Want to take up a combat sport but still have a few reservations? I tried karate for you! Here's how my first class went.

I tried karate


It's Tuesday night, 7.15pm and my very first karate class is about to start. As a Judoka for more than 15 years, I'm in a familiar setting: in a dojo on a mat wearing a Gi (uniform). Just like judo, karate is a Japanese martial art. However, the first obvious difference between the two is the Gi - the karateka uniform is much thinner and looser (both the lower part of the jacket and the belt). Before starting the class, everyone lines up facing the instructor to do the standing bow, which is an important sign of respect for any karateka. There are several types of karate, which includes combat techniques and more traditional teachings. This is a combat class, where punches and kicks are allowed. Karatekas wear gloves, shin guards and a mouthguard for maximum protection.


The warm-up starts with cardio exercises to get the body's temperature up quickly. There is music playing to pump everyone up as they do one exercise after another: press-ups, burpees, abs, squats, lunges, etc.


Once the warm-up is over and everyone has worked up a sweat, we start the more technique-oriented part of the class. The instructor does a technique for the class to practise (similar to the uchi komi in judo) and pair off. The first exercise is to do two punches followed by a dodge to avoid your opponent's riposte. My initial feeling is good and moving around feels pretty natural because it's similar to judo. Karate requires being very quick on your feet because you have to be constantly moving.


We continue with another exercise that combines punches and kicks. Things get a little more complicated and I'm a bit less at ease with the movements. The hardest thing is the flexibility the kicks require because you have to kick your leg rather high. However, after a few tries, my muscles start to relax and I'm able to do the movements faster. We repeat the technical exercise until it becomes as smooth as possible. To finish up the technique work, the instructor explains how to do a kick while spinning and striking the opponent's torso with the heel. The most difficult part is keeping your balance to hit your partner. My first attempts are a little off, but I want to keep trying to get it right.


The class ends with combat, similar to sparring in boxing or randori in judo. It is now time to apply the techniques we learned earlier to a more realistic fight situation, where your partner fights back. The goal is to touch your partner at specific points: head, face, neck, abdomen, chest, back and sides. The exercise is physically demanding as you have to move around to block your partner's strikes. But my partner goes easy on me: he holds back on his punches and kicks so I don't get hurt and gives me tips on certain moves.


It's 8.45pm and class is over. We line up once again to do the closing bow. Now it's time to take stock. I really enjoyed this first experience because I was able to pick up some new techniques. Although there aren't any throws like in judo, I loved the quick succession of punches, kicks and dodges. Karate is a physically demanding sport for which you need to be fast on your feet and quite flexible. But if you're not, don't worry! If you train regularly and listen to the instructor, you'll improve in no time.

Laura_Ambassadrice OUTSHOCK