Is Karate Offensive Or Defensive?

Recently, one of my students asked me whether or not karate is an offensive martial art. It made me realize that we have not covered karate very much. And so, I decided to write an article that takes a look at this. Karate, is it a defensive or an offensive martial art? Let’s take a quick look.

Karate will teach you both defensive and offensive techniques. With that being said, karate involves a lot of spirituality and self-awareness teachings. Within the principles that karate instills in you, one thing stands out. From the day you start learning, you will learn to use karate as a form of self-defense.

In this article, we will take a look at why karate is defensive rather than offensive. Then we will speak about whether or not karate is actually good for self-defense. Is it good for MMA, and how does it do in street fights? Finally, we will take a look at the most offensive and defensive martial arts. So, keep reading.

Why Karate Is Defensive

At the beginning of this article, we established that karate is a defensive martial art. We also noted that karate teaches you offensive techniques as well. So, what exactly makes karate defensive and not offensive? Well, that is exactly what we are going to take a look at in this section. Why is karate defensive, or at least, seen as such?

Although karate teaches you both defensive and offensive techniques, it is primarily used as a form of self-defense. These principles are instilled in you from the day you start your journey in karate classes.

During your journey of training in karate, you will be taught not to go looking for trouble. Rather, you will know what to do when trouble comes looking for you. To me, learning that type of discipline is great, especially for young kids. The minds of kids can absorb these types of principles easier.

Is Karate Good For Self-defense?

We now know that karate is a self-defense martial art, and we have also discussed why. I think it is time to discuss whether or not karate is actually good for self-defense. Remember, just because something teaches you how to defend yourself, it does not mean that the techniques are good enough to do so effectively.

If you are in a martial arts tournament, then yes, karate is a great self-defense martial art. This is especially true if you are fighting against somebody else who does karate. We will discuss the effectiveness of karate in street fights later on in this article.

Is Karate Good For MMA/UFC?

I am sure that many of you are here to see whether or not karate is a good option for you to kick start your MMA or UFC career. Maybe you are just curious. Either way, let’s consider whether or not karate is good for the MMA or UFC.

As a main martial arts discipline, unfortunately, karate will not be very effective in the octagon. However, as a secondary martial arts style in an Arsenal of disciplines that a fighter may have, karate is great.

There are actually a few Fighters who have a background in karate. Let’s take a look.

  • Stephen Thompson: Nicknamed “Wonderboy”, Stephen Thompson uses up to six different disciplines while fighting in the UFC. He is a welterweight fighter whose main focus is kickboxing, karate, and finally, Brazilian jiu-jitsu among other disciplines.
  • Michelle Waterson: Being only 5ft3, Michelle Waterson shows that dynamite comes in small packages. She is a former Invicta FC atom-weight champion and currently fights in the UFC. Her main disciplines are Muay Thai, karate, and BJJ. She uses all three of these disciplines to make her one of the world’s best female fighters.

Is Karate Good For Street Fights?

At a certain point, you will be effective enough in karate to defend yourself in many situations. However, unfortunately, it takes extremely long to get to this point.

In general, because in a street fight, your opponent is not going to play according to the rules of karate, it will make it difficult for you to effectively defend yourself against an attacker.

With that being said, if you have never learned any self-defense before, karate will be useful. Karate will make you better at defending yourself, and it is not necessarily about fighting techniques. It is about the awareness and discipline that karate teaches you to make you better in a street fight.

What Is The Most Defensive Martial Art?

In this section, we are going to talk about the most defensive martial arts. The reason why we are going to do this is that if you searched for the main question of the article, I’m sure you will be interested to know which is the most defensive.

  • Krav Maga
  • BJJ (Brazilain-Jiu-Jitsu)

Krav Maga

Krav Maga is the most effective martial art for self-defense. Its entire conception is built around self-defense. Everything you learn in Krav Maga will teach you how to effectively defend yourself.

Krav Maga is the best martial art you can learn if you are worried about getting into a street fight. That is based on my experience and opinion. It also teaches you how to disarm an attacker who comes at you with a weapon. Whether it be a knife or a gun, you will learn how to react to it.

This martial art is great for females as well. We have actually written a recent article that goes in-depth about what martial art is best for females. Krav Maga took the number one spot due to its efficiency and its focus on self-defense.

In that article, we noted that Krav Maga could also work as an offensive martial art. Because Krav Maga lacks a lot of the spirituality and principality of something like karate, you will feel less restricted when needing to attack. However, we do not condone attacking anybody for no reason.


Brazilian jiu-jitsu has made it onto number two on this list. I can almost guarantee you that a lot of people will not argue with these two selections. With that said, let’s take a look at why I chose Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

BJJ will teach you how to effectively neutralize an attacker. It will also teach you how to do this by teaching you how to not only predict what your attacker is going to do, but it will teach you how to restrain them.

Whether your opponent is taller or shorter than you, whether he is heavier or lighter than you, BJJ will teach you how to use your body to control them. It will teach you how to use their momentum against them. Finally, you will be able to control the body of your opponent. You could do so to the point where you can bring them to the ground and restrain them.

What Is The Most Offensive Martial Art?

Now, we have taken a look at what the most defensive martial art is. It is now time to look at what martial art can be considered the most offensive. To be honest, I think the answer is rather obvious. You have already thought of it, and we are just going to verify your theory.

Martial arts such as Muay Thai and kickboxing are the most offensive martial arts. You are trained to go toward your opponent and attack them with your legs, knees, elbows, and hands.

That does not mean that these martial arts cannot be used for self-defense. Much like with most martial arts, they can be used offensively or defensively.


One thing that I find to be of extreme importance is this. You should always know what you are capable of. Oftentimes, when you learn martial arts, you will learn how to use them responsibly. You never want to go out and attack people with the fighting techniques that you have learned. Don’t worry, though, because karate will teach you the principles and discipline needed for self-control.

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