Before studying the information that the various katas contain, it is important to understand exactly what that information is for. Karate is a civil tradition and hence the fighting methods recorded within the katas are for use within a civilian environment. The applications of the karate katas are for use against the attacks of the violent and untrained, they are not for use against a skilled warrior on a battlefield, or in a sporting contest. The methodology applied in the katas is ideal for self-defence today (if correctly interpreted and expressed). There is very little difference between a civilian fight in feudal Okinawa and a civilian fight today. However, the way in which battles are conducted has radically altered. A samurai warrior armed with feudal weaponry would not last long against the missiles, tanks, etc. employed by their modern counterparts. The weapons of war may have evolved a long way, but the human body has not. Two unarmed civilians brawling in an Okinawan street would employ similar methods to two unarmed civilians fighting in a modern city. In order to understand and apply the methods contained within the katas, it is necessary to understand the nature of civilian combat.
How Fights Start
What we will be looking at in this section is what happens at the start of fights, not what caused the fight to begin in the first place. “Why” fights start is beyond the scope of this text, but I feel this aspect deserves a brief mention, as it is very important when discussing self-defence. I would encourage you to research why fights begin in great detail, as it is with this knowledge that fights can be effectively avoided (Geoff Thompson’s “The art of fighting without fighting” is well worth a look). Try to avoid placing yourself in locations or situations were violence is likely. Also, be sure not to make yourself an attractive target to any would be attackers. Keep all valuables out of sight, park your car in well lit areas, avoid isolated places, travel with the car doors locked, avoid suspicious looking people and situations, don’t consume too much alcohol, walk towards oncoming traffic, keep away from aggressive individuals or groups, do not stop to talk to strangers etc. Be aware of your surroundings and should an undesirable situation start to develop, you may be able to avoid it all together, and if you can’t, then at least the element of surprise is lost to your assailant.