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Hand - Anger

Recently, Sensei Don Roberts donated a copy of his book Theories and Analyses of Isshin-Ryu Karate Do Kata. Book 1: Naihanchi Kata to the Hawaii Karate Museum. He had read my recent article on Bunkai in Classical Fighting Arts and thought I might appreciate a copy of his book, which I did.

On the bottom of page v of the book, Roberts Sensei provides an old Karate saying:

"If your hand goes out, leave your anger behind.
If your anger goes out, leave your hand behind."

Now this is in a book about bunkai (tigikai in Hogen). Roberts Sensei could have chosen from many different well known sayings. I thought it was very meaningful that he chose this one.

What is the relationship between anger and the use of Karate? The answer is that there should be no relationship at all. There is no place for anger in Karate.

If you must use the self-defense applications of Karate as a last resort (if your hand goes out), then you should be calm and collected... focused on the task at hand, which is self-defense. If you are angry, for whatever reason, you should not use the self-defense applications of Karate.

An angry person is predictable, like a raging bull. A raging bull is very strong, but you can generally tell where it is going and what it will do.

If you must use the self-defense applications of Karate, then you must be calm -- cold and collected. Your anger must be transformed into an almost superhuman form of determination. You should be strong, but the attacker should not be able to predict what you are going to do. You should not be a raging bull. Instead, you should be more like a tiger stalking its prey. Of course, I do not mean that you should think that you are a tiger! What I mean is that a tiger stalking its prey is very calm and focused on its target. It does not give away its presence or intentions. It is the opposite of a raging bull.

If you are angry, you should take a deep breath and try to become calm. You see the attacker standing in front of you, yelling insults and threatening you, but do you see his friends lurking in the shadows? Has your anger clouded or limited your perception of the situation?

If you are angry, you must resist the temptation to act, especially to act rashly.

And if you must act, you should do so in a calm manner, and only to the extent necessary for self-defense or the defense of others. In the heat of anger, this limitation might be forgotten. Even in the worst of situations, the masters of old spoke of compassion for the attacker. After all, that person also has a family and loved ones.

"If your hand goes out, leave your anger behind.
If your anger goes out, leave your hand behind."

Roberts Sensei chose an excellent saying for the introduction of his fine book.

I am also reminded of something Muzuo Mutsu said during his 1933 visit to Hawaii:

"The hand is a treasure in the pocket."

Once the hand leaves the pocket -- goes out -- it is no longer a treasure. It becomes a terrible thing.


Charles C. Goodin