Originally, karate was ALL about fighting and self defense. 200 years ago the world was a very different place, peoples lives would be in danger on a regular basis. Learning to defend oneself and family was a priority and in some parts of the world, unfortunately, this is still the case. But in many parts of the world, karate has new meanings.
When I was young, fighting was very important to me, even though I lived in a safe environment.
As I get older, my thoughts on karate have changed.
I always ask new karateka at our dojo, why they want to learn karate, most people give very similar answers, which are self defense and fitness and these are the answers that I expect them to say. I then try and explain to them that karate is much more than just fitness and self defense. After a short period of attending our karate classes, I soon discover if their character makeup will be suited to karatedo.
For someone who just wants self defense, mixed martial arts (MMA) clubs are the best, for someone who wants fitness, aerobics classes are great. But if someone likes the karate kata (forms), fitness, self defense and the amazing history and philosophy that goes with traditional karate, then we have a match!
Self defense is a state of mind, it is much more than just fighting techniques. You can show someone all the self defense techniques known to man, but if they cannot ‘switch on’, they will NEVER be able to defend themselves. At the same time, you can show someone who CAN ‘switch on’, very few self defense techniques and they will be a force to be scared of.
In self defense and fighting, you must have the ability to ‘switch on’ and ‘switch off’ at will!
You need to have the same attitude a wild animal has as it’s about to kill it’s prey. A lion attacking an antelope has complete control of it’s emotions, but at the same time, it has relentless determination to get the job done, because for the lion, it’s either kill or starve!!!!!
With most karateka (someone who practices karate), this ability to ‘switch on’ and ‘switch off’ is not present. If karateka practiced their karate as if their life depended on it, their self defense skills would improve dramatically.
I recently watched a film with the actor Tom Cruise, in the film he played a professional hit man and in one part of the movie (video below), it epitomised the attitude you must have in self defense. He was tasked with the elimination of a Chinese mobster and this had Tom Cruise visiting a night club.
The next part of the film reminded me of wild animal stalking and killing it’s prey! Tom cruise was in complete control of his emotions and at the same time, like the lion, he showed relentless determination to get the job done, only in this instant, the reason wasn’t food, it was money!!!!!!!
So in conclusion, for me, my karate is like a jigsaw and self defense is a piece of that jigsaw, but if it was the only piece, my karate practice would have ended many years ago.