Parents considering martial arts classes are sometimes concerned about the violence of it. Like the mom looking at the dojo for her young son. When he hit the heavy bag shaped like a man, she corrected him because the bag looked like a person. But then she hesitated. It’s good for potential karate parents to be concerned that karate teaches you how to fight.
Martial arts are, by definition, arts of war. They are fighting arts. So is wrestling, so is boxing. Fencing, too, is a martial art. It is true that karate teaches you how to fight. Many martial arts focus in on their particular style of fighting and the rules that make it into a sport, and that is the extent of the teachings.
That is not where the training ends in our style or our school. In fact, that is not even where the training begins in our dojo. It begins with blocking first, and modeling attitudes of mutual respect. Some of our first conversations with new students are about positive attitude and good behavior. The Dojo Kun hangs front and center and we point out the importance of these rules. Our karate teaches you how to fight, but it also teaches you how not to fight.
Karate Teaches you How to Fight, but how does it Teach you not to Fight?
The Dojo Kun values include good moral character, honesty, perseverance, respect and restraint. If we are putting these values into action in our daily life, chances are, we will not have to fight. And if we do have to fight, if we’re following the Dojo Kun, then we don’t need to have moral qualms about it.
Karate tradition dictates that we do not start fights. An old saying is, “There is not first strike in karate.” As far as physical techniques, blocks generally come first to remind us of this philosophy. And this peaceful attitude becomes ingrained both overtly and subconsciously as you train and karate teaches you how to fight, and how not to fight.
At our school we teach how to deal with bullies, based on Dr. Terrence Webster-Doyle’s Martial Arts for Peace philosophy. Additionally, we have many drills and class activities that entail keeping your cool when confronted or even attacked. These include sparring, partner drills, role-playing and other scenarios.
Don’t be deceived by all of our peace-making and alternatives to violence. As a martial art, karate does teach how to fight, and how to take out an attacker. But when we are able warriors, we fight only because we have made the choice to do so. As the quote once attributed to Eduardo Garcia goes, “Only a warrior chooses pacifism; others are condemned to it.”