- If pregnant, don’t begin a sport you’ve never done before.
- Consult other women who have done karate pregnant. In my case, I was lucky to be able to consult with my Sensei’s wife, among others, who had trained while pregnant. (My Sensei’s wife was a trailblazer in more ways than one: not only was she one of the first women to train pregnant in my dojo, thirty years ago, she was also one of the first women to practice karate in my dojo, period.) Regarding the question of whether I should keep training, the answers varied. Some practiced a gentle version of karate. Others trained vigorously. Talk to people. Get a sense of how others have handled pregnant karate. Then decide for yourself.
- It’s okay to breathe loudly. I was doing drills once, when someone commented that my breathing was very loud. Yes, I sounded like Darth Vader. But at least I was practicing karate! I was practicing front stances up and down the dojo, despite carrying thirty extra pounds!
- DON’T SPAR! Or do any interactive drills, particularly those involving strikes to your solar plexus. This rule stands even if you consider yourself mistress of sparring, skillful enough to block even the swiftest attacks. This is for your sake as well as that of your fellow karate-ka. What is someone actually hits you? It’s just not fair to ask them to take on this extra responsibility, and risk the potential guilt.
- If you feel off balance, keep your stances high. You don’t have to prove that you can do a kiba dachi (“horse”) stance with your knees wide and your butt tucked in, so low to the ground that it looks like you’re riding a snake rather than a horse. There will be plenty of time in the future to show off your stances.
- On the other hand, keep your stances low to the ground. There is nothing like an extra thirty pounds to lower your centre of gravity. Of course, it can be hard to get back out of a stance, too. You don’t want to experience the indignity of someone having to pull you up. Use your judgement.
- And the flexibility! Because your joints are loose, you will do front stances like you’ve never done before. Your legs will scissor so easily that you will look like you’re doing the splits. Your side kicks will blast out like yoyos. But, be warned: you also risk dislocating your joints. Don’t overdo it.
- If you can’t do karate, do another sport. For the first three months of being pregnant with my second child, I experienced debilitating fatigue. I also suffered, for the first time in my life, from acute headaches. I could barely stand, let alone punch and kick. So I took up swimming. For three months, I swam lengths at my local salt-water pool. Swimming allowed me to stay fit, and being in the water calmed my nausea. When I went back to karate in my fourth month, I was fit enough to resume training where I’d left off.
- If you can’t train physically, train your mind. Focus on whatever you like to do, and do it with the attitude of a karate-ka i.e. with intent, with razor-like focus, and with persistence.
- And don’t do this: worry too much about training less. In time, you’ll be in full form, back in the dojo.
Thank you so much for this! I have been training in Uechi Ryu karate for three years and am contemplating getting pregnant again. Having recently become a Shodan, I have been hesitant to entertain the thought much more as I believed I’d have to stop training throughout the pregnancy. Now I know I can take it at my own pace, should I decide to have another. This has been very informative!
So glad I could help, Anita!
This is what I was looking for for the last 4 month! I’m going to get back to my beloved dojo! Irena,5 month
I think exercise during pregnancy is very important for both the mother and the baby.
Thank you so much! I will happily forward your 10 rules to any fellow karate ladies in our dojo (ok, if one of them ever gets pregnant 🙂 ). Greetings from Germany, Veronika, 6 months
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I’m practiding ninjutsu and not karate, but the basic idea of practicing when you are pregnant is the same. I’m only at the first weeks, so I know it’s a very sensitive time for me and for the fetus.
I appreciate this comment “This is for your sake as well as that of your fellow karate-ka. What is someone actually hits you? It’s just not fair to ask them to take on this extra responsibility, and risk the potential guilt.”
Because I have been trying to sum up how I feel about sparring a pregnant woman at my dojo. I have refused to spar with her several times now and she is quite upset about it. I now know how to put these feelings into words. I would feel a tremendous amount of guilt if something happened to her…if I hit her. The crazy part is we do full contact karate so other people are willingly kicking her!
Hi Victoria, That sounds like an awkward situation! In your place, I might politely decline to spar with this student, then discuss my feelings with her after class, privately. Good luck!
Im getting anxiety about slowing down my progress in karate so I really appreciate 8, 9, and 10. How quickly were you back training after delivery?
Hi Michelle, Sorry for the late reply. Following the delivery of all three of my children, I went back to training at 1 month post-partum. I started off very slowly and intensified my training over a period of several months. Most experts recommend not starting exercising until you have stopped bleeding. If you’re nursing, you need a good sports’ bra. You also need to make sure you’re taking in enough calories to make up for all the energy you’re expending (caring for baby and training.) Since I’m not a medical provider, I urge you to check with your o.b. before going back to training. Ultimately, however, you need to pay attention to your body’s needs and follow your instincts. Also, don’t be discouraged about how long it takes to return to your former form – It can take a very long time! I’m nine months post-partum following baby #3 and only now am I feeling anywhere near my pre-pregnancy fitness. Best of luck!
Thank you for your blog. This will help me, since I just found out the big news. I’m 6 1/2 weeks. I love my karate and didn’t want to stop. I will have to wait on sparring for a while :(. How about sit up and push ups?
Hi Joy, Glad to help! I’m not sure about doing push-ups or sit-ups during pregnancy as it seems to me that they might compress the abdomen, if not in a dangerous way, then certainly in an uncomfortable one. It’s best to check with your medical provider. Good luck!
First, I must say I’m not a doctor – all I say is from my own expirience.
Sit ups: as for myself, I stopped doing it when it didn’t feel right. I kept Doing push ups till the very end, altough it got harder and harder. At the end, I did maybe 1 or 2 p/u for every p/u the other did…
The general rule for me was: do only what you feel is right. When in doubt – don’t do it. If it doesn’t feel right – don’t do it, even if you are not sure why .
Have a fun pregnancy!
Thank your the 10 rules! It is such a relief to read this as a 29th week pregnant karate practitioner. I have been doing karate half of my life and since I became pregnant, I avoided to spar and was only practicing kata. One day a fellow karateka, who watched me do kata intensively, started to feel very very worried about me and the baby and told me not to come to the dojo and rather rest because these kata moves are not good for the baby…as a total rookie in pregnancy, this kind of scared me, evening felt a bit of a regret to be at the dojo all the time since I was pregnant. But on the other hand, I have been listening to my body, and whenever I felt exhausted during the training, I did not push myself. I do kata and I do not feel an uncomfortable feeling yet. So now, I am confused whether I should just stop doing everything or continue to practice in the dojo. But I am so happy to find this blog 🙂
Question: did you also practiced kata when you were pregnant?
Hi Anna, I’m very sorry for the late reply. I did practice karate throughout all my pregnancies (with a few changes – see previous posts on practicing karate pregnant), without any problem. I hope your pregnancy went well, and that you have successfully “married” martial arts and motherhood!
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Thank you so much for writing this. It was really helpful in my first Trimester of pregnancy. When I was really worried about loosing my practice. Thank you for such a acknowledging article. Now I know the ball is in my court and I can do as much as I am comfortable with.