Risk Taking: An Essential Part of Karate
You've been practicing your kihon or basic sparring, known as kumite. You feel that you've been getting a little better with your one and three step basic sparring. Your balance is getting better. You're getting a little better with your hip twists. You feel that you still need to work on your distance and timing, but you're making progress.
The class is paired up and we start the next exercise. At first everyone is stiff and not moving much. There is still the mindset of basic, static kumite. With more prodding and instruction, the class starts moving more freely. There is more of a kumite feel starting. Then cutting through the sweat and heavy breathing, the class hears, “You have to take risks. In a real fight, you have to take risks.” The instructor's statement brings with it both a sense of excitement and fear.
Karate is a martial art. It's purpose is self-defense, wellness and character development. By its very nature, it's not necessarily easy and safe. Even though we practice in safety and view our combatants as partners and not enemies, we still must practice with the urgency and determination of reality. In reality, there is the possibility that you may be slightly slower than your opponent or weaker than your opponent. But, how will you know? You can't overcome a problem that you don't know about.
The way to know, is by practicing with a true sense of reality. That is, you have to be willing to take a risk. Will you take the risk of being hit, kicked or thrown? The only way to find out if you're really slower, too close, too far, off time, too slow with your re-cock or a host of things that you can only find out in a real confrontation.
Without taking risks within the dojo, you will never know how you will react outside of the safety of the dojo. The practice of traditional karate is not the same as the various martial art related “cardio” programs. The mindset needed to truly benefit from traditional karate will result in not only a good “cardio” workout, but also martial abilities and the strength of character to know how and when to use those abilities.