How To Counter Karate

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Karate is a powerful form of martial arts with lethal striking, but there are ways to counter the style.

The best way to counter Karate is Grappling and Jiu-Jitsu. Karate is a stand-up martial art where you’ll depend on punches and kicks to damage your opponent. A Karate specialist can’t use his kicks and punches on the ground. 

Each common Karate move has its specific counter. Below is a list of moves and how you can counter them.

Effectiveness of the Karate fighting style

Karate is an effective fighting style because it focuses on strike speed and precision. It’s an aggressive and elusive style. 

Karate in Olympic competition

Two competitive Karate fighters attacking with high roundhouse kicks

Karate was first included in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Its debut showcased how explosive and fast-paced this martial art style is. Unfortunately, we’ll not see Karate action in the next 2024 games because it was ‘boring’ and ‘unpopular.’

Martial artists play for points during the Olympics. They don’t intend to defend themselves but counter more, so they use moves that won’t work during a street brawl. 

Because of this, Olympic Karate is not an effective style of fighting in real life in most scenarios. 

Karate in self defense

If you use traditional Karate in a one vs. one street fight, you’ll have a 50% chance of winning. Karate is only 100% effective against people with no martial art background. 

You’re doomed if you’re unfortunate enough to find yourself in a Karate vs. BJJ fight. Jiu-Jitsu practitioners can easily manhandle you. When your opponent gets a good hold of you, you can’t really throw a spinning back heel kick, can you?

But Karate is often more effective than Taekwondo or other heavy-attacking martial arts because Karate still has punches, throws, and even a few joint locks.

The best thing to do is utilize your Karate widened bouncy stance to manage a good distance. You’ll have to bounce in and out of your opponent’s range in a Karate stance. It’s like throwing a feint every time you bounce in.

With this stance, you can snap some kicks and find the perfect timing to land a knockout kick or escape trouble completely. 

Karate in MMA & UFC

Karate is excellent if you mix it up with other martial art styles. You can see a lot of successful MMA fighters in the UFC that are Karate black belts. Two good examples are Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson and Lyoto ‘The Dragon’ Machida. 

Stephen Thompson was a former UFC Middleweight gold challenger. He uses a traditional Karate stance inside the octagon that makes him execute well-timed kick and punch combos. 

Lyoto Machida is the former UFC Light Heavyweight champion. He also uses a wide Karate stance; he even knocked out Vitor Belfort with a perfectly timed Karate front kick to the chin. 

Most common Karate moves you need to know

Karate martial artist taking a front kick to the stomach

Below are the four most common Karate moves you might encounter in fighting a Karate specialist. 

1. Roundhouse kick (mawashi geri)

A roundhouse kick in Karate is the same as other roundhouse kicks in different styles. You’ll swing your right leg to the left if you’re right-handed. You’ll do it on the left leg if you’re a lefty. 

Along with this swing is a hip twist to add more power. After kicking, you’ll put your leg back to the normal position.  

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2. Front kick (mae geri)

To execute a front kick, you’ll have to lift your leg and make it look like you’re throwing a good old Muay Thai knee. 

After that, snap your leg forward as fast as you can. In this kick, you’re aiming for the chin or chest of your opponent.  

After executing the kick, all you need to do is reverse the entire movement. 

3. Side thrust kick (yoko-geri)

A side thrust kick is often misunderstood as a side kick. To do a side thrust, you must lift your leg sideways with your foot and shin slightly folded. 

After reaching your desired kick elevation, extend your leg to simulate a thrusting motion. 

After the kick, you can step down your leg to prepare for a kick combo from your other leg. 

4. Back thrust kick (ushiro geri)

A back thrust is a back kick in Mixed Martial Arts. To execute a back thrust kick, you need to pivot your lead leg to the side to make room for the turning motion you’ll do. After that, proceed to turn your back and throw a thrust kick. 

This move is usually made with a punch or another kick for setup. A cool combo you can try is a back kick followed by a good old Karate chop right on the neck.

How to counter common Karate moves

Do you want to know how to counter the moves above? I’ve prepared some quick instructions below.

1. Countering roundhouse kick (mawashi geri)

A simple Muay Thai kick catch will easily counter a roundhouse. If you see that your opponent’s kick is sloppy, try grabbing it mid-air and locking it in on your armpit.

After that, you can trip his remaining leg to put him down.

You can also raise the leg you caught up in the air to destroy your opponent’s balance. 

2. Countering front kick (mae geri)

Try pulling his hands to establish a clinch position. You must close the distance to counter a front kick. 

If you’re too close, your enemy won’t be able to make a front kick motion because they can’t snap their leg like they’re supposed to. 

When you’re close, this is your chance to do dirty boxing or execute a takedown.

3. Countering side thrust kick (yoko-geri)

A side thrust kick can easily be countered by a perfectly timed overhand punch.

 If you see a side thrust incoming, try your best to parry the leg in the opposite direction from where you’re planning to throw the overhand. 

A perfectly-timed parry will outbalance a person. If you hit your overhand, you might knock your opponent out. 

4. Countering back thrust kick (ushiro geri)

If you’re close enough to your opponent, they will not have the chance to pivot their foot to turn a back thrust. 

To limit your enemy’s arsenal, the clinch position is the best place to be in a street fight against a Karate specialist. 

In the clinch, you can throw an uppercut, a knee, or even slam your enemy unconscious.  

Final thoughts for countering Karate

It’s easy to counter Karate if you know what you’re doing. Stay calm and composed, and read every move your opponent’s about to make. The best way to counter Karate is to close distance to your opponent. 

Your opponent can only kick you on the legs at a shorter distance. You can fire some short elbows and hooks when you get in close or execute a takedown. 

But for me, stay out of trouble as much as possible. It’s better to talk it out than fight. 

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