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Wednesday, July 18, 2012


No, not the cool kind like on TV where you get to blow stuff up.  I'm just doing a series of posts that tell the truth about common misconceptions.  Today's topic is martial arts.

When we think of martial arts, we think of all the kung fu movies with people hacking each other to pieces, or epic battles in ninja comic books.

When I tell people I practice karate, they say something along the lines of "So you could beat me up if you wanted?"  Their first thought is that I am willing and able to be violent.  In fact, sometimes I don't tell people I do karate because I don't want to have them say, "Go beat him up for me," or "I better not make you mad."

Martial arts, specifically the style of karate I practice, is not violent.  In fact, my dojo has a strong commitment to non violence.  My standard "elevator speech" is that it's really more art than martial.  Most of the techniques we do are very formal and look nice (when done correctly) but aren't useful in an actual fight.

Sparring is not fighting.  Our sparring isn't full-contact, and you're not allowed to spar until green belt.  Before then, you do bluebelt sparring, which is hands only, nothing to the head, or "harmony" sparring, which is basically taking turns giving each other techniques.  I've heard sparring described as a physical dialogue between two people.  It's meant to develop coordination and speed, not to hurt others.

But we do learn some fighting skills that are meant to be used on other people.  It's okay to use these skills if you're scared.  Not angry; scared.  As in, your safety is threatened.  This is something a lot of people don't understand; they assume karatekas (people who practice karate) will fight if they're offended.  In fact, we're specifically taught not to do this.
So actual practical fighting skills make up only a fraction of what we learn.  Karate isn't violent, though some movies and comic books make it out that way.  Next time you meet a karateka, do him/her a favor and don't ask him/her to beat up your little brother for you.  It's not part of what we do.

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