One of the problems with telling people you do karate, besides what I wrote about a few days ago in relation to having others prove how tough they are, is the fact that the average person will assume you’re able to kick ass. The truth is, people join karate for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to wanting to lose weight, get in shape, improve their physical and/or mental state and potentially learn how to fight or defend themselves. Honestly, I’ve even seen some folks who join karate with the only goal being to socialize and be around other people. Granted there are a lot of better, easier ways to socialize than joining something as complex and intricate as karate.
But so long as your goal isn’t to intentionally harm others or turn yourself into a bully, the sky’s the limit. One of the beautiful things about karate is that there’s something for everyone. But the reality is that not all of us are top-tier fighters who can fend off any opponent. Movies and television have also done a pretty good job of spreading this belief, when you see a protagonist fighting off large groups of assailants with reasonable ease and skill. But none of that is realistic and if I’m being honest, only about one percent of people who join martial arts will become proficient at the skills they study.
That may seem like a bit of a narrow view, so allow me to explain with an example. Some years ago when I was still in New Brunswick and training in Sensei’s dojo, one of my high school teachers decided to join. I won’t guess at her age and it would have been rude to ask, but I knew she was of at least one generation older than myself. Obviously, since she was a teacher of mine when i was in high school. But suffice it to say that she joined for the physical and mental improvement aspects and had no physical constitution to allow her to participate in combat or even light sparring. Although she no doubt learned SOME skill while training with us, it would be doubtful that she would have the ability to fight off anyone but a much weaker assailant.
The truth is that this will apply to quite a number of karate students, regardless of how much they train. And if we’re being honest here, everyone kind of has their “specialty.” Some favour forms, others like pressure points or weapons, some may enjoy sparring and fighting. Most students will become reasonably proficient at the specialty they enjoy and as much as it would be nice to say that all karateka are jack and jill-of-all-trades, this is rarely the case. Although I’m quite fond of forms and absolutely LOVE doing kata, I consider myself a sledgehammer as compared to a scalpel. I can brawl with the best of them, but I’m not so great with the specific, fine-muscle techniques.
My point behind all of this, and the message is mostly for the non-martial artists, is that just because someone studies karate or any other martial art, that doesn’t mean that they’re good to go and can pull an Ip Man and fight off a crowd of enemies in one sitting. And the realities of actual fighting versus what the majority of people see on television also make such things impossible. So, if someone you know tells you they study karate, don’t bother to ask, “Could you kick THAT person’s ass?” Because the likely answer will be, “No. No, I can’t.” ☯