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I watch a lot of documentaries about Word War II.

When England was attacked by German bombers and submarines, the problem was not just having the firepower to destroy the attackers -- the problems was locating the attackers and having the time to direct the proper resources to intercept and destroy them.

The answers were radar and sonar.

How does this relate to Karate?

Most advanced Karate students have the firepower to defend themselves. But we are preparing for a surprise attack ( a false crack). We do not know who will attack us, where, or when -- and for that matter, we do not know how many attackers there will be and whether they will be armed. But firepower is not the main problem -- identifying the attacker(s) and having time to react to it is.

We might not have radar and sonar, but we can increase our awareness of our surroundings, particularly if we are in a potentially dangerous environment. We can also try our best to avoid dangerous situations, such as places where a lot of drinking takes place.

I always say that avoidance is 100% effective, but that even the best Karate expert can get hit and injured. No technique is 100% effective. There is always a margin for error and a lucky punch could connect. And again, it is very hard to defend yourself against a surprise attack. The time to use Karate is not after you are already hit and possibly injured. The time to use Karate is in advance, when there might be time to avoid the attack or at least prepare for it.

Awareness is the key, particularly in a potentially dangerous environment (such as walking at night in a dangerous part of town). If you can't avoid being there, you must turn up your human radar and sonar, and try your best to avoid an attack.

Ironically, a person who thinks he is good at fighting might be less aware. His confidence might blind him. Even a great fighter can get knocked out or killed, particularly if he is blindsided.

I am reminded of Choki Motobu, a "great fighter" in Karate's 20th century history. He did fight from time to time, but many of the stories about him involved him running away and hiding from a mob (sometimes in a tree or hanging onto ceiling rafters). Even he realized that there is a time to fight and a time to run.


Charles C. Goodin