! . . . ... there. That was eeeeeasy!
  • Ojitsack
    For me, there's no best martial art in the world, because EVEN you are a grandmaster on it, you have too much to learn. I see the karate as the most balanced martial art in the world, beause it has punches, kicks, grabs, good defense ways, and specially... an impressive mind and spirit strength developing. God bless.
  • Nilsosu
    I agree that the best martial art is the one you love to do. I mean, if you don´t enjoy doing it, you´re not gonna become that good at it anyway.
    • AlexN
  • Every Martial art that fits you the best Martial art. For me it. is Karate
    • Alex
      For me it's always been karate. I branched out, and always went back. Many of us that branch out keep a base martial art. We try jujutsu, judo, boxing and all the rest, but many of us come back to karate. And karate grows with age too. When we're young we attracted to the flashiness of competitions and belts, we get older and discovers kata and kihon, perfection, some venture off and get neck deep into bunkai and history, some discover the zen and budo side when they age. There's just so much in karate that, like Jesse said, you can just keep on learning and improving. Now, enough talk, time to practice, first commandment and all :)
    • Ojitsack
      Let's "change" the answer: For me, the best martial art in the world... is the LOVE itself. You may be any martial art grandmaster, but if you don't love it (the martial art, or anything you like), there is nothing you can qualify as the best. With the love, you'll have the esteem to practice any martial art and be the best, you'll have the courage to solve any problem, you'll have the knowledge to help anybody. In this case, love the Karate and that will change your way to see the life, training with humble spirit, and fight for the justice to look for the peace. God bless.
  • Women in Martial Arts
    How about #4. Anyone can learn it: Men, women, old, young, white, black, brown, and blue. My wife trains with me a bit and I think she is like you in that she wants more than the punching and kicking - she wants the spiritual connection. No MMA for her - she is a karate girl through and through.
  • Ben
    Could not agree more, I tried Krav Maga, then Hapkido and now am training in Atemi Jujitsu, yet I still love both Krav and Hapkido, it just turned out that Jujitsu was better for me personally - we also train in Golden Dragon Karate to learn our striking techniques, blocks and stances.
  • This is a very nice post! I totally agree that it is important to first know what you like to achieve so that you can decide what kind of martial art you are going to practice. You also need to love what you are doing so that you will get the best results of it. Moreover, I have known and understand karate because my son loves it. He does it because he likes that sport and at the same time for self protection.
  • Dr. Donald Miskel
    I've been involved in the martial arts for 56 years (and counting). I began my journey with jiu jitsu and judo. I began studying karate in the early sixties. I have studied and ranked in several other arts but karate/kempo is my passion. Any other art I study is to garner a deeper understanding of my primary art. I have advanced rank in aikijitsu. Studying that art helped me to recognize the aiki techniques hidden in karate kata. I love all martial arts but if I could study only one karate would be my choice.
  • pc
    The best one is the one you do. A martial arts friend of mine uses the motto, "dare to be great". My motto is if you can dream it you can achieve it. You can go in a multitude of directions. I think that everyone should have a grasp on street self defense but, you martial arts training should also keep you in shape and provide you with a mental release. Everyone has a different idea on which is best but if you don't stop that first punch then the fight may be over. Training of any kind is better than watch it on tv. later
  • Arif Kanyilmaz
    KARATE TRAINING BUILDS INNER STRENGTH AND ACHIEVING GOALS Everyday, I put on my sacred Gi, enter my dojo , and my day begins…..my cup is empty , and today I will grow , even if only in minute increments my regards to all martial arts lovers New Zealand
  • Buzdawg
    I totally agree with the notion that "the best martial art is the you do". In my case, it's Zen Do Kai. Many people argue that it's not "a real martial art" just because rather than having its own techniques, it takes many from numerous different ones. This is what makes it, for me, the best martial art. So no matter what kind of situation you're put in, it's likely you'll be able to defend yourself. On your feet with the brutal strikes of Muay Thai and Karate or on the ground with the clever submissions and positions of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo. Again, the best martial art is the one you enjoy best, but in my opinion Zen Do Kai takes the top spot.
  • TaoCathy
    Osu! A wise mentor once said that if you don't think your art is the best in the world, you need to find another art (or dojo).
  • This is bullshit.
  • I know that it is up to the individual to be the best in any martial art. Sometimes it is the style or instructor to bring out the best of someone. I would like to see a competition of forms, weapons and fighting in a world wide competition to have an outcome of the best martial artist. This competition could be every 2 yrs. to define the best in that year. Being in martial arts for almost fifty years I think it is time for such a championship. What do you think?
