Karate "In the Street"

When I tell people outside the Independent Martial Arts School that I hold a black belt in Kenpo karate, one of the most frequent questions I receive is “have you ever used karate in the street?” Most of the time, for simplicity’s sake I reply “no,” but the truth of the matter is that I use karate every time I leave the house.

When I let an insult roll off my back with a smile and a shrug, that is karate.

When I stay loyal to a friend in a moment of need, that is karate.

When I lose a competition and accept the loss with an amicable handshake instead of clinging to bitterness, that is karate.

When I treat a child as tall as my knee with the same decency and respect as my boss, that is karate.

When I exercise the courage to stand up for what’s right even when the cost is severe, that is karate.

When my friends ask me if I’ve ever used karate in the street, what they’re really asking is whether I’ve used the physical techniques of karate to defend myself. Thankfully, I have not. What they don’t understand is that even if I had used the techniques of Kenpo karate to physically defend myself, this would have been a failure on my part to walk the path of the karateka. Karate is not just a set of physical techniques. Rather, it is an attitude, a mindset, a particular orientation toward the world. The mission of the karateka is not to win fights; it is to be the kind of person who never has to fight in the first place.

Tim Philbin