PTSD Awareness, Karate for PTSD, Villayat 'SnowMoon Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Karate for PTSD?

Your first thoughts might be ... 'How would a sport that can be very aggressive at times be good for PTSD?' Like all things in life, it's not what you do it's who you learn it with and the ethos behind the art.

Karate is a system of self defence that originated in the Ryukyu Islands in what is now Okinawa, Japan. Sensei Gichin Funakoshi was the founder of 'Shotokan Karate'. Born in 1868, Sensei Funakoshi was a poet and philosopher as well as a much respected Karate Master.

'Shoto' means 'waving pines' and 'Kan' means 'house of'. Shoto was Sensei Funakoshi's pen name. Karate comprises of two words: 'Kara' - meaning empty and 'te' - meaning hand. The name Shotokan was thought of by his Students and appeared on a sign where he taught.

Karate is a system of self defence that uses hands, feet, legs and elbows.

Training comprises of three main elements:
Kihon - your basic techniques for attacking and defending.
Kata - sets of movements that demonstrate your poise, timing and effectiveness in Karate techniques.
Kumite - sparring with opponents respectfully to cultivate your own capabilities and control.

As you develop in your Karate and achieve higher grades, you will learn more techniques and be required to perform to a higher standard to pass gradings.

What's the benefit?

One of my fears in living with PTSD is to have an uncontrolled 'knee jerk reaction' to a situation. People that have served in such situations understand that a quick reaction to a physical threat can save your life. It's that reaction that is trained into you from your very first moments in basic training in any of the armed forces. Many of us have gone on to use that ability in civvy street, purely for self defence, however there have been times when a friend has unwittingly - but playfully done something my awareness has interpreted as a threat and my physical reaction has stopped them in their tracks. Luckily, no ones been hurt.

I've been training seriously in Karate since 1990 and I feel that the reason that one's been hurt by such reactions is the discipline that's enforced through the Dojo Code. Most Karatekas and Senseis are not thugs. There will always be exceptions to the rule ... that's human nature but in the main, Karatekas live by a code, don't just treat Karate as a sport and the practise of Karate becomes a way of life.

It is difficult to live with PTSD and the various pressures that we find ourselves under at times. As armed forces veterans that may be experiencing a stressful situation, our behaviour isn't always perfect, we are human after all. If we feel unable to interact with people, we will lock ourselves away or escape to areas of wilderness. The only times that dangerous situations arise is when someone does something to threaten us, our safety or our loved ones.

Training in Karate, or some other martial art that has a spiritual path, can help people that live with PTSD.

Dojo Code

Exert oneself in the perfection of character

Be faithful and sincere

Cultivate the spirit of perseverance

Be respectful and courteous

Refrain from impetuous and violent behaviour


When you study the above together with the code of Bushido:

Gi - Right Action
Yuki - Courage
Jin - Benevolence
Rei - Respect
Makato - Honesty
Meiyo - Honour
Chugi - Loyalty

You become aware of a level of behaviour to aspire towards.

The physical training itself conditions you - much like your basic training (or 'Square bashing' days) but the difference is this: when we were square bashing we were taught to kill the enemy. The only discipline was towards our own unit and senior officers. The codes written above are towards everyone that we come into contact within our lives. They temper our physical training in the art of Karate and provide a 'safety catch' that can give us an outlet for the condition in a controlled, safer way; this is in addition to the other benefits of physical exercise provided by endorphins and maintenance of our cardiovascular systems.

I train with different clubs in the Karate Union of Great Britiain and have started up my own dojo. You're welcome to come along and train with us. You can find out more about the club on


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