  • It took me many years to find out that Karate is one of the Best Martial Arts.. Not the best. Karate will be the Best Martial Arts only if they are taught WELL with the principles they were mean to be. In my early years got involved in streets fights to find out that my early karate training was useless in the streets. I have trained with many instructors, Japanese and non-japaneses.. they did not have the understanding of what is the real meaning of bunkai and self defense of a a kata. They were not taught well and the same way I did not well :(...
  • Neville Harris
    I agree with all of your points. To be fair, though, you could say all of those things about, say, Chinese "Kung Fu", and it would still be true.
  • convinced
    I will start soon learning this sophisticated art in Tokyo!
  • Paulo Roberto Costa Galvão
    Hei, Jesse-san. This is Paulo from Rio. In my opinion, the best is not what you like best, but the most effective for the purpose of self-defense. Brazilians think the most effective martial art is Brazilian jiujitsu. Yet Karate fighters in Brazil believe the best martial art is a blending of karate and Brazilian jiujitsu, because this blending makes you into a super expert at fighting at middle distances, at short distances, grappling, taking people to the ground and finishing them... I couldn't study both karate and Brazilian jiujitsu in my youth because I had my left hand seriously wounded when I was beginning to study karate. I am south paw... My left hand is not as strong as it could, and should be, because of that, so I am unable to grasp hard. You need very strong wrists to be a jiujitsu fighter. I use boxing mixed up with karate sometimes. I was a boxer when I was a teen-ager. Prizefighters hit harder than karate fighters, acoording to Shigeru Egami Sensei. Well... but I like Karate best, so, according to Jesse Karate Nerd Sensei, karate is my best martial art. Paulo (Old School Karate Nerd from Brazil, former boxer, admirer of Capoeira and Brazilian jiujitsu, and so forth...)
  • Meyer
    Like you said, there is no "best" martial art. Myself, I'm into "HEMA" (historical European martial arts). It, too has a very rich history based on centuries of knowledge. Information is taken from medieval and renaissance fighting manuals, which practitioners spend thousands of hours studying and practicing the techniques found therein. Specifically, I abide mostly by information from the German masters. The techniques were meant to help someone survive on the battlefield and in the sadistic street fights and judicial duels of the day. Grappling and wrestling is every bit as important as utilizing weapons. I chose this route for many reasons. It's just as legitimate and effective as any other martial art system out there. Less importantly, I find its history and cultural contexts interesting, considering my German heritage. Anyways, thanks for sharing your thoughts on Karate. We have similar reasons for choosing what we did.
  • I agree that the best martial art is the one you like to do best. I started with Taekwondo, but I've spent the past two decades studying Wing Chun, Jeet Kune Do, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and Filipino Martial Arts. I still haven't figured out which martial art is "the best." Guess I need to keep trying out different ones.
    • You need to choose one basic style and take the time to grow in it. Know what is your purpose for studying marshal arts and go from there. I prefer a style that can be used to fight more than one person at a time, jujitsu and judo, are basically one on one, not good for the real world, in the arena yes, but not the real world. Give me Kung-fu or Kenpo (kempo karate).
  • Alessio Ventura
    I am 1st DAN and I’m still enjoying Karate after all these years. However, I have too often seen bad results when people train for sport Karate and yet have a false sense of security thinking they can be very effective in a self defense situation. Unfortunately, sport Karate today is mainly point fighting, which results in a game of “tag” to score points. Some people go on to win prestigious tournaments in point fighting, then get their butts kicked in a street situation with someone who has no martial arts training. Machida successfully made the transition from point fighting to MMA, but the key word here is “transition”. That means he learned grappling (Jiujitsu), boxing, and other martial arts that made his transition possible. Point fighting did provide some benefit to Machida & other MMA fighters, such as timing, focus, and speed, but unless you have been punched in the face a few times, you have not yet learned how to fight. This is why I believe that all Karate Dojo should have at least 50% training in self defense where students wear protective gear for full contact fighting. Otherwise they will leave the Dojo with a good workout and a false sense of true street fighting ability. Don’t get me wrong. If sport Karate is your focus and you are realistic about its use in a street situation, then you will be far less likely to be involved in a street fight, which is after all the best self defense. So enjoy Karate, participate in point fighting, learn self defense using Karate and other martial arts, and be realistic about your skills.
  • Spencer
    I trained as a Karate Student in Solomon Islands South Pacific Region i need more tips from you.

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