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To the Editors of American Demographics:

Do you have any demographic or psychographic information on people who practice martial arts or enroll their children in martial arts classes?

Brian DeGori

Okinawa Kenpo Karate Academy, Inc.

Pitman, N.J.

Dear Brian:

Unlike chopping boards and cinder blocks with your bare hands, breaking down the demographics of those who participate in martial arts is quite a simple â€" and painless â€" task. According to data from New York City-based research firm Simmons Market Research, an estimated 18.1 million Americans participated in karate or some other form of martial art at least once in the past year. Included in that estimate are 9.4 million adults, 5.5 million teenagers and 3.2 million kids.


An estimated 5 percent of adults say they participated in martial arts last year at least once, and a quarter of those (28 percent) say they do martial arts “every chance they get.� Surprisingly, this bunch is fairly evenly split between men (52 percent) and women (48 percent). But for the most part, participants are young. Sixty-three percent are between 18 and 34, compared with 25 percent who are between 35 and 49 and 11 percent who are 50 or older.

Interestingly, Asian American adults are no more likely to participate in martial arts than are whites; around 5 percent of each group is involved in the sport. Blacks, on the other hand, are more likely than whites or Asians to engage in martial arts, with 7 percent saying they have participated in the sport at least once in the past year.


Karate, kickboxing and related sports are significantly more popular among teens than their parents. According to Simmons, a quarter of all teenage boys â€" and almost as many (22 percent) teen girls â€" say they have participated in martial arts in the past year.

When these teens are not practicing their karate chops, however, chances are they aren't sitting still. Fully 75 percent of teens who practice karate say that they have also played golf in the past year, 74 percent have skateboarded, 69 percent have practiced yoga, and 41 percent have gone downhill or cross-country skiing.

In fact, teens who spar are even more likely to see their activities as beneficial to their overall health and social life than do their equally active peers. Two-thirds (67 percent) of teens who practice martial arts say, “Sports are a part of my social life,� and 77 percent say, “Sports are important to keep healthy.� For those teens who participate in a sport other than karate, the figures are 59 percent and 71 percent, respectively.


Kids are less interested in karate than their big brothers and sisters, but more interested than their moms and dads; an estimated 13 percent of children ages 6 to 11 have participated in some kind of martial arts activity in the past year, according to Simmons. When it comes to the peewee division, however, boys are significantly more interested than girls: Of aspiring Jackie Chans, 61 percent are boys, and only 39 percent are girls.

Alas, karate lessons don't come cheap, and the likelihood that a child will partake in martial arts increases proportionately with the income of his or her parents. Fifteen percent of kids whose parents earn $75,000 or more a year participate in martial arts, compared with 13 percent of those whose parents make between $50,000 and $75,000. Only 10 percent of kids whose parents earn $50,000 or less participate in the sport.

Whether or not they come from money, karate kids seem to be more outgoing and adventurous than their non-belt-wearing peers. For instance, 21 percent of youngsters who practice martial arts agree with the statement “I like to be the first to try new things,� compared with just 16 percent of kids who don't participate in martial arts. And that out-in-front attitude may one day put them in the limelight: 58 percent of children who participate in martial arts say they want to be famous, compared with 52 percent of kids who do not.


Adults who participate in martial arts are more likely than nonparticipants to say that they enjoy taking risks.


I try to be as nice to people as I can 70% 76%
I do some sort of exercise or sport once a week 66% 48%
I enjoy taking risks 49% 33%
I am happy with my standard of living 43% 48%
I am a perfectionist 41% 37%
It's important for me to keep looking young 39% 33%
Marijuana should be legalized 29% 21%
Friends ask my advice about health and nutrition 25% 17%
There is little I can do to change my life 13% 18%
Source: Simmons Market Research


Using a market segmentation tool called Cohorts, Simmons Market Research analyzed data from its Spring 2002 National Consumer Survey to identify the adults most likely to practice martial arts, by lifestyle segment.


Affluent working woman with sophisticated tastes, very active lifestyle and good investing habits
41 $166,425 234

Younger, physically active man with strong career drive and upscale interests, including electronics and technology
33 $47,207 220

High-powered, career-driven man with sophisticated tastes, extensive investments and the means to travel
41 $165,331 204

Successful, professional single mom who balances her career with the demands of raising children
39 $48,916 186

Childless professional woman building her career, developing sophisticated tastes and striving to stay fit
33 $49,789 160

Single dad who enjoys outdoor activities, his home workshop and electronic entertainment with his kids
37 $39,965 152

Young, dual-income, educated couple whose energies are channeled into active sports, outdoor activities, careers and their home lives
31 $63,042 124
*The national average is 100. For example, women like “Elizabeth� are 134 percent more likely than the average American to participate in martial arts. Source: Simmons Market Research


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