Why Karate “DOESN’T WORK!”

People say “Karate doesn’t work”.

  • In many cases, they are RIGHT.
  • But often, they are WRONG!

Karate can both work and not work. It depends on what Karate you mean…

You see, there are 3 kinds of Karate. 

They have completely different outcomes and purposes.

If you don’t understand this, you might think that Karate “doesn’t work”.

Watch my NEW video to learn why:

PS. Click here to subscribe to my Youtube channel for new videos!


  • paul
    Great article Jesse. Too many don't understand the Sport vs Do vs Self Defense aspects! While I prefer the traditional 'dento' style of karate but understand, especially in todays social-media blasted world, the desire for many to compete. I just hope that now being in the Olympics we don't see happen to karate what happed to TKD!
    • Arthur Doyle
      That would be a sad day!?
    • MichaD
      No need to worry, because 2024 it isn't olympic anymore.
    • GREAT !!! WE LL MAKE KARATE OF TOMORROW ! It's our work to show karate do more and more like i do too on : https://esprit-karate-do.blogspot.com/ Continue your good job Jesse and thanks a lot for your inspiration !
    • Randolph Smith
      I agree 100%. I for one am sick of what martial arts have degenerated into. Trophies, the hype from the media, the "Black belt factory" mindset of so called Dojos. I find myself flustered at noy being able to find a good quality dojo which ACTUALLY trains for ACTUAL self defense and old school type martial arts.
  • I have been teaching for 40, years and all that you said in video are the principles that I have passed on to my many students over the years, Discipline, Respect and Understanding. When you think that you have found "the Way" you haven't . We never do, so we keeping seeking. Oss.
  • Andy
    Great video Jesse Sensei, I guess the secret is to recognise the difference. The sport orientated Karate is obvious, where I struggle is to recognise the difference in the first 2. I always thought they were 1 and the same. Often it is not the Karate that is wrong but the guide. Loving your work Thanks osu
    • Most definitely, and there's a historical reverse influence between Japan and Okinawa too... which means that you'll actually learn a lot of modernised Karate in Okinawa these days. But if you dig deep, the golden nuggets are hiding under the surface!
      • Armando Bucio
        Ok gracias my friend good video,Q. How do you describe or better say wha is "SANCHI" . Not sanchi kata.? Thank you very much.
      • GREAT !!! WE LL MAKE KARATE OF TOMORROW ! It's our work to show karate do more and more like i do too on : https://esprit-karate-do.blogspot.com/ Continue your good job Jesse and thanks a lot for your inspiration !
    I love all your videos because I ALWAYS understand every word you say, in spite of my poor mastery of English. I do understand you are an excellent karateka and at the same time your English is equally excellent. A foreigner.
    • Thank you! English is my third language, so I try to make it as easy to understand as possible. Great to hear that it's working!
  • MikeD
    Well said. I believe an excellent teacher should include a balance of all three as my Shihan does. While I'm not necessarily interested in Sport Karate. It does enable a student to 'activate' their self-defense moves under duress if you will. thanks Mike
    • Every kind of Karate has tons of benefits if you're learning from a qualified instructor. That's my experience from seeking out and learning under some of the "who's who" in each kind of Karate. Cheers!
  • Charlie
    Thank you for the clarification Jesse. Say we could say Karate itself has had its own journey, Okinawa - Japan - Global. Will keep training.
    • Exactly! That's what I was trying to conve - although it's a little simplified (of course). Glad to hear it resonates!
  • I've been studying for about 50 years and I'm ranked in two styles. Naturally, by far, I like Japanese (JKA) the best. It's origins, as most of you will know, are from Okinawa. I didn't start to under stand what Jesse was describing until I'd been doing this for about 40 years. He did a great job describing how I always felt, but didn't really know how to describe. However, I feel that some things should be required by any serious student. Strict basics, kata and makiwara practice is very important if anyone is to gain real proficiency. I do enjoy your videos, Jesse.
    • Thanks for chiming in, I appreciate your experience and insight into the matter!
  • Mark
    Well said Sir. This is a great way of explaining the differences. And as we age, we often migrate to one of the other forms of karate.
    • Most definitely. And the cool thing is, it's still Karate!
  • Mario
    Hi! I think there is the pre-Ankoh Itosu Karate (self defence, real thing) and post-Ankoh Itosu (Karate taught in Okinawan schools for character development etc, the traditional style that you mention) Then the Japanese which enhanced the post Itosu Karate and last the sport version we see today ( kumite, kata) There is also the American karate (after WW2). Mostly Mc Dojo style spread everywhere. So then reason karate doesn't work is that it lost its original form, its brutal past. Now we try to re-discover the wheel. I'm ok with that.
    • That's one way to see it, glad you've found what works for you!
  • michael getlan
    Well described...thank you for doing this video. i can always send it to someone who doesn't seem to understand! Michael Getlan
