Karate: More than just a martial art!

The very word karate conjures in our mind image of breaking of bricks and bones. The power shout of “KIAAAAA” and kick of Bruce Lee are synonymous to the practice of Karate. In many places one learns it as a martial art for self defense. This blog is not about what Karate is and what it is not.. but it is about the strategy of Karate and some rare insight into what makes true practitioners of this art great strategists. There are three golden rules that a master teaches in the ultimate practice of Karate.

First Rule: When you feel you are going to be attacked – see if you can run away

Second Rule: If you have to attack – Then attack the strongest person in the enemy camp.

Third Rule: If you have to sustain a fall – fall gracefully!

When I heard of the first rule it initiatlly had me surprised as it seemed to be antithesis of what Karate stands for. Standing up to your tormentors and ferocious fights! But pondering on it at leisure made so much sense. If Karate is self defense – then true win comes if you can escape unscathed. It doesn’t come by flexing your muscle and answering every provocation. But how many of us follow this rule? At the slightest provocation, we all bristle up to the challenge! Does winning lie only in answering every challenge?

The Second Rule reflects the oriental strategic intellect. By attacking the strongest person in the enemy camp – what you are first destroying in your enemies is their assessment of your weakness. By going for the jugular you are making the others around the strong man wonder “Maybe fighting this guy may not be easy enough!!” This very thought dents their confidence. If we analyse many sports, the strategy especially in cricket would be the teams trying to shake the strongest batsman.. once he falls rest is just history!! But many of us when facing group opposition go for conversion of the weak minded people and not the leader of the camp!! Forgetting that many a times it is not the numbers that matter!

The third rule, out of our ignorance, may get understood as losing with grace. Then, we cannot be more wrong! In karate the worst damage does not happens when you get hit.. but happens due to the impact of falling down. The damage that happens to the spine on falling is most often fatal. The third rule helps you to gauge the impact of the fall and prepare yourself in both mind and body to sustain the impact. Then the impact gets spread and you are able to jump back. This spreading of the impact all over to enable a bounce back is what is meant by the term gracefully here. Very often we are so focused on fighting our challenges that we don’t spend time to think on the impact. Being aware of the possible damage on falling in the right perspective should allow us to prepare for it and play the game with extra care. It should motivate us to avoid chances of falling while also constantly tune ourselves to become more resilient with every fall!

With such profound wisdom, is it then a surprise that our martial art masters of yore where not just good fighters but ace strategists?