Why practice Karate in barefeet?

Updated: 9/27/2023
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14y ago

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1.Tradition. This refers to the Japanese tradition of separating 'indoors' from 'outdoors', which involves taking your shoes off when entering someone's home. This evolved as a practical courtesy to prevent you from treading dirt into someone's home or damaging the tatami mats, that covered the floors, with shoes. However, the custom didn 't necessarily stretch to taking off your shoes in public buildings. Shoes were allowed to be worn in museums or libraries or other buildings that acted as meeting places.

This traditional argument is quite quaint but it doesn 't really stand up to scrutiny very well. To start with isn 't a dojo a public place in the sense that it is not a residential place but a meeting place for people following a martial art? Also, originally karate was practised outside in courtyards or gardens in bare feet - so karate was already a barefoot martial art before it was practiced indoors.

Others suggest that karate is practised barefoot because it was developed by peasants who had no shoes but karate wasn 't developed by peasants it was developed by the Okinawan nobility - the Keimochi. These people would have worn geta,thonged wooden clogs when walking outdoors.

2. Health and safety. This refers to health and safety in a dojo setting. It is suggested that shoes bring dirt into the dojo and may damage mats. This is true if you are talking about normal outdoor footwear but people practising kungfu, for example, always train in soft Martial Arts shoes, which presumably don't damage mats or dirty the floor.

Most 'health' arguments I have read seem to refer to keeping the dojo floor clean rather than a concern for the practitioner's feet. The downside of practising barefoot from a health point of view is the risk of spreading fungal infections, such as Athlete's foot, or viral infections, such as verrucas. Obviously it is the student's responsibility to treat such infections promptly and abstain from training barefoot until the situation is resolved.

3.Bio-mechanics in karate. This relates to the delivery of power when punching and kicking and being able to grip the floor in order to make strong stances and maintain balance. Every karate student learns that power starts at the feet and is transmitted up through the body to its target. It's what we all strive to achieve through our constant practice. If we don't grip the floor well, maintain strong stances and introduce torque (twist) into our kicks and punches, they won't be very powerful.

This argument for barefoot training makes the most sense. It would explain why karate developed as a barefoot art in the first place - before it was ever practised indoors. The strong, muscular feet needed to practice karate well don't develop if cushioned by shoes so for this reason I think karate is best practiced barefoot.

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14y ago
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9y ago

If you wear socks, shoes, etc. while doing martial arts, it is very easy to slip and fall on a polished floor or fighting area.

Bare feet allow one to really use the toes to grip the floor.

And the overall affect of bare feet helps to strengthen the muscles of the foot and leg as well as toughen the skin of the feet. These help make the individual stronger overall, one of the purposes of the martial arts.

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13y ago

While it has been traditional in most Martial Art schools to train bare-footed, many schools are adopting new traditions. Typically, Judo schools that train on thicker mats still practice without shoes, and a lot of modern Taekwondo, Karate, and Aikido schools still do not permit shoes on the training floor.

However, some schools will permit specialized training shoes that are carried in clean, and worn only for training purposes. The Asian custom of removing your shoes when entering any building was for both health reasons, and cultural philosophy. There is often times dirt, and sharp objects tracked indoors on the bottom of shoes. In third-world countries where serious illnesses often lead to death, people do not share public toilet seats, and they remove their shoes before entering a home, a restaurant, or other businesses.

Shoes worn outside are also believed to be contaminated spiritually, and are removed before entering temples, and other places of worship or spiritual training. In Asian culture, the shoes are said to carry your troubles indoors with you, so they should be left outside, or at the door. However, many buildings in Asian countries are not heated very well, if at all, so indoor slippers, or thongs are often provided for guests. Martial Art shoes that are not worn outside help to keep the feet warm, prevent the spread of germs through contamination of the feet, and can facilitate pivoting and kicking on a bag or hand-held target.

Most people wear shoes in their daily lives, so wearing shoes in training is becoming more popular and acceptable, however beginners are still encouraged to spend a great deal of time bare-foot in order to learn the proper foot positions in those arts that use kicks, and it tends to build calluses to toughen the feet. Keep in mind, that modern Martial Art classes are not exclusive to the dedicated, die-hard warrior. Many men, women, and children want to learn how to defend themselves, but are not interested in having callused body parts for the rest of their lives.

Some students wear martial arts shoes to provide the foot a bit of additional support, especially those suffering from plantar fasciitis or various low back problems. A little support can significantly increase their comfort, particularly during warm-up activities such as running.

Also, many modern-day tournaments require the judging officials, and referees to wear specialized shoes as part of an official uniform (usually a specific color of shirt, tie, pants, and shoes). Another purpose for a comfortable shoe that adapts well to the Martial Art setting is that many instructors spend the entire day at their school, which is essentially their workplace. Besides teaching classes, there are cleaning chores, office work, and interviews with prospective clients. During those times, it is more comfortable, and appropriate to wear shoes, then remove them as the instructor steps onto the training floor or mat for teaching.

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11y ago

Traditionally, in Asian culture, shoes are removed at the door to keep the floor clean and free of small stones, or sharp objects that might be tracked in.

Safety is the number one concern in all activities, and it is much safer when practicing between partners to use bare feet, and even specially designed protective pads to reduce or prevent injury.

The barefoot practice also allows the student to use the nerves in the bottom of the foot and ankle muscles to better sense weight distribution and maintain their balance, especially while kicking. Repeated practice in bare feet will help to toughen the skin, and develop callouses that can aid in less surface pain when striking a target.

Finally, it is much easier learn the various foot and toe positions required for proper execution of each kick while barefoot.

Although most classes are traditionally practiced in bare feet, many modern schools are permitting students to wear special martial art training shoes that are relatively soft, and are not worn out doors. It is also a good idea for students (particularly high ranks and Black Belts) to train outdoors in tennis shoes, or street shoes to become accustomed to the effects they might encounter in a real-life self defense situation.

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13y ago

The more comfortable your feet are, the more comfortable you are in general. Also, so you don't hurt your opponent when sparring, and so the mats stay more nice.

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