Monday, November 10, 2008

The Battlefield, The Ring, The Street

At the Broken Bokken Dojo our primary focus is on street safe self-defense. Our lineage of Karate is traced all the way back to the Shaolin temples of China. Here the monks developed non-aggressive methods of defending themselves from thieves and marauders. Buddhist monks take a vow of not-killing, so their self-defense strategy had to be effective for their survival and the survival of the attacker. To kill someone would bring about bad karma and violate their vows of non-violence.

Even today we need to be able to defend ourselves reasonably and without excessive force. We also do not want to build bad karma and also we do not want to open ourselves to lawsuits and charges of disorderly conduct or manslaughter. So, our self-defense must not be about killing the opponent, but simply causing them enough discomfort so we can run away or maintain control until help arrives. Makes sense, right?

At the BBD, even though our primary 'arena' is the Street and not the Ring of professional fighting or the Battlefield, it does not mean we do not train in these 'arenas'.

In the Ring there are rules of engagement and intense training is needed to develop cardiovascular as well as physical strength. You are also fighting a trained fighter. Your intent is to knock them out or make them 'tap out' from pain. This type of training, even though most us will never fight in a ring, is still important for us. This type of practice helps with rounding us out and can help with our street survival skills. What I always appreciated about my kickboxing days was that it helped me to develop an eye and reflexes for 'fight speed' and increase confidence in my skills.

Battlefield training is about killing. Pure and simple. It is developed for the complete and total annihilation of your opponent. Another difference between Battlefield training and the ring and street is that on the Battlefield you are typically armed with a weapon...and so is your foe. For the Samurai it was the Sword and for our modern military, guns, bombs, tanks, planes, etc. This is a whole different mentality than street survival based on humanistic ethics. There are some dojo's where street survival skills are taught with a kill or be killed mentality, but this type of mentality, as I mentioned, could put you in jail. Realistically, for most of us, we will never be in a life and death struggle with a crazed assailant. To have this mentality with someone simply trying to steal your purse or wallet can set you up for a life of misery.

Having said this, we still simulate the battlefield mentality with our swordsmanship and weapons training. This also helps sharpen our eyes and skills, especially if our opponent is carrying a knife or a gun. We must be prepared for this scenario on the street....because in a kill or be killed do have the right to use reasonable force to survive.

So, even though we are primarily concerned with street-wise self-defense, our training must also include the Ring and The Battlefield. This helps round us out and gives us an appreciation of the variety and diversity of martial arts. It also helps us realize the sanctity of human life so we can take all the precautions to master our art-form to be able to defend ourselves as non-violently as possible. This is the Shaolin Way...and the Way of Karate as well.

Be Well,

Sensei Dave

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