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Societies 2018, 8(4), 128;

Why do People Train Martial Arts? Participation Motives of German and Japanese Karateka
Faculty I, Department of School Education, University of Vechta, Vechta 49377, Germany
Division of Global Affairs, School of International Education, Kanazawa University, Kanazawa-shi 920-1192, Japan
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 22 October 2018 / Accepted: 11 December 2018 / Published: 17 December 2018


Meyer’s (2012) qualitative research on motivation of German karateka initiated the coordinated research project Why Martial Arts? (WMA) to analyse motives in various martial arts styles, like jūdō, taiji, krav maga and wing chun. In 2017, the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) supported the transposition of the research question to Japanese karatedō and jūdō practitioners. For the German sub-study, 32 interviews were conducted about entry/participation motives, fascination categories, and reasons for choosing karatedō. The design of the Japanese sub-study was based on the aforementioned German study, but due to the higher number of participants (n = 106), a mixed method questionnaire was used and distributed via paper and online versions. The results demonstrate that many motivation categories of Japanese and German karatedō practitioners share similarities in importance and content, although the characteristics of motives can be very different—partly due to cultural specifics.
motivation; martial arts; karatedō; self-defence; strength; fascination

1. Introduction

Due to the lack of dedicated research networks and the vast size of the field, strategic research martial arts research is quite a recent phenomenon. During the last decades, researchers have begun pioneering work to map this scientific field. In 2011, the first German academic Martial Arts conference was held in Bayreuth, Germany. In 2012, it was followed by the first conference of the International Martial Arts and Combat Sports Scientific Society (IMACSSS) held in Genova, Italy. Finally, in 2015, the first British symposium focusing on martial arts was held in Cardiff, Great Britain. Martial arts research has flourished ever since.

