H. Gamini Soysa, Kyoshi 8th dan Karate (Okinawa) 3rd dan Kabudo (Canada)
I come to you with only Karate empty hand, I have no weapons but should I be forced to defend myself, my honor, or my principles should it be a matter of life or death, of right or wrong; then here are my weapons – my empty hands.
It sounds simple doesn’t it? It should be, because your hands are your best weapons. After all, they’re always with you and you don’t have to waste time pulling them out of your pocket. But, without proper training your hands are just that…hands. The best way for your hands to become loaded is to learn Karate.
Karate literally means empty hand. It was taught in secret for hundreds of years in Okinawa, an Island south west of Japan. Nothing was written about it for centuries. The only known fact was that startingly high numbers of Japanese invaders were defeated by Karate practitioners.
Eventually a man known as Master Yasutsune Itosu came forward with his knowledge and opened the first public Karate school in Okinawa in 1901. The art spread quickly after that, moving to Japan in 1916. It wasn’t until after World War II that U.S. Marines brought it back to America. Now it is practiced nationwide.
As a sport, Karate provides a physical conditioning program second to none, it improves coordination, flexibility, and stamina. It also has an added bonus no other sport can offer; you cant ake it off the playing field and onto the street where it remains a useful tool.
But, Karate is more than just a sport, it is the most popular for of self defense and has attracted many students who want to walk without fear. Learning Self Defense techniques is only a small part of Karate, however practicing the art also enhances your mental, physical, and spiritual well being. The mind is excercised in numerous ways, the most obvious is the concentration you develop while learning the techniques you need for self defense. Students are taught to develop a greater sense of awareness, to stop and enjoy moments of silence, and to relax in stressfull situations.
Karate is an individualized sport, you can progress at your own pace. Strength, power and speed are developed over the duration of your training.
It is better to learn Self Defense in a class room that to have to defend yourself on the street with no training. Because the physical aspect of Karate is only part of the training. It is difficult for new comers to believe Karate is peaceful. Misconceptions about it are wide spread. It’s a myth that to join Karate you have be big and strong. It’s a myth that to join a Dojo you have to get beat up during your lesson. It’s a myht that to excel at Karate you have to become a violent person.
Karate is a virtual contradiction. On one hand, you learn dangerous techniques but on the other hand, you are taught to avoid violence. Karate builds self respect and self confidence. It also helps you release aggression and makes you more relaxed. Perhaps Karate as a contradiction is best symbolized by the beginning bow of Katas (forms) which hides one fist behind the other palm, for example: Chinto, Passai or Bassai Katas.
THE FIST SYMBOLIZES A WILLIGNESS TO FIGHT IF NEED BE. THE PALM SYMBOLIZES PEACE IF AT ALL POSSIBLE.
Karate teaches you to stay calm and take a deep breath whenever a confrontation is brewing. If you remember your training, and the physical and mental aspects you will be able to walk away. You may not always come out the winner, but at least Karate will give you an edge and you will survive.