It might look a dangerous pursuit, but researchers have found that karate may be safer for children than many other sports.
Merrilee Zetaruk, director of the paediatric sports and dance medicine programme at the University of Manitoba, Canada, has studied injury rates in youngsters attending a private karate school in Massachusetts.
Dr Zetaruk, herself a second dan black belt in Shotokan karate, concluded:
"Children may benefit from participating in martial arts. Karate is a relatively safe sport for children and adolescents when properly taught, though the risk of injury does increase in adults."
Her study is published in the journal, Accident Analysis and Prevention.
Of the 68 children at the school, aged between six and 16, 28 per cent suffered at least one injury during a 12-month period in 1995-96. The vast majority of these were bruises, mild sprains and strains.
Other sports that have been previously studied include football, with significant injuries being suffered by 7.7 per cent of those studied, and gymnastics with 30 per cent.
However, Dr Zetaruk found that the risk of injury increased with the experience of the child as well as with the time they spent practising.