1.1. Previous Studies about Motivation in Martial Arts

One of the core leading questions through which the academic field is explored, asks for the motivation and motives of martial arts practitioners. Since the late 1970s, several studies were conducted, which will be presented briefly in chronological order.
Hannak and Nabitz [1] examined jūdō (Japanese martial art, literally: “Way of Softness”) in Germany. The authors were interested especially in the fact that Western people participated in Japanese sports. At the University of Tübingen they conducted a quantitative research including 37 beginners and 16 advanced jūdōka (the suffix -ka means practitioner in Japanese martial arts). It turned out that beginners were described as tough and disciplined, whereas advanced students were softer as well as more gentle and creative. As they expected, the achievement motive was stronger among the advanced jūdōka. The health motive was mainly quoted by beginners. Altogether, competitors were more interested in engaging in jūdō techniques. Hannak and Nabitz speculated that beginners were initially overwhelmed by the exoticism of the Japanese sport, i.e. the strict etiquette, the practice of how to fall properly and the unfamiliar duel situation. Later, typical sport motives like performance or health (see Gabler [2]) would dominate.
An interesting research was provided by Hartl, Faber and Bögle [3]. They examined the reception of taekwondo (Korean martial art) in the west and concluded that a traditional, auto sufficient style as well as a modern, agonal style had established. Therefore, they interrogated about 20 taekwondo practitioners in narrative, open interviews. These spoke, depending on their favoured style attachment, about various motives. The most interesting ones were the father figure motive (the teacher or sensei, literally “before-born” (先生), Japanese term for teacher or master, had the function of a wise, supreme father), the education motive (by parents that sent their children to training) and the disciplinary or obedience motive (“taming of the shrew”).
Due to his research concerning the change of personality traits in karatedō (Japanese martial art, literally: “Way of the Empty Hand”), Bitzer-Gavornik [4] researched motive dimensions of 270 subjects. Bitzer-Gavornik used the Attitude towards Physical Activity questionnaire with Likert scale items. One of the main conclusions was that the karatedō group showed higher valuation in aesthetic, cathartic, ascetic, and risk-based dimensions in comparison to the control group. Furthermore, Bitzer-Gavornik determined gender and age differences as well as meanderings between karateka and non-athletes. The effects of the parameters age and gender cumulated (for example young men’s motives differed significantly from elder women’s motives). The parameters duration and frequency of training as well as social class were almost exclusively ineffective in contrast.
As a basis of their research, Columbus and Rice [5] presumed that specific life-world experiences could provide an impulse wanting to learn martial arts as a coping strategy. Accordingly, they wondered: “What are the contexts or grounds for these perceptions and experiences? How are contexts and meanings similar or different for various reported motivations for martial arts practice?” Columbus and Rice used a narrative-biographic methodology. The subjects were asked to answer the following question in written form: “Please describe in writing your experience of an everyday life situation in which you realised that training in a martial art is, or would be, a worth-wile activity.” The 17 test persons attended an American college and practised karatedō, taekwondo, or taiji (also known as tai chi, Chinese martial art). The results demonstrated that martial art skills were particularly declared as useful in four distinct topics:
  • Criminal Victimization: conquest and prevention of physical and sexual threats
  • Growth and Discovery: emotional, mental and spiritual self-development and dismantling of psychic barriers
  • Task Performance: application of mental techniques learned in martial arts training to cope with everyday and professional tasks.
  • Life Transition: experience of structure, control and order in martial arts exercises as a counterpart to chaos in private life (divorce, job loss).
Columbus and Rice concluded that martial arts training was applied to reach either compensatory or emancipatory goals: Compensation in terms of a need for security and order (“assaults” or “life change”), emancipation in terms of internally or externally needed self-update (“development and discovery” or “task accomplishment”).
Breese [6] examined access and drop out reasons of taekwondo practitioners in New Zealand. He used an open-ended questionnaire to collect qualitative data from 72 individuals. Doing content analysis, he isolated several motive themes based on the similarity of meaning. The higher order themes representing reasons for participation turned out to be:
  • fitness (fitness, flexibility, health)
  • personal power and control (self-defence, self-control, self-confidence, mental aspects)
  • competence (self-improvement, achievement, good at it, goal achievements)
  • affiliation (social aspects, family sport, friends, helping others)
  • enjoyment (fun, enjoyment)
  • activity (after school activity, keeps me busy)
  • contextual factors (the pace of grade, the detail focus, the discipline, different).
Furthermore, the results showed an increasing interest in personal power and control motives and a decrease interest in fitness motives with rising training experience. Individuals with four or more years of experience in taekwondo showed greater importance for affiliation (25%), in contrast to individuals with less involvement in taekwondo. Competence played a more important role for higher belt ranks than lower ranks. “The results showed individuals at white and yellow belt ranks are primarily motivated to participate by themes of fitness, personal power and control and enjoyment. Fitness and personal power and control dominate the first and second themes for participation. In contrast, green and blue belts rank enjoyment as their first theme for participation. Second participation themes are fitness and personal power and control. Some green and blue belt participants are also interested in affiliation, as a secondary reason for participation. Furthermore, competence was stated by 10% of green and blue belt respondents as the primary reason for their participation. Red, black, and greater than black belt participants’ primary reason for participation is for personal power and control; however, competence and fitness, were other primary themes for some respondents.” Major motives for starting taekwondo were learning self-defence (19%) and fitness (15%). Especially the aspects of fitness (22%), patterns (18%), techniques (11%), sparring (11%), and self-defence (8%) fascinated the athletes.
Bogdal and Syska [7] analysed the emphasis of three key motives in their study:
  • athletic success
  • health, fitness and stamina
  • karatedō as a way of life
They questioned 300 Polish karateka using an undefined questionnaire with 48 items. 66% of the subjects chose “karatedō as a way of life” as their most important motive, 20% chose “athletic success”, and 12% chose the health motive. The “way of life” motive was significantly more meaningful to subjects with several years of training experience, older age (>30 years) or more frequent training. Younger, less trained, and less educated karateka were significantly more interested in athletic success. Bogdal and Syska explain this finding with the desire to emulate popular karatedō role models. This aspect of “looking for masculinity” was generally short-termed, as eventually either the training was discontinued or the dominant participation motive shifted.
Examining the initial motives of jūdōka and karateka were the key interest of Zaggelidis, Martinidis and Zaggelidis [8]. The sample consisted of 103 Greek martial artists (56 jūdōka and 47 karateka), who were interrogated with a questionnaire originally used by the Japanese Kōdōkan (jūdō organisation). The questionnaire was divided in a quantitative part with 28 items, where motives had to be rated on a Likert scale, and a qualitative part to discuss unknown motives. Zaggelidis, Martinidis, and Zaggelidis used factor analysis for data evaluation. In total, they revealed 12 motive groups:
  • physical-personal benefits (health, strength, ability, character)
  • interesting sport
  • suitable (not seasonal, cheap, nearby)
  • recreation
  • means of demonstration (book-magazine, T.V., film, lecture, in vivo display)
  • external image (eastern origin, outfit, belt, atmosphere)
  • structure—nature of jūdō/karatedō (one to one, small versus big, body size)
  • safety (no injuries)
  • competition (hard)
  • family urge
  • peers (friends)
  • other.
The only sex difference found was that the item “family urging” was significantly higher rated by women (especially karateka).
Jones, Mackay and Peters [9] utilised the Participation Motivation Questionnaire (PMQ) by Gill, Gross, and Huddleston [10] for their research, which they expanded with demographic questions and eight items about specific martial arts motivation. The sample consisted of 75 martial artists from the British West Midlands. The subjects trained taiji, karatedō, kung fu (Traditional umbrella term for Chinese martial arts, recently often replaced with the term wushu), aikidō (Japanese martial art, commonly translated: “Way of Harmony with Life-Energy”), jeet kune do (Chinese martial art, founded 1967 by Bruce Lee), British free fighting, taekwondo, and/or jūjitsu (Japanese martial art, literally: “Art of Softness”). The most important motives were (in descending order) affiliation, fitness, skill development, friendship, rewards/status, situational, and competition. The importance of motives like fun, physical exercise, skill development and friendship was similar compared to other sports. The research team proved that participants with a higher training intensity showed “greater importance placed on the underpinning philosophy of the martial art.” No significant gender or training experience related differences were discovered, possibly due to the high percentage of men (76%).
For his survey of 170 martial artists, Twemlow [11] applied an undefined Likert scale questionnaire containing 13 items. The most important motives were (ranked by amount of positive ratings) self-defence (154), physical exercise (152), improving self-confidence (143), self-discipline (141), fun or something to do (135), sport engagement (116), karatedō movies (114), spiritual practice (111), and meditation (104). Surprisingly, the competition motive was positively rated by 84 test persons while 63 rated it negatively. Speaking of karatedō motives, Twemlow states: “There is much to suggest that an interest in the martial arts may be motivated by magical wishes and wishes for power, as suggested by the high interest in karate motives.”
Rink [12] questioned 50 German karateka about their participation motives, using a Likert questionnaire with 37 predefined motive items. The resulting motive ranking is listed in Table 1.
Ko [13] asked 307 participants of a multi-style martial arts competition about their training motivation. The study used an adapted version of the motivation scale of McDonald, Miline, and Hong [14]. The original 13 motivational factors were extended with the motive items cultural awareness, fun, and self-defence. Ko questioned the test persons: “What are the important aspects in the training of martial arts?”, “How did martial arts training help you in your life?” and “What did you improve most since taking this class?”. The most significant motives for training proved to be (moral) value development (46%), self-esteem (44%), physical fitness (42%), self-defence (38%), self-actualisation (36%), skill mastery (30%), stress release (8%), and cultural awareness (7%). Ko ascertained “that more experienced martial arts participants were more motivated by value development; and beginners were more motivated by self-defence than others.” In comparison, jūdō/jūjitsu participants were more motivated by aggression than other martial artists. Aikidō/hapkido and kung fu/wushu participants were relatively more motivated by social factors. Karatedō, taekwondo and jūdō/jūjitsu participants were more motivated by self-defence. Regardless of the discipline, aesthetics turned out to be a main motivational factor for all participants.
Patel, Shukla, and Pandey [15] focused especially on gender differences during their research about participation motives. They interrogated 50 male and 50 female Indian taekwondo practitioners using the PMQ by Gill, Gross, and Huddleston [10]. The evaluation of the 30 items questionnaire did not show significant gender-related differences in the motive hierarchy. Only five of 40 items differed significantly between male and female participants.
In summary, the presented studies provided lots of information about the variety and range of motives, as well as different rankings of motive importance. However, the studies
did not suffice to elaborate a motive spectrum in its entirety,
did not suffice to illustrate motive changes related to individual biographies,
did not differentiate between entry and participation motives,
did not suffice to explain consistently the influence of personal factors on motives.
To fill in these research gaps, Meyer [16] interviewed 32 German karateka about their participation motives, entry motives and karatedō fascination to gain an explorative, complete motive overview. Furthermore, the test persons were asked about alterations of their motive composition and remarkable moments in their karatedō training career. Qualitative content analysis isolated 60 different participation motives, which Meyer clustered into 22 core categories (see chapter results).

