Dan Inosanto said that Love is the highest art – in ancient times it wasn’t about self-defense. It was about training hard to perfect a Martial Art that allowed you to defend your mother, your father, your children or your tribe: it allowed you to literally preserve life.
Times have changed…somewhat. In my everyday life I don’t think too much about having to defend myself or those close to me. But, there are still scenarios when you’re faced with doing so. Take for instance a situation where a man intentionally kicked the walking stick away from a visually impaired teenage boy. Would defending the boy be a righteous use of force? You’d better believe it would, and I wouldn’t think twice. There is no higher form of humanity than that of defending those who need it most. Fortunately though, these heinous acts of cruelty aren’t that common in these parts.
Perhaps then we can rethink self-defense a little.
Looking beyond the physical ability to defend against an assailant, self-defense is self-preservation and can be about maintaining composure when someone offends you. It can be about diffusing heated situations without the use of force. It can be taming your own demons like anger and fear – learning to handle these is probably more important than deflecting a punch to the face. We can take it a step further and say that sometimes we need defense against our own, cluttered minds. Martial arts has been called moving Zen, and a predominant philosophy is Mizu No Kikoru, a mind like calm water.
Physically of course, there’s the whole idea of defending yourself against ill health by showing up to the dojo every week and breaking a good sweat.
I think it’s safe to say that karate as self-defense is about creating greater peace – inside and out.