The Effect of Traditional Karate Training on Self-Concept, Self-Esteem, and Self-Efficacy

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TheEffect of Traditional Karate Training on Self-Concept, Self-Esteem,and Self-Efficacy

Karateis one of the field events that have drawn the attention of mostpeople, especially the youths. Most specialists of karate andespecially those who teach others on the basics of karate puts itclear that the profession has no limit and anyone who feels thathe/she wants to get the basics can go and train. Karate has drawn theattention of most people because the experts say that it enhances thephysical and mental wellness of the practitioners. The practitionersbecome flexible in body exercises, and their entire body shapebecomes symmetrical. The field is now contested in differentinternational competitions where the winners have to show the skillsthey have for them to be competent and win the desired awards (Ryan,2008). The first inventors of karate were after self-discovery andcombat and did not have much in mind concerning the discipline. Theimportance of karate was later on researched into by differentscholars after they studied how the practitioners changedparticularly regarding their self-esteem, self-concept, andself-efficacy.

Specifically,the invention of karate was an idea of farmers in Okinawa who wantedto defend their land and heritage against those nations who used toinvade and dominate foreign lands against their wish as the residentsof that land. “Due to the historic evolution of Karate, skills weredeveloped and styles were adapted to address the functional needs ofsurvival and victory combat” (Shireman, 2010). By that time, karatewas full of tools that were mostly employed in agriculture. But asthe profession advanced to different countries, the tactics changedas the different institutions came up that were interested inteaching karate. Currently, karate has taken a different form fromthe way the inventors invented it, and it is benefiting most peoplephysically and mentally. It is worth saying, therefore, that thekarate practitioners have changed if an intense study is taken ontheir self-esteem, self-concept, and self-efficacy (Ryan, 2008).

Effectson self-esteem, self-concept, and self-efficacy

Accordingto Antony (2005), karate practitioners had to develop the necessaryskills and styles that were to serve as their survival tactics andthe way to combat the enemy and emerge to be a winner. Even after theOkinawa people realized that the invaders used armors made of bamboo,they had to come up with ways on how to strike through the bamboo toinflict pain on the invader. This necessitated the farmers the trainthemselves how their knuckles can punch the bales of straw afterwhich they moved to live tree trunks. This skill made them proficientin striking through the bamboo armor that the invaders used. Theinvaders as well changed from using the bamboo armors and started toattack using the horseback. The Okinawa people realizing this had tochange their tactics again so that it would be simple for them toattack a soldier on a horse. They developed the flying sidekick stylethat was very efficient in dismounting the attacker from the horseand even kill him using the flying sidekick. This is the reason mostkarate practitioners can break through board and make use of theflying sidekicks to advance from one rank to another wherever theyencounter an obstacle wherever they are attacking an enemy. Apartfrom a technique of necessity of which was the reason karate wasinvented, it is now one of the physical exercises and expression thatmost people are using regardless of their age. This is an indicationthat the reasons why people are studying Karate have changed overtime as well.

Currently,there are varied reasons why people train Karate. Most people mayargue that the core reason of training Karate is for self-defense(Winkle, and Ozmun, 2001), but most scholars, as well as some people,have a different view. Others don’t see the reason of training andstudying Karate for defense purposes because they believe in thepresence of the armed forces and other police who should help andprotect the citizens wherever they are under threat from attackers.In America, the society is becoming litigious, and the practitionersof Karate should take caution on where they should apply their skillsbecause they can be answerable to a court of law wherever the skillsgained from Karate are wrongly applied.

Otherpeople train Karate as a form of physical exercise, and this seems tobe the reason most people are training in the profession globally.There are those who train because they believe that this is one ofthe forms of sport that can help them gain fame from the sportsperspective. There are different tournaments held globally for thosewho have specialized in Karate to participate. Finally, there arethose people who believe that Karate just like any other martial artwill help them to enhance and improve their psychological well-being(Winkle et al., 2001).


Tobe frank enough, Karate is one of the best forms through which onecan enhance his physical exercise, and there’s a proved conceptthat after the training sessions, the practitioners’ mental andpsychological feelings are enhanced. Studies show that those who havethe idea of sport in their mind while practicing Karate, those whocompete competently in the profession were found to have a higherself-esteem and the confidence that is required in sports than thosewho train for other reasons other than sport.