1.2. Why Martial Arts? (WMA) Project Results

Due to the statistically significant and highly interesting results, the German committee for martial arts studies launched the strategic research project Why Martial Arts? (WMA), emulating the methodology of Meyer. At first, Kuhn and Macht [17] extended Meyer’s survey up to 183 participants by conducting an online study. They streamlined the methodology and focused on karatedō fascination rather than motivation. 538 fascination categories for adults and 100 for children were found. In spite of this survey containing ten times the number of categories found in the previous survey, it did not reveal much new content, but added many details.
For the survey, Kuhn and Macht assumed that the terms “motivation” and “fascination” are interchangeable. Whereas the terms “motivation” and “motive” have been used by participants generally as synonymous for “reason” (to practice) and inherit a long psychological history, “fascination” remains somehow blurry and unsuitable for scientific purposes.
In Kenyon’s [18] well-known conceptual model for characterising physical activity, he defined six dimensions of the instrumental value of physical activity:
Physical activity ...
  • as a social experience
  • for health and fitness
  • as the pursuit of vertigo
  • as an aesthetic experience
  • as catharsis
  • as an ascetic experience
These dimensions can be defined as basic sport motive subsets, which are reflected in the aforementioned sub-studies. Kenyon’s dimensions were used by the research team as starting point for the motive categorisation process (see chapter results).
According to Gabler [2], sport motives “are meant as personality-specific dispositions aimed at sporting situations” (translated by authors). The entirety of motives which are operative in a specific environment, is called the motive spectrum.
The Rubicon model of action phases, developed by Heckhausen [18] and Gollwitzer [19], describes the interactions of motivational and volitional factors that lead to an individual’s action:
  • pre-decisional phase: The individual chooses a goal (motivational perspective)
  • pre-action phase: The individual plans the realisation (volitional perspective)
  • action phase: The individual executes its plans (volitional perspective)
  • post-action phase: The individual evaluates its efforts to reach the goal (motivational perspective).
In this work, the focus is set on motivational perspectives rather than volitional. However, it is apparent that the realisation of motives is strongly connected to facilitating volitional circumstances, like the fact that a subject had easy access to a nearby karatedō dōjō (Literally “practice place of the way” (道場), training place in Japanese martial arts) or that parents were already practicing karatedō. For this study, the rubicon model served to help distinguishing between motivational and volitional factors as well as interpreting the background mechanics of certain motives that are especially dependent of volitional acts.
As mentioned, “fascination” is not a term that is commonly used in motivational theories, despite it being used by several aforementioned martial arts motivation studies. Nevertheless, it proved to be useful, helping people to describe
their most important motive,
a cluster of important motives,
their dominating entrance motive,
a strong motive which is tied to an essential characteristic (of karatedō).
While participants tended not to differentiate between motivation and fascination verbally, fascination was apparently used to embolden the uniqueness and individual importance of certain motives. Looking at the WMA sub-studies, which perceived motivation and fascination almost synonymously, we have to keep the proximity of both concepts in mind, being aware that they are not equally used by participants.
In 2014, Kuhn et al. interrogated taiji practitioners online [20]. In addition to the qualitative module targeting fascination, they implemented a quantitative module, which contained 37 motives on a Likert scale. Tests of 243 persons completed the questionnaire. Kuhn’s research team isolated 377 categories of taiji fascination. These were clustered into 36 axial categories called “themes”. Kuhn et al. discovered gender-related and age-related differences for the ratings of specific motives.
Liebl and Happ [21] mirrored Kuhn’s research design for jūdō. In total they questioned 1.273 jūdōka with a slightly modified motive pool. The two evaluation teams found 62 and 81 fascination categories, respectively. Unlike Kuhn et al., Liebl and Happ did not discover significant differences between the two sexes, but they found out that the age of the test persons affected their motive importance.
In 2016, Heil, Körner, and Staller [22] conducted a double sub-study of the WMA-project. They questioned 217 krav maga (Israeli martial art) practitioners and 63 wing chun (Chinese martial art) practitioners about their motivation categories. For the qualitative module, the research team modified the stimulus question of the previous sub-studies, returning to Meyer’s approach. Instead of asking about fascination, they pointed directly at former and current motives. The results confirmed the hypothesis that the participants of krav maga and wing chun are very interested in self-defence, which both systems are known to emphasise. Females were even more interested in self-defence than their male counterparts. The actual participation motives differed greatly from starting motives. In particular, the self-defence motive lost importance and was replaced (to a degree) by fitness and fun motives in krav maga and spiritual and social motives in wing chun, respectively.
Regarding the several sub-studies of the WMA project, the results unveiled great differences between motive importance and structures as well as fascination categories, depending upon the practiced martial art. Surprisingly, they also unveiled that age and gender only have minor influence. However, it is unclear whether the methodological disparities watered down the significance of the results.

1.3. Taking the International Step

Japan was chosen as first international research target because the starting point of the WMA project was based on Japanese martial arts like karatedō and jūdō. Moreover, both martial arts are very popular in Germany as well as in their home country Japan and have been adapted in Germany to a certain degree. Another reason for the selection of Japan was its traditional martial arts culture, which has been cultivated in Japanese society throughout its history. Thus, not only an intercultural comparison of fascination and motive categories in the martial arts was expected, but also conclusions to what extent martial arts as cultural heritage depend (or not) on their original culture and society, regarding its value orientations, goals and symbol codes. Therefore, studying martial arts fascination and motivation in Japan would open a new research dimension, which could serve as a pilot scheme for further intercultural WMA sub-studies (for example krav maga in Israel; and wing chun and taiji in China). Subsequently, the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) funded a project to examine fascination and motivation of Japanese martial artists as a keystone for further intercultural and international sub-studies in the field.
Our research team assumed that there would be major differences between German and Japanese karateka and jūdōka, as well as between both martial arts. This article however only focuses on karatedō and compares these results to the survey undertaken by Meyer [16].

