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Reluctance To Use Karate Techniques

Last night, I was teaching beginners, and naturally brought up the maxim that Karate should be used as a last resort only. As I have mentioned before, it is important to clarify what this means when you teach children. Children will memorize the term "last resort," but most do not know what it means. Karate instructors have to be careful to spell it out in simple terms and give examples. I say something like this:

"Last resort means that you have done everything to try not to fight. You have tried to get away. You have tried to talk your way out of the fight. You have even given up the quarter, book or thing the attacker is demanding. But when there is no other way -- when you have done all that you can -- and the attacker is still going to fight or hit you, then you have to do whatever is necessary to protect yourself or your loved one. You should try to avoid using Karate techniques, but when there is no other way, you have to defend yourself and your loved one.

You should not fight first. Only when there is no other way should you use Karate techniques. This is what we mean by last resort. It is not the first thing you should do, it is the last."
Using Karate as a last resort sounds like a moral principle, and to a large extent, it is. But it is also practical.

I have practiced martial arts for about 40 years. You would suppose that I could defend myself. But still, I am reluctant to do so, partly for moral reasons, but also because of several practical concerns, such as:
  • If someone attacks me, who knows, he might be more skilled than me! He might be an excellent street fighter or an excellent martial artist.
  • Even if he is untrained, he might get in a lucky strike or kick and I might be injured or killed. Luck happens, even if only rarely.
  • He might be armed with a knife, razer blade, gun, or other weapon (or dangerous substance) that I do not see.
  • He might have friends lurking that I do not see.
  • He might be drunk, drugged, or deranged. Techniques that work on a normal person might not deter him. Even if you broke his arm, for example, he might not feel it.
  • He might have a disease. If I hit or grapple with him and make contact with his blood or other bodily fluids, I might become infected.
  • He might be mentally challenged. If I injure him, he might not have been in control of his senses. He might not be responsible for his actions. It would be better if I did not injure him.
  • Even if I am defending myself, it might be perceived by the police or others that I have attacked and inured the attacker. I could have legal problems and liability.
Of course, when there is no other way, everything goes and I would not hold back. To protect my loved ones, I would be willing to face any consequence. But I would be initially reluctant, until the use of Karate techniques, despite my best efforts, became the last resort.


Charles C. Goodin