Nuno Moreira Karate

When less is more: Why you REALLY need to take a break in Karate Training?


Today, we are going to dedicate this Blog post to a theme that is well generalized in sports training: SUPERCOMPENSATION!

Thanks to our friend Ranuka Sanjeewa for asking about such a relevant subject for all Karateka…

Besides Supercompensation, we are also going to talk about Tapering and its importance to Karate athletes

What you’ll learn in this article:

  1. What is Supercompensation?
  2. Gains Are Made When The Neuro-Muscular System Fully Recovers From Karate
  3. Don’t Rest Too Long!
  4. High-Intensity Training Demands Higher-Quality Recovery
  5. Recovery Is Not Just Physical
  6. Each Karateka Has His or Her Own Response to Training and Recovery
  7. Some Factors of Recovery that Influence Supercompensation
  8. How do You Know if Your Students and Athletes Have Reached Supercompensation?
  9. I Just Have Regular Students in My Dojo… What Should I Do?
  10. What Is the Tapering Strategy?
  11. How Do You Adapt a Taper for Karate Athletes?


1 – What is Supercompensation?

Improving the Neuro-Muscular System as a whole is the main goal of Karate of training, right?

So you can achieve that goal you must follow this sequence:

  2. Recovering Well
  3. Supercompensating Completely

Take a look at the 4 Phases of Training (on the chart below):

The 4 Steps of Training

The 4 Steps of Training


2 – Gains Are Made When The Neuro-Muscular System Fully Recovers From Karate Session

Gains are made when your students/athletes’ body and mind fully recover from a given Karate session or training period.

A Karateka may see gains in performance during a training session, but this is due to full recovery and Supercompensation.

During and after an intense Karate training there is an initial breakdown of muscle fibers and depletion of naturally occurring substances (nutrients) in the body… This phenomenon leaves the body and nervous system in a state of fatigue post workout.

From this state of fatigue, the Neuro-Muscular System begins to rebuild itself through rest and an increase in protein synthesis.

This will allow the rebuild of the muscle fibers and nervous system back to its original baseline level.

The period from a level of fatigue to baseline level is known as compensation.

When the Neuro-Muscular System of your Karate students or athletes reaches higher levels of performance after the Recovery phase you can say they achieved Supercompensation!

If you submit your Karate students to a new training load before sufficient recovery they will not reach the Supercompensation effects.

And instead of seeing improvements in their performance they will experience a decrease.


3 – Don’t Rest Too Long!

If rest is too long your Karateka will experience a decrease in some skills.

If your Karate athlete’s training sessions are too easy, there is a minimum rate of fatigue. That won’t allow reaching a Supercompensation phase after adequate recovery.

You can say that is a waste of time and energy, especially for athletes that want to achieve their greatest potential!


4 – High-Intensity Training Demands Higher-Quality Recovery

The more intense the training, the greater the breakdown.

High-intensity training demands higher quality recovery than low-intensity training.

Consequently, high-intensity training also demands a longer recovery period than low-intensity training.


5 – Recovery Is Not Just Physical

When you a plan the Recovery of your Karate athletes you must take into account 3 factors:

  • Psychological Factors
  • Social Factors
  • Physiological Factors

For example, you may plan an Agility training session or cycle that include many decision-making and perceptual stimuli.

That may not induce high levels of physical fatigue but it can be very stressful emotionally and cognitively…

You must take that into account in the Recovery phase. You may even plan a more intense physical session, but where the Karatekas just perform easy exercises… With no complexity or decision-making under pressure.

This will allow your Karate groups to experience more variation in training, greater stimuli at middle- and long-term… But, at the same time, recovering from each period of specific high-intensity training.

Intensity is not just physiological!! It’s also psychological, emotional, cognitive, etc…

Similarly, you must take into account some social issues like school, job or family.

You may have a student or athlete that would recover much faster from a given training stimulus…

But at some point of the season, he or she may have many school exams that place a great mental stress.

You have to adapt the recovery and training load if you feel that that factor is negatively affecting his or her performance.


6 – Each Karateka Has His or Her Own Response to Training and Recovery

This is a Golden Rule that many, many Karate Senseis forget…

Karateka of comparable physical ability may have different responses to a given training stimulus… Due to a variety of reasons!

The same training stimulus may improve one Karateka performance, only maintain the performance by another and cause stagnation in a third student or athlete.

For example, there is evidence that, compared with individuals with normal anxiety, individuals with elevated anxiety perceive the intensity as being greater.

Individuals who demonstrate higher levels of anxiety tend to have a lower capacity for tolerating training load and stress.

