Over the past 15 years or so there has been an uptick in people talking about how great MMA (mixed martial arts) are and how fighting in a cage proves its effectiveness. This has also lead to an onslaught towards “traditional” Karate people as being “out of date” or “ineffective” for “fighting”. The majority of people making these claims have no idea what “real” Karate is…but that is how people are today…act like they experts on what they don’t actually know about and talk it down because never actually learned anything about the topic at hand.
All over Youtube you can find videos of people, or should I say punks, in backyard brawls, basement MMA matches and more. Many of these are some of the people who downgrade traditional martial arts as being a waste of time or ineffective but they are wrong…dead wrong. The reason you won’t find videos of true Karate people on the internet engaging in this type of action is because there is a moral code to what they do…not because they can’t fight but rather because Karate is about self defense instead of bragging rights, showing off or acting tough.
I have been training for over 37 years now and when I was a young man I was caught up in the “how tough” I am concept. We all had attitude, we loved to fight in tournaments and drop bombs…or better yet our opponent but as I aged I came to realize there was so much more to Karate. I could never really understand why all the great Senior black belts I admired weren’t out there beating the snot out of people like we did at events until I was introduced to the FACT that Karate is not about fighting…it is about being better than you are today for tomorrow.
Now some people will say this is a copout or just my way of “justifying” that Karate is in fact effective for self defense but they are also wrong. Over the many years I have been training I have used my Karate as a correctional officer, bouncer at some very bad clubs, as a bodyguard and have had the unfortunate issue with using it in real life fighting situations and I am still here. The difference is that I never began a fight nor went around bragging about my “fighting” ability. Why? Because I never wanted to fight to begin with…that is part of what real Karate is…plain and simple.
In the featured photo for this blog post you see an image from Shugoro Nakazato Hanshi’s dojo in Okinawa. It is a very old, framed document that outlines specifically why we train and how we are to behave as Karate students. One of the purest statements is as follows:
“The ideal of Karate is cultivate NOBLE character and conducts, and the virtues of modesty and courtesy”
Note that it states Noble Character and Conducts. Noble people don’t go around fighting for stupid reasons. You would never see them posting videos of them fighting randomly against some punk just for kicks or to show off how tough they are. Another area of this outline for conduct states:
“Put back your hands when you are full of fight, and retract your fight when your hands itch do deal a blow”
This is is what self defense is about period. One trains to have skills to defend their self if ever needed but we do not train to fight for no reason. The most dangerous men in Karate I have ever met are also the most caring, compassionate and loyal people you could ever wish to have as a friend in your life. They could easily crush you with a single blow but would never do so just to prove it to you or for no good reason. So many people don’t understand this mentality so they often make claims that traditional Karate is weak, for kids or not effective in real life fights. Well they are right about one thing…we don’t fight…we defend ourselves and our loved ones.
Self defense is not about fighting. Like I always tell my students “Any moron can fight. Anyone can throw a punch and hurt someone. A person adept at real Karate is the guy who never shows off his skills, never gets in a fight and never uses his Karate UNLESS he/she has no choice but to”. This is something that has led to a huge misconception about Karate today. Because you don’t see good Karate people going around posting videos of unruly fights in backyards it seems that society has came to the conclusion that Karate is useless…but they are totally wrong.
The majority of people that come into my dojo aren’t there to fight. They are there to learn Karate. If all I did was beat on them I would not and could not help them. We use training methods that create a safe environment to learn Karate in. Karate is not going to make you tough over night because it is the “Military art of self defense to protect and preserve your life, and never to attack on your own initiative”, not the fighting an idiot method of showing off.
As many of my students know I watch the local booking at our county jail to keep an eye out for people who may be predators who come near or in my dojo. Over the last five years I have watched many kids and young adults who train MMA (or something they claim as a martial art) have their photos in this booking log. The reason why is because it is just a sport and doesn’t have an ethics training course incorporated into every lesson in the dojo. When you put your child in a program that is about fighting that is all they will learn and sadly your child will grow up always feeling that need to fight. When you enroll your child into a REAL and GOOD martial arts program they will grow up wiser, smarter, stronger and more focused on achieving goals than proving how tough they are to some punk that talks smack. I think the choice is clear but finding a good school never will be.
Tactical defensive skills are part of Karate every day in the dojo but we don’t fight. We don’t have to unless we are left with no choice. We don’t try and hurt others, we try and protect our lives and our loved ones. We don’t post videos all over the internet of us beating on each other because we are not punks…we are educated and have strong character. There is no reason to prove anything to those who aren’t real Karate people so we just smile and walk away. Sadly because we, the real Karate people out there, don’t go around smack talking, beating up people and issuing challenge matches some think we are weak but the reality is this…we aren’t. We train hard, we learn how to end confrontations effectively, both with our words and our techniques, but we also learn when it is ok to fight…or should I say fight back.
In my dojo we love to train and teach Karate. I have children, adults and even senior citizens. They are all here to improve their lives through the training. They are not here to prove how tough they are or show off how great their “Youtube MMA” skills are. Our dojo is not the school you will see going around challenging others to “prove how effective” their art is some stupid, lame fight. The reality of fighting is this…”you may win some but eventually you will lose and when that happens you had just better pray that you survive”. This is the truth about fighting and anyone who claims different is trying to sell you something. There is nothing glorious about a real fight. A real fight leaves you with bruises, bloody body parts, missing teeth and can result in permanent injury.
In the 25 years I have been teaching I have had many of my students, both present and past, tell me about situations in which they had to use their skills. Not once was I impressed but rather concerned that they are OK. A real Karate teacher doesn’t get impressed when you win a fight…they are impressed when you train hard, show up for classes and are dedicated to your dojo. We could care less about how tough our students are but rather we take pride in your accomplishments of growing into a good person. This is the reality of Karate. We train to fight but never start fights. We don’t go around showing off or getting in random dumb ass fights. We work hard to perfect our skills so they will be there when we need them and we train constantly to be strong enough to use them yet wise enough to know when we don’t need to. That is what Karate is…that is why over 100 Million people are in a dojo training today…sadly the Youtube MMA generation that have never had the discipline to actually learn a real martial art but would rather go around calling themselves a black belt in some made up crap will never understand this because the weak minded people fight, the strong minded people don’t need to.
If you think fighting is the answer and what you do when you train in a martial art you need to learn how to empty your mind and let go of your ego. I have watched many students train at bad schools who only talk about how great they are or how tough they are. The ones that truly are dangerous are the ones that you will never know it from them. No one cares about the tough guy on the block because we all secretly wish they will get what is coming to them…and they always do.