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Remaining Calm

One of the most important aspects of Karate training, and martial arts in general, is cultivating the ability to remain calm. Sounds easy, but it is not. Being able to remain calm is one of the greatest skills.

When confronted with a violent situation, it is easy to become angry, enraged, filled with negativity. Some people might say that this energy can be channeled and harnessed to give you more power. But generally, getting angry is a waste of energy. Angry energy tends to be wild and unfocused. If the attacker can make you angry, he can control you (or at least try to do so).

Calm energy can be focused and controlled. A calm person does not quickly respond to taunts or insults. He is not easily tricked into a bad position.

I have seen people who grow wildly angry -- literally fuming from the eyes -- only to become a sobbing wreck just minutes later. One minute "strong", the next helpless.

Remaining calm is not only important when attacked. Actually, an attack is usually very quick. A fight can be over in seconds. There might not be time to become angry.

But in social situations, at work, at home... there are many opportunities to become angry. It is just as important for a Karate student to remain calm in these situations. Social conflict can lead to aggression. How the Karate student conducts himself in such situation tells a great deal about this Karate training and ability.

There is a saying that the mountain does not move. A calm person is like a mountain. An angry person is like a grasshopper bouncing from place to place -- a scurrying cockroach.

I have also noticed that a person who gets angry easily, also tends to lose control in an emergency. In a hurricane or earthquake, a calm person can focus on what needs to be done. A calm person can summon seemingly superhuman strength to save lives. A calm person sometimes becomes the ordinary person who becomes a hero by risking his or her life to save others.

You can't get angry at a hurricane or an earthquake. And if you do, how long can you maintain such intensity, before you feel drained and empty?

Karate students must learn to become calm.

When I was young, I found kumite to be exciting -- scary, challenging, thrilling. Over time, it felt like nothing. Whether I hit my partner or got hit did not make any difference. If I did "well" or "poorly", I felt the same. There was no winning or losing. It was just training. It was not a matter of honor or shame.

When a person throws a brick at you, you might get mad. But if a brick falls off a roof and almost hits you on the head, who will you get mad at -- gravity or the wind? You have to get out of the way in either case. In the case of an attacker, you have to prepare for the next attack. In the case of the roof, you have to get to a safe place in case there are more loose bricks.

The more skilled a Karate student becomes, the more he or she is able to remain calm. The reverse also tends to be true.

Think about the Karate seniors you know and have known. How would you rate their levels of anger and calmness? How would you rate your own?

Remember the old saying, "When you are angry, keep you hand back. When your hand goes out, do not be angry."


Charles C. Goodin