Besides that, each physical quality has its own Supercompensation curve in each one of your Karate students.

This happens due to the duration of the various biological regeneration processes that take place during the recovery phase.

For example, the restoration of creatine-phosphate will take only a few seconds to a couple of minutes…

…The glycogen-reloading process in the muscle may last 24 hours, or even longer…

…The production of new proteins may take hours or days to complete.

It always depends on the characteristics of each of your Karateka.


7 – Some Factors of Recovery that Influence Supercompensation

During the Recovery phase you can use methods like:

  • Stretching
  • Lower Volume and Intensity sessions
  • Massage
  • etc…

But there are other factors that highly influence the effectiveness and speed of Recovery:

  • Nutrition
  • Hydration
  • Sleep and Rest
  • Relaxation and Emotional Support (Mental Training)


8 – How do You Know if Your Students and Athletes Have Reached Supercompensation?

Nowadays, there is an increasing amount of research.

And the popularity of load monitoring in high-performance Karate is greater every year.

But there isn’t a single definitive tool that can tell you if your students or athletes are fully recovered.

Nevertheless, it’s important that you use Scientific principles for training load and recovery monitoring.

That’s the only way that ensures that you are actively contributing to the reduction of the risk of non-functional overreaching, illness, and injury in your Karateka.

Especially if you have athletes that train 4 or more times per week.

Those Karatekas are exposed to high training loads and high training and competitions stress.

It’s your obligation to manage risks associated with the possible negative effects.

It’s your duty to maintain optimal physiological and psychological health and well-being of your athletes.

You must have an easy-to-implement and easy-to-interpret monitoring system that gives fast and actionable information…

… Every training cycle, every month, every week, every Karate session!

A system where the athletes are involved in monitoring!

We understand that for most Dojos it’s difficult to implement a complex system of monitoring. Because the lack of resources doesn’t allow it.

Even if you have access to more complex equipment in a University near you, you must have a lot of time to interpret the results. That’s not practical to 95% of the Instructors, right?

If you have all these possibilities, that’s really great… And you really don’t need to read this article (lool).


In our new and breakthrough online platform – KARATE SCIENCE PRO – you will have access to a practical and sustainable monitoring system.

It will allow you to better control your students’ recovery and training load. That way you’ll be prepared to reach your athletes’ Supercompensation with more accuracy!

Remember that if you work with regular Karate students you base your training plans on average results given by Science.

But if you have athletes that train more than 4 times per week you really have to be as accurate as possible!

Because they have to reach their full potential…


9 – I Just Have Regular Students in My Dojo… What Should I Do?

If you teach regular Karateka that train 2 or 3 times per week, take the following information into account:


  1. Your Karate sessions should not have sudden changes in Intensity between them. Read our Free eBook Step-by-Step Method for Injury Prevention
  2. If athletes need Training Variation, your Regular Students should have it even more so they can develop their Karate with high-levels of motivation. They can only improve their Karate if they don’t miss the classes, right? To know more, start by reading our eBook “300-Pages of Karate Science. All the Fundamental Concepts that Every Sensei Should Master” and read the complete chapter about Training Periodization.
  3. You use a simple tool like RPE-Session that allows you to have some important and individualized information about each of your Karateka.
  4. Base your Training Periodization/Planning in average results given by Scientific Research (see the chart below, as an example of Strength Training)


10 – What Is the Tapering Strategy?

Tapering is a reduction in training after high-intensity and/or volume training prior to a competition.

This reduction allows recovery and improves performance during the event.

The key factor of a Taper is Intensity.

Intensity is maintained… The reduction of training load is in Volume.

The recommended reduction in Volume is between 40 and 60%.

The duration of a Taper depends on the Volume and Intensity of training before the Taper. It’s, generally, 7-21 days in length.

Duration is also influenced by the fitness level of the Karate athletes.

If the fitness level of the Karateka is relatively low, you must use a fast Taper (6-10 days).

In contrary, if your athletes have high fitness levels, the loss of training-associated adaptations is smaller. So, the Taper can be up to 3 weeks.


11 – How Do You Adapt a Taper for Karate Athletes?

The cumulative effects of training-induced fatigue must be reduced during the weeks immediately preceding competition…

To achieve that goal you can use a wide range of recovery modalities as part of the Taper to optimize performance.

Nowadays, Sports Karate offers reduced opportunities to Taper because of the repetition of the competitions during the season.

Peaking for major competitions each month (or even 2 or 3 times per month) is usually a problem…

The challenge is choosing between recovering from previous competition and then rebuilding the athlete’s fitness…


…Maintaining intensive training and capitalizing on adaptations acquired during the previous training cycle.

