Hitting First in Karate
There is no first strike in Karate is an old saying. It s also, as plain as it seems, very misunderstood. To explain it people always say things like, ‘you have to let the other guy strike first,’ or, ‘we believe in non-aggressive behavior,’ or something like that. So here is the truth about ‘there is no first strike in Karate.’
Let’s say you’re driving your car home from work every day, and you learn what the community driving patterns are. There’s always a traffic jam at the Main Street light. Kids let out of school late onThursday on 4th street. If you turn left at Town street it is one way with almost no lights.
In other words, you learn to ‘know’ what the driving patterns are in your town, and you adjust your driving to take advantage of those patterns. In the martial arts, such as Karate, or for that matter, Taekwondo or Aikido or whatever, the same holds true.
You face enough students you learn that a shoulder dip presages a kick; a blink is an attempt to hide an attack; a subtle breathing inwards is a prep for a rushing attack. In other words, you learn to ‘know’ what your opponent is going to do.
The beginner, of course, doesn’t know anything. But he faces enough people, pays attention long enough, and these fighting patterns become obvious, and he learns to ‘know’ his opponent.
There are many things that can get in the way of learning to know your opponent. If you let emotion cloud your perceptions then you can’t see clearly enough to ‘know’ your opponent. If you study a system that believes in fighting, instead of developing awareness, you won’t ‘know’ your opponent. If you practice a system that preaches things like ‘adrenaline dumping,’ then you won’t learn to ‘know’ your opponent.
Things like emotion, the joy of combat, using adrenaline in your strategy and practice, these things all interfere with looking at what is happening, and being able to learn to know your opponent.
You see to know somebody you have to look at them, and the looking must not be distracted, and that means cultivating a stillness within, a stillness without such things as emotion or other errant thoughts or occurrences in the awareness.
If you learn how to achieve stillness within, which is to say if you learn to pay attention without being distracted, by emotion, by other things, then you look, and you learn to know.
Now, let me ask you a question: if you can look at your opponent, and if you ‘know’ that he is going to attack, would you striking first really be a first strike?
I hope you see the obviousness of the answer. But if you don’t, then simply continue with your practice. Look at your opponent, learn how to recognize, and to act, upon the twitches, the broken breathing pattern, the dip of the shoulder or the turn of the hip, and you will learn how to know your opponent, and then there will be no first strike in Karate.
The author has near 50 years of karate training. You can tap into his knowledge, learn how to know your opponent, by checking out the books and video courses he has written/produced. His website is MonsterMartialArts.com