Asseen from the inventors, they always had to develop new skills torespond to the invaders who continuously changed the methods ofattacking them. This is an indication that the practitioners ofKarate will be learning new skills every now and again in the courseof their profession. The new skills that these practitioners willalways be learning benefit them psychologically and, in particular,they end up having increased feelings of self-esteem andself-efficacy. Self-confidence is, therefore, the belief that onedevelops that he/she can competitively perform an intended behavior.From the view of most scholars, self-confidence is a global traitthat an individual can have and at the same time possess the trait aswell as the state of self-confidence (Ryan, 2008). In traitself-confidence, somebody has a feeling that he will becomesuccessful in whatever he is doing. It is a belief of success, butthe outcome may not be known at that instant. In stateself-confidence, someone has a feeling of certainty that is veryspecific according to the time and place.

Ifwe look at Karate, one will only succeed if he has the appropriatelevel of confidence. This confidence will enable the practitioners tohave a focus on the tasks they are taking. Confidence ensures thatone experiences the positive emotions that will ensure that heremains calm and relaxed even if the situation ahead poses morechallenges to him. Winkle et al. (2001) argue that confident peoplecan take chances because of the belief they have in themselves andthe positive expectation in them that they can make the expectedresponses. Low confidence levels attract timid reactions because ofthe doubt in oneself that he may or may not make the right choice.The only way the pursuit of victory can be achieved is to have therequired self-confidence. It is this confidence that will makesomebody believe in himself and do away with the feelings that willmake him surrender even if the situation he is facing will force himto give up.

Thepsychological momentum of any event can be affected by the confidencelevel. When confident people find obstacles on their way, they makesure that such obstacles do not bar their dreams but rather workextra hard by doubling their effort to ensure that they succeed. Thistrait ensures that an individual draws all the momentum required tothe particular event and ensures that the focus remains on that eventwithout having a divergent attention. A karate practitioner who lacksthe self-confidence is at a high risk of not performing because hewill shift his attention to the weaknesses he has whereas those whoare self-confident puts more emphasis on the strengths they possess.To improve the level of confidence, an athlete needs to concentrateand increase the rate at which the personal goals are accomplished.The athlete will accomplish this by performing simpler tasks thatwill enable him to develop confidence in himself and at the end of itall he will be able to complete his tasks successfully. While lowlevels of confidence may be undesirable, overconfidence is also isharmful to practitioners because they usually develop a sense offalse security thereby overestimating what they can do (Antony,2005).

Oneshould as well have sports confidence which is a self-confidence thatis only applicable to that sport. For the case of athletes sportsconfidence, has a number of sources. The sources are ensuring thatthe athlete master the task, he can demonstrate the personal abilitytowards performing a particular activity, physical and mentalpreparedness, the contact the athlete has with the environment andthe trust in himself that he can perform the task to expectation.These sources enable the athlete to develop the sports confidencethat will ensure that the athlete becomes successful in all thephysical activities he is taking part.


Justlike self-confidence, self-efficacy is one of the key determinants ofindividual success. Self-efficacy is the confident belief that onehas that he can competitively show the expected behavior that willallow him to produce the desired results. Therefore, self-efficacytargets specific actions and behaviors making it very precise but itcan be similarly experienced in global terms (Ryan, 2008). A person’sself-efficacy can be attributed to six major sources namely theexperiences of mastery, one’s motivation, the ability to persuadeverbally, the imagination experiences, the experiences ofvicariousness, and the states of emotions and physiology. Sportsconfidence and self-efficacy are closely related because they areboth the extensions of self-confidence.

Self-efficacydictates the nature of activities that an individual can participatein and also has an impact concerning the level of effort that anindividual will put to succeed. The high self-efficacy developedtowards a given activity will make the person have the interest toparticipate in that activity and that particular person will put thenecessary effort required to achieve the desired goal. Winkle et al.(2001) posit that positive expectations are the results of the highlevels of self-efficacy when one has set his interests that he isperforming karate because it is part of sports. The psychologicalobstacles will be won by the positive expectations that will ensurethat the obstacles have no chance to block the ability to the successof an individual. On the other hand, low levels of self-efficacy areharmful and can be one of the limitations to attaining the fullpotential of an individual. When the self-efficacy is too low,efforts should be made to increase it for the benefit of thepractitioner. One of the major methods through which self-efficacycan be increased is through making references to the previousperformances. These previous performance will comprise the pastexperiences that an individual has had previously when performing asimilar desired activity. This past experiences will give thedirection on the way that the event is likely to take place. Pastexperiences will make various transpiration concerning the learningof a particular activity and provide further directions on thepossibilities of attaining the desired activity. This is the reasonthe karate practitioners should first have the experience of thesuccess. This is the technique that the trainers use to break andsimplify the skills that look complicated to appear easier so thatthe learners who are learning the concepts for the first time willget a glimpse of the techniques or the patterns that the process oflearning is taking place.

