5 Reasons To Quit Karate


The year was 1986.  Ferris Beuller was having a day off,  Karate Kid II made us wonder how Daniel ever won a single tournament match in the first place, and Koko B-Ware with Frankie the bird was riding high at the top of the WWF.


It was also the year I signed up at my local YMCA and started karate.  A sport known for making a hero of the little guy and for a time it was a truly awesome fifteen year ride when I met many great people.  But all things eventually come to a close as you go through life.  So why did I quit so many moons later?  Why should you?  Glad you didn’t ask…

 #5. Karate is not great for long term health

makiwaraYou’ve heard it a hundred times and you’re going to hear it again.  Martial Arts is non-stop bad news for your long term health.  Allow me to explain.

Seeing as a high percentage of amateur martial arts practitioners name drop MMA fighters in the hopes of validating their past-time, let’s bring them into the topic shall we?  Those poor bastards are going to be sporting some of the most debilitating injuries into their senior years.  Getting cold-cocked in the head on a regular basis hasn’t been shown to be a healthy lifestyle choice for professional athletes such as boxers or hockey players.  Hockey players at least get helmets.  These guys get TKO-level concussions by the bakers dozen and remember kids, brain damage is permanent.

But lets assume you’re at least smart enough to protect your melon.  Every dojo knows of a hard-core guy who uses a makiwara.  Makiwaras are boards sticking out of the ground you punch in order to perfect punch technique ( not $20 pads sold by cheap martial arts stores ).  They are the equivalent of smashing your head against a brick wall in the hopes of improving your concentration.  Advocates of these devices must be avoided at all costs as they are undeniable morons who think arthritis is an admirable long term goal.

While the makiwara is certainly not alone, it demonstrates a false assumption by many karate practitioners:  that long-term repeated abuse with stupid gadgets in the name of tradition has no negative consequences on your body joints.   That thinking prevails even though every last one of those makiwara guys is sporting calluses on their hands that should insure that by the time they’re 60, handling simple things like a knife and fork will be challenging.

#4.  Recreation turns to Religion

In all fairness, this doesn’t truly happen until you hit senior belt levels.  I was able to have a great old time in karate until I hit brown belt.  Then it got progressively more difficult to balance life as preparing for black belt testing can be in technical terms, a real bitch.

But the test is not the problem.  The problem is when you pass.  At that point welcome to the world of politics.  Welcome to the world of greasing palms and kissing babies in the hopes of moving higher up the totem pole past a Shodan.  That belt that was once your big goal now becomes your noose.

I’ve seen instances where a senior belt is bucked down to brown belt because he took some time off.  After all, we wouldn’t want to disgrace the integrity of the dojo by having some hack return and only know 90% of the katas would we?  What if the Chen Zen Kung-Fu club kicked down the door and demanded a fight for the honor of our masters?  See what I mean?  Chaos.

But it gets crazier.  Every dojo has a Messiah-Complex for someone in the organization.  There’s always some story about the superhuman exploits of their founder or current Grand Poobah.  And man, have I heard them all and then some.  Got news for you all: Nakayama, Yuguchi, Tanaka and whatever other name you want to drop all put their pants on one leg at a time just like you and me.  They neither had superpowers nor had vigilante careers on the side and were certainly no more spiritually enlightened than anyone else.  They payed taxes, drove to work and in pure un-Zen like form gave someone who cut them off the finger.  They went home, played with the kids and had normal, non-karate style sex with their wives.


So perhaps consider that whenever you hear another story about the time your Sensei killed a gang of muggers and karate chopped their remains into dust over the ominous sound of pan-flutes.  Just sayin’.

#3. Adulthood

Watching kids in karate is great as it’s good to see youngsters doing something besides growing roots in front of a cursed Xbox.  Even better for teens as idle hands are the devils tool-shed.  Or something like that.   For these age groups, I concede that karate rocks and rocks hard.