2. Methods

Host researcher Heiko Bittmann, who is fluent in Japanese and has been living in Kanazawa for more than 20 years, teaches karatedō as a high degree black belt to Japanese and international students alike. He is also a nationwide acclaimed expert for iaidō (Japanese martial art, commonly translated: “Way of Sword-drawing”) and jōdō (Japanese martial art, literally: “Way of the Stick”) for which he held high rankings, too. For the time of the scholarship, Martin Meyer became member in a karatedō club to understand the culture and the surrounding society. This approach, emulating Wacquants [23] famous boxing study on a small scale, proved to be very fruitful in confronting German and Japanese utilisation and practice of karatedō. It especially helped to nail down the ambiguity of the Japanese language as well as the intended semantic nebula, with which the Japanese respond to ensure the compliance of their opinions.
Due to the unknown effects of the mutating methodology through the WMA sub-studies, we tried to emulate the methodology of the original study by Meyer [16], which had a strong fieldwork approach. Meyer applied the questions as an interview guide (see Table 2).
Due to the larger survey scale, the research team had to abolish the qualitative interview technique. Instead, we applied a mixed method questionnaire, which was spread as a carbon copy and online (see below). The study was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki, and the protocol was approved by the Ethics Committee of Vechta University.
The conceptualisation of the methodology for the Japanese sub-study contained the following development steps:
  • Adaption of methodology: The quantitative module as developed by Liebl and Happ [21] was starting point of our quantitative part. The response options in the demographic module however had to be modified to serve Japanese realities (concerning school education, employment categories, etc.).
  • Translation of the questionnaire:
    First draft: Two translators with research field knowledge translated the German version into their native language Japanese. Through consensual discussion among the research team a synthesis was made of both translations.
    Retranslation: Two native German speakers retranslated the first draft into German language. The accordance of original version and retranslation was subsequently evaluated.
    Assessment: The (re-)translated versions were discussed among an expert board, with the research team, expert translators, and research fellows as associates. The assessment lead to a final draft.
    Field test: Five Japanese martial artists filled in the questionnaire and provided final feedback about the wording and layout.
The final draft applied three impulse questions in the qualitative module:
  • For which reason(s) have you started karatedō training?
  • Have your reasons to train changed over time? Are there reasons that are currently more or less important than in former times?
  • What fascinates you about karatedō?
To prevent interferences between motivation and fascination (see discussion above), we exerted the term “reason” instead of “motive” in the questionnaire.
For the quantitative module, we compiled the motive items of all former WMA sub-studies and martial arts motivation studies. Through merging, 48 motive categories were singled out. During the questionnaire development process, the following changes were made:
  • The direct translation of “karatedō movement”, which was meant to describe physical technique patterns, had to be changed due to expert concerns that Japanese audiences would confuse it with a social movement.
  • The motive “authority through power”, i.e., the desire to have power over other people—especially in combat—was estimated as offensive for Japanese audiences and was subsequently deleted.
The original motive description “I like to brawl” was changed into “I enjoy impact techniques” to diminish the meaning of brutality, which could be offensive to Japanese audiences.
Besides these adaptions, the following elements were added:
  • We inserted the motives “to become stronger” (強くなるため tsuyoku naru tame) and “to acquire respectful manners” (礼儀作法を身につけるため reigi sahō wo mi ni tsukeru tame) due to the assumption that these motives are very important for Japanese karateka. Both motives are not represented in the German sub-studies, although there is a respect-affiliated motive.
  • Three blank items were inserted to provide opportunities to fill in missing motives (though they were not used by any participant).
  • An explanation was added that items could be skipped in case the participant does not want or is unable to answer.
  • Due to Harzing’s [24] discovery that Asian populations tend to answer socially desirable, controversial items (like “because people should fear me”, “to do self-torment”, etc.) were shifted into the second half of the item list to not bias participant respondents.
  • Takahashi et al. [25] pointed out that Japanese people tend to avoid choosing extreme answers (like 0 or 10 on a 10-tier Likert scale). Therefore, we preferred a 4 tier Likert scale and dismissed a neutral option to prevent participants from avoiding statements.
The finalised list of quantitative items is showed in Table 3 (including Japanese original text):


In Meyer’s sub-study [16], 32 German karateka were interrogated, consisting of 22 males and 10 females (see Table 4). All of them practised Shōtōkan style karatedō. Kyū is a ranking system in Japanese martial arts for student degrees. Grades are from 9th to 1st (depending on the specific club, specific ranks may be skipped). Dan denotes the master ranks, counting from 1st to (usually) 10th Dan.
For the sub-study conducted by Meyer and Bittmann, 106 Japanese karateka completed the questionnaire. 45 karateka did the survey via online questionnaire while 62 filled out the paper version. One questionnaire had to be dismissed due to formal issues. Of the 105 valid responds, 60 were filled out by males, and 45 by females (see Table 5). The participants practised various karatedō styles (including full-contact and semi-contact styles). Evaluating the little value from data provided by very young test persons in the German sub-study (despite the interview questions were verbally simplified to suit to the age), the research team set a minimum age of 12 for the Japanese study.
During the parallel process of generating and analysing data, data saturation was eventually reached. For the German sub-study, the turning point was determined after the 27th interview, while for the Japanese survey, it was determined after around 95–100 participants. Data saturation itself was detected when no more significant new outcomes could be generated through new data acquisition.

3. Results

For both studies, the qualitative modules (interviews) were analysed by the research team using qualitative content analysis, formulated by Mayring [26]. For the Japanese study, the research team initially translated answers and discussed content analysis afterwards. Sometimes Japanese karatedō experts were consulted to provide advice when the core research team did not agree or was unsure about specific data interpretations.
The quantitative and demographic parts were analysed using Apple numbers with a self-programmed crossover testing method, containing the Fisher’s exact test, chi-squared test, g-test, and ANOVA.

3.1. Entry and Participation Motives

The resulting motive categories were assigned to twenty-two axial categories by axial coding (which was built on the German results). The definitions of these categories rested upon the interlinking topic of the related categories. There are six motive branches (see Table 6, branches and motives are described below).