    • Thanks, that's great to hear. Spread the message! :-)
      • Hi Jesse, good job, i like it, do you actually write a new article ?
  • Mark
    I always love this debate . Personally speaking the one thing very very hard training teaches you is to be resilient and fast. Stick to basic technique and don’t over flower things . It should always be one punch and finish . I’ve been on the pavement arena and when I have been subjected to threat , I’ve dealt with it fast and decisively. You have no choice . So Karate does work if kept simple and direct . It’s all down to the individual and the standard of training they’ve had and how hard it was.
  • George
    Very true Jesse; three words do well describe your lesson, Discipline, self defense and Character development. I always recall from the master instructors of Okinawa, Never attack first. It gets back to discipline and self preservation.
  • Carla
    Thanks for your video. In my experience, karate hasn't helped me that much to denfend myself from eveil people, basically because I tend to freeze when I am on big stress. (Fortunately I had a great psychologist helping me on that.) I wish so much people knew, knowing karate doesn't equal to being invincible! Hovewer it has helped me in other areas, like self-discipline, and that has been and will still be a great help in life.
  • Nathan Guest
    Jesse, You have made some good points. I started my karate training in 1961.I am seventy-nine. I am still practising and teaching. The most important thing that I have learned over these many years is that we really have to know why we have chosen to give our very priceless time to whatever type of karate we do. Are you training as a fun way to get healthy and fit? Are you working at a hundred percent to be a black belt trophy winner? Great! That's all fine and good. Does every minute in the dojo come down to honour and respect? Just know this: reality in the street does not know or care about your black belt trophies. The demented asocial types you may have to face don't have 1/10th your fitness level. Your training, your honour and respect will get you killed in the street. One thing Jesse, your pronunciation of the word 'Karate' I cringe every time you say it. You say it as 'KaraDEE' It is pronounced ka - ra - TAY. I know it's probably because English is not your first language. But I do think you do speak English really well. (except for 'that' word). And I do appreciate your knowledge and enthusiasm for our art,
    • Geoffrey
      I, too, prefer using the Japanese, 'kara-tay' pronunciaton. However, Jesse is not speaking the Japanese word, but the Okinawan one. In Okinawa, the word for hand is pronounced 'Tee' or 'Dee', not 'Tay'. as in Toudi (or '2D'). So 'kara-dee' is perfectly correct, whether or not English is your first - or third - language, Rock on Jesse! Your views and insights are always interesting and thought provoking.
    • Sheldon Smith
      Let me preface my comments by pointing out that my command of the Japanese language is far from perfect. After 49 years of practicing martial arts I am still learning. Phonetically, Mr. Guest, your pronunciation "Kara-tay" is correct, as English translations for Japanese words typically enunciate the letter "e" as "a." For what it's worth, the letter "i" is usually pronounced as "e" when Japanese words are translated to English; and, the letter "a" is pronounced as "ah." Thus, like you said, "karate" should be enunciated as: "Kah-rah-tay," rather than "car-rot-tee," or "kar-rot-dee" (makes me cringe as well, but keep in mind that Jesse is an excellent technician who pronounces most Japanese terms correctly, something that is rare today). I have read that the Okinawan word "te" simply meant "hand." Allegedly, Mr. Funakoshi, one of the first Japanese to witness Okinawa "te" was so impressed by what Okinawan masters could do with empty hands he added the Japanese prefix "kara" to "te." Translated from Japanese to English, "kara-te" simply means: "empty hand" (Karate-Do: Way of the Hand). The rest is history: "May the hand be thy sword!"
  • Akshat
    A well trained and aware mind capable of great critical thinking always works. As far as my experience goes ....Karate does bring in that. Gr8 video by the way. Keep up the good work :)
  • Joseph
    Jesse, what are your feelings about Krav MaGaa and which category do you feel it would come under.
  • Nick Vázquez
    I'm advocating for a fourth type of karate: A mix of traditional bunkai based training and a competition sports karate. No, I don't mean that we make competition based off tetsui to the groin or boshiken to the eyes. I mean an emphasis on practical kata training along with safe kumite based training to train our use of basic fighting techniques with energy, timing, and distance against an opponent looking to punch, kick, knee, and grab you back. What say you, o Karate Nerd?
  • I'd like to take one quotation that i read somewhere. "There's no bad martial art at all, there's only bad practitioner". I think, this is the important thing that almost being ignored. In order to be a good practitioner, there's long path that we need to take. We need to practice everyday. And thanks to your Video, i've finally realized that "Kata" takes very important part to develop our skill in Karate. Keep up your splendid job Jesse. Hopefully we can directly meet each other someday in Okinawa :-).
  • Bob
