Karate Thoughts Blog

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Busted Up

Because of my work with the Hawaii Karate Museum, the Hawaii Karate Seinenkai, and the Hikari Dojo, I have the opportunity to speak to many people who practice and have practiced Karate. Most people have had a positive experience.

However, I have spoken to to a number of people who had to quit training due to injuries, sometimes serious ones. For the most part, these injuries were caused by kumite (sparring), often when the student had only practiced for a few months or only a couple of years. People have described serious knee, back, and neck injuries, as well as broken jaws, skull fractures and concussions. And again, these were Karate ending injuries -- not minor injuries.

Sometimes the injuries were caused by kumite within the dojo or class. More often than not, the injuries involved sparring with students from other dojo or classes, in tournaments or otherwise.

In some cases, the injuries left the students crippled for life.

My dojo does not participate in tournaments and does not engage in kumite training with other dojo. I will not kumite with a person unless I know them very well -- and am confident in their control, both physically and mentally.

It makes no sense at all to me for beginners to engage in free kumite. Kumite should be controlled, at least until the student becomes sufficiently advanced. A student should be able to strike his partner's skin reliably.

In Karate, we should be training for our 70s -- like the Tai Chi Sifu. Part of the strategy for this is to avoid injuries as much as possible. An occassional minor injury (a bloody nose or sprain) is hard to avoid, but major injuries are often the result of poor supervision or premature exposure to advanced sparring. We are training to learn self defense. The process of learning self defense should not harm us more than that against which we are preparing to defend.

I always say that safety must come first. And for those who might call me a "wimp" or overly cautious, please tell that to the people who have had to quit Karate due to injuries.


Charles C. Goodin