3.1.1. Society Motives

This branch consists of interpersonal contact motives. However, it is also defined by motives aiming at an improvement of the social status.
The most important category in this branch is social support, which is a very well researched motive in sport contexts (especially in youth sport engagement, see Beets et al. [27]). Technically, this is a kind of hybrid motive because the intention to participate is partly or mainly external: Japanese and German karateka were introduced frequently to the martial art by siblings, parents, children or friends. Additionally, they were impressed by promotional demonstrations of senior students (先輩 senpai). In comparison, the gatekeepers in Japan—according to our results—are part of the family, whereas in Germany especially non-related school friends or co-workers accompanied karatedō-interested people to training sessions. Parents tended to initiate kids’ karatedō training with the intention to lose weight, to learn subordination, or to exhaust physical powers. Japanese adults occasionally reported the desire to share leisure time with their children (or grandchildren), which lead them to karatedō.
The branch also inherits sport motives (as found by Gabler [2]) like “to develop self-confidence”, “to be proud of oneself” and the joy of meeting friends and new people, which are important in both cultures.
The motive “because people should fear me” is very complex, as it is not only one of the least important motives (in Japan, it is indeed the least favourite motive), but was (in Germany) generally observed on club mates. The motive seems to be strongly connected to bullying. Either karateka may try to improve their fighting skills to become (more) effective bullies or they may try to get an infamous reputation, which deflects the attention of bullies. Some Japanese participants reported that they started karatedō training because they were bullied.
The pride motive is tied to victories in competitions as well as to higher belt graduations. Unsurprisingly, the competition motive is more important for younger karateka with less training experience. The first dan is considered to be a transition to adulthood, from student to master, in both countries and is granted after passing an extremely challenging examination procedure.
An interesting aspect marks the respect or manners category. The results demonstrated that German karateka like the manners, the respect networking (visible in bowing, etc.), and the hierarchical clarity in karatedō very much. For Japanese karateka, this motive is even more important, despite respectful manners are applied on social basis. The participants explained that politeness in Japanese society is an extremely complex phenomenon. There are many different layers of actions and phrases to express politeness, depending on situation, gender and rank of the participants. By addressing people in reference to their social rank, language, and gestures change accordingly. In the strict environment of the dōjō, Japanese karateka can practice correct manners (礼儀作法 reigi sahō) beyond their usual social contexts like university, peer or family, with the intention of applying them in their work life later, where the hierarchies are much more complex and social behaviour errors are sanctioned gravely. Thus, the dōjō is seen as a closed experimental area to train social manners.
Another remarkable result deals with the so-called “sensei motive”. In Japanese culture, teachers, especially if they mastered an art, are highly respected. One indication is the addition of the suffix sensei to the teacher’s name.
In the German sub-study, most of the interrogated teachers mentioned the sensei motive. They reported that karateka tend to melt their real-life sensei with an idealistic wise, strong father figure and that they themselves sometimes feel uncomfortable beeing pressured to match the expectations of their students. Several karatedō students confirmed the sensei motive, speaking of their need to bond with a person they can look up to. To counter these expectations, some German sensei pay extra attention to depict themselves as “regular” humans.
One might expect that the “sensei motive” would be even more important for Japanese karateka, but our data analysis pictured it as one of the least important motives of all (44 of 48). It is also noteworthy that older karateka (>41 years) perceived this motive more important than other groups. Maybe this effect can be explained due to the fact that sensei are commonly older people, so that they take a look at the sensei motive from an affected perspective. We conclude that the sensei motive is more important for German karateka because of the lack of high-regarded master/father figures in their social environment. The components of Asian martial arts—ritualised violence, philosophy, and mystification—may increase sensei adoration even more. The data is lacking information about whether Japanese sensei also apply strategies to depict themselves as “regular” humans—which might be unnecessary, because the experiences from field work lead to the assumption that the sensei superevelation is a mere Western phenomenon.

3.1.2. Efficacy Motives

The efficacy branch is filled with profession-related motives, like learning martial arts for the job as a bouncer or taxi driver (as in the case of Germany). The protection motive is the prevalent motive for German karateka to start training.
Despite being one of the lowest-ranking crime rate nations, this motive is also relevant in Japan. However, Japanese karateka do not tend to prepare themselves for an ambush like their German fellows. Their protection competence is strongly intertwined with the key motive of Japanese karatedō: “to become stronger” (see below).

3.1.3. Spirit Motives

This branch inherits cognitive motives. An important motive here is the joy of concentrating mentally on the complex and sometimes difficult karatedō movements and patterns. Additionally, powerful is the knowledge motive, which covers two subcategories: Firstly, many karateka are interested in movement variety and technique (技 waza) amount. They seek to expand their overall karatedō knowledge and to enhance their insights into technique application. Secondly, they show interest in history, development, styles and masters of karatedō, too.
A more transcendent variation of the knowledge motive is the spirituality motive. A core characteristic of many Asian martial arts is the mixture with religious, philosophical or—at least—behavioural elements and codes (see Bittmann [28], Maliszewski [29], and Hamaguchi [30]). Despite long-time controversies about the exact impact and the genesis of spiritual paradigms, the majority of researchers recognise aspects from shintō, Confucianism, and zen in Asian martial arts. Thus, people in both countries see karatedō as a life-long way to spiritual maturity with regards to character perfection.
In addition, many German karateka experience their martial art as an account to Eastern philosophies and frequently got interested in Japanese/Asian culture as a whole due to karatedō. Accordingly, Japanese karateka consider their martial art as a traditional East Asian or indigenous Japanese heritage. Especially remarkable are statements from Japanese karateka like this: “Travelling to Asia and Africa I learned that people there share the stereotype of Japanese people practising karatedō. Therefore I thought for myself that I have to do it.” (「海外旅行でアジアやアフリカに行った際に,現地の人たちが日本人に対して空手のイメージを持っていることを知り,自分もやらねばと思いました。」).
The spirituality of karatedō is well connected to another important characteristic of many martial arts: They can be practised until a very old age. As a result, older karateka eventually shift their training emphasis from mastering karatedō as a movement system to master its spiritual implications, which are expressed by doing karatedō properly.
It is important to note that spirituality in karatedō is not always driven by friendly concepts like enlightenment and peace. A young Japanese club member and medical student explained the huge gap between his extremely calm behaviour outside the dōjō and his relentless, haunting fighting style, citing Nitobe’s [31] famous book about samurai ethics, “Bushido. The Soul of Japan”.

3.1.4. Body Motives

At most, this branch inherits typical sport motives like fitness, health, and catharsis.
Concerning health, especially older people stressed the fact that karatedō can be practised until an old age and has numerous health benefits.
While several karateka experience catharsis through exhausting training sessions, a few reported the need of contact fighting itself to achieve catharsis.
Body control is a motive which is unsurprising in sports and martial arts, but karateka have a much more intense perspective on it. More than all other athletes, they are intrigued to reach and surpass their individual body limits with a dedication nearing obsession for which there are two main reasons: On the one hand, this goal is attached to zen-Buddhist beliefs which request doing techniques naturally with flawless perfection (see Takuan [32]). On the other hand, excellent body control ensures the safety of the opponent and of oneself as inaccurately executed karatedō techniques can be extremely dangerous. Usually, this dual commitment is fuelled by supporting motives like spirituality and self-confidence.
The strength motive marks the connection point of mental and physical motives. Despite being under the radar of most German karateka, this motive encompasses the core of Japanese training spirit. Nearly all Japanese participants mentioned the desire to become stronger (強くなるため tsuyoku naru tame) through karatedō training. For Japanese beginners, it is the most important motive, which even surpasses the impetus of family and friends. Reminded of the extremely low criminal rate in Japan, participants stated that—unlike their German counterparts—the utilisation for self-defence is not the main goal (but for few it is apparently to be safe while visiting other countries). In general, Japanese define strength as combination of physical and mental power. Participants expressed the need of dual strength to assert themselves at school or in the job: They are practising karatedō to prepare themselves for the hardships of everyday life in Japan. Therefore, karatedō reinforces the resilience to endure the exhausting, sometimes dreadful working conditions in Japan. Accordingly, it is fair to conclude that karatedō is pragmatic preparation for work and family life.
Interestingly, one participant stated that Japanese are (still) fighting against the (Western) cliché of “weak” Japanese people, which drives him to get stronger. He was surprised to hear that this was not a common perception outside of Japan.