    Very sensible Jessie-San. But does the original mode of Okinawa karate still exist in its original form? You mention that the gi, belts, dojo-kun all come from the 2nd mode of Japanese karate-do. Perhaps now there is no longer number one but based on the attitude towards bunkai, there is two-a and two-b? There may also be a blending of two and three. But I understand your point was to make a clearer distinction regarding the idea of how karate "works" according to three different sets of expectations and that valid point was made very well. Thanks.
  • Ron Flake
    Absolutely right Jesse-San! We try to teach "Modern" Karate, with some exposure to and understanding of "Traditional" and " Sport". The Karateka generally comes to us seeking self confidence, respect and discipline. In trying to instill those hopefully we can introduce them to self defense in furtherance of all three. As long as we limit and control it "Sport" provides fun and a measure of progress. Thanks for all you do to further our understanding of our history and our duty to preserve and pass it on.
  • Fernando Tengelmann
    Hello, I agree with every word that you say. My Sensei change the classes schedule in this three styles, that basically are kihon/kata, shiai and budo. This can look strange for the guys that only want to fight but is the full and real karate. Thank you for share your opinion with us.
  • Sinisa
    Hello, nice article Jesse, my personal opinion is that karate always work Why I think that? If you practice karate as self - defense traditional Okinawa karate and you do the best as you can and you are successful and happy, karate works for you, if you practice karate for self perfection, to be in good condition and you are happy and successful, karate works for you again, and if you want to compete and win a lot of medals and become a world champion or local champion of your town and you are happy and successful, karate again works for you. So I think that karate always works depends of what we choose, and that is beautiful thing in karate. Keep the good work and best regards.
  • You have a great way of explaining things,I hope to meet you someday,Jim mcallister ,head of British Fudoshin association ,and mcallister martial arts. Thank you
  • Giuseppe
    Hi Jesse like shotokan student, I tell you who probably you're right, but I don't agree with you on some points. The fact is who A-the shotokan praticted 20 30 40 years ago by JKA it was really different by modern sport karate, on shotokan old school you could see using techiniches like elbow strikes the stance was different ecc, you can see it on the book the best karate kumite 1-2 of nakayama, B- The modern japanese karate, for modern I mean the first 1900 based on ju kumite it’s not wrong for self defence, you must only adapting it to context, if you can fight againt a expert you also can fight against a civil, the time are changed and it’s a normal thing who somebody attack to you using kick and punch o a other style. How I told you, you must adapt them you also can use it on the cage. Certainly apply a kata can be problem, but I think who basing on kata it’s always a limit, on kata there was kick like mawashi geri for example, but it can be a good strike, on a really street fight you don’t know your opponent, and the practise of jiu kumite give to you the power of adapt to you I don’t know if do you understoond what I mean? Greetings!
  • Ania
    Thank you for your video. Your short speech made my day! Now everything is clear and now I now which path is the most suitable for me.
  • I have always been eager to read the next post since finding your blog. I like Karate more than anything else and with your writing I often find this ''mental'' support and it even reminds me where I want to take this passion! Thanks, Jesse.
  • José
    Great explanation!!!! I agree 100%. I like your videos and explanaciones about karate.
  • Dina
    Ciao from Rome, Jesse! Thank you so much for all your videos and hints. I can learn so much from you. You're the best. Hope to see you soon in Italy :-)
  • WOW! Great video. Thanks for sharing useful information.
  • If you need to use strength, you are doing it wrong!
  • The journey will never ends as long as we always have a mind of Shoshin (??). :-)
  • Stu Napier
    I have to say the whole "karate doesn't work" claim doesn't make sense unless you start off knows what do you want it do. I had a very successful friend who is a builder. So successful he bought a Ferrari. A good car and it by most definitions works better than any other car. He thought it didn't work, for him! I can only fit two bags of cement he said. Ferraris don't work for that purpose! My purpose, the job I give my karate is 1. To enjoy. Works for me. 2. For fitness, tick, works for me. 3. To deny I'm getting old (I'm 66). Maybe I'm delusional, but I'll give it a tick. 4. For the comadre, friendship and mutual cooperation. Big tick. 5. For self defence. Jury is out. Never had to use it. My community, places I go don't behave in such an aggressive manner.... maybe only 0.02% of the time. If you really worry about personal safety a. Wear a seatbelt, b. Get vaccinated c. Insert a long list of common sense items here... including smile and walk away from trouble. I do Shorin Ryu, I know the bunkai, the Kumon, love the kata, I've competed and won and had the crap beaten out of me more than I won. My karate works for what I want it do!@@

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