Last week before class, there were some female Yoga students exiting the studio. I started chatting with one of them about how their Yoga class went and at the end of our conversation, she said to me, “I should get out of here [before Karate class starts], I don’t want to get hurt.” I know she didn’t mean anything by it – she was just joking.. well, wasn’t she? I’ll be the first to admit that Karate has developed a bad name over the years. I don’t want to make excuses or anything but in my opinion there are two main reasons. The first, is the glorification of martial arts in the media – mostly movies and television shows. It portrays martial arts as an extremely violent art – and of course, in some ways, the portrayal is accurate. I mean fundamentally, the very existence of martial arts hinges solely on the desire or need to be able to defend oneself “if one should ever need to.” In feudal Japan, and indeed in much of the world (in the pre-industrialized world that is), human rights were not exactly a priority. In Japan, Karate arose for the people’s desire to defend themselves from those who might want to harm them. But the idea of self defence does not solely encapsulate the essence of martial arts. There is much more to learning Karate then learning how to injure another human being. In fact, if you want to really break it down, Karate can have many different facets for a student to focus on. It can be a channel for students to increase their mental abilities through honing and sharpening their focus. It can be a place where people learn to relax, through proper breathing and meditation and it can be a place to stay in shape, by leveraging all the benefits a great Kata workout can have to offer.
Secondly, Karate has developed a bad reputation because quite simply there are many practitioners out there who really have no business teaching martial arts. I once met a guy at the gym who complained to me that he would never take another Karate class again because at the Dojo where he signed up, they basically beat on him for an hour. It goes without saying that this IS NOT the way to learn Karate. A good teacher would never want a student to do anything that he/she was not comfortable with. Unfortunately, it’s really ‘buyer beware’ when it comes to finding a good Dojo. At the very least, a student should go and watch 4 or 5 classes before they decide whether or not to join.
In the proper environment, Karate can be a fun, safe and healthy way to stay in shape, learn a new art form and create new relationships. Do your research and choose your Dojo carefully. The quality of your training really does depend on it.