Karatewill therefore, have different stages that the practitioners shouldgo through while they are in the process of mastering their skills.The levels can be complex and lower ones whereas in the lower levels,the learners are introduced to the basic skills of karate and as theyproceed to learn to the higher ranks they will be introduced to thecomplex skills. Some more skills will be added to the basic skillsthat the learners learned while they were on the introduction part tothe profession to give the complex motor skills (Antony, 2005). Whenthe trainers break down the complex information so that it becomessimpler for the learners, they ensure that the trainees do not getoverwhelmed by the new and complex information that will makedigesting the concepts difficult for them.

TheKarate profession is therefore very useful in ensuring that there isan increased self-confidence and self-efficacy (Anthony, 2005).Individuals who are confident in whatever they are doing find iteasier to handle the difficult situations that can otherwise causestress if they lack the required confidence. The confidentindividuals will be at a better position throughout their lifetime toensure that the stressful situation has been controlled. Karate isone of the martial arts that ensure that the stressful situationshave been dealt with accordingly. The karate practitioners will getthe necessary skills from their profession that will ensure that thestressful situation has been completely handled, and the stressminimized accordingly. If one is exposed to stressing situations,there is a likelihood that the particular person will be in a betterposition to control the negative emotions that he is prone to. Thenegative emotions can be fear, doubt, and anger which thepractitioner will get used to and control them wherever a situationthat will give rise to such a negative emotion arises. As thesesituations continue to appear in one’s lifetime, the individualwill develop a learned control that that will contribute toincreasing his self-confidence. The self-confidence is one of thecontrol mechanisms that the practitioners of karate learn and it willbe applicable in their day to day lives.

Thediverse coping mechanisms that an individual acquires while in thecourse of training as karate practitioner help in increasing thelevels of self-confidence. One of the fundamental coping mechanismsof increasing the self-confidence is control. Control is the powerover one’s self, and it is crucial in regulating the thoughts,emotions, and actions of and individual. This can be importantespecially in situations where an individual may have little controlover a situation. But regardless the individual has less or nocontrol concerning a particular situation, he/she has the fullcontrol of his actions that will ensure that his thought and feelingsare as well controlled.

Suppressionis another coping mechanism where one can handle his thoughts andemotions. These thoughts and emotions should be dealt with at theappropriate period and place. While in the training, thepractitioners usually get angry depending on the situation that is athand and should be solved. The trainees are prone to anger, and thisis one of the most common emotions that practitioners should learn tocontrol while they are on the process of the training. The trainingenvironment of the of the karate practitioners is always full ofmistakes as somebody may get a punch that was not directed to him.The accidental punch may come with reasonable or unreasonable forceleading to injuries on the person who received the punch. In somecases, there may be application of the joint lock with too muchforce, a situation that is very dangerous and very irritating to thevictim but the trainers should ensure that they alert the traineesthat such scenarios are part of the training, and they should expectsuch scenarios as long as they are in the training. It is importantthe Karate trainer learns how to suppress the feelings of anger hegets from such training grounds until any time that may be consideredas more appropriate.

Thethird coping mechanism is sublimation which is the power that anindividual has that will enable him/her to take control of anynegative emotions and the positive ones as well. An example ofnegative emotion is anger whereas a positive emotion is anxiety. Bothsituations must be dealt with. While in the course of the training,these emotions normally are part of the experiences that the trainersencounter, but strong learners should learn how to control them.

Thelogical analysis of information will enable the practitioners ofKarate to perform excellently in their profession. In the logicalanalysis, the learner should ensure that there is a proper andcareful exploration of problems that will ensure that the importantinformation has been passed to the intended receivers. In most cases,the trainer is the one is supposed to make proper use of the logicalanalysis because he will be responsible for solving the problems thatmay arise in the training environment. An instructor encounters suchsituation especially when the learners have come for consultation(Ryan, 2008). The consultation may be a technique that the learnersneed clarification. The instructor in such situation should ensurethat he has done the analysis of the information that the studentswant to know before giving an answer. The answer so given shouldefficiently answer what the students want to know.

