This Guest Post is by Charles T. Goodin, a sandan and instructor in the Hikari Dojo. The second son of Charles C. Goodin, he is a senior at the University of Hawaii.
Karate to many people, is a great form of self-defense. I've been doing karate for almost all of my life. Could I protect myself using Karate? Sure. Would I? Of course. But the only reason that I can say this is because I've been doing it for 16 years now. One thing that must be set straight is the simple fact that Karate should not be learned so that you can protect yourself.
Many new students feel that studying Karate will help them defend themselves against attackers. Sadly, Karate is not a very effective means of protection unless you are very skilled at it. How long does this take? It could be months, it could be years, or it could even a lifetime. This all depends on the student, the sensei, and the style of Karate. What good is knowing how to do 18 kata if you can only defend yourself against predetermined attacks. In order to protect yourself using Karate, your movements must become instinctive. Using Karate must become second nature in order for anyone to use Karate effectively.
If this is the case, then why do so many people still take Karate? Well, the fact is, most people believe that learning Karate gives them the ability to use it effectively. In my eyes, 95% of all Karate students have no chance of protecting themselves against a real attacker if they use their Karate. Ninety-five percent! What does this mean? It means that Karate as a whole is not very effective. But, if you learn it the right way, and you practice it long enough, it becomes extremely effective. Most students don't study for a long enough time to see their time and effort pay dividends. As I stated above, the time that is required to become skilled differs with every student, every teacher, and every style, but I can safely say it takes at least five years.
Eventually, students will learn how to protect themselves, but when they reach this point, they should also know that using Karate to defend yourself can be too dangerous. If someone is trying to rob you, is it ok for you to kill them? If someone is calling you stupid, is it ok for you to beat them up? The answer to both of these questions are obviously no. This is what every student should learn from taking Karate.
Karate should not, under any circumstances be learned for self-defense. Karate helps students develop better hand/eye coordination. Karate teaches self discipline. And above all, Karate should make students and teachers better people. Karate teaches respect. Whether it's for your sensei, your parents, your peers, or for yourself, respect is the most important thing anyone can learn from Karate.
Charles T. Goodin