Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Karate is not self defense

Karate is not self defense. Karate is training to break someone, and while it is sometimes, in a very very very small way, a component of self defense, it is not self defense. It is a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square. It's important not to confuse the two.

I personally try and practice karate in a historical context. This does not mean a super "traditional" style of training. The open and available aspects of classical karate allows me to practice. It is this aspect, which makes me love karate. If it was otherwise, I would not love karate. What is the context of classical karate? Oppressive.

In the United States, we have the right to bear arms. This was something that was not open to the Okinawan people. It was illegal to even practice karate. Shoshin Nagamine says in The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do that people did not really begin to openly practice karate until the ban was lifted. This may have been an open secret comparable to smoking pot in my home country. We know people do it, but that doesn't mean you can smoke in front of a cop. Those that were well known karateka seemed to be princes and bodyguards. Not exactly those who the normal rules usually apply.

What does this mean?

This means that your only weapon is your body and that weapon needs to remain hidden from the authorities. It needs to work, it needs to be simple enough that it doesn't require full time training, like the class based samurai or knight, and it needs to be easy to transmit. Funakoshi was a school teacher and trained only at night. In Patrick McCarthy's Bubishi, he says that one of the originators of this text may have been a shoe maker in China, not exactly a warrior. The fact that those that traveled to China were able to return after a relatively short amount of time, not the fifty years, which is usually touted as the time frame for mastering karate, means that it is easily transmittable.

The most important aspect is that 19th century Okinawa is not 21st century North Carolina. Medicine is different, the laws are different, the standards by which we are judged are different. Meeting in a field to beat each other to death might be normal in 1789 Okinawa, but it's definitely not the norm in the present day United States. Practice in the historical context, and be aware of how it overlaps with self defense, but don't confuse the two.