Why Should a Person Study Karate?
For the most part we study Karate today for many of the same reasons men studied centuries ago. Defense! The Chinese incorporated Karate exercises into their religious training. Legend has it that a meditation form similar to our Sanchin Kata was developed to train the monks to be more ‘aware’. This too is one of the primary benefits a student today derives from his Sanchin study. Even if the student is mainly concerned with developing a self defense skill as their primary motivation, they must benefit from the other effects of Sanchin along with the obvious self defense techniques.
This training does not occur within a short time however, and unfortunately many American teachers would have their students believe that they can become skilled in a short course. Other, more understanding teachers try not to mention time, concentrating on the benefits and basic skills that can be acquired in a relatively short period. This teacher also helps keep the student’s attention by giving them tricks and techniques that the student can easily learn. Eventually the student will study for more legitimate reasons and won’t need these teaching aids to sustain interest.
Those of us who have spent many years studying and teaching Karate and who have attained some degree of understanding of this subject expect and in some cases demand the same degree of understanding from our new students. You cannot expect a person to walk into a class off the street and study with the same degree of appreciation the teacher has after ten years of training. Often a new student who really wishes to study for strictly self defense reasons will pretend for his teacher’s benefit that all those things important to the teacher are also important to him.
New students don’t have lofty reasons for wanting to study Karate. They may have read about the philosophy and are interested in that phase of Karate, but they could learn from other sources; sources far less difficult. No, they come to Karate because they wish to learn how to defend themselves.
There is not a right or wrong reason for studying Karate. Even if a person wants to learn in order to kill another person, the teacher has it in their own power to change that attitude and reason, to remold a personality and in general bring out the best in a person. Actually, Karate is a rather primitive weapon today in light of the sophisticated weapons at anyone’s disposal. A person may outwardly want to kill another person, but certainly wouldn’t choose Karate as the weapon. The person chooses this weapon because they sense that by studying Karate, they will actually gain enough confidence in themself so that revenge will not be necessary.
For the most part, students are an extension of their teachers. When you go to a school where the students are impolite, aggressive, very competitive or in general act like animals in a jungle, you cannot blame them. They are merely the mirror image of their instructor.
School interviewers try and instill within a prospective student a feeling for what they are getting into. They try to tell the student that there is a lot more to Karate than what meets the eye. This talk generally goes in one ear and out the other without making any impression. The student is preoccupied with their own problems that are the cause of them being there in the first place. They may have been attacked, perhaps they have just lost their job.
Often people come to the Karate school because they have been hurt in some way, more often mentally than physically in a state of ‘flux’; teetering on the brink of trying again or throwing in the towel. Often, a person is ready to make a change within themself and is looking for guidance and confidence. That is why the teacher’s job is so important.
During the interview the teacher tries to inform the prospective student about the higher reasons for study, but really all they can hope to accomplish is to show the person an overall attitude that prevails in the Dojo. We show the new student a typical class. There they can see people without their daily uniforms, i.e., the banker’s suit, the plumber’s coveralls. We try and point out that everyone in the class is the same as far as we are concerned and that when a student puts on the Karate uniform they will be just a Karate student, and as good as any other person in their class.
Subconsciously we are setting up within the student the rules for entrance to our school. They have to accept the rituals, they have to be pleasant because everyone else is polite and helpful. Even if the new student were a bully, they would feel out of place in a good Dojo. They would quickly fall into line and would be comfortable about it.
So in summary, the only requirement for admission really is that the student accept our rules. Their reasons are their own and are meaningless in the overall tradition of Karate. The applicant screens themself in the final analysis. If they are not ready to change positively, they will not be able to do exercises and movements that are seemingly not important to self defense. They will quickly become impatient and leave.
A person who really needs the training comes to the school faced with many frustrations and problems. They can go either way. They is ready to give up; call it quits and do whatever people do who give up. As this person studies, their whole lifestyle, attitude and personality has to change as their Karate develops. As this student progresses and reaches various plateaus, they are faced with the decision of advancing or backing off. Invariably their Karate training parallels their personal struggle. If they are not ready to face up to their personal problems they will find the Karate discipline too much for them also. Ironically, it is this lack of discipline and self control that got them into trouble in the first place and in attempting to correct it, brought them the the Karate school. If they are ready to change their lifestyle, they will also be ready to master Karate.
When we talk about Karate changing a person, we really are saying that the person changes themself. Karate gives you the means by which change takes place. The physical and mental transformation that you feel carries over to the rest of your life.
As the person develops, they become the kind of person we want as a student. The student may pretend that they are the kind of person we want initially to gain entrance to the school. If they stick to it, they quickly become that person.
Hopefully, people reading this book will sense a deeper purpose to Karate that they may be searching for.