Karate ni sente nashi

By David Baker
Midtown Karate Dojo, NY, NY

Shoshin Nagamine defines this phrase on page 13 of his book, "The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do" as, "There is no first attack in karate."  It can be more fully explained in English as, "Don't use karate against others, except in self-defense."

However, exactly what "self-defense" means is, for the most part, left to the individual. Does it mean self-defense of oneself only? Or, self-defense of  oneself and one's family? Does it include self-defense of acquaintances?  Strangers? Does it mean defense of body only, or does it include property?  Dignity?

One area generally acknowledged not covered by this precept is defense of  one's pride. In other words, we consider ourselves "above" fighting over  unkind words. If a stranger, for example, says something derogatory to us,  their statement has little consequence because our sense of self-worth is  not dependent on what strangers think of us. Our sense of who we are
must be more deeply rooted and mature than that. The lethal nature of our  art form demands that, as does our standing as adults within society.


Therefore, the field of contention of where use of karate is appropriate and where it is not must lie where intention can not easily be discerned and  where words give way to actions.  One way to investigate our own feelings on the matter would be to imagine the following hypothetical, adult scenario:

Situation:
You're standing at the rail of your local tavern, admiring the manner in  which the barkeep has alphabetized his liquor bottles, when someone  bumps your shoulder, with sufficient force to cause your first-sip, full-to-the-top Coors Light to suddenly freeze your core heavy and wet, as it  cascades down the front of your brand new shirt.

Your response is to:
1. Pretend not to notice and continue your recitation of bottle labels from where you left off, at "Morgan, Captain"
2. Proceed to knock him sober, repentant, or unconscious, whichever  comes first
3. Nonchalantly sidle off to the rest room to check out the establishment's supply of paper towels
4. Jump up onto the bar, utilizing your knee-bend-fed quadriceps, while simultaneously shouting to those in attendance the similarity that he shares with his own nether region, in a kiai voice loud enough to cause pain to the eardrums of those in the rear booth, next to the jukebox
5. Turn to him to proffer an introduction between his spleen and cerebellum
6. Politely appropriate from him the width and breadth of English language apologies to which he's familiar
7. Notify the barkeep that you are in need of another Coors Light
7. Advise said offender of the extent of his affront to your front and inquire of him whether he too is an adherent of The Golden Rule
9. Grab some napkins to dry yourself while glaring at him
10. Flail your arms wildly in the air in apparent reaction to the cold liquid, while purposefully slamming your elbows into his face and chest
11. Apologize to HIM and buy him another boiler maker
12. In your best street vernacular, inquire wherein lies his particular difficulty this fine evening
13. Crouch down into an exaggerated back stance, with hands and face morphing through various, distorted bird-like poses, while making high-pitched Saturday afternoon, kung fu movie vocalizations
14. A combination of the above
15. None of the above

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