However, the usefulness of karate diminishes exponentially past the age of 25.  Well, unless you still live at home with your parents, in which case they appreciate any chance to get your failed man-child ass out of the house.  For the rest of you adults who decided to man-up and get a job, a house and a mini-van…good luck balancing that and maintaining your position of integrity in the club.  There’s a good reason karate club members see a decline as the members age.  It’s not because their karate sucks or their Sensei’s are bad.  It’s called having priorities.

However, the death blow to your karate career will be…

#2. Parenthood

Karate is great if you’re young, have no job and your parents double as chauffeur.  It sucks if you’ve developed a taste for the finer things in life.  Like family.


Few things will beat the ever loving selfishness out of you with the force of a Dojo armed with aluminum bats like having kids.  Assuming you’re parenting to an acceptable level, you will realize that leaving your family four times a week for several hours after work to train in karate is...if you’ll pardon my opinion…complete lunacy.

#1.  Home Fitness

This is the one that finally put a bullet in my pursuit of the martial arts.  The irony is that I found out about P90X during my short lived run with TaeKwonDo…which technically is less a martial art and more free-form leg swinging in tacky, badge covered pajamas.  It occurred to me that for one months worth of fees I could buy P90X and save thousands of dollars by being fit at home without the politics, obscene cash drain, time away from my family and change rooms full of angst teenage boys hosing themselves down with so much Axe Body Spray you’d swear they were trying to attract a female moose.


P90X is everything martial arts claims to be and everything it fails at.  Plyometrics, weight/circuit/core training, yoga, cardio…by golly Bruce Lee would have loved it!  And I even went beyond P90X to P90X2, Asylum, Insanity, RushFit…because I controlled my fitness journey, not some paid Sensei.  The results?  Better speed, mobility, and most importantly, better balance with other things in life without political games and inflexible schedules.  It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Look, I’m not saying buying a DVD package is everyone’s flavor.  You may like going to a dojo and if you do that’s great.  But don’t think for a second you couldn’t do better elsewhere.

© 2013 – 2015, Dysfunctional Parrot. All rights reserved. No reproduction of written material is permitted.

About Author

John Paul Parrot ( aka. The Dysfunctional Parrot ) is a disgruntled Systems Analyst who wanders the Canadian wastelands saving small villages with the power of Kung Fu.  His chair is also a little too close to the twenty year old microwave.  As you can well imagine, this has had certain side effects.

  • Aniruddh

    Wow you killed ninjas just joking

  • Anon

    Any plans on reviewing Focus T25 by Shaun T?

  • siavash

    oh man you r meaning that all the sport that requires to get your ass out of home are suck and you just wanna sit on your chair at home and wank all day

    • I don’t recall even hinting to that conclusion. There are simply much better ways to be physically fit than karate.

      Perhaps your reading skills are on par with your writing skills? That would explain your mistaken views.

  • Frank

    There is a lot of truth in what you say, however your experience with shotokan karate should not define all the people worldwide who train in karate. Perhaps you should have looked for a dojo what did not treat its members like chattel.

    • I’ve been in more dojo’s than most and I really have no desire to return. Some things you just grow out of and leave behind. That having been said, I did follow up with 5 Reasons karate is not useless, so it’s not all bad ( few things are ). The article was meant to be a comedic jab at my own past. For kids I still think it’s a great activity. Adults though?…meh.

      The sad irony? My son starts TaeKwondo lessons tonight. Oh!!! The shame!!!!

  • steve guy

    well yea if you doing it as sport it is of course bad for long time health. but if your do it to better yourself and spar, not fight maybe you wont lose as much brain cells or break as many bones in your life

  • Ken

    What an absolute load of Borrocks!!!
    Because the only experience of “karate” (Taekwondo is NOT Karate) is a McDojo you presume you have the right to paint it all with the same brush, I suppose you think all Muslims are Terrorists too?
    Try a little Kyokushin Style karate and see the difference!
    Unless you have tried at least 10 styles of karate for a minimum of 6 years each then maybe just maybe you can have an opinion.