3.1.5. Emotion Motives

The emotion branch includes different feelings karateka experience during training and competition.
The thrill motive inherits two subcategories: On the one hand, people like the thrill which they are experiencing in hand to hand combat situations, where loss and victory are a split second away and severe pain has to be expected at any time. On the other hand, people try to overcome their personal anxieties through fighting which may be the living example of “fighting against yourself”.
The order motive covers the joy of discipline, structure and simplicity of the training environment, the training schedule and also the classical white clothing. In relation to typical social environments in Japan, karatedō training habitus does not differ very much except for ever increasing stages of seriousness. The military influence, visible in similarities of kihon (basics) practice and military drill, has its roots in pre-war Japan, when karatedō was also seen as combat preparation drill. It is hard to guess why Germans are so delighted of the order in karatedō. Factors may be the zen influence and the pseudo-military orientation, which has become almost extinct in modern day Germany.
Surprisingly, joy is equally important for both groups, even though the social pressure to participate (in karatedō) seems to be more obvious in Japanese culture (see above). Joy is experienced notably by executing karatedō techniques, whether in kumite (fighting), kata (form), or kihon (basics).
Joy is connected to the flow motive. As in other martial arts and sports, karateka sometimes experience flow (see Csikszentmihalyi [33]) while practising karatedō. German participants reported flow experiences in various situations, mainly kumite and kata. They describe these moments as beyond consciousness. It is unclear whether Japanese karatedō had similar incidents—as nobody reported such—and the quantitative analysis ranks the flow motive at a mere 36th place out of 48 in Japan.
The aesthetics motive is divided into two parts: The joy of viewing and the joy of doing karatedō movements. German karateka explicitly enjoy the dynamics, timing, speed, beauty and sophistication of karatedō movements. Some emphasise the great feeling they experience while executing kata in synchronised large groups. On the other hand, Japanese karateka put emphasis on the style (格好よさ kakkō yosa), symmetry and the alternation of stillness and motion.

3.1.6. Preferences Motives

A couple of motives are strongly tied to individual preferences. The relative exoticism of karatedō in Germany frequently activated the curiosity of participants. However, Japanese participants also tended to choose karatedō out of curiosity—e.g., as trying something new. In both countries, choices were especially inspired by martial arts movie heroes/heroines. While Japanese people mentioned anime characters, notably Rachel Moore (original: 毛利蘭Mōri Ran) from the “Case Closed” series, and Chinese actor Jackie Chan, Germans admire Hollywood stars like Jean-Claude van Damme, Daniel LaRusso and Bruce Lee.
As in other sports and martial arts, people continued karatedō practice because of the strong habit formed through on-going participation. Our results indicate that in Japanese culture, this habit is sometimes protected by parents (or friends) who insist on not giving up training. Additionally, many Japanese have access to karatedō through budō (ways of martial arts) courses and clubs in school, especially kendō and jūdō. As they planned to continue budō, they switched to karatedō.
The following Table 7 shows the twenty most important motives for each group. We have to point out that the German results are based on dedicated mentions in interviews, whereas the Japanese results are founded on quantitative data analysis.

3.2. Influence of Personal Factors

Unfortunately, in accordance to previous WMA studies, influences of personal factors on motive importance remain sketchy. Only a few correlations proved to be highly significant (error probability <0,1%), using a redundancy testing method of Fisher’s exact test, chi-squared test, g-test, and ANOVA. Due to the lack of quantitative data for the German sample, the following results relate to Japanese karateka:
  • For females, the motive “to fight against my anxieties” is less important
  • For older people, the motive “to become stronger” is less important
  • With more training experience, the motives “to stay or to become more fit”, “to improve my body control”, “to become stronger” and “to improve my karatedō” become less important. The explanation for the first correlation is hard to guess. Maybe staying fit is a mandatory side effect practising karatedō and therefore not a goal itself anymore.
  • Surprisingly, for highly experienced karateka the motives “to have fun” and “enjoyment of karatedō movements” are less important. We assume that either fun and joy in karatedō are surpassed by more “serious” motives like spirituality (for which there is a very significant (>1%) correlation) or they shifted entirely from practicing to teaching, for which there is a high significance to being more important for high level karateka.
    An overview about personal factors and their correlations to motive importance is shown in supplementary Table S1.

3.3. Karatedō Fascination

As stated above, “fascination” is difficult to employ as a scientific term as participants used it in different ways. Reduced to the descriptions of a strong motive, which is tied to an essential characteristic of karatedō, the results are shown in Table 8.
As we see, there are common features in the fascination categories of German and Japanese karateka, which are tied to various motives. It is noteworthy that the main parts of karatedō fascination deal with its visual and ethical valuation, rather than fight-related elements.

4. Conclusion

4.1. Motives and Motive Structures

The results demonstrate that many motivation categories of Japanese and German karateka share similarities in importance and content, although the specific characteristics of motives can be very different.
Overall, the cultural mindset has general effects on the balance and mechanics of individual and social motives. Several motives and/or their backgrounds are culturally unique and have strong impact on the manner how karatedō is practiced, like gaining respectful manners, getting stronger, learning self-defence. In these cases, different social patterns, environments, and histories influence motive characteristics as well as specific cultural interpretations, such as what kind of art, technique, or sport karatedō is perceived to be.

4.2. Re-arrangement of Motive Structures

Naturally, karateka do not pursue all the motives presented in the spectrum. The neglection of certain motives can be temporary (because they are unknown or not pursued) or permanent with respect to all the years of training (because they are rejected due to moral principles). Realisations and discontinuations of intentions, as well as initiations of intentions are structured in a parallel manner. For instance, one participant reported: “Well, I am learning new techniques and refresh others (…) and that wasn’t my intention beforehand, when I just wanted to have fun. But now there is more ambition in it, I want to make progress.” ("Es ist einfach nur, dass ich neue Techniken dazulerne und anderes wieder aufarbeite (...) und das war vorher gar nicht so mein Ziel, da wollte ich einfach meinen Spaß haben. Aber jetzt ist natürlich mehr der Ehrgeiz dabei, auch wirklich weiterzukommen.”)
Based on the motives “to gain higher belt graduations” and “to be able to defend myself”, the German survey demonstrated that motives could be present in different stages of experience and practice. While the Japanese sub-study confirmed the general mechanics described, the most affected motives were different. Especially the Japanese signature motives “to get stronger” and “to acquire respectful manners” were reported to increase importance over time as well as “to participate/to win in competitions”. Japanese participants outlined the profundity (奥の深さ oku no fukasa), referring to the wide range of meanings, forms, and applications of karatedō, which they discovered over long-time training experience.
Therefore, the majority of motives are not structured in a strictly linear fashion. Rather, the decisive factors can be attributed to biographical elements influencing the choice, processing period, and processing time of motives. Horizons of meaning are broadened, and structures of meaning are modified. This means that motives of karatedō decrease and increase, overlap, interact, replace or strengthen other motives or bunches of motives.
In summary, we conclude that:
  • motives can be saturated and replaced by others (for instance the competition motive may be replaced with spiritual motives)
  • incidents in “real life” affect motives (for instance to be attacked may boost the self-defence motive)
  • new impulses or insights through karatedō seminars, sensei talks, media (books/movies) may generate new motives or highlight petty motives.
Participant reports illustrate that the mechanics of ascending and descending motives are individually specific. Several participants started their karatedō training with the self-defence motive and eventually replaced it with more sophisticated motives, while others developed the opposite way from philosophy to self-defence. There is a trend that performance motives loose importance over time and spiritual motives rise, but this direction is not mandatory at all.

