Pain is a necessary part of our physiology. It is our body's way of communicating with the mind that an injury to the body is taking place or has occurred. Those that are unable to feel pain are in constant danger of permanently injuring themselves since they are not given the warning signs of impending injury.

In karate, pain is an important part of the art. On the defensive side, the recognition and control of pain is a necessary component of one's training. On the offensive side, it is the delivery of pain and injury that makes karate effective.

Let's look first on the defensive side of pain in karate. Pain in karate training is ever present. The karateka constantly pushes the threshold of physical pain and exhaustion during training. By constantly exploring the zone between pain and injury, the experienced karateka can push the body to the limits and tread on the border between pain and injury without causing permanent damage to one's self. For example, when defending against a kick with an arm block, the karateka knows just how much force in the block can be used against a specific strength of kick that may cause pain to the defender yet not cause permanent damage to the blocking arm. When training on the makiwara (striking pad), the karateka knows just how much force can be delivered to the blow without causing permanent injury to the striking hand or foot. By treading this boundary, it allows the body to be developed and tempered in such a way to make the physical parts of the body stronger without causing permanent injury to the body.

Controlling pain on the defensive side is also very important. When an attack is received, the karateka is able to block the pain from the mind while at the same time acknowledging the degree of pain to evaluate the injury. This evaluation is very important.  If a injuring blow is delivered to the arm or limb of a karateka, the degree of pain is necessary to be known so that the karateka knows whether the limb can continue to be utilized or whether the level of pain is such that a permanent injury has occurred and that the use of the limb must be discontinued. If the pain is allowed to control the body instead of the mind controlling the body then the body is no longer able to fight. Once the pain is acknowledged and assessed it can then be blocked to continue combat.

On the offensive, delivery of pain is necessary and the knowledge of this pain is necessary in order to know what degree of debilitation is being delivered to the opponent. This is learned through training and by being on the receiving end of similar techniques. By experiencing this pain, one can truly learn the effectiveness of a given technique or attack. In addition, delivery of a technique and the evaluation of the reaction of the opponent gives immediate feedback which tells you the level of mental strength and pain control by the opponent. By exploring different reactions to different attacks, it makes the opponents weaknesses (or lack of) become exposed. This is a case of by knowing one's self, you are able to learn about your opponent and their strengths and weakness.

Pain is a vital tool in karate. It must be controlled so that the mind controls the body. Pain must not be allowed to control the mind or control of the body is lost


Pain and Karate