Thenext coping mechanism is objectivity. Objectivity ensures thatthoughts, feelings, and emotions that one develops are not as aresult of biased understanding concerning any situation that is dealtwith. In the absence of objectivity, it will be very difficult tomake rational decisions.

Astudent is at a position of developing empathy that will help him tointerpret and understand the feelings of other people and how torespond to such feelings. The trainees are likely to develop closerelationships amongst themselves, and there is a likelihood that theywill share thoughts and feelings between them and such sharing ofinformation may not extend to anybody else.

Thelast coping mechanism is the tolerance of ambiguity where one willneed to have the ability that will enable him to make clear choiceswhere nobody else can make such a choice. This step will necessitatethe trainees to make proper applications of the previous mechanismsso that the required decision will be made. All the coping mechanismsensure that the self-confidence of the martial art and, in this case,the karate practitioner has developed and increased hisself-confidence.

Differentscholars and researchers have taken the time to study how the martialarts training, in general, have contributed to the improvement of theself-esteem and self-concept. The promotion of desired feelings andthought has contributed to the increase of self-confidence while thetrainers are on training.

Somestudies have been taken to find out how the level of self-esteem canbe influenced by martial arts training. One of the studies usedAikido as one of the martial training method to find out if there wasimprovement self-esteem among the participants. A sample of sixtyKarate practitioners was used in this study. The study was takenbefore the participants went for the largest Karate tournamentcompetition in the U.S. In the tournament, the participants were tocompete against one another in the Karate competition. The averageage of the participants was 23 years and during the study, the numberwas divided into four groups. The groups were the beginner, theintermediate, advanced and the expert group according to the rankthat they belonged to in the Karate profession. In the beginnersgroup, there were twelve participants who were in white gold belts(Ryan, 2008). Those who were classified in the intermediate groupwere sixteen, and they had either purple or blue or green belts. Inthe advanced group, there were twelve participants who were in eitherred or brown belts and finally in the expert rank, there were16participants who were in black belts but among the participants, fourof them were not designated any belt to specify their rank in theexercise.

TheKarate Tournament Survey (KTS) is a self-report questionnaire thatwas used to carry out the measurement of the self-esteem among theparticipants. In the questionnaire, there were three parts that theparticipants were required to fill. The first part required theparticipants to provide their demographic information whereas thesecond part was about the Rosenberg Self-Esteem where there were tenquestions that the researchers used to assess the self-esteem of theparticipants. The last part comprised of questions where theparticipants were to assess their capabilities in Karate incomparison to the other participants who they were in the same rankwith. There were coefficients that were used in the KTS to make themeasurement efficient. The coefficients were 0.92 for the internalreliability of reproducibility, 0.72 for scalability, a range of0.85-0.88 that was used to measure the reliability of thetest-retest, and the 0.56-0.83 that measured the conversantreliability (Winkle et al., 2008). The day of the tournament, theparticipants were closely monitored to find out if they would win atrophy.

Aftera close examination of the participants in the tournament day, theresearchers found out that the participants who were in the higherrank of Karate had the highest levels of self-esteem. Those whoemerged the winners on the competition day and won trophies in thedifferent ranks were also found to have higher levels of self-esteemcompared to their counterparts in the group. The information from theKTS showed that those who had won trophies considered Karate to bethe most important thing in their lives. Therefore, the conclusionthe researchers made was that from the findings of the report, theparticipants who had higher levels of self-esteem displayed thehighest ability in this sport in their rank. “it was alsodetermined that subjects who received trophies the next day,competition winners, also had significantly higher levels ofself-esteem than subjects who did not win trophies” (Shireman,2010).