4.3. Motive Flexibility

The huge variety of motives which are tracked in karatedō—which may even contradict each other—enables a mechanism of constantly re-calibrating and re-arranging individual motive structures. The main factor of long-term karatedō biographies is the combination of recognising its profundity with the possibility to shift motive importance This is a huge difference in comparison with the majority of sports like football, tennis or other Olympic disciplines, where performance goals dominate, tolerating other motives at best. If performance goals are cropped due to age or reduced training time, dropouts are very likely.
Thus, the core of the success of martial arts like karatedō is not only the diversity of motives, but also the flexibility to interchange them. According to our results, this flexibility is three-dimensional:
  • Personal dimension: When a karateka states that he is not interested in a certain motive (e.g., competition or self-defence) any more, he can focus on other motives (e.g., perfection of technique, health, spirituality, etc.). Changing the individual training priority does not force the karateka to swap the club (this may be restricted due to training priorities set by sensei, karatedō clubs and styles).
  • Social dimension: Doing this, he would not obstruct other training participants and their training, since most of the motives are socially accepted (this also may be restricted, especially in clubs dedicated to very competitive or very traditional karatedō, or in case the karateka is a leading figure/exponent of the club).
  • Temporal dimension: He can switch between different motives and training emphasis at any time.
Therefore, the system of karatedō in its flexibility is similar to a ball, which as an instrument, enables different varieties of meaning and rules of play.

4.4. Outcome Importance and Application

Most martial arts clubs seem to advertise with slogans like “learn how to defend yourself” and “become a better human through the Eastern philosophy”. Transferring the outcomes of this study, advertisements would probably benefit from highlighting the great flexibility of motives in martial arts. The possibility to switch between multiple motive priorities due to motive saturation, self-improvement or (age-related) physical performance reduction does not only facilitate life-time engagement, but also opens up new interesting perspectives and contents on a matter which was deemed to be already fully permeated.
Moreover, martial arts clubs could adjust to serve various motive layers sufficiently by inviting and employing martial arts experts with different specialisations like (mental) health, philosophy, self-defence, anger management, or pedagogics.

4.5. Outlook

We expect to reproduce the described mechanics analysing our Japanese jūdō survey. Through comparison with the German jūdō survey of Liebl and Happ [21], we assume that we will isolate cultural-specific motive meanings in jūdō, too, and to confirm the cultural-specific meanings we found for karatedō. Furthermore, we expect to find cross-cultural motive differences of karateka and jūdōka.
We believe that follow-up research should take American and African karatedō/jūdō culture into account. Additionally, it is advisable to expand the international Why Martial Arts? (WMA) research project to further martial arts in a broader range of cultural contexts.

Supplementary Materials

The following are available online at, Table S1: Correlations of personal factors and motive importances for the Japanese survey.

Author Contributions

Project administration, H.B.; Writing—original draft, M.M.; Writing—review & editing, H.B.


This research was funded by the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS, 日本学術振興会).