You should schedule 2 to 3 Tapers per year… Where you promote a large training Volume reduction over a longer period (2-3 weeks).

Additional Taper periods may be detrimental for performance improvement!

Because it minimizes the total time of normal/heavy training load, which is essential to induce training adaptations in Karate.

Here you have some more guidelines:

  1. Give priority to a limited number of competitions each season (e.g. 2-3 major events).

This seems to be a good solution to plan the Taper periods in the competitive season.

The other tournaments should be seen as preparatory events, training in competitive environment…

That doesn’t mean that your athletes cannot win medals in those competitions. But you cannot train your Karateka as every tournament has the same importance. They will burn out or achieve overtraining syndrome, sooner or later!!

  1. You should plan a training block lasting at least 2 months between 2 major objectives. This allows for appropriate recovery, training and Taper phases if you define more than 2 or 3 major competitions per season.


  1. Before minor competitions, you should program only short duration Tapers (∼4—7 days).

In these mini-Tapers, you must pay special attention to recovery, nutrition, hydration, sleep and mental state.

4-7 days allow you to reduce Volume or even Intensity without your athletes losing explosiveness and power.

Because of the possible persistence of fatigue despite such short Tapers, your Karateka should be aware that this strategy may sometimes lead to below optimal performances.


  1. The recovery period after the minor competitions (associated with non-optimal taper) should be as short as possible.



As you can see, “Less can be More”…

Improving in Karate is not only REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT until exhaustion!!!!

That’s not being Hard! It’s just being Ignorant!

Our apologies for the frontality, but we really need to stop seeing Karate as a modality of “Suffer or Die”…

That way, you’re not being a teacher, much less a “Master”… You’re just making a selection of the ones that already have the ability to endure the training load that you define!

When your goal should be helping every single student or athlete to achieve his or her full potential, without injuries or burnouts…

And that demands Training Smart, Recovering Well, and Supercompensating Completely.

Arigato Gozaimashita.


If you want to know more about Karate Science, click here.

Karate Science Academy has a mission: to take Science into all Dojos in the world.

Share our articles on Facebook to all your Karate friends interested in evolution!


P.S. – Stay tuned on the Official Launch of Karate Science PRO. It’s an online platform exclusively dedicated to Karate Science, where the members have access to updated, simple and practical knowledge. New content is added, every week!


Complimentary Readings:

Marrier B, Robineau J, Piscione J, Lacome M, Peeters A, Hausswirth C, Morin JB, Le Meur Y.  Supercompensation Kinetics of Physical Qualities During a Taper in Team Sport Athletes. International Journal of Sports Phyisiology and Performance. 2017
Murach KA & Bagley JR.  The Physiological Basis for Tapering in Endurance, Strength, and Power Athletes. Sports. 2015; 3:209-218
Halson SL. Monitoring Training Load to Understand Fatigue in Athletes. Sports Medicine. 2014
Le Meur Y, Hausswirth C, Mujika I.  Tapering for Competition: a Review. Science & Sports. 2012; 27:77-87
Smith DJ.  A Framework for Understanding the Training Process Leading to Elite Performance. Sports Medicine. 2003; 33(15):1103-1126

Kentta G & Hassmen P.  Overtraining and Recovery: A conceptual model. Sports Medicine. 1998; 26(1):1-16

Related Posts...

Ultimate GUIDELINES about Core Training for Karate... Core Training has a lot of attention in Sports training and Fitness. Karate is no exception! This has a reason and its fans use it as fundamental tra...
Plan your Sessions like a Top-Coach! A Quick Guide to Plan Your Karate Sessions Like a Top Coach - Without Wasting Your Precious Time Hello Karate friend, Before you go deep into this...
Youth Physical Development Model: A Scientific Com... What’s the first thing you should do, when you finish reading this post?   SAVE THE TWO TABLES we put inside this article about Children and ...
Is Battle Ropes’ training USEFUL for Karate? Battle Ropes are a very popular training equipment! Do they really work?!? Let's see what Science has to say...   Unique and innovative train...
Karate + Science = SUCCESS THE IMPORTANCE OF SCIENCE TO KARATE AND TO OUR LIVES After all, what is SCIENCE?!? Some people look to Science as a nerdy thing, with lack of conn...
WHY CAN’T your Karatekas make an easy Jodan-... Maybe your Karate athletes are able to make full-splits to all sides, but what really matters is that they can use all the Flexibility to kick higher ...

2 Responses

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *