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It is always a good exercise to take account of our motivations as karate teachers and practitioners. Why do we continue on, year after year, teaching and practicing karate? Yes there are a lot of easy, canned answers: cultivation of character, preserving the traditions of the past, to learn to be able to defend oneself, to confront our responses to violence, force of habit. I am sure I am leaving many out.
I don’t think most people scrutinize this carefully. For a variety of reasons, answering this requires us to consider who makes up the community of people to whom we are responsible towards. When the answer is ambiguous it becomes nearly impossible to understand the extent of our responsibilities, and thus what it is we should be doing. The ‘why’ question becomes easier to address when we are clear about what we are doing, and equally important, about what we are not/ should not be doing.
There are those who regard themselves as hard-core ‘traditionalists’ for whom preserving tradition seems to be the ultimate objective. To these people the most important obligation is to ones predecessors in these arts. Of course it is useful and proper to give credit where it is due. We have an obligation to make sure our historical claims are accurate, but that seems like the extent of our obligation to the dead.
Many times in the thirty-plus years I have been involved with martial arts, I have seen abusive and insensitive behavior justified by appeals to tradition.
As a younger black-belt level instructor, I remember struggling with ethical dilemmas that should not have been complicated, however, my judgment was clouded by the imagined relevance of some mumbo jumbo associated with tradition.
See excerpt below from press release from the CDC website regarding ACL injury prevention in female athletes.
Alternative Warm-Up Program Reduces Risk of ACL Injuries For Female College Soccer Players
Female Athletes Most at Risk for Ligament Injuries
For Immediate Release: July 25, 2008
Contact: Gail Hayes, CDC Injury Center Media Relations, Phone: 770-488-4902
The risk of potentially devastating tears to an important knee ligament may be reduced in female college soccer players by an alternative warm-up program that focuses on stretching, strengthening, and improving balance and movements, according to a CDC study published online this week in The American Journal of Sports Medicine. The program can be done without additional equipment or extensive training that other prevention programs may require.
Female athletes are at greater risk for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, compared to males participating in similar activities. The gender difference becomes even greater for noncontact ACL injuries, which occur usually in stopping, turning, or landing from a jump as opposed to colliding with another player or something on the field like the goal post.
At the beginning of an academic year, before attrition does its work, the Wash U Traditional Karate Club tends to have a lot of new members. A few of these will have done a martial art of some kind before, but most will not have, and the bulk of new trainees, being undergraduates at Wash U, will be young (18-22) and intelligent, but they aren’t usually the kind of people that come across as tough, or hard-bitten; for the most part they give the impression that the real fights and struggles in their lives so far have been emotional and social, rather than physical, and if they do have a bit of muscle on them, or some chronic injuries, chances are good that they got both playing sport, and not working down a mine. (Would that all 18 year-olds were so fortunate, of course.)
In a way, this is a gift: you have a group of students who are physically mature, intellectually capable of learning, of understanding your explanations, warnings and suggestions, who have no interest in hurting themselves or each other physically, and whose youth means that there is vast potential for quick muscle growth, and accompanying improvements in stability, agility and nervous control.
This year is especially interesting for us in that a majority of our new recruits are women. (We always wondered whether having me as an instructor would attract more women to the club, but this is the first time there have been more than two women in the dojo at once in ages.) Untrained women often have less upper body strength than we would like. I certainly didn’t have enough when I started: I remember some guy telling me to tense my latissimus dorsi to drop and stabilise my shoulder, putting my hand on my ribs at the side to try to feel the muscle he was talking about and saying to him (only half joking) “I don’t think I actually have that muscle.” I could find skin, subcutaneous fat and rib-bones, but that was about it.