    • The funniest thing about this comment was that I was barely through the first sentence when I thought “I’ll bet this is from a Kyokushin practitioner.”

      And then it was. Made my day buddy.

      • Ken

        I see, its your opinion and no one else’s count, Typical American, think they rule the world

        • I’m not an American. Not having a good day are you?

        • Christopher Monti

          Well I AM an American, and we DO rule the world, sucka! USA! USA! :D

  • As a second degree black belt, I would agree with most of this. Especially the religion part. I’ll stick to P90X. Great article.

  • fadecomic

    Man, you’ve had some terrible experiences. I can’t say my dojo experience has been like this. I’ve been in non-profit SKIF dojos in several states, and the senseis are usually pretty humble. While they show respect to big names like Kanazawa and Murakami, they are the first to admit these guys are human. The fees are reasonable, and they’re part of a bigger organization like YMCA or a university.

    • The totality of my martial arts experience is best broken into seasons. The young years were positive and very rewarding but things deteriorated as I got older. As I got to senior levels, it became practically intolerable to deal with the politics. And this was not a single dojo. I have been in over half a dozen dojos across Canada and I can’t really say much was different between them.

      Practicing karate as a functional adult is a hard thing to accomplish. It just does not translate into adulthood well as it is just plain lunacy to ask for such devotion to compete with marriage, kids, job and things that actually MATTER.

      In short, karate is a game for the young. After 25-30 it is generally a waste of time when so many vastly superior options for fitness are available.

  • azmi rais

    Yes its true having trained 7 martial arts. Family life becomes priority. But my 57 yr old client with no more growing kids is taking muay thai and now sporting a six pack. Just saying….

    • If his time allows it then good for him. Just as long as he gets good fitness and doesn’t become all goofy in the head like so many lifelong practitioners! :)

  • Hello

    I took karate (not at a McDojo) for 3 years starting when I was 40. I never took it when I was younger because I was involved in sports and didn’t have the time, but had always been curious. My experience was very similar to yours in that it was enjoyable until I got to brown belt. We were required to meet with (worship) the grand poobah on a regular basis and were not allowed to miss any, but when it started to interfere with my job and other life events, I decided it was time to quit. So I never took the black belt test and have no regrets. It felt too much like hero worship to me and was a bit creepy. There are better ways to get into shape and I felt karate was too repetitive anyway.

  • beast3146

    Love where you mention…p90x and use an AFFILIATE LINK. Great way to make money. I love this blog..not because I’m interested in the topic but I love how you include affiliate links within your posts. This will help me make money on my blog.;)

    • Just to correct…I most certainly DID NOT use an affiliate link. The destination url is to p90x.com where Beachbody redirects it to the site you see. It is a straight up link to their site, nothing more and I don’t get one solitary nickel from Beachbody. Never have.

      I have always stated clearly that I am neither an affiliate nor am I a Beachbody coach as I despise MLM on a scale few can appreciate!

  • Cecil Ryu Martial Arts

    The most honest martial arts article I have ever read. I still like the martial arts, teach part time, etc., but, it is HARD, HARD, HARD to do it when you have a wife, children, family, friends, a job, a LIFE. Seems like the only way to do it is to accept that it will take a very long time for you to get any rank after shodan.

  • Charles

    I can’t figure out where you went wrong. 15 years.., half a dozen dojos spanning accross….


    Why of course, then, look no further :D

    Seriously though I can’t agree less. I do the 16 katas I know on mornings at 6:30 (not strictly every day mind you. I’m not completely crazy). Past kanku dai I’ve broken a sweat and then comes the time to play with the fun stuff. jion, hangetsu, enpi, Kanku sho, gojushiho-sho, gankaku and unsu. Wrap it up with a few dozen push-ups, abdominals and some stretching and I’m all set for work. All it requires is some space and possibly a floor mat. I supported my learning by mimicking great competitors seen on youtube videos. It’s quite a challenge and also rewarding. You quickly go far beyond the slow, choppy katas practised in many standard dojos (I have to admit though I attend an absolutely fabulous one and have for a long time).

