Practicing classical Japanese karate in a safe and collegial setting.

Karate is a Martial Art

When it comes to karate, you can talk about spirit, enlightenment (satori), philosophy, fitness, and other mind/body/spirit developments until you are blue in the face but it does not change one indisputable fact: karate (and all martial arts for that matter) was developed for one reason and one alone: to fight – more specifically, for defence. We do not currently live in a feudal or violent society so many karate instructors focus more on “spiritual” or self-development aspects of the martial arts – this is, of course, the “art” part of the discipline but one must not neglect the “martial” side of the equation as well.

Regardless of one’s reasons or motivations for practicing karate, the population at large has an expectation of what a karateka can do. Too often I hear things like “oh… you are a black belt… you must be pretty good in a fight then”. The truth is that I don’t know… I have never been in a fight. The point is that with every rank, there is an expectation of skill that goes beyond the simple benchmarks established by the dojo – this drill, that kata, etc. Once someone has reached a certain rank they should be able to hold their own in a fight against most of the general population. An advanced black belt should be able to overcome someone who wishes them or their loved ones harm.

“Better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.”

If, as a black belt, you can’t defend yourself with a certain level of proficiency you must do one of two things: re-evaluate the training you receive or re-evaluate the training you do. Since I now know from experience that the training I receive is good (in fact, superb), I must conclude that any flaws in my fighting abilities are my own.

Karate is not about violence… it’s about getting to know one’s self. Physical fighting becomes one of many tools in one’s bag of tricks – but not the only one. There is a sand wedge in my golf bag but rarely use it. One day, however, I will be glad it’s there because it will be the right tool for the job – at that particular time. As the saying goes: “Better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.”

I am not promoting violence – I simply want people who practice karate to understand the power of the techniques and the expectation and responsibilities that comes with them. The moral implications of raising one’s fists are a topic for another discussion. The argument that karate is not a martial art because it is a system of self defence as opposed to a system used for combat or war is also a topic for another discussion.

Students at the Charles Fink Karate Dojo practice real, practical, and effective techniques for self defence and sport (tournaments). Training is framed in a context of camaraderie and mutual support.

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