Adifferent researcher used Tae Kwoon Do to measure the self-concept ofthe female participants who were used in the study. There were 100students from the college, who whose average age was 22 years andthey had never participated in any martial art. There were 51students who were used in the experimental group because they hadenrolled in the Tae Kwoon Do classes. The other 49 were studentstaking general health courses in their colleges. A TennesseeSelf-Concept Scale was used by the researchers to measure theself-concept of the participants during the first week and the lastweek of attending their classes. There were 100 questions that testedon the self-picture, the next ten questions tested on theself-criticism while the last ten questions tested on the individualperceptions. After the results had been analyzed, the TennesseeSelf-Concept Scale revealed that the self-concept scores were higherfor the last weeks of incase of the experimental group whereas theindividual perceptions were higher for those who had enrolled for theTae Kwoon Do classes than those who were in the health classes.

Ina study to measure the Self-Efficacy, Winkle studied the militarypeople in the West Point Military Academy to find out how theself-defense classes affected the participants’ physicalself-efficacy (PSE), physical self-presentation confidence (PSPC), aswell as their perceived physical ability (PPA). The participantscomprised of 80 female cadets who had an average age of 18 years andenrolled in the self-defense classes. There were 24 participants whowere corps but athletes at the same time. A Physical Self-EfficacyScale that had ten statements of PPA and 12 of PSPC was used. Thevalue of the alpha coefficient of the scale was 0.72, and the scaleshowed a satisfactory concurrent validity when comparisons were madebetween it and the Tennessee Physical Self-Concept Scale. Theadministration of the surveys was made during the first and last daysof the classes. The scores were observed to decrease from the firsttime to the second time, but there were no remarkable changes on thesubscale of PSPC (Antony, 2005).

Therefore,it can be concluded that several studies, which have been previouslycarried out, have shown increase in the self-esteem and self-conceptof the participants of martial arts especially in Karate filed.However, the study that was taken in the military academy is anexception as far as this case is considered. The differences can beattributed to the different time periods upon which the studies weretaken. Those who have taken longer times in the training willobviously show positive results compared to the participants who havespent less time in the training regardless of the type of the martialart. It seems that for the improvement of psychological factors inthe course of the Karate training, time is the greatest factor. Timeis the one that determines whether we are going to get positive ornegative results.

Secondly,apart from time, the level of physical contact and resistance of theKarate practitioners has an effect on the training. Thosepractitioners who compete in the same rank have the highest levels ofphysical contact and resistance compared to competitions that mayinvolve people from different ranks. Even if the Karate practitionermay be unsuccessful in the training, there is likelihood that theparticipant is likely to witness low levels of psychologicalfeelings.

Undeniably,those who participate in Karate experience an increased sense ofself-efficacy, self-concept, and self-esteem. This is made possiblebecause the Karate practitioners will have to learn the new skillsand master the new experiences that will enable them to explore thenew techniques in the course of their training. If the practitionersrealize that they have succeeded in their Karate profession, theself-efficacy will be enhanced, and the practitioner will benefit byminimizing any negative anxiety and maximizing the positive ones.


Sincethe invention of Karate, the profession has gone through diversechanges that have enabled the field to be recognized globally anddraw the attention of several people regardless of their age. Thosewho have invested in the field have obtained different new skills andconcepts that have enabled them to handle the different emotionalsituations that they encounter within and outside the trainingenvironment. The children who have practiced Karate have beenobserved to have an increased self-efficacy, self-esteem andself-concept. The current researchers taken are not enough toguarantee justified conclusions. There still needs to be done moreresearchers to determine the effects of Karate on an individualregardless of the age. Therefore, a broad range of assessmenttechniques and methods of data collection will have to be introducedfor more accurate results. This will help determine whether there arenew developments on the Karate practitioners or the situation remainsthe same from the previous studies taken. There should be nolimitation for any interested individual to attend the environmentsthat encourage them to train in Karate because the practitioner gainsboth physically and psychologically from such involvement in Karate.

Atthis point, it is worth saying that the karate practitioners arestronger mentally and have the capability to set their goals that areachievable. The karate training, therefore, strengthens theself-esteem, self-concept, and self-efficacy regardless of theenvironment the practitioner.


Antony,M. O. (2005). TheUse of Basic Karate Techniques to Enhance Self-Efficacy.Doctor of Philosophy, Northcentral University, Prescott, Arizona.

Ryan,M.P. (2008). The Antidepressant Effects of Physical Activity:Mediating Self-Esteem and Self-Efficiency Mechanisms. Psychologyand Health,23 (3), 279-307.

Shireman,J. (2010). TheEffect of Martial Arts on Self-Concept, Self-Esteem, andSelf-Efficacyretrieved from March 28, 2016