    I try to go to there twice a week for sparring and sometimes take the kata class just to show off :D (<– joke!) When I can't make it no one cares. I don't see the judgementality you mentioned anywhere. I've actually never seen it in 25 years (Over which time I attended more than half a dozen places)..

    Plenty of time for a normal life and it quite agrees with my 39 year old body. Much more so than anything else I've ever tried, including but not limited to weights, running, swimming (those tend to knock you out for the rest of the day but I'll still enjoy the occasional weekend session if the schedule allows it).

    I don't mean to be disrespectful but I think this series of articles suck. I don't think I have the mentality of the lifelong practitioner you described but I see it as a disservice to people to tell them they can't attend any sort of sports club/dojo (what you say about life constraints applies to them all) because it takes away from the "things that matter". Getting out of the house once or twice a week to blow off some steam without the wife/husband/gf/bf might actually save some people's mariages in the long run. Why take that away from them? Why??

    It really isn't nearly as hard to achieve as you suggest.

    I didn't have to kill any ninjas writing this. The strength of my glare kept them cowering in fear at a safe distance ;)

    • Got a problem with Canada you care to share?

      Also, I didn’t ask for your workout regimen ( sounds awful ) and I’m not taking anything away from anybody. Seriously, you think an article has that much power? How weak minded are you people??

      Next time please deal with the points of the article instead of boring me with your 1 dimensional existence.

      • Charles

        Sounds like I offended you. I used lots of smilies to illustrate I was being humorous. I failed at being funny. It’s happened before & I fear it’ll happen again.

        Likewise “Why take that away from them? Why??” was meant as a joke. Saying the articles sucked was a very poor wording though. Apologies.

        That being said detailing my regimen was in response to the P90X section, which is a workout regimen also right? So yes I was responding to a point in the article.

        You’re completely entitled to think it sounds awful (or not want to read about it) but having had to stop all training for two years for reasons I’m not going to bore you with I gained 25kg and using this regiment I lost them quite quickly (2 yrs). The proof being in the pudding I’ll have to disagree with you there. Katas were designed as a pretty effective workout, each with its set of challenges. Working on a large set of them in one session is a pretty complete workout.

        The point being that you don’t need a dojo to practice karate and you can get by going there only occasionally. And have a life.

        I’m curious how you’d react to someone saying they played tennis 2-3 times a week and had early morning workouts at the gym to keep in shape. Would you consider they had a 1 dimensional existence too or is it just a grudge against karate?

        • Truthfully, if you intended the comment to be humorous then it is I who should apologize for being verbally defensive. To be honest, most martial arts comments are from very insecure crazy people who feel I have done some unforgivable sin by being critical of their past-time.

          That having been said, I’m sure you do NOT have a one dimensional existence. I just remember training like that for hours even when at work ( night shift Systems Analyst ). It burned me out and led to me finally walking away. If you desire to stick with karate long term then I advise slow and steady wins the race! If it becomes all you think about it will drive you nuts before too long.

          • Charles

            All good then I’ll keep that in mind ;)

  • Karlford

    Why would someone spend most of their life learning to hit someone?
    You guys are nuts.

    • Exactly. You summed it up pretty much perfectly.

    • susker

      For the seek of defence maybe. At least that’s what you wish in blurry situtation.

  • dmcx27

    Heavy bag HIIT, weight training, SPEAR system. Nuff said

  • Hannah

    I felt i had to quit karate even tho i was in my mid teens the friend that introduced me to it was crazy cult mode, if i missed a class cuz of a doctors appointement or my mum was at work and couldnt drop me off she was all but expected to quit her job to take me. I got to a blue belt then had to leave and distance myself from that friend alot i felt it was unnatural she claimed she could speek japanese and that she would get a good job based on the fact shes a black belt well she was kidding herself so i grew up and left.

    • I would mention a black belt on a resume at your own peril. “Normal” people consider that more than a little strange.

  • Bubba Jenkins

    Met an old karate guy while at a school to learn how to drive a semi.. Weird huh. Anyway, I call him Captain America because he always told stories to me how he was undefeated in fights , worked as a bouncer, had fought guys from other styles and never lost etc… Funny thing is I never got that from my the guys I trained with in jujitsu, we were all there to roll and have fun. The only guys who had attitude in my dojo were the cops who came to train, a week or two of skinny dudes choking them out usually mellowed them a bit. Anyway, Captain America was doing his usual bit about how he didn’t think jujitsu worked, how he had an “unbeatable defense” he used on his students and that he had never been taken down. I asked him to show me. It was a simple cross collar grip. His right hand was grabbing what would be my right lapel. Captain’s arm was so tight when he gripped me that you’d think he was bench pressing 200lbs. I used my left hand and popped his elbow up, making his upper body shift to the left, then I pulled down hard on the crease of his arm (where the elbow and forearm meet) in the opposite direction, while I swept out his front foot. Needless to say his ultimate defense was not as perfect as he thought. Had I not grabbed him last minute he would have done a header into the hotel tv. There are blow hards in every style. And to me the ones I meet who are the loudest talkers tend to know the least.

  • Frances

    I am female and 33 years old. Started Karate about a year ago. I do like the martial
    arts for the fun of it, but I honestly don’t know if I should keep going or start
    doing other stuff like Krav Maga, which its more like personal defense. Also, I
    have being doing t25 and running. What do you recommend?

    • Coincidentally, 33 was around the time I hung up the gi. You’ll get a lot of people spouting the “martial arts are for life” mantra, but they’re all deluded hypocrites who just haven’t realized the day is coming when they too will walk away. These days there are so many superior options for fitness. In your case, Focus T25 being one fine example. Years ago, P90X was the catalyst to make me quit martial arts entirely as I was getting fitter at home than in the dojo.

      If you’re looking for practical defense training, karate is probably not going to float your boat anyway. Ju Jitsu, Krav Maga and the like are better tailored for that sort of thing by a mile.

      I can’t really tell you to quit or not, but if you’re asking the question you may already know the answer. See, you can pick up some decent psychology by watching Fraser reruns after all!

    • Cecil Ryu Martial Arts

      My suggestion is: if and only if you are not being price gouged, I would get a least a black belt in Karate before switching to another style since it seems like you enjoy it. I also recommend that you keep doing the running and t25, and any other fitness training that works for you.

  • Alex

    I love you man , I love to read your posts – it truly shows me how much far away many people are from karate , not you I mean , but the people which teaching it .

    I wish you could take a family trip to Okinawa , visit Kadena .
    believe me
    It will change your view about everything .

  • John

    Well Dysfunctional Parrot I completely agree with you, but its a LOT LOT worse.

    I have trained and lived in Japan doing several martial arts including Shotokan Karate.


    1. 90% of those who do Karate in Japan are young people 21 years old and younger, they start young under 10 years old, by the time they get to University their at least 1st Dans. At University they will get their 2nd or 3rd dan.

    2. 99% of Japanese STOP doing Karate after age 21. Why? They leave University and get a job. The demands of work, long hours, etc. their life is then dedicated to the Corporate, full stop.

    3. The Japanese public i.e. those who do not do Karate think its practiced by GANGSTERS, that’s right the local mafia they call Yakuza. Sorry to burst anyones bubble but to them Karate is a new sport, its not Budo. Unlike say Iai-do 500 years old. You will not believe the difference in reaction from people when I told them I did Karate to when I told them I did Iai-do.


    Money. Its big business in the West. And a lot of that money feeds back to Japan to pay for the lifestyles of the Japanese instructors who do Karate full time. The western (sad) love of the Oriental mystique. Watching too many Bruce Lee films, heck! who knows but the Japanese must be extremely baffled of the popularity of martial arts in USA. Europe etc. BAKA GAIJIN!!!