Using Control in the Dojo

Should we use control in the dojo, or martial arts school? When training at East Valley Martial Arts Kenshin Kan, we try to respect jour dojo mates with our words and our actions. We strive to attain, and help our dojo mates attain Dojo Kun number four: “Develop a respectful attitude.” We also like to train hard to prepare ourselves in case we cross paths with somebody who wants to hurt us. We help each other learn how to defend ourselves. We can do that by “attacking” or throwing punches realistically at our training partner.
So, who decides how hard we hit when sparring or practicing techniques? My teacher always said, “I’ll hit you just as hard as you hit me.” He’s been a Sensei a long time, and he can probably take anything dished out and give back more. So how does a student deal with control in the dojo?

I’d like to share with you what I have learned from Traditional Okinawan Karate. The higher your rank, the more you have to be able to practice control. First, it’s the smaller person who decides how hard they want to be hit. If you’re sparring or practicing with someone smaller than you, be careful not to hit him or her harder than they’re hitting you.

Second, if you’re sparring with a lower rank, it is your responsibility not to take advantage of them. That means you don’t go all out, but be more defensive. Be careful not to hit them harder than they hit you. If you are several ranks higher than your partner, slow down your techniques so you are only a little faster than them. Try to challenge, but not overwhelm them too much.

What if you are sparring with a lower rank who’s hitting hard? My Sensei said it is more dangerous to spar with white belts because they have not yet learned control. Well, this gives you a chance to practice your blocking and your control. I think it’s okay to hit them back as hard as they’re hitting you. As the higher rank, just be careful not to let it turn into a brawl.

Last, if any Karate student is hitting you too hard, and really hurting you, you have a right to tell them, “That’s too hard,” and ask them to go lighter. Isn’t that part of mutual respect?

Control over our words and emotions can be just as important as physical control. Sometimes the wrong thing said, when emotions flare up, is as hurtful as or worse than a punch. All of us, even teachers, need to practice emotional and verbal control just as much as physical control.

Karate students are at the dojo to help each other learn, and to treat each other with respect. Remember to treat your fellow Karate students with respect. When you learn to control your punches and kicks, this helps you to control your words and your emotions in other areas of life too.

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