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Teaching Karate 4 -- Safety

The most important thing when teaching Karate is to consider the safety of the students. Safety must always come first. This is my greatest concern whenever and wherever I teach.

Karate is inherently dangerous, particularly when any kind of contact is made. If you strike toward your partner's face a sufficient number of time, you will hit it, even if you try to miss. For example, if you strike toward your partner's face 1000 times, you might not hit it. But the 1001st time, you will. You can think of this as failure analysis. Given enough time, something will go wrong.

As a result, you have to plan for failure. When I teach a certain pairing off drill, I instruct the students to punch toward their partner's shoulder. The actual technique would be a punch to the face. But since the students will practice the drills hundreds or thousands of times, I am planning for failure. If a student accidentally hits his partner, it will be on the shoulder rather than in the face.

You also have to remember that failure analysis is multiplied by the number of students in the dojo. If 20 students will perform a movement 100 times, there are 2000 chances for failure.

It is also important to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of all the students in the dojo. One student might be very strong, another very weak. A student might have a particular medical problem or might have suffered a broken arm or leg in the past. Students might have even had rotator cuff surgery (like I had).

The dojo is a very active and exciting place. Presiding over all this activity (and sometimes chaos), the Sensei must ensure the safety of all students.

By focusing on safety, the Sensei also teaches the students to be very careful, both inside and outside of the dojo. More than half of self defense is situational awareness and prevention. Perhaps this figure is closer to 90%.

Safety first, second and third. What use is Karate training if the student is injured more in the dojo than on the street?


Charles C. Goodin