19 June 2023

Karate athletes boosted by Abertay research ahead of world championships

Student Hannah Davidson among Kanzen competitors training for the WUKF championships in Dundee

A female karate student with red boxing gloves on standing in a ring

Sports scientists from Abertay University are working with elite UK karate athletes to enhance their performance, recovery and safety ahead of the WUKF World Karate Championships in Scotland.

Researchers from the University’s Division of Sport and Exercise Sciences are providing fitness training, technique analysis and data collection support to the podium squad from Kanzen Karate – the Dundee dojo behind bringing the international event to the city’s Ice Arena from July 13-16.

Karate Research Lab - bike testing

Since March this year, the group of 15 top level black belts have been engaging in a tailored programme at Abertay's Human Performance Lab – the same facility used by world boxing champion Hannah Rankin in the run up to her successful title bout earlier this year.

Using sprint interval training techniques delivered on both leg and hand exercise bikes, the research team has significantly improved the athlete’s muscle explosivity, speed and power, while also enhancing their ability to recover quickly and reoxygenate muscles.

photo showing sparring

Karate is currently underdeveloped in terms of athlete data collection and the research will provide the world’s first extensive data set on the muscular demands of the sport at elite level, which can in turn be used to enhance training methods and inform safety protocols.

Performance is being analysed in both the Kumite (combat) and Kata (form) disciplines, with the Kanzen squad including both senior adult competitors and youth athletes.

getting feedback

Dr John Babraj of Abertay’s Division of Sport and Exercise Sciences said: “Karate, like many combat sports, often suffers from only training by doing – but just taking part in the sport doesn’t enhance capacity for muscles to develop and recover in an optimum way. The athletes engaging with us will have completed a five-month training and analysis programme by the time the championships commence in July, giving them the best possible chance of success in their respective categories.
“From a research point of view, we are delighted to be working so closely with the dynamic Kanzen Karate dojo and the data we’ve gathered as part of the project will yield a knowledge base that can be used to develop the sport much more widely. Karate includes some very specific bounce movements which make it unique from other combat sports, so it’s been great to have a chance to break new ground in terms of developing an understanding of how the biomechanic demands affect individuals and how we can build training regimes to best effect.”

Group of people looking at the camera

Roy O’Kane, Chief Officer at Kanzen Karate and Board Member at WUKF World Karate said: “We are very grateful to Abertay University for their support of Kanzen athletes. It has been wonderful to see our team working and learning within a leading educational setting; being part of this innovative research is exciting and has introduced them to the opportunities within further and higher education.”

The Kanzen group boasts a number of WUKF World & European Champions including Abertay University BSc (Hons) Sport & Exercise student Hannah Davidson from Dundee, current WUKF World Karate Champion for her age category.

Hannah said: “The work with Dr John and his team has been excellent and really supported me as an athlete in my preparations and performances. I’m really thankful to Abertay for giving us this opportunity and it’s very exciting to be part of this cutting-edge research into the sport of Karate.”


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