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Table 1. Motive ranking evaluated by Rink
Table 1. Motive ranking evaluated by Rink
RankMotive (I do karate, because ...)Rating
1I want to do some exercise4.40
2I want to be physically fit4.32
3I want to be physically healthy4.18
4I want to have fun3.76
5I want to master self-defence3.70
6I want to reduce stress3.68
7I want to know my own limits3.62
8I want to accomplish a distinct performance3.62
9I want to achieve mental wellness3.56
10I want to achieve mental balance3.48
11I want to prove my willpower3.44
12I need compensation for work3.40
13I want to face new challenges3.28
14I want to accomplish beauty and elegance3.26
15I want to do sports with other people3.22
16I want to prove myself something3.06
17I want to do sports as a group3.06
18I think it is self-realisation3.00
19I want to share some time with other karateka after training2.98
20I want to stand my ground2.68
21I want to get to know people2.66
22I want to perform better than my enemy2.66
23I need social contact2.64
24I have to let off some steam2.64
25I want to agonise2.60
26I want to improve my self-confidence2.50
27I want to defeat the enemy2.50
28I want to reduce my body weight2.44
29I want to compete with other people2.36
30I want to get high belt rankings2.34
31I want to perform better than other people2.30
32I want to learn acrobatic techniques2.06
33I want to participate in competitions1.96
34I want social appreciation1.80
35I want to be able to harm people1.30
36I want to be appreciated by my friends1.26
37I want to be in the public eye1.24
Table 2. Interview guide, used by Meyer (2012) for the German survey.
Table 2. Interview guide, used by Meyer (2012) for the German survey.
Translated QuestionOriginal Question
1.Do you remember how you first came into contact with martial arts in general?Erinnern Sie sich, wie Sie zum ersten Mal mit Kampfsport allgemein in Kontakt kamen?
2.What fascinates you about this martial art?Was fasziniert Sie an dieser Kampfsportart?
3.Why did you start practising martial arts?Warum begannen Sie mit dem Kampfsport?
4.Do you look forward to your karatedō training?Freuen Sie sich auf das Karatetraining?
5.Over time, have your aims concerning karatedō changed? Do you consider certain elements more important today than you did in the past?Haben sich Ihre Karateziele im Laufe der Jahre verändert? Ist Ihnen heute etwas wichtiger als früher?
6.So far, are you proud of anything you have achieved as a martial artist?Empfinden Sie Stolz auf etwas, das Ihnen als Kampfsportler gelungen ist?
7.Do you remember any especially outstanding or defining moments regarding karatedō?Erinnern Sie sich an einen besonders beeindruckenden oder prägenden Moment im Karate?
8.Did you always want to practice (Shōtōkan) karatedō or did you also have other disciplines of martial arts in mind?Wollten Sie immer schon (Shōtōkan -) Karate trainieren oder hatten Sie eine andere Kampfsportart im Sinn?
9.In your opinion, why did your colleagues start practising martial arts?Was denken Sie, warum Ihre Trainingskollegen mit dem Kampfsport begonnen haben?
10.In your opinion, why is your sensei (or those of any other role model concerning the issue) practising martial arts?Was glauben Sie, sind die Gründe, warum Ihr Sensei (oder Ihr diesbezügliches Vorbild) Kampfsport betreibt?
11.What do you consider to be your own students’ reasons for practising karatedō? (optional)Was beobachten Sie, welche Ziele Ihre eigenen Schüler dazu bewegen, Karate auszuüben? (optional)
12.Have you met any karateka thus far whose motives you are strongly opposed to?Sind Ihnen Karateka aufgefallen, deren Beweggründe Sie ablehnen?
Table 3. Quantitative item module used for the Japanese survey.
Table 3. Quantitative item module used for the Japanese survey.
Translated QuestionOriginal Question (Japanese)
1.Because karatedō fosters my health健康のため
2.To meet friends and acquaintances友達や知人に会うため
3.Interest in Japanese culture and tradition日本の伝統と文化に興味があるから
4.To strengthen my self confidence自信をつけるため
5.To have fun楽しいから
6.Enjoyment of karatedō movements and techniques空手道の動き・技をするのが楽しいから
7.Because I like discipline規則・規律が好きだから
8.To let loose and work off体力を消費し、ストレス発散させるため
9.To get to know people未知の人と知り合うため
10.To participate in competitions試合に出場するため
11.Just to do some exercises ただ運動するために
12.To be loyal towards the sensei/the dōjō先生や道場に忠実でありたいから
13.To develop a mental attitude for everyday life日々の生活の中での精神的な支えを学ぶため
14.Because I am curious, and I want to do something new好奇心が強く、自分が常に何か新しいことに挑みたいから
15.To be able to defend myself 自己防衛のため、自分を守ることができるから
16.Because I like to concentrate myself mentally and physically心身ともに集中するのが好きだから
17.To call attention and get prestige because I am doing karatedō空手道をしていることで、注目されるから
18.To relax myselfリラックスするため
19.Because I enjoy impact techniques相手に対して効果のある技が好きだから
20.To feel community spirit仲間との一体感を感じられるから
21.To compete with people他人と競うため
22.To experience fighting thrill格闘中にスリルを味わえるため
23.Because I strive for the perfection of technique技術を完成させるため
24.Out of habit習慣だから
25.To stay or to become more fitもっと健康になるため、健康を維持するため
26.My parents wish that I join training親が稽古に行くことを望んでいるから
27.To prove myself that I endure training練習に耐えられることを証明するため
28.To learn a lot about karatedō generally空手道について多くのことを学ぶため
29.To prepare myself for dangerous situations at work仕事上、危険な場面を想定し、準備するため
30.To strive for perfection of my character 人格を完成させるため
31.To improve my body control身体の動きをよくするため
32.Because karatedō training develops respect 空手道の稽古は尊敬の念を育てるから
33.To do self-torment自分を追いつめたいから
34.Because karatedō is a lifelong, life-accompanying way空手道は生涯の道であるから
35.To gain higher belt graduations 昇級・段するため
36.To fight against my anxieties自分の恐怖心を抑えられるため
37.To distract myself from worries and problems悩みや問題などを考え込まないようにするため
38.To become stronger強くなるため
39.To be proud of myself自分の誇りのため
40.Because I like the beauty of karatedō movements空手道の動きの美しさが好きだから
41.Because my friends are going to training, too友達が稽古に行っているから
42.Because in some moments, I forget everything around無心を得るため
43.To become invincible or to feel like invincible無敵になる、あるいは無敵だと感じたいから
44.To improve my karatedō空手道の上達を目指すため
45.Because people should fear me人が私のことを怖れるため
46.To have a father/sensei figure父親的模範像・師範模範像を見つけるため
47.To teach people karatedō人に空手道を教えるため
48.To acquire respectful manners礼儀作法を身につけるため
Table 4. German survey statistics.
Table 4. German survey statistics.
Min.Av.Max.Standard Deviation
Belt graduation8th kyū2nd kyū4th dan3.32 ranks
Table 5. Japanese survey statistics.
Table 5. Japanese survey statistics.
Min.Av.Max.Standard Deviation
Belt graduation/1st kyū7th dan3.82 ranks
Training years011.15511.60
Table 6. Organised axial categories.
Table 6. Organised axial categories.
social supportprofessionknowledgehealthjoyhabit
communicationprotectionfocusbody controlflowcuriosity
respect/manners spirituality/traditioncatharsisaesthetics
(mental and physical)
Table 7. Ranking of the 20 most important motives, differentiated by each country.
Table 7. Ranking of the 20 most important motives, differentiated by each country.
RankJapan 1Germany 2
1Enjoyment of karatedō movements and techniquesTo be proud of myself
2To become strongerTo be able to defend myself
3To have funTo stay or to become more fit
4To improve my karatedōTo have fun
5Because karatedō fosters my healthTo cultivate friendships
6To improve my body controlTo work with people
7To acquire respectful mannersTo learn a lot about karatedō generally
8To strengthen my self confidenceTo strengthen my self confidence
9To develop a mental attitude for everyday lifeMy parents wish that I join training
10Because I like the beauty of karatedō movementsBecause I strive for the perfection of technique
11Because I strive for the perfection of techniqueTo prove myself that I endure training
12To learn a lot about karatedō generallyTo experience fighting thrill
13To be able to defend myself To improve my body control
14To stay or to become more fitTo let loose and work off
15Because I like to concentrate myself mentally and physicallyTo feel community spirit
16To strive for perfection of my character Because there is much respect in karatedō training
17To let loose and work offTo gain higher belt graduations
18To feel community spiritTo gain the black belt
19Because I am curious and I want to do something newTo participate in competitions
20To be proud of myselfBecause I like the beauty of karatedō movements
1 Ranked by popularity. 2 Ranked by mentions.
Table 8. Important fascination categories
Table 8. Important fascination categories
Japanese Karateka are Fascinated aboutGerman Karateka are Fascinated about
The unity of physical and mental aspectsThe unity of physical and mental aspects
the interindividual dynamics in karatedō fightsHow it can be utilised by smaller individuals to overcome stronger attackers/opponents (as seen in martial arts movies)
The respectful mannersThe precision, variety and history of karatedō techniques
The effective simplicity of karatedō techniquesThe ethical and philosophical paradigms
The style and aesthetics

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