A visiting elder recently taught a class for our school. The Saturday morning class was a brief seminar into many areas. After training a couple sparring techniques and a few katas, we approached the area of bunkai and self defense applications. He emphasized that these techniques are lethal. We train hard and long hours to make these techniques effective, which means lethal. This elder stated that the only reason to train in karate is to be a killer. “Forget”, he said “about self improvement, forget about fitness, or getting in shape. These techniques are for killing! So train to use them”
He was not advocating for the indiscriminate use of lethal force. His point was, I think, to be mindful of the deadly, final, irreversible consequences of theses techniques when applied. I don’t disagree with him. It is not my place as a 2nd Kyu to dispute or disagree with him. My task is to figure out what he means and what the lesson means to my and my Karate training.
I don’t train in Karate to learn how to kill.
My reasons are my own. I appreciate the discipline of a school and a way. I take pleasure and honor in following a path and submitting to a definite, discernible way of doing these techniques that are different from other ways and traditions. To train in a School of Karate, to have a Sensei, to have a chosen style gives me a home.
I train to put my body, my heart and my spirit in a place to better serve the world. To know how to protect myself and protect those who cannot defend themselves. To train my Spirit like any other muscle. I enjoy being in quality physical shape but physical shape is secondary to Spiritual strength to me.
For Catharsis. My career is difficult. I am a nurse, in a pediatric emergency room. I deal daily in the lives of sick and injured sometimes dying children. Years ago, a 5 year old patient of mine decompensated and died in front of me. Later that night, I hit the punching bag in the Dojo until I collapsed in tears. I live and breath a lot of sadness and stress (I don’t like the term stress). I deal in life altering events and walk daily in the strong emotions of humanity. I must have a cathartic release. I prefer Karate. I am allowed to be violent and controlled at once. I am allowed a safe place to express emotions in a safe environment. As a man in this culture, that feels very healthy. To control fear, rage, anger, sadness all at once is a skill applicable to all areas of living.
I train to honor the tradition. I am honored to be trained in a tradition and to be tasked with the preservation of theses techniques. I understand the importance of learning these lessons so that I may one day hand them down to another generation. I